Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Development theater

Bill Gates opened a jar of mosquitoes at a TED gathering and said, "Why should the poor be the only ones to get malaria?"

Foreign Policy: "misguided and somewhat tasteless attempt to make wealthy donors experience the realities of Third World poverty"
The World Economic Forum at Davos featured a "Refugee Run" so that millionaires can experience the horrors of fleeing violence and oppression.

Bill Easterly, NYU Economist: "Did the words 'insensitive,' 'dehumanizing,' or 'disrespectful' (not to mention 'ludicrous') ever come up in discussing the plans for 'Refugee Run'?"

It's difficult to respond to poverty and injustice. Give money, raise awareness … these are the approaches generally available to the concerned public. For those desperate for change, there is also desperation to tell the story in such a way to motivate much more money and much more awareness. I respect the need to do something that motivates change. When we know the pain in the world we must mourn it and strive to be peacemakers. But when our attempts become theatrical or consumerist, and the results are indeterminate, does our response respect the dignity of those who suffer?

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