A woman suffering from the symptoms of cholera is taken in a wheelbarrow to a clinic in Harare December 12, 2008. (photo: REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo)
You know, even during the holiday season, it’s tough to read or listen to the news and maintain a lightness of spirit. The headlines are overrun with fighting, killing, disease, corruption, and let’s not forget the tanking economy. It seems like it’s the same old story, just a different location, and the location that’s been grabbing headlines lately is Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe has been in the news for a while now, and for a number of reasons: the much criticized leadership of its president, Robert Mugabe, who has been in power since 1980; the disputed results of its most recent election this past March, in which Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) defeated Mugabe, but not by a wide enough margin to avoid a run-off, which Tsvangirai refused to participate in because he declared the election process was a sham; the public outcry that resulted from this election, which was widely denounced for the interference and intimidation by Mugabe; the power-sharing talks Mugabe was ultimately pressured into having with Tsvangirai and the MDC because of this public outcry; the current deadlock of said power-sharing talks; the staggering hyperinflation rate, on track to becoming the world’s worst in history, with prices doubling every day, and a 10 BILLION dollar banknote being introduced a few days ago to keep up with soaring prices (on December 12th, 500 million Zimbabwe dollars was worth 8 U.S. dollars, but this is probably different now since Zimbabwe’s inflation rate is so high); and the current cholera epidemic, which has so far claimed the lives of more than 1,100 people in Zimbabwe and has infected more than 20,000.
Right now, you’re probably thinking, “Geez Kathy…way to go with the cheery news for the holidays.” So why am I telling you all this depressing stuff about Zimbabwe? To show you that despite ALL of these problems facing the people of Zimbabwe, there are STILL Zimbabweans who are doing their best to help, to make a difference where they can. The BBC published a short account by William Machesa, 22-year-old mechanic, who talks about how he uses his pick-up truck as an ambulance to transport the sick to and from a clinic. You can read about how things look from his perspective here.
There is another reason I told you all of this. I am reminded of a scene I read once, a very long time ago, in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, in which the main character Dream (a.k.a., Sandman) enters into a contest called The Oldest Game against a demon named Choronzon. The object of the game is to keep naming something that is more powerful than whatever was named before until one player loses when he can’t think of anything. For example, Choronzon starts off the game by naming a wolf, then Dream counters by naming a hunter. The following is the end of their exchange in this contest:
I am Anti-Life, the Beast of Judgment. I am the dark at the end of everything. The end of universes, gods, worlds… of everything….And what will you be then, Dreamlord?
I am hope.
So what can we, countries apart and oceans away, possibly do against such overwhelming problems and massive despair? What can we possibly do to help the people of Zimbabwe?
We can give them hope.
Ultimately, it is the people of Zimbabwe who will bring change. Right now, our friends on the ground say that crushing hardship and isolation are the greatest threat — that the most powerful contribution we can make is to cry out our solidarity with their struggle, and let them know that they are not alone.
– Ben Wikler, U.S. Campaign Director, Avaaz.org
Avaaz is currently collecting signatures and messages from all over the world to be broadcast as a radio advertisement across Zimbabwe in the new year. They have online tools available if you want to write or record your own ad for broadcast. So far, more than 50,000 people have signed on. If you’d like to participate, go here.
To find out more about Avaaz.org, go here (the site is in many different languages). If you’re curious about how the rest of that contest between Dream and Choronzon went, go here (you have to scroll down a little).