Apr 1st, 2009
Sometimes when I go to the library I feel like I’m dowsing for water. I wander and roam and pick up this book and that book, until something feels right and truly resonates. My most recent library trip led me to James Orbinski’s An Imperfect Offering: Humanitarian Action in the 21st Century. Orbinski worked for Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) for many years, and then later founded Digitas International, an organization that helps people with HIV/AIDS in areas where it runs rampant have access to affordable medication.
I finished the book late last night, and was touched by the way Orbinski included stories of the people he met along the way in places like Rwanda, Zaire and Sudan. It’s definitely worth a look if you’re interested in the politics of humanitarianism and action. At times it’s heartbreaking, empowering and inspiring, but there was one point where I realized why I had been “led” to this book in the library that day. It’s the basic tenet of craftivism on page 290, and includes a quote by Jose Antonio Bastos, who worked with MSF to aid the Rwandan refugees in South Kivu, Zaire escaping genocide in 1994:
“Contrary to what some poets say, all is not fair in love and war,” Jose said. “Even if it is impossible to help the refugees, we must keep trying, and find the truth of what is happening, and we must speak. Sometimes speaking is the only action that is possible. To not speak, is to fail the possibility of humanity. No, all is not fair in love and war,” he repeated. “If we are to remember or even discover what love really is, what peace really is, if there is to be real hope for any of us, we need to be reminded of this.”
When we make crafts that speak to our frustrations, hurts, anger, we are continuing the conversation that our world is not a just one, but one full of hope nonetheless. Your hands give you the freedom to speak even when you don’t think your voice will carry. Just remember that they are important, necessary and truthful as we may live in a sometimes unfair world, but a world where our actions help others speak up and gather the courage to fight as well. Your voice will carry, whether it comes from your mouth or your hands, as it all comes from the heart.