Walnut Room this way

Walnut Room this way

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


My friend sent me an email a couple of days ago, telling me about a currently popular cartoon about whining about inconsequential things--thus, the #firstworldproblems.  I don't Facebook, or Tweet but I can use my imagination.  I recall when I was on Facebook a "friend" posting about how you could just not find good dosas in New York City.  What's a dosa?  The friend replied that I would not understand.  Oh, I see, I am so not in the know that I would not be able to understand if you actually bothered to explain it to me. Sounds like #firstworldproblems.

This morning I was going to post what I thought would be an entertaining post about my current physical difficulties and it taking me an hour to feed the dogs this morning, what with using two canes, trying to juggle one dog food bowl at a time to get 5 dogs fed all by myself.

I sat down to read one of my favorite blogs, Africa is a Country.  After reading the first paragraph, I found myself teetering between humor and amazement and annoyance.  See for yourself (emphasis mine):
The historian Margery Perham once wrote that “the basic difficulty” with the British colonial technique of indirect rule, of which she was a major architect, was “the great gap between the culture of rulers and ruled.” “People do not understand what we want them to do,” she wrote, “or, if they understand, do not want to do it.” The only thing for it, according to Perham, was “to instruct the leaders of the people in the objects of our policy, in the hope that they will, by their natural authority, at once diffuse the instruction and exact the necessary obedience.”
Imagine that: people do not want a foreign power to come in, take over, and tell them what to do.  One could think that the issue of colonization was history--a relic from earlier times...but one would be wrong, so read the entire article!

And in another striking example of my point about empowerment is the story of the school children demanding lessons in the face of economic cuts:

After two weeks without lessons, Blantyre’s school children decided they had had enough and organised their own demonstration across the city in support of their teachers. Dressed in bright blue and green school uniforms, they marched on Sanjika Palace before staging a sit-down protest on the road right outside the Malawian stock exchange. Stones were thrown at the Joyce Banda Foundation school, where classes were unaffected by the strike action, and angry pupils chanted their demands for equal provision across private and public schools.
This extraordinary collective action by Blantyre’s schoolchildren went scandalously unreported internationally. The Western media doesn’t know “empowerment” when it sees it, because it’s learned so well the old lie that the African poor (especially women and children) are waiting to have this thing called empowerment brought to them by Western NGOs.
I talk about this issue in my classes--empowerment is when people who are affected by inequality created and continued by governments or corporations do something to change those circumstances which result from policy.  Neo-liberal governments have hijacked the term empowerment to disguise charity and mental colonizing of people and calling it "empowerment."  It allows a government to abdicate its responsibility for citizens.  Great examples of so-called "empowerment" are the road building project in San Mateo and the garbage collection in Khayelitsha.

Feeding 5 dogs while walking on two canes?  #firstworldproblems.

1 comment:

Gigi said...

I don't feel like loading my dishwasher. #firstworldproblems. :)