The Currency of Life

I had the privilege of living in France for several years.  During that time, my salary was paid in dollars and converted to euros, hence, our family budget was directly impacted by the exchange rate.  As the dollar significantly devalued towards the end of our stay, it generated much anxiety and difficulty.

In the same way, I propose that life is like a currency.  If life is valued, then it’s currency is strong, and we can expect that it will be respected and preserved at all costs, and will help us to manage some of the threats against it.  However, if devalued, it means that other competing ‘currencies’ are rising in value, and all kinds of difficulties will emerge.

The global value placed on life has always fluctuated according to cultural and historical contexts.  In an era, where many have championed the cause of human rights, we have also seen some of the worst crimes against humanity.  Rwanda, Darfur, and Eastern Congo are just a few scenarios that standout in the past decade.

Indeed, the spirit of revolution that is sweeping the Middle East is shining light on the current ‘exchange rate’.  Money, power, and status is, and perhaps has always been, of far greater value than human life.  Of course, that is to be expected on the grand scale politically and economically.  As history has proven over and over, to the victor goes the spoils.

What concerns me more, is how the devaluation of life is now playing out in individual lives and society as a whole.  Just consider our own country for a moment.  Whether it’s controversial topics like abortion and the death penalty, or societal ills like gang warfare,  kiddie porn, school violence, human/drug trafficking, homelessness, serial killers, etc. it all reflects the currency of life.

Life is losing its value before our very eyes.  People are becoming disposable.  The vulnerable are being victimized, and worst of all, those of us who could reverse the trend are being desensitized.  If love conquers all, then lets start by loving life again!

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The Forgotten Congo

Gang rape, child soldiers, tribal militia, government corruption, aids orphans, conflict minerals, arms/human trafficking, impotent peacekeepers, extreme poverty…shall I say more?!  Such is the landscape of this ‘hell on earth’ war zone called Eastern Congo where more than 5 million people have died in the past decade, more than any conflict since WWII.

Given the remarkable response to Haiti after the devastating earthquake, you would think a humanitarian crisis with 30 times the casualties, would generate at least a comparative reaction.  Instead, the DR Congo languishes as an afterthought in our economically driven collective conscience.  Back page news in a headline world.

The powers that be are more concerned with the lucrative business of extracting precious mineral resources such as the “the three Ts”, tin, tantalum, and tungsten which are found in abundance here and fuel our technology market.  After all, the dynamics of supply and demand always trump the concerns for human welfare.  As for me, on the demand side of this exploitive process, I am just another accomplice, more preoccupied with upgrading my cell phone than upgrading someone’s life.

Beyond the glaring global injustice, the most disturbing aspect of this crisis, is the emergence of rape as a weapon of war, which has now permeated the culture.  The sexual exploitation of children is a common theme on this blog, but in this context the victims range from infants to the elderly.  Not only does this region ‘boast’ the highest percentage of rape victims per capita in the world, but the typically brutal gang raping is often accompanied by other unspeakable atrocities to children and spouses.  I’ll let the informative video unpack those gruesome details.

One last thought.  The next time you pick up your cell phone and contemplate its capacity to access a global network allowing you to make your voice heard anywhere in the world, just remember its fabrication is most likely linked to the DR Congo where millions of suffering souls have no voice whatsoever!

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Having been born in Pennsylvania, I’m a card holding member of “Steeler Nation” and I’m looking forward to relaxing on my couch this Sunday, with a cold beer, and my feet up to watch the ‘big game’.  However, my conscience is going to be conflicted.  As the media descends upon Dallas this week to ignite the frenzy of Super Bowl festivities, and millions of us make plans as to where we’ll be watching, hooting and hollering come Sunday, the dark underbelly of the beast will be festering.  You see, our nations’ most beloved sporting event is also host to its most depraved societal ills: the sexual exploitation of children.

According to law enforcement, the Super Bowl is “commonly known as the single largest human trafficking incident in the United States.”

It’s funny now, to think of the furor caused by Janet Jackson at a half time show a few years ago because she flashed her breast to sell a few CD’s, and yet the trafficking of minors for sexual exploitation hardly registers a ‘blip’ on the screen.  Teenage girls are being raped for money, and terrorized if they don’t comply!  Shouldn’t THAT create an uproar? How can we remain so ignorant and callous?

I don’t mean to spoil the party.  Go ahead and enjoy the game, and laugh at the funny commercials, as I do.  Just do me a favor and take a moment to read this article and let your conscience be awakened.


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Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the pursuit of Happiness…

“Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness”, the famous phrase crafted from the Declaration of Independence, speaks to what our country values as unalienable rights for all it’s citizens.

At a glance, I agree wholeheartedly, and am thankful to live under such a declaration.  What worries me today, however, is how these values are defined and lived out in our ethno/ego-centric culture.  Is my right to ‘life’ more important than another’s? Does my ‘liberty’ infringe on, or deprive someone else of theirs?  These are important questions, and way too complex to address thoroughly on a simple blog post.   However, as we embark headlong into that feeding frenzy we call the ‘holiday season’, I would like to make some observations regarding my third unalienable right, the ‘pursuit of happiness’.

