But our leadership does not really get what is at stake. Even in my relatively enlightened corner of the aid business, people are busy just simply being busy. Defending their little corner. Stuck building systems that are not for people but for abstracted automatons.
Our leaders are not serious about scanning the horizon, about admitting that the public is right to scrutinize aid. I hear none of the kind of serious soul-searching that the moment requires.
We repeat transcendent values like dignity and justice as mantras yet we are blinded by bureaucracy and relentless self-interest. We keep running into the breach and doing the work that governments must do for their own citizens. As much as Dambisa Moyo annoys me, why can’t we set a date for when this should be over? What would it look like if INGO staff actually dedicated themselves to the sensible cliché of “putting themselves out of a job”?
People all over the world want to feel good, or even maybe just more ok. Even though most know humanity is screwed in the long run, people yearn to go where the energy is. Yet INGOs keep appealing to them with the same negative images, and collecting cold data for their institutional donor patrons. Individuals, and I would venture even taxpayers, do not need experts to spew evaluation data at them. They want to feel a stake in what is generative, what is life affirming. Statistics have a role, but their role is a backstop. People in the US and Europe want to support others in their struggles to make things better, and they want to see the connections between here and there.
His nipples peeped at Rahel over the top of the boundary wall like a sad St. Bernard’s eyes.Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things
Note to self: add surname-stenciled moose antlers to this tumblr’s Christmas list this year. A fantastic outtake from this issue’s cover shoot.
TOMS was in the process of setting up a partnership with Focus on the Family as an international distributor. This is an organization known for its anti-gay rhetoric/actions, etc. While there was some debate regarding whether this is a problem - i.e. some argue that donating shoes shouldn’t have anything to do with a “political” agenda and so there’s really no problem - I find that working with an organization - regardless of the number of lives it claims to save in the developing world - with a fundamentally flawed approach to human rights to be incredibly problematic. Quiet partnerships such as these not only legitimate anti-gay attitudes (which, for the record, is a human rights issue, not a political one), but also foist those views, by association and networks, on the people of the developing world. It’s still a noblesse-oblige-y-type of imperialism, however you slice it.
Anyways, TOMs issued an apology/retraction today, saying that there was and would be no partnership, but I found this quote on Jezebel to be particularly telling:
Perhaps another explanation is simpler: Mycoskie and TOMS knew what they were getting on board with, but didn’t think anyone would notice or care. Now they know.
We moved to Indonesia in 2007 to help develop a school that was based around a curriculum of sustainability. It was a fantasy that strongly appealed to me. Growing my own lettuce in volcanic soil. Creating a community of teachers and students. Having my children learn another language and experience a vibrant part of the world. Hiring someone to give me a hand with the children so I could find more time to write.
It called on the spirit of “Walden,” an intentionality of living, blended with a darker dose of the colonial: I could hire help for very little and not spend all day attached to a sponge. Anything freighted with that much desire and contradiction is bound to fail, and my dream soon did. What’s consoling is that even though I gained little of what I’d hoped for, I was happily changed in ways that I had neither planned nor expected.
(Source: The New York Times)