This is giving me some trouble

October 2007

This is giving me some trouble. Basically my entire life, my plan has been to go and help other people ‘live properly,' and it's just beginning to dawn on me that I may actually have no idea or right. Also, the whole concept is pretty patronising, and (let's be honest) isn't far from being colonialism two dot oh.

Part of the trouble is that I have, realistically, no practical help to offer – I'm a middle-class white man white-collar information worker, and therefore one of the more useless members of the human race; I would be on Douglas Adams' colony ship along with the telephone sanitizers. But the bigger issue is: who the hell am I to think I know better than these people who are already bloody living there, and whose lives depend on the choices they make?

Okay, I have a bit more freedom to tinker with the system, and yes, in a more pragmatic sense I do know a little better because I have an education and an understanding of how globalised capitalism works, but still my doubts remain. Any ideas? Anyone?

Jody commented:

I think the best anyone can do is enter into some kind of live-and-think-about-it-[and repeat over] arrangement. You don't need to tell everyone how to live. Just get on with your living and be willing to explain yourself should the need arise. Talking as you go (like you do on this blog) is not over the top is it?

And don't go putting rotting flesh into your mouth. That's just good intuition.

Tim B commented:

Like, Nike! If you get too patronising people can always tell you (usually politely, since most humans who don't live in big cities are polite) to eff off ;)

Kelly commented:

Yeah, I get this one too. Part of me hopes that it's just an early 20s phase that I'll grow out of in a couple of years and go back to being arrogant and happy again. I suppose I've made it easier on myself by going into public health - most people worldwide would like themselves and their loved ones to live and be healthy for as long as possible.

in terms of uh... everything else... yeah, I'm still thinking about it. Hopefully this will continue! It gets a bit difficult when you haven't even made a decision on the type of civilisation (or lack of) you think is most beneficial! But I think we've discussed before how you either have to help people be good Westernised capitalists if that's what they're convinced they want to be, or you have to help them to be good traditional hunter gatherers if they're not doing so well and getting screwed over in the attempt to do either. That isn't a very satisfactory answer, and it still makes a lot of dodgy assumptions (ie. it still casts the white fulla as the rescuer, and all the interesting issues that go along with that), but I think you've got to find some kind of working assumption to live your life with (you can always work on revising it as you go), or you won't end up doing anything! I guess I just had so many people in Tajikistan telling me to send more Westerners over because they need our skills! And that includes learning them from us so they can go and be empowered themselves :) It's a starting point anyway...

Nato commented:

Perhaps if we realized we could also learn a bit from other cultures? If it becomes about the exchange, rather than the dictation of knowledge et al., then it's no longer imperialism, it's good cultural interaction.