February 28, 2005

For "Rape" press "A". For "Pillage" press "B"

Last Wednesday the University of Notre Dame hosted a one day conference on the current humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan. John Prendergast, special advisor to President Clinton on Africa and current advisor to the president of the International Crisis Group, gave a straight-forward, no nonsense talk on the daily atrocities in the Darfur region committed against non-Arab Sudanese.

Prendergast's theme was "shame." He said that if the world could not be convinced by rational means to intervene in the genocide now responsible for nearly 220,000 deaths and countless rapes, the world would have to be shamed into doing something.

After Prendergast spoke, Notre Dame political science professor George Lopez was invited to give some remarks in response. He calmly walked to the podium and said, "Rape and Pillage. Rape and Pillage. Rape and Pillage" very slowly, pausing each time he uttered the phrase. He said that rape and pillage is the reality in Darfur, but he wondered if we could really comprehend the magnitude of that reality. Adressing the mostly undergraduate audience of about 150 students, he said, "many of you play video games in which there is rape and pillage." There was a deep and weighty pause. I sensed that he was going to elaborate on this statement indicting "Grand Theft Auto" and other sexually explicit and exceptionally violent video games, but he dropped it in favor of a more academic response echoing the the finer points of Prendergast's talk.

I was disappointed, so afterwards I tracked him down asked him to expand on the issue he raised, if only briefly. He said that the terms "rape" and "pillage" have no "conceptual" power for us. In other words, there is a fundamental disconnect between the word and the act.

The thing is, I wish this were the only problem. Consider as well the conceptual power, or lackthereof, of race.



1 comment:

Anonymous said...

oh go home