P.S. South Africa: watch out for the locusts

locust_effectReading Gary Haugen’s new book The Locust Effect was a consuming affair. It was sobering, thought-provoking, illuminating, and an emotional punch in the gut. Drawing from years of experience in seeking justice for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable, the book is a call to awareness and action. I confess that even though I was born and raised in Africa, even though I have a law degree, even though we have experienced violent crime first hand, even though I have been on mission trips…. I didn’t know.

I didn’t know that for the poorest in the developing world, violence is not just a problem. It is THE problem. 

But as I read, and formulated my thoughts on how to tell others about this reality, this challenge, this opportunity… there was a niggling thought at the back of my mind. A niggle which wouldn’t go away, and which I need to articulate here: The Locust Effect is a book written about the world’s poorest. It speaks of the poverty stricken in the developing world, and how crushed public justice systems have left them vulnerable to every day terror. Like a plague of locusts devastate everything in its path, so too violence destroys the little the poor have to live on, and threatens their daily existence.  (My review on Amazon is here, and my blog post on a beginner’s guide to the locust effect is here.)

But the niggle is this: the book may be talking about the poorest in the developing world, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was talking about South Africa too. South Africa is among the most developed and the wealthiest of all the countries in Africa: it is politically stable, it is economically robust and developing. But South Africa knows about the locusts of violence. It knows about the terror of vulnerability.

As such, I want to commend the Locust Effect to South African thinkers and talkers and prayers and community leaders – as a case study and conversation starter. The book offers case studies drawn from around the world, seeking understanding about why public justice systems in post-colonial eras have struggled to protect the most marginalized. The book highlights two reasons which are particularly relevant to the South African conversation:

1. The checkered history and development of law enforcement.

Haugen recounts the insights he gleaned from Kirpal Dhillon, the Former Director General of Police in the Indian states of Punjab and Madhya Pradesh and Vice Chancellor, Bhopal University, India. Dhillon’s experience and research into the history of the Indian police has given him invaluable insight into how policing in India got to be how it is today, with millions left without any protection or shelter from the law, and thus vulnerable to slavery, sex-trafficking and a host of other horrors. Dhillon explains that part of the problem in his endorsement of The Locust Effect:

“In a remarkably sensitive study, very aptly named The Locust Effect, the authors have provided many new valuable insights into the intimate relationship between poverty and violence plaguing the billions of global poor in many post-colonial societies across continents. This is also probably the first time that Western observers have come upon the unpleasant reality that it is, in fact, the native political establishments in South Asian countries themselves who stubbornly refuse to break away from the colonial ruler supportive police and criminal justice systems, concepts, laws, procedures, and mind sets imposed by the imperialist rulers, thus denying their peoples the benefits of a citizen friendly law enforcement system. An invaluable companion to all criminal justice studies.”

His point is that law enforcement in India was first established to protect the interests of the colonial rulers, not the everyman-on-the-street. Structurally, philosophically and logistically, they sought to protect those in power FROM the masses, not to protect the masses from abuses of power. When colonialism ended, the new structures of the country adopted the existing system without ever re-thinking or re-organizing the purpose of policing again, and the every day poor remain as unprotected by the “new” police as they were by the old.

South Africa is not where India is. The systems are not the same. But the question is an important one, and those in law, politics, public safety and policy formation would do well to ask – are we asking fresh questions for a fresh set of challenges, and helping our public justice system to serve the needs of the new South Africa? Or are we expecting an old system to do a new country’s work, and getting frustrated when it crumbles under the pressure?

2. The parallel system of private security

The second issue Haugen raises is to consider the effect that the rise of private security has had on justice for the poorest. In countries where violence happens and public justice systems are crumbling, those with means have responded by buying their own protection. Private Security is the biggest employer in Africa. Those who can afford it, can pay for a security guard to protect their place of business, a neighborhood watch patrol for their neighborhood. They can pay a lawyer or private investigator if they need to deal with public justice, to help them navigate the system. They can BUY the protection that the justice system should afford.

South Africans know all about this.

