#152 Hating Cynicism
Submitted by John Frum, who can be found here on Aidsource
Today’s up-and-coming expat aid worker recognizes that the aid and development industry has finally come full-circle. The age of the ‘dark side’ of aid has passed. We’re in a newer, more refined world now. Donors who were once, long ago, self-absorbed and selfish are now wholly and completely altruistic; corporations that once ravaged the wilds of the third world now pour their entire profit margin into well-reasoned CSR schemes which sustainably eradicate poverty and restore an environment ravaged by previous generations.
Of course the properly indoctrinated and socially conscious EAW gets the point that aid is hard and difficult and complicated. Yes, she or he understands that when aid goes wrong it means bad things for poor people. But see, the thing is, aid doesn’t doesn’t really go all that wrong all that often. It’s important to see the world through the aid lens of a glass that is half full, not half empty.
So whether they’re blogging to show their superior intelligence (or just blogging for the folks back home), updating Facebook, explaining local culture to locals, using words in the local language, blending in, or even going native, the EAW who is properly attuned to the realities, both of the work and also the life of an EAW, will be distinctly… non-cynical.
Those crusty old aid workers with their snarky, cynical blogs have clearly crossed the line. They’ve obviously lost touch with what it means to value ‘local process’, forgotten how to ‘give voice’ to beneficiaries who obviously understand the aid industry far better, and have long ago lost the capacity for empathy (and other basic human emotions other than lust and alcoholism). Clearly they have nothing of value to offer the conversation. Those cranky, jaded wet-blanket types just have the wrong attitude and were probably never really right for aid anyway. Times have changed: those execs up at the top of the UN and INGOs all mean well and that’s got to count for something, right?
It’s time to take back the discourse and let the world know that aid is a happy, cheerful, positive thing. It’ll all work out in the end. And if it hasn’t worked out yet, it just means we’re not done yet. Let’s listen a little harder to the locals, encourage newcomers to think outside the box a little more, and try out some new approaches. Self-doubt is cool once in a while, as long as you’re the one doing it. And any other opinion should be silenced.
if when it all goes to hell… well, just put a smile on. Happiness is the new realism. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything. If the aid world gives you limes, make margaritas.