samuel x. brase likes to write

Posted in current affairs by Sam X. on 24 November 2012

So OK.

Recently I’ve had a lot of opportunity to contemplate my future, insofar as I have a lot of hobbies and interests and I’d like to figure out a method to get paid for some of them so I can pursue the rest in my free time. Since I don’t want to be paid for my fiction writing (out of principle and necessity) I must then find a way to be paid for my concern with foreign policy and human rights.

Broadly, I want to help other countries relieve themselves of U.S. imperialism. As a lot of recent articles have pointed out, the most effective way to do this is by focusing on our foreign policy rather than intervening in these other countries. For example, in Teju Cole’s piece earlier this year, he points to a number of policies that America pursues to further its own interests to the detriment of other countries. He insists on thinking constellationally, which means seeing the whole picture. Human rights abuses don’t occur in a vacuum–they often are a response to local dissent, which is in response to economic or political difficulties. In many situations, these difficulties are aided or abetted by the United States’ foreign policy. And that’s where we/I come in.

To me it seems there’s an opportunity here. Much popular reporting shirks this “constellation thinking” in favor of immediate facts (troop movements, riots, famine). In the better articles, such as those from BBC or Al Jazeera, you’ll get an expanded sense–something approximating constellation thinking. Primarily it’s a consequence of time. Journalists are turning out copy on many situations and issues and extensive research into the problem does not a story make. That’s a feature, and there’s only so much budget for features.

I’m therefore interested in doing some independent feature writing on my own and seeing if there’s a unique voice I can carve out. I’m specifically thinking about the M23 Congo rebels story right now–which has received ample coverage from expected quarters as well as a possible version of the story I would write. Reading this last article is informative, but the relationship between the United States and Rwanda and Uganda is elided. A couple sentences, here and there, elude to the facts but say nothing concrete: “Both Rwanda and Uganda are relatively ordered countries — in stark contrast to Congo — with well-entrenched authoritarian governments that receive significant military and financial aid from the United States and the West.”

Were I to write this article, I would reinforce the dual relationship between Western aid and mineral exploitation. The Foreign Policy article notes eastern Congo’s vast mineral wealth and points to Rwanda’s continuing illegal exploitation of that wealth, but the benefit such industry provides to Western countries is only implied. Is there space for me to uniquely analyze the situation, from a progressive left point of view? I don’t doubt that there are local reasons for the ongoing violence (continuing ethnic tensions, territorial arguments) but Western aid allows regimes in Rwanda and Uganda to act with a free hand. Compare that to sanctions on Syria, thereby financially squeezing the embattled Assad. We have made his ability to repress his people more difficult; we have made Paul Kagame’s ability to incur on Congo territory easier.

Time to get to work I suppose.

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