What The Locust Effect points out, though, is that when those with education, means and influence can pay for private security – they lose the need to advocate for better public security, and effectively abandon the system to further decay. Why get embroiled with an overworked public prosecutor when you can hire your own attorney to expedite a civil claim for relief? Why campaign for better training and resourcing for the local police when you can hire a crowd of better-paid, better-managed, neatly-uniformed security guards to keep your home safe?

The result is that less political will, less community urgency, less debate and pressure and leverage goes towards making a public justice system that is better for ALL.

South Africa has not been razed by a plague of locusts yet. But we know about violence, and my nagging feeling is that there are helpful lessons to learn from others’ experience. We cannot afford to give up on the police and courts in South Africa. For the sake of the WHOLE country’s vulnerability to the locusts of violence, we can learn lessons and glean hope from others’ experience. The Locust Effect is about how the end of poverty requires the end of violence. And the implications are clear: when we take a stand against violence, we will push back against poverty too.

I’m giving away two copies of the Locust Effect this week on my blog. You can enter here.  You can read more and watch some incredible short videos on it at the Locust Effect Website. And the book will be available in South Africa in April 2014: order your copies from Kalahari or Exclusive Books.

An incredible movie and a book giveaway – The Locust Effect

Yesterday I introduced you to a book I believe is going to change the way we look at global poverty: The Locust Effect. If you missed yesterday, here’s the link to The Beginner’s Guide to the Locust Effect, and the  link to The Locust Effect website. Today: there’s a free movie and free books (yes! that’s plural! BOOKS!) up for grabs.

Watch the Movie

Maybe wordy words are not your thing. Maybe a picture is worth a thousand words. If so, here is a short video to introduce The Locust Effect.

This week, we are spreading the word about the plague of everyday violence and the urgent need for us to address it for the sake of the billions of vulnerable and victimized poor in our world. This calls for courage on our part: courage to not look away, to ask hard questions, to get involved in something messy for the sake of loving the least of these.

Share and Win!

The goal this week is to be AWARE and SHARE. We want to get the word out. IJM has generously offered to let me give away a copy of the book. A hard back copy of The Locust Effect is up for grabs to all entrants within the USA. However, I want to add another book to the prize pile – and so I am offering a Kindle version of the book to a winner outside of the USA, which can be received by email. That’s right folks – there are TWO COPIES OF THE LOCUST EFFECT UP FOR GRABS!

To enter, leave a comment and tell me what action step you took from the suggestions below (share on Twitter, sign the petition, watch the video, etc…). For multiple entries, leave a separate comment for each action step you took.  I will choose a random winner on February 9th. Suggested action steps:

Spread the word about the Locust Effect: Shine a light into the dark places by talking about The Locust Effect with friends and sharing links on social media.

  • Share the video on facebook, twitter, google +, or email it to someone.
  • Share the Locust Effect website
  • Share a blog post about it.
  • Sample Tweet: Can watching a video change the lives of the world’s 4bil poorest? Maybe not, but it’s a start. Watch: http://bit.ly/TLEveryday#LocustEffect
  • -Sample Tweet: It’s time! Buy @garyhaugen’s #LocustEffect this week & $20 will go to @IJM to fight violence against the poor. A win-win:http://bit.ly/BuyTLE

Grab a button and make it your profile picture or cover photo:

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TLE Facebook_Cover

Buy the book It is available in major stores and online. (From now until February 8th, $20 will be donated for every copy of The Locust Effect sold, up to $40,000 or 2,000 copies. This would fund 8 rescue operations and rescue hundreds! All author royalties go to IJM to help fight violence against the poor.)

Sign the petition – Send a message to the U.N. now. Ask that violence against the poor be elevated as a global issue. (You can sign with one-click by connecting to Facebook, it only takes a few seconds)

Donate – IJM (the International Justice Mission) is on the ground all over the world bringing rescue to victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. Give freedom, give justice.

Be creative – share about the Locust Effect in your small group, mention it in a lecture where international affairs are being discussed, write a letter to a newspaper, write a song and share it, shoot a short video with some friends saying “I know what the Locust Effect is!” and upload it onto youtube.

