Just another quick link, this time to Tales from the Hood.  This post on American Culture 101 sums up very nicely a theme I have been seen over and over in my research and which I find quite disturbing – the heroic nature of the (usually white, American) volunteer or development worker, and the patronising and moralising tone of the discourse around the poor and ‘needy’.

We love identifying with the benefactor. We love being the giver.

Not everyone can recall the message of Acts 20:35 offhand. But I’m guessing even many non-Christian Americans are aware of the existence of a Bible verse which says that it’s “more blessed to give than to receive.”

And that gets at the other half of the problem: While we love giving, we’re terrible at receiving.

Our culture is grounded in the belief that we can do it. We can go it alone. We can figure it out… We’d rather be poor and know that what we have we earned ourselves, than accept a handout.

Being able to survive on one’s own strength is almost a moral quality. “She worked hard and took care of her children, despite terrible challenges” = “she is a good person.”

And although we almost never say so directly, needing help is almost, well, immoral.

Sunday Reader

January 11, 2010

I confess.  I am a Google Reader addict.  I skim through hundreds of blog posts and articles each week, faithfully sharing those that I find interesting, challenging or simply fun.  As one of my favourite types of blog post is the linky type (I love finding new sites and blogs and can spend hours following rabbit holes across the web) I thought I would start my own regular link feature.  My web reading tastes are eclectic so this should be an interesting exercise… expect lots of social justice and development stuff, politics, culture, academia, some recipes I’ve tried and some just for fun. Enjoy the rabbit holes!

First up, Why Does the World’s Most Popular TV Show Feature a Misanthrope Who Gets Away with Everything? I’ve been watching a lot of House lately.  My excuse is that it is on every night here, nicely timed for an hour when my daughter is asleep, work is done and I am ready to curl up with a wine or hot chocolate and relax.  Quite why I find watching a character so abrasive, manipulative and insensitive to be relaxing I’m not sure… perhaps because he says and does some of the things I only wished I could in my past life as a nurse. Whatever the reason, he’s far more interesting to watch than the one-dimensional, polished characters on many other shows.

In addition to watching House, my other evening routine is Facebook, and this week I succumbed to the bra colour meme, seemingly a bit of harmless fun with friends in order to raise awareness for breast cancer.  But I wasn’t entirely comfortable with it, which I put down to the fact that I couldn’t see how it would actually help the cause in any meaningful way.  Saundra Schimmelpfennig of Good Intentions are Not Enough makes a more discomforting point, asking if charity activities can actually hurt the very people they are trying to help, pointing out that mis-guided charity events may loose sight, and unintentionally cause pain to beneficiaries.  Saundra has also written an interesting series on Guidelines for Volunteering Overseas, something I am planning to do more writing on and therefore something which you may see more about in this blog this year.

Here in Honduras, the elections are over and day to day life goes on seemingly normally. However the reality is that the crisis is not over.  Just yesterday Quotha reported a Massacre in Aguán, which the police and army argue is a “normal eviction”.  If even half of what is reported by Quotha is true, then this is a “normal” that needs to be challenged and changed.  Other ongoing concerns in Honduras include reports that Honduras is broke, and continuing repression of opposition media outlets. Incidentally, both blogs linked here (Quotha and Honduras Coup 2009) are written by academics with long-standing, close ties to Honduras and contacts within the resistance movement, and I trust them.

Of course in addition to obsessively following the news and spending hours with my google reader I am supposed to be writing my PhD thesis this year.  This image from indexed kind of sums up the year ahead of me.  Maybe I need to study more closely Lifehacker’s advice on better tools for better students.

Finally, this recipe for Chicken with Citrus Sauce is amazing! Lucky we are living in a citrus orchard.