How does one describe objectively a feeling that is so subjective?!  Indeed, everyone has a unique answer to the question, “What makes you happy?”, but to cut to the chase, lets address the tendencies in our culture, and the voices who seek to define happiness for you and me.

I would argue that our society is progressively, fragmented and disingenuous.  Families are broken or disengaged, the nebulous, spiritual climate espouses relative truth and an irrelevant God, and genuine community is exchanged for random posts and tweets, all of which creates an emotional, spiritual vacuum for individuals bereft of true happiness.

Meanwhile, the ‘voices’ keep telling us ‘you’re ugly and your mother dresses you funny’ but don’t fret, we have the solutions to all your problems.  We can change your identity, fill the vacuum, give you meaning, make you pretty, sell you happiness etc. etc.

Bridled by their deception, we are led down the corridors of consumerism like sheep to the slaughterhouse.  We lift our “two for the price of one”, goblets and sing a round of ‘don’t worry, be happy’ while toasting the mammon holidays of ‘black Friday’ and ‘cyber Monday’, enjoying the temporary, euphoric moment, only to awaken the next day with happiness hangover.

All facetiousness aside, is it not true that, while independence declares that I can pursue happiness, consumerism suggests I can buy it, and popular thinking proclaims I’m entitled to it?!

I declare, however, that true happiness is not stocked on a shelf or purchased on eBay, or owed to me by some authoritative body. It is existential in nature, and is more likely to be experienced through selfless acts than selfish pursuits.

In a world woefully short on unalienable rights, let’s look beyond ourselves and pursue life, liberty and happiness, for those who have no such independence.  You never know, it just might ‘make you happy’!


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Vulnerability = Exploitation (pt. 2)


“A group of men have been jailed by a court in southern Sweden for their role in the pimping of a 14-year-old mentally handicapped girl.”   Ice News

This story out of Sweden, is just another poignant case in point of the relationship between vulnerability and exploitation.  It’s a sobering reminder that human depravity has no limits.  As if pimping 14 year-old girls isn’t depraved enough, why not those who are handicapped as well.

In reality, there is nothing new under the sun, and this kind of human behavior has been present ever since the first person/tribe discerned an advantage over another.  That being the case, it behooves us in this war against slavery, to not only restore the victim, and prosecute the trafficker, but to also protect the vulnerable.

Never has the world been better equipped and able, to either help or exploit and never have the vulnerable been more at risk.  The resources and technology available today represent a veritable “force” for good or evil.  Like Obie Wan, we must tap into the “good side” of this force and take action, or the “dark side” will prevail.

From this mentally handicapped girl, to the tent-dwellers of Haiti; from the unborn child to the forgotten, isolated elderly; from the homeless addict, to the war-torn, Afghan refugee; the “least of these” will never be in short supply.

It begs the question:  ‘Who will defend the defenseless?!’

Shall it be said of us in our generation…”and he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress”

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Vulnerable = Exploitation


“there exists in Ghana a large pool of potential victims rendered vulnerable by extreme poverty and ignorance”.

To be vulnerable in today’s world is to be exploited. Hence for the majority of impoverished people in Ghana, like large swaths of  populations world wide, their predicament can be attributed to direct or indirect exploitation. History bears witness that the spoils of “war” belong to the victor(alias: exploiter), and to the victim belongs extended misery.  If people are suffering from ‘ignorance and extreme poverty’, they’ve simply been deprived the rights to education and economic opportunity, and are burdened by the compound effect therein.

Of even greater concern is that exploitation tends to engender further exploitation.  In the animal world, the predator discerns and attacks the weak and vulnerable, and so it is with human nature. The conditions in Ghana have left many poor, uneducated,  and vulnerable, rendering them as easy prey for trafficking predators!

**read the article on Ghana, and stay tuned for part #2 on this topic


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When Does Punishment Fit the Crime?

“When these guys get caught, they get what? Six years? Maybe. They destroy 300 lives and they get six years. You traffic drugs, you get 20 years. There is something not right.”

Iana Matei is the leading advocate for trafficking victims in Romania, a   European center for the commercial sex trade.  Her quote raises the moral and legal question that has been asked since the dawn of time, ‘does the punishment fit the crime?’

Having rescued and sheltered countless victims, she knows first hand about the destructive repercussions of trafficking.  Certainly, one could say the same about drugs, but why such disparity in sentencing?!

Disparity is a global reality when in one place a woman caught in adultery is executed while in another context, a murderer walks free.  The determining factors of ‘punishment’ may be cultural, political, legal, religious, economic, etc. but they are universally subjective.

I for one, stand with Iana in saying the punishment does not fit the crime.  However, until there is greater awareness of the issue, and a higher value given to human worth and dignity, the consequences will not change, and traffickers will continue their lucrative, criminal activity because the benefits far outweigh the risks.

Read more about this heroic woman in the following article:


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