Leave a comment with your action step to enter, and don’t forget to say whether you’re a US or International entrant. Good luck, and thank you for helping spread the word!

On why letting your kid pet that duckling might lead to anarchy

Every Fall we take our kids (of the human variety) to a delightful local farm where there are piglets, ducklings, kittens, chicks and kids (of the goatish variety). They love it.

Here’s how it is supposed to work: carefully seated on hay bales and with the assistance of an adult, kids who are 2 and older are allowed to snuggle with newborn kittens. Kids of 3 and older are allowed to hold kittens or chicks. Kids of 4 or older are allowed to hold ducklings.

However, here’s how it often does work: carefully seated on hay bales, kids who are 2 or who are 1 and whose parents think they are as tall as, as smart as or as responsible as a 2 year old, get left holding the kitten while Mommy backs away from the kid for the photo op. Ditto for chicks and the kids deemed as smart/tall/responsible as REAL 3 year olds. Ditto for ducklings and the kids deemed as smart/tall/responsible as REAL 4 year olds.

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Apart from the fact that such behavior is unfair to the animals and unfair to other patrons who are waiting their turn, I write this because I deeply believe that breaking the rules for our kids is actually unfair to our kids.

Here’s why. As parents, we expend a great amount of energy trying to teach our children to do right. They say “No”, and we parrot “No thank you”. They say “Yes”, and we parrot “Yes please”. We parrot “listen to your teacher”. We parrot “don’t run in the street”. We parrot “don’t eat with your mouth full”. These, and a thousand other rules and instructions, are repeated because we hope to train our kids in the right direction: we want them to become good citizens, good people.

However, there is truth in all the cliche’s:

Behavior is more CAUGHT than TAUGHT.

PRACTICE what you PREACH.

ACTIONS speak louder than WORDS.

And so it worries me, that in a generation where we keep trying to TELL our children how to live, we are MODELING behavior which says “the rules only apply when they suit you.”

Our children may be  young, but far from thinking “oh they are too young to notice”, we would do well to remember that they are being imprinted by observation. I still vividly remember being taken to the circus by my grandfather when I was in my first year of elementary school. As we stood in the queue for tickets, I pointed out to him that the tickets for little kids were half of the cost for kids of school-going age. “I could say I’m not in school yet, Oupa,” I offered. His reply was gentle but firm: “But you ARE in school, and so that’s what we’ll say.”

I was only 6, but the memory of that conversation came back to me years later when I was short-of-cash and riding the tube in London. The conductor asked how far I was traveling. I could have said I’d just got on. But I hadn’t. I had ridden much further, and so that was what I had to say.

Our children are watching us.

And so when the rules say “no food or drink in the play zone”, and we sneak in juice and crackers because we don’t want to buy snacks there – let’s not teach our kids that it’s okay to disrespect the rules if it is more convenient.

And when the rules say “no holding ducks until you’re 4”, and “only with an adult’s assistance” – let’s pass on the photo op and hold the duckling for our 3 year old so they can still pet it.

And when the rules say “no cellphone use while you’re driving”, let’s wait to check that text or let it go to voicemail (Aack! convicted!)

Because our children are watching us. And one day, they will have to tell the truth when it hurts. They will have to make a choice between forgoing an opportunity or lying to get it. They will have to write resumes. They will have to decide whether to take a lower grade and write the paper themselves or whether to plagiarize. They will have to pay their taxes. They will have to decide whether to be faithful to their friends and spouses.

One day, our children will be influential contributors to civil society – where justice and community are underpinned by that all-important concept of the rule of law. Democracy cannot exist without it: “the principle that all people and institutions are subject to and accountable to law that is fairly applied and enforced”.

Friends: it’s not about the duckling. It’s about teaching our kids that the rules apply to us. We are not above the law, even on minor issues like holding ducklings. We are being unfair to our kids if our actions teach our kids that rules exist for people, but especially OTHER people. As my sister astutely pointed out to me: “We are not ‘stuck in traffic’. We ARE traffic.”

Oh how I pray that, hapless and hypocritical as I sometimes can be, they when all is said and done they will have learned from us that they need to do what is right even when no-one is watching. Our futures depend on it.