#20 Righteous Indignation
Expat Aid Workers love being on the right side of every issue that matters. For example:
- Global warming: against it.
- Going green: for it.
- Racism:against it.
- Cultural pluralism: for it.
- Human rights: for it.
- Respecting local knowledge: for it.
- Harmful cultural practice: against it.
- Strengthening the local economy: for it.
- Sexual harassment in the workplace: against it.
- Gender-based discrimination in the workplace: against it.
- Consensual shagging in the workplace: for it (so long as it does not hinder the timely submission of a life-saving report)
- and so on….
Many of the issues Expat Aid Workers have to consider, day in and day out, as part of their normal jobs are of such immense importance with such far-reaching ramifications that they absolutely cannot afford to espouse the wrong stance. Moreover, because of their deep insights and unusually mature perspectives on the world, Expat Aid Workers (especially those working on Protection, Rights, Gender or Environment and those who see themselves as Social Entrepreneurs or “Change Agents”) are uniquely qualified to educate those less enlightened around them about the proper position that one should have on such pressing issues.
Perhaps most important of all, however, is the Expat Aid Workers’ moral responsibility to call out and hold to account fellow Expat Aid Workers who express views or in some way behave contrary to right-sides-of-all-the-issues orthodoxy. It is of critical importance that such aberrant thoughts and deeds be called out on each and every occasion. And in this struggle there is no weapon in the right-minded Expat Aid Worker’s arsenal so potent as righteous indignation.
Righteous indignation is most effective when used in public settings like all-staff meetings, inter-agency working groups, or at the pub following either. It’s best, but not absolutely necessary, for the object of righteous indignation to be present, as this enhances the overall effect.
It is also quite important that righteous indignation be expressed in an ultra-calm, articulate manner. Remember: righteous indignation is never personal.
The Expat Aid Worker doesn’t actually have anything against that odious wanker who doesn’t see why “gender” should be the driving consideration in the discussion of a response-wide shelter strategy; it’s not that she or he wants bad things to happen to the tattooed chick in the Food Cluster meeting who keeps referring to the Congo as “Zaire.” It’s just that these unenlightened states must not go unchallenged. These individuals are clearly on the wrong sides of the issues. And if no one else has the balls to call them out (for the sake of the “beneficiaries”), then it’s on the Expat Aid Worker to step up. (And note to self: be sure not to drink with the wanker/dance with the chick at the Expat Aid Worker party this weekend.)
Finally, as a right-thinking Expat Aid Worker, it is important to realize that while times change, principles don’t. Right is right, and wrong is wrong, and the Expat Aid Worker is obviously aligned with the former. No amount of “experience” or “understanding context” will change that. There is no need for introspection or softening tone (which is just code for “self censorship, anyway) or acknowledging multiple realities on a given subject. Nor is there need to shy away from righteous indignation for fear that it may ever come back to bite you. It won’t.
So go on – next time someone crosses you with an opinion that you know to be wrong, make the world a better place, one wrong-thinking person at a time. Bring a little righteous indignation.