Here begins a new chapter.
Falling Whistles was written at a time when all I wanted to do was share. When I was traveling through Africa, I saw stories begging to be told and wrote voraciously in an effort to do exactly that. They were stories of progress and growth, heroism and heart.
It's now far from original and verging on the cliche, but the people living on that great continent across the Atlantic possess an energy as contagious as it is life-giving. This energy overwhelmed my senses and I found myself daily compelled to share all that I saw.
But after coming home from Congo, all I wanted to do was build. Our world's deadliest war was taking place and we remained silent as nearly seven million deaths went by unchecked. My friends and I knew we'd have to build the kind of coalition capable of seeing an end to such frivolous death.
The war is funded by the trading of illicit minerals that -- through a wildly complicated process -- ultimately end up in our electronics. That's right, chances are very high that the computer I am currently typing on possesses minerals found in Congo. And chances are also very high that the trading of those minerals puts more money in the hands of the bad guys. You know -- the guys who buy more guns, rape more women and kill more children.
The war has been called many things, among them "The Silent Holocaust" and "Africa's World War." But one thing is certain -- the problem is systemic. That is to say, it is deeply rooted in the very nature of our global system. The result is that every belligerent involved in this problem gains because of the problem. Everybody wins.
We win because our phones cost less. The electronic industry wins because they get cheaper products. The retail stores win because they get more customers. The mining companies win because they have cheap labor. The refineries win with more materials being shipped in. The smelting companies win for the same reason. The rebel armies win because they deal in commodities to fund their war. The neighboring countries win because they export out smuggled minerals and tax them. It's also very possible that the United States wins because cheaper materials means more sales and more sales means more tax dollars. Our weapon manufacturers certainly win -- the same guys pulling the minerals out, are selling the guns in.
What we began to see was that there was no institutionalized benefit to solving this problem. No incentive for peace. Everyone gains by the conflict's continuation.
Well, everyone other than the millions of Congolese living inside it.
Most would say solving this problem verges on the impossible. Many would say it is hardly worth trying. Many would say it is without hope.
But I say this is the kind of problem for which democracy was born. When institutions won't fight, the populace must.
This is a problem of global proportions and it will take nothing less than a global coalition to solve it.
And coalitions are built of the us's. The you's and the me's.
So we've hit the road to bring the problem home. We're going to build this coalition from the same people who created it. Young people. Our first donation was from a 16-year-old lifeguard in Austin, Texas. Our first service was hosted by an 18-year-old in Tennessee. Our first intern was a 22-year-old from San Francisco. Our first tour was hitchhiked by a 24-year-old from Alabama. Our first press came from a 25-year-old in New York. And our first retail store came from a 26-year-old in Los Angeles.
We've made a lot of mistakes in attempting to understand this tangled mess, but every time we have explained the size of the conflict, people have always said the same thing -- what can we do? How can we help?
A whistleblower speaks what each of us are thinking and few are willing to say. And our collective values overwhelm those that separate us. John Lennon said something along the lines of, "If we all demanded peace like we demand our new television set, then we'd have peace." In this case of course, it would be a laptop, but the same point holds.
Falling Whistles will forever fight for all that we agree on: All life is equal and all people should be free.
Follow us on the road this month as we hit university after university, town after town. We are taking trains, planes, buses, bikes and bummed rides across the Northeast -- literally reaching into the education system and making it impossible for them to ignore a problem that has claimed so many millions of lives.
It will be an adventure. It will be exhilarating and it will be exhausting. But it will not be done alone. We speak with the voice of the us's.
It's time to share again.