There’s the cruelty of war and then there are clowns

It appears that children, stuck in a hospital are not the only ones to suffer the torture of clowns; they’ve now moved on to refugees. As was reported, a troupe of clowns from the group, ‘Payasos Sin Fronteras‘ (Clowns Without Borders), has apparently been covertly moving around DR Congo, red noses and all, “entertaining” people in refugee camps.
Okay, let me be up front. I’ve never liked clowns. I don’t find them funny. In fact, they generally scare the crap out of me and not just because of films like IT. It’s people running around in face paint, acting weird, and often dropping their pants. I never knew how that got to be acceptable behavior in modern society and if you took the face paint out of it, they’d probably be arrested in normal settings. I suppose it’s a good part of the reason I enjoyed Shakes the Clown so much as it tore open the sordid underbelly of the clowning world. Well, not really, but it make clowns out to be the terror that I find them to be.
There was always the longstanding joke that the reason clowns went to entertain children in hospitals was because the kids couldn’t run away (see, it’s not just me that’s wigged out by clowns.) It appears that after working in Syria and former Yugoslavia, these clowns have gotten wind of the refugees in the camps around Goma that, gosh darnit, need some cheering up. What they actually need is a long-term development plan, de-mining, warlords to stop being funded by greedy international mining operations, and a functional government so that these camps can be shut down someday. But, until then, we have clowns. For me, it plays a good deal in to this argument wherein, since the refugees have nothing, a few hours of slapstick comedy will obviously make things better. I’m going to lean towards the ‘not’ side of things and toss this in the rather large pile of “people not gettin’ it”. This becomes even more clear when reading their blog wherein the title is “Lo nuestro es de risa” which is an idiom best translated as “this is a joke” in that it’s not be taken seriously.
On a related yet unrelated side note, somehow I’ve managed to tie the Balkans and Africa together for two posts in a row. That just blows my mind.
There's the cruelty of war and then there are clowns

3 Replies to “There’s the cruelty of war and then there are clowns”

  1. I would like to correct the above posting’s assumptions about Clowns Without Borders. Clowns Without Borders is an international humanitarian organisation that uses laughter and play to provide psychosocial support to children and their caregivers who have been affected by trauma due to violence, natural disasters, economic hardships, and disease. With 9 chapters including Spain and South Africa, CWB sends more than 100 teams of facilitators and artists throughout the world. Our performances are designed to momentarily alleviate the emotional suffering from trauma. They also introduce us to a community where we will be working on the long-term. We work with the medium of play and laughter as it is our mission to allow children to reconnect with their right’s to be children on a psychosocial level. It is important to stress that we never enter situations alone but rather recognize that psychosocial relief is only a part of many services needed to alleviate the suffering of people affected by crisis. As a result, CWB partners with organisations that provide material, health, and economic development integrating our services within existing support structures.

    Furthermore, CWB interventions go beyond the momentary relief of performances by applying dramatic and circus arts as a means for education, awareness, and therapy. For instance, in Southern Africa, we implement residencies for children and their caregivers affected by HIV/AIDS that use storytelling, play, drama, and mindfulness based stress reduction to strengthen empathic child-caregiver relationships at home. We also empower communities to develop their own means of addressing their psychosocial needs through local capacity development projects. Thus, we integrate short-term relief with long-term community development and empowerment as we have done in Swaziland, Lebanon, Lesotho, and other areas.

    Clowns Without Borders certainly takes our work seriously. It is about laughter. But it is also about reawakening a sense of hope, imagination, and peace in the lives of children and their caregivers – an essential component to empowerment and community renewal.

    Peace and laughter,
    Jamie McLaren Lachman
    Founder and Director
    Clowns Without Borders South Africa

  2. Hola Miquel :o)

    I agree with Jamie, I think you’ve jumped onto conclusions a bit too quickly. I’ve never liked “clowns” (the scary kind that you mention) either, but have been very impressed with the work Jamie and his colleagues do. Maybe if you do some research you’ll change your mind about CWB …

  3. Jamie, thank you for laying out your mission statement as I only thought it was a Spanish organization. My issue with your group in regards to those operating in the Congo has to do with short-term aid work in an area that needs long-term development and the fact that there is an “anything without borders” these days.
    I still respectfully disagree with the approach there, but would rather take up that discussion with you the next time I’m in SA or you’re in California as this format is not nearly as conducive to a levelheaded debate as is a pint.

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