This afternoon I had my language-conversation with one of my friends and the topic turned to his time during a CPT (Christian Peacemaker Team, see link for Colombia here: http://www.cpt.org/work/colombia) delegation he took part in. He described listening to campesinos describe the arrival of paramilitaries into their town; how they assembled everyone, picked out the leaders, and started systematically butchering them with a chainsaw. The leader they were talking to managed to escape right before his turn because the paramilitary leader got a call on the radio. The sick feeling in my stomach hearing this only grew worst when he also told me about the ways in which these paramilitary groups have been used.
His last stint with CPT my friend was helping document the case of displaced persons whose land had been illegally appropriated by a large company growing palm trees and selling their product to The Body Shop. Wanting to return, the displaced people took their case to court and, being clearly in the right, the court ruled in their favor. Eight years later they still weren’t able to return. CPT started a campaign asking The Body Shop to stop buying from that supplier as well as providing people to accompany the campesinos. The police forces in the area, meant to protect the legal owners of the land, are instead housed and fed by the company and act as their guards. Besides reminding me in certain ways of the situation in Bi’lin (http://www.bilin-village.org/) I also felt a bang because I recently bought many-a-thing at the Body Shop. But Coca-Cola has done the same thing, as has Chiquita.
And I could just see it. I could see a bunch of suited men and women in a board room in San Fran, New York, wherever, discussing the need to “secure resources” or ensure that no profits are lost or something and, using totally innocuous language, making a decision whose end result is lost land, lost lives, trauma. I can see them going home in a car (maybe a Prius!) making dinner for their family, praying before eating, and going to bed. Fine people, good people.
And I could see me at the EMU cafeteria staring the bananas down, knowing (but not really KNOWING) that supporting Chiquita was bad, somehow, but deciding my need for a banana in my granola was more pressing than some symbolic or real decision not to support a corporation whose means of success I disagreed with. I’m not such a terrible person, am I? You have to pick your fights, right? I know how we both (me and the suit) got there; I still don’t know how the paramilitary leaders holding the chainsaw get there. Nor do I care to try and decide who’s more to blame, the supply or demand.
I do know that God made the world and said that it was good. I know that we were all made in the image of God– so how do I meet with people capable of dehumanizing others to the point where they can’t even see themselves, let alone God, in the other? Where is the God-spark and how can I speak to it? How do people live such experiences and keep laughing, loving, being? And then the eternal question for me— how do I live deeply awake to the realities around me? How can I live and work in active resistance to corporate greed, general apathy, and desperation?
This is the beginning. “You’re going to hear a lot of stories”, my friend told me. I’m sure he’s right; I want to make sure I not only really hear them, but learn to respond to them actively and never shut down. I hope we can do this together.