Convert everyone to Christianity.
Have you ever heard the expression: Don't treat the symptom, treat the disease? I think we should all take that to heart when we're addressing major problems in the world. For all the hype and celebrity fundraising, especially about AIDS and Darfur, I never hear anyone say what they plan to do, or how they expect to help solve or alleviate the problem. Raise money to stop genocide in Africa! We as Americans have a duty to help the victims of this horrible violation of human rights! Put in your dollar here.
To do what?! Is this money going to pay for plane tickets and training for a private global militia to stop the aggressors and restore peace? Are we going to bribe the bad guys into putting down their weapons? Or are we supposed to end the violence by ending hunger somehow? Stuff them all so full of Wheaties and rice that they forget why they were so angry in the first place? No?
What?! What does George Clooney think is going to happen? Money won't do much for the savages in Africa (no, I didn't say everyone in Africa is a savage, but some of them sure as hell are). Billions of charitable dollars have been poured into the dark continent, and billions of dollars for a sustained military presence. But Africa has proved to be a sinkhole for indiscriminate throwing-money-at-the-problem. Both charitable efforts (mostly the International Red Cross), and military efforts have enjoyed success that is severely limited in scope of time and space. We can feed or supress some of the people for a while, but as soon as we turn our heads, the problems return. Remember Black Hawk Down? Within two years after the U.S. left Mohammed Farah Aidid's gang broken and barely existent, the same gang had returned to power and tyranny (even though the warlord died himself). And of course, millions are still hungry (many thousands to the point of death).
So we can't solve the problem. Why not? Because we haven't addressed it. We just keep smacking band-aids on the new wounds, plugging the new leaks in the dam. It's like playing one of those arcade "whack the chipmunk" games-- we're batting them back quicker than ever, we're doing so much, and making so little progress.
When someone is sick with strep throat, he'll probably have a fever, a lot of sweating, and perhaps some trembling in the extremities. So we treat it with antibiotics, because now we know what we're doing.
If we took the same attitude to strep throat that many take to global social issues, we would be intermittently dabbing the sweat from a patient's forehead and splashing him with cold water to get rid of the fever. And then, quick, dry it up, look how wet he is-- look how sick. And then hold down his left hand to stop it from shaking. After it's still, move to his right foot and pin that down. But oh! by then his hand is trembling again, and no time for either, we have to pour a giant bucket of ice-water all over his body that we just fund-raised. Huzzah. And at the ceremony after, we can celebrate the accomplishment by unveiling our dream plans to get enough money to build a hermetically sealed, dehumidified straitjacket permanently submerged in a tank of supercooled 32 degree water.
Even if we succeed, which is superlatively unlikely, we will only have stopped the symptoms. We will not have cured the disease. So we give him antibiotics, and grit our teeth through the fever, which is a natural and inevitable part of the healing process. Heat kills the bacteria. If you take anti-inflammatory medicine or ice your entire body, the infection will last longer. The symptoms are ok for now, as long as we are treating the disease, as long as we are getting closer to being permanently rid of it.
So, now are you ready for global social antibiotics?
Terrorism and genocide are not diseases. They are not tragedies. They are crimes. Helping the victims of populational systems of crime is only half the solution-- and the lesser half at that. If we stop the crime, maybe the victims can help themselves. But if we just try to help the victims, without stopping more victims being made, everyone is screwed.
The answer lies in stopping the crimes in the first place, and since forceful prevention has so far proved pretty ineffectual, that means we have to convince the people perpetrating the evil to stop doing it. They themselves have to want to stop.
The difficulty has long been that there is no system from which to work, no basis for building upon. This is the reason that the success of monetary efforts has been so short-lived in general. No substantial change is made to the human fabric of the continent. Some people might not be as hungry for a while, but in a few days or weeks, they'll be hungry again. And they'll be in exactly the same position they were before.
When the military efforts, however successful, are curtailed, the aggressive tribes remain. Whereas in conventional war, a country might pay damages, or might have a new government installed to maintain order, these peoples do not acknowledge national borders, and cannot be fined or punished in a practical way. Eventually, the stronger power withdraws because there's no definable enemy left to fight. They killed the original leaders, and no one really knows who the leaders are now, or even what the sides are. But people are getting killed a lot, and everyone wants the Americans to leave. So we do. And again, the people are left in exactly the same position they were in before.
We can't adjust or tinker with national frameworks, because there are no stable frameworks. There is no common ground for communication. There is no system to which both sides subscribe. The first step must be to establish such a framework. And in this day, I don't think a political system can pave the way for religious unity. Efforts at singularly establishing new types of government have failed or been an uncertain and difficult work in progress (cf. Iraq).
I believe it's clear, therefore, that our most advisable, most hopeful course, is that of personal conversion, a course of building from the ground up. Because anything based on the broken and backwards systems in place now is bound to fail.
Good Christians are not terrorists. Good muslims may or may not be-- depends on whom you listen to. Good pagans-- well, I don't know if there are any. I mean, I don't even know if they think of themselves in that way. But many of the terrorist and genocidal tribes in Africa are pagans, and many are Muslims. So let's convert everyone to Christianity.
But, you might say, these issues are far more complicated. There are centuries of traditions behind all of these behaviors-- and there are political problems, and education problems, and gender equality problems that cannot be ignored.
And I say yes, the problem is very complicated. But that doesn't mean the answer must be. When you have strep throat, you don't just have lesions on your tonsils. Your white blood cell count is elevated, you produce more mucus, your eyes become slightly dilated, you get a fever, you get dehydrated. Right. So fix the problem. Don't fix all the little signs that the problem is giving you. Take antibiotics. Convert the pagans and Muslims. The rest we can get to in time. It doesn't mean it's not important-- it means working on it without a basis in place is worthless, wasted work. It means, that for now, even such grave problems are irrelevant. Focusing on them has not worked before, and it is not about to start working.
And if there are centuries-old traditions deeply rooted in the genocidal terrorist culture, I say those are stupid traditions. What's worth holding onto will be held onto no matter what religion you are. But no one should celebrate the sins of his ancestors.
So we need missionaries. We need martyrs to go and convert the heathens. Their deaths will be a symptom of the disease being cast away from the body. Their suffering will be a fever. We'll have to grit our teeth and bear it, and celebrate that Christ will conquer, as he always does.
For the rest of us, pray. Pray for the missionaries who are there already, pray for those who will go, who must, pray for the Muslims and the killers and the victims the pagans. And don't worry that a prayer for Darfur is a prayer for liberal showmanship. The real problems and solutions to Darfur have nothing to do with George Clooney. But might as well pray for him too.