This is coltan. If you have a cell phone, laptop, mP3 player or other such gadget, welcome to the slave trade. Our sophisticated electronics cannot run without it (or gold, or wolframite, or… or… or…), and sadly we cannot seem to run without our electronics. Our demand for the newest and fastest toy is no less than gluttonous. Yet we do not see where these minerals come from.
One of the only places in the world that mines coltan is the Democratic Republic of Congo in West Africa. To keep up with demand, contracted companies use slave labour — adult and child — to mine the precious minerals needed to make our world go round.
But it gets worse.
Women exploited in the labour trade are often used as sex trade victims in the mines as well. The Guardian explores this reality, and the devastating effects it has on the local women. Often forcibly removed from families and villages, these women are used up and tortured to the point of death. Regional militias make gathering food from gardens and fields dangerous, and rebels are everywhere ready to rape on sight, or kidnap for the mines. It's a booming business. When East Congo is described as "the worst place on earth… for a woman", we need to put down our phones, sit up and take notice.
We can offer all of the reasons we want about how technology has made our lives richer, better, and more efficient. Heck, I couldn't be getting my Masters degree without it! Nor could I be blogging to you to day. Consumerism is a heavy chain that needs to be broken into a multitude of un-fixable pieces, as much as the chains these women bear. If I'm going to take advantage of all these marvelous wonders technology has for me at my fingertips, perhaps I had better start taking responsibility for it too
That includes production.
No phone, no laptop, no online education, or social networking is worth the destruction of men, women and children forced to the brink of extinction through torture and violence.
We do not need our iPhones that badly. If we do, we have more problems that we care to admit to.