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Where Have Our Ethics Gone?

Updated on March 9, 2012

What responsibilities does a government have to its people? And when a people has no working government, who is responsible for them?

That the Democratic Republic of Congo is entrenched in war should come as no surprise. But The Greatest Silence kept me in utter shock as I watched it.

Lisa F. Jackson (producer/writer/director/cinematographer) went to the Congo to explore one of the negative externalities of the war: rape. A victim of gang rape herself, Jackson wanted to learn and share the stories of the tens of thousands of girls and women who have been tortured, raped, and mutilated by the Congolese army, foreign militiamen, and even some United Nations peacekeepers.

Whose Responsibility Is It?

Now, the ethical arguments against rape, systematic mutilation, and torture are well-known and practically self-explanatory. More interesting -- and becoming increasingly relevant -- is the question of international obligations.

Should developed nations with strong armies enter into moral conflicts like these? Or would that be unfairly imposing ethics onto an unrelated culture? Essentially: is it any of our business?

I would argue in favor of intervention, especially from a country that has the world's largest army. But "intervention" does not necessarily mean "occupation," and America's military supplies are not unlimited, so we can't go around invading countries for no reason (as I hope we have learned from our occupation of Iraq).

So how do we decide who to help and who to leave? Which issue, for example, deserves intervention first: genocide perpetrated by government or genocide born of anarchy? Who, specifically, makes that decision? Congress? The President? Is that decision even possible?


And even when we decide to act, what can we do? Forcing a ceasefire to stall the violence does not actually solve any problems.

Many issues in parts of the world that were colonized, for example, arise from the arbitrary borders drawn by the imperial powers, which did not align with the cultures of the people who were already there. The indigenous people did not feel particular allegiance to these arbitrary lines, so why honor them?

The lines became a point of dispute. An outside power forcing a ceasefire seems like it would have much the same effect, but in reverse. Why honor a ceasefire if the problem was not truly resolved?

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Where Does That Leave Us?

But at the same time, can we stand by while millions of women are raped and mutilated? Once a film like The Greatest Silence becomes widespread and popular (which it may or may not), we can no longer claim ignorance, and what then?

As an individual, I cannot fly across the Atlantic Ocean to stand between a militia and the next village they come upon, so what can I do other than feel sad about this? I'm not really sure even where to begin, but for now I hope that this film and others like it (Invisible Children, for example) will draw enough attention to effect even just a little bit of change.


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    • Eastern Rainbow profile image

      Eastern Rainbow 

      8 years ago

      The thanks share

    • someonewhoknows profile image


      9 years ago from south and west of canada,north of ohio



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