One thing that we have discussed on this blog often is the idea of “what is the appropriate response?” We write about these issues which we see in our world and we write about their consequences but we have struggled with what our response means. How do we not fall prey to the common problems of development work–both locally and globally? How can we respect the groups that we engage with in our work? How can we treat individuals with dignity and honor?
One way we accomplish that is by simply doing something…by acting. We should not let our hesitation be a hindrance. That’s not to say that we should throw caution to the wind and ignore our concerns. What we need to do is to be thoughtful and considerate.
Yup, those are platitudes. Those aren’t a quick fix. Those are characteristics that will take lifetime of work to develop. I firmly believe that if you are thoughtful and considerate than these issues will become less of a problem.
The Lessons from Undergrad
My undergraduate mentor is one of the greatest men I have ever known (with the exception of my dad). Teaching Urban Studies classes he often dealt with confused students, and he would break it down simply:
There are things that you know to be good and things that you know to be bad. You would not say that being a hit man is good. Many things aren’t that simple—they are good and bad. And your challenge is to hold things in tension and move from there.
The dialectic is simple and yet complex. The dialectic is black and yet white. The dialectic is complicated and yet easy. Essentially, in the dialectic (or dialectical tension) one holds to opposite concepts in tension and one then tries to come to a synthasis of them.
If you take the example of child sponsorship your “thesis” and “antithesis” would be child sponsorship and not sponsoring the child. From here you would determine what you want to value– helping some one at a personal level or not continuing cultural norms of oppression and the poverty of pornography. As the diagram above indicates you go through a period of crisis…this is hard. WHAT DO YOU DO!?!?!
One step is to figure out if there is an alternative. Rather than sponsoring a kid in another country for $38 a month, are there kids in your own community who you could engage with? Could you invest that money (or time) into helping out a local child? I recently read an article about a reporter who profiled two students who were at a prestigious school, but had zero support from home. After he finished his piece he kept in touch with those students and he helped fill in the gaps that there parents could not. He helped with college applications. He bought them tickets to prom. He bought them a mini-fridge for college. Are there ways that you could have an impact on some ones life that rather than thinking globally, you think locally?