“In a world that in the twentieth century displayed an unparalleled capacity for mass slaughter, it would be surprising if severe shortages would not exacerbate existing tendencies toward resolving social and political problems through elimination of the groups thought to constitute the problem” -Roger W. Smith, “Scarcity and Genocide”
Scarcity is a concept that usually comes with the idea of having almost nothing that is essential for us to live. However, as Smith discusses in his article, we have confused our desires with needs. Those “used to affluence and abundance, a mild reduction in goods available to them will be perceived as a matter of scarcity”. I am also in this group of individuals who have been used to having an abundance of material things in my life. While I am becoming more aware of my privilege, I still find myself falling into the routine of most people fortunate enough to spend money on things that don’t matter. I mean, if we’re being honest, who really needs more than one winter coat?
The problem with this routine is that we, as Americans, fight for our freedom but rarely advocate for others who don’t have a voice to do so. In class, we are currently discussing stories told by members of The Lost Boys of Sudan. There is one story from John Deng Langbany who had to flee his home when he was 5 years old due to civil war in Sudan and he explained his long and hard journey through Ethiopia, Kenya, and now the United States. He recalled memories of watching his parents house burn when he was 5 and not seeing them since that incident. He and other boys would live off of one kernel of corn for a few days, and he also explained having to hide under dead bodies just to protect himself from getting killed. This was his life from the ages of 5 until his teenage years when he was in a refugee camp, and even then his life was very difficult. He faced genuine scarcity and yet, he has found beauty in the face of adversity. At the end of telling his story, he says: “I’m so glad I’m still alive and this is my story”.
Many of us, especially college students, complain about not having a Netflix account, or not being able to go out one night because we are “so broke.” I am definitely guilty of doing this and I consistently overhear these types of conversations while passing people as I walk to class. While many of us live a bountiful life, there are people seriously suffering around the world, and even in our own communities. We have placed our desires and comforts above our ethical duty to help all people, not just Americans. Genocides all over the world occur due to greed, fear, narcissism, humiliation, and selfishness. And while we may not be the ones killing others, many people have not even taken the first step to realize how privileged they really are. Open your eyes. There is a whole world out there full of different cultures, beliefs, people, problems, and beauty. Begin to educate yourselves, and if you aren’t sure where to begin, start with reading posts from this blog every week where my classmates and I will do our best to explain problems concerning genocide and the refugee crisis. Many who will read this are very lucky to live the life they do, and it is our job to advocate for those who don’t have a choice in the role they play in their own life.