Reading about the Democratic Republic of Congo: Dancing in the Glory of Monsters by Jason Stearns

Read this book. It will make you a better citizen of this planet. Seriously.

My book selection for the DRC is Dancing in the Glory of Monsters by Jason Stearns, and although it took me some time to get through, it was well worth the effort. This is a comprehensive, intelligent study of the ongoing conflict in the DRC, and an introduction to the major players and the myriad reasons it all fired up.

It does not peddle in lazy literary tropes; there’s no “dark heart of Africa” happening here. Mr. Stearns treats this subject with the even-handed respect that the people of the DRC deserve. It made me realize that personally, I’m not offered that viewpoint very often. Does American media really even cover this conflict? Do we have any idea how much our culture directly funds the destruction of other people’s lives? We don’t, but we damn well should.

Let me point out that this blog post is way, way heavier-handed than the book. It’s a truly remarkable feat that the author pulls off; he presents facts and you can make of them what you will. He points no fingers, and sets up no straw men…the people driving this show – politicians, military men, Western governments, mining speculators – make themselves look bad with no embellishment needed.

City of Goma, on Lake Kivu in eastern DRC
City of Goma, on Lake Kivu in eastern DRC
(image by Sascha Grabow via Wikimedia Commons)


Country #28 – Democratic Republic of the Congo

Here we go…
Country #28 is the Democratic Republic of the Congo. For most of the countries I’ve visited so far, I’ve tried to steer clear of focusing on violence, particularly in Africa. Looking at a war in a foreign country often devolves into some pretty lazy thinking – “people over there are always fighting”, “there’s nothing we can do”, “we had nothing to do with it”, “it doesn’t affect me”…etc. It’s part of my life’s work to NOT think that way, despite how much my own culture promotes privileged ignorance.

However, for this place, right now, it seems disrespectful to turn away. The ongoing conflict in the DRC is a massive thing, and has affected so many innocent people; I want to know more about it.