Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Information Overload

Giant vats of information about Colombia have been dumped on our heads in the last 3 days, in the hope that some small part of it will seep into our minds. It is starting to, but I’m too tired to write any pithy analysis of it all.

First of all, here’s the group:

In order: Ken, Jim, Amanda, Linda, Me, Bonnie’s cute 2 year old, Wilmer, Bonnie, Alice, Linda, Irene. Not pictured is John, who is taking the picture.

Amanda is the JustaPaz sister church coordinator and Bonnie is the MCC representative, and both are our constant companions during the Bogota part of the trip. They tirelessly arrange everything, keep us informed and out of trouble.

Linda, Linda, and Alice are from Portland Mennonite, and Samuel is from the Hispanic Portland Mennonite church that meets in the same building. Actually, one of the Lindas is here for a year to teach Spanish at their sister church, so technically, she is from here.

Jim is from Kirchner Mennonite, Ontario. I would call him the token Canadian, except that Amanda and Bonnie are both Canadian, and have all the power. Luckily, Canadadians are not very good at abusing power, so I think we’re OK. Also, Bonnie's parents, John and Irene are tagging along and are also both Canadians, so we can legitimately claim to be a Canadian group if we get kidnapped. In fact, Jim offered to sell me a maple leaf lapel pin so I could convince others that I was Canadian to be safer, but I pointed out that selling your country actually makes you more American than Canadian.

In the last few days, we’ve met with folks from JustaPaz, MCC, Mencoldes, a Mennonite Brethren church in a displacement area that also runs a school, an ex-Colonel from the Colombian Air Force who is now a pacifist, and a 13 year old displaced Colombian girl who like Algebra. I am deeply impressed with them all – the number of programs that they are running and the commitment and integrity with which they advocate for peace, justice, education, and humanity. I plan to sprinkle in posts about some of these when I get the time, except that it doesn’t look like there will be much time.

I guess the two most important things I’ve learned so far are:

1. Drug Money Runs Colombia. It drives the economy, elects politicians, and finances the violence. While Colombians themselves do not have much of a drug-use problem, they do a drug-money-corruption problem. Of course, as one of our speakers said (when he noted cases of US military and diplomatic personel caught smuggling drugs): “Drug trafficking money can corrupt any nationality.”

2. Economic Interests Drive Displacment. Over 10% of Colombia’s population is currently displaced due to violence or threats. However, it is the economics that drive this, from paramilitary or insurgents forcing people off farm land so they can grow coca, to multinational corporations being given rights to develop land that people already live on and must be driven out for money to be made.

Once again, it comes down to the corruption of power. It's too bad there aren't more Canadians in the world.


rzmoyer said...

Did you ever figure out which one of you is the babbling fool?

PG said...

Ha ha ha. Maybe they should memorize the verses to practice their Spanish?

La charla de un tonto es como una carga en un viaje, pero el placer se encuentra en el discurso del inteligente. Sira 21:16

A fool's chatter is like a burden on a journey, but delight is found in the speech of the intelligent. (Sirach 21:16)

Dan S said...

Wilmer and I are vying for the babbling fool title, while Ken remains, as always, well-behaved.

Gracias por le translation PG. I've noticed what little Spanish I know is coming back easier this year. I'll have to keep La charla de un tonto in my back pocket for possible use.

brownie said...

...because, as we all know, Canadians are incorruptable angels without a single base instinct among the lot.

rzmoyer said...

Wow, Ken, impressive.

John said...


dw said...

When I first read the title of this post, I thought it said, "information overlord." I want to hear about the information overlord.


Tim said...

DW, I am the information overlord.

Dan, stop romanticizing whole groups of people as being noble and good. Canadians are no less human than the rest of us-- susceptible to corruption and power-grabbing. Positive stereotypes are just as offensive to me as negative ones. (Despite the fact that, as The Onion says, they are a real time saver.)

Dan S said...

Well, it´s too bad you aren´t Canadian then, because I hear no Canadians are offended by positive stereotypes.

Amanda - Sister Church Coordinator said...

I know it´s a little late to throw my 2 cents in....but I have finally gotten around to reading your blog and have to laugh. Don't forget that us Canadians seem humble and mild-mannered....but we really do hold all of the power. We just let you Americans think you have the power. And we have that stereotype because it is true. Anyways, seriously I am enjoying reliving the delegation through your blog.

Dan S said...

Is there really a difference between having power and not using it vs. not having power?

Actually, now that I think about it, there is - it is one of the qualities of God that I like.

Therefore, I guess Canadians are now like God.