The War Room

What's your story?

Everyone has one that defines them, or at least has had a major impact on their lives.

I have more than a few, but this is one I don't share often.

My step dad (been my step dad since I was 12) is in the mining business, and always worked in countries with severe political unrest. Because of this, he was kidnapped in the late 70s in Eritrea for six months, forced to walk the desert barefoot and survived on camel milk. Of the 6 that were taken, only 3 survived. His company paid the ransom and he was released. Since that time, he made it his mission to do what he could to eradicate the conditions that caused terrorism to flourish in the first place - and believed foreign direct investment was the best way to do it.

Fast forward to 2012. He had started mining production in the southern Philippines (Mindanao), which was flush with the Islamic terrorist group, Abu Sayyaf. They were exploiting the lush gold reserves with illegal mining techniques which dumped dangerous chemicals into the rivers and used child labor. He got some government assistance to stop these practices.

As this mine was in the middle of the jungle, they would need to do weekly trips to town to refresh supplies. The wives and children of the workers would beg to tag along so they could sell their handmade baskets or wares for additional income. So he bought a bigger bus to make this happen.

And then it was ambushed by the terrorists. It was full of women, children, an engineer and two security guards. Everyone was killed.

Now, this was directly after 9/11, and there were more than a few beheadings in the region that had already made international news. This did too. President Bush was eager to come in and bomb the shit out of everything. The Philippine President was going to grant this request, but my step dad begged him to just wait. Give him one year to make a change, and if there was no progress, bomb away. They gave him that chance.

So he hired his own army. Yep. A well respected retired general who also happened to be an expert in agriculture. He had a few tanks, but 90% of his efforts were spent on the community and 10% on security. Quite frankly, he offered the terrorists jobs.

And he built schools. He built a hospital. He offered scholarships to every child who successfully graduated high school. They built fish farms. Goat farms. They made the entire village completely self sufficient. He offered the people a real future for their children and vastly improved quality of life.

And you know who really made the change? The women.

They were tired of being hungry. They were tired of their fathers, husbands, brothers and children dying. They saw the opportunity for a way out and they kicked the men in their lives in the ass and told them to take the damned jobs. It worked. The terrorists were defeated without firing a single bullet.

Obviously, if you follow the news, it did not last. The next Philippine administration was anti-mining, anti-foreign and in the pocket of the Catholic church who had their own agendas. They shut down the mine for long enough that people lost those jobs and went back to killing.

HOWEVER - I use it as a microcosm for literally everything. We can solve big problems with kindness and empathy.

What's your story?

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