Tuesday, June 30, 2009

going on

The rainy season has come in force. Most days are spent under clouds, the sky pouring forth for 6-9 hours, and then it becomes unbearably hot and humid. We had a power failure last night in the middle of the night. It made sleep nigh but impossible for an hour or two. On a more positive note, though, I am getting a mosquito net finally. No more swatting and scratching throughout the night, not to mention minimizing possible exposure to malaria.

Work is accelerating. We are constantly reminded that we're only here for a year and we have to be fully operational by november in order to get packages sold and set for february. I am spending most of my time still doing basic data entry, but it is vital because these varied databases are lists of service providers that we're trying to have on our website, so I can't slack off too much. But it is still mindnumbing work on the best of days. I've also got to get ready for Dr. Smith's arrival and getting her coordinated with my profs to set up a workshop looking at tourism, development etc..for a few hours in mid-August.

I had my first decent goat in this city yesterday. Aus took me to the old residence, a museum/conservation site, and we got some goat pepper soup for lunch. The goat was relatively tender and flavorful and the pepper broth was out of this world. I could barely finish it it was so hot. I must figure out how to make this stuff at some point. Unfortunately, waiting for our ride back to the office we got followed by a little beggar child. Cute kid, broke my heart to see him as he was, but I had no small money left on me and I wasn't about to hand him a thousand naira note. He continued to follow us after we got our ride and walked alongside the truck as it was pulling into traffic. His persistence was heartbreaking to me. Little shit like that reminds me why some of the stuff we're doing here is important and can do some good but it also reminds me of the enormity of the situation. I don't want to leave here too jaded and I also don't want to leave here having romanticized my experience.

I see little nobility in poverty and I'm not one of those people that has an issue with trying to increase peoples' access to material wealth, whether that be adequate access to food, water, healthcare, or even being able to get a tv or get connected to the internet. I don't buy into the notion that you ruin people through development, turning people from an "innocent" philosophy and outlook to one of empty materialism, as if worrying about the size of a tv is somehow worse than not being to feed one's self. Excessive materialism comes from an immense level of egotism, not from being to feed one's self or to enjoy some of the better things in life. Personally, I find many arguments to the contrary to be nothing more than a mutation of the idea of the "noble savage", polluted by our modern ways. It doesn't seem to matter to much if these people can properly feed and clothe themselves...but I guess that's just because I'm an empty materialist. I've also got issues with a philosophy that demands that other people be content with their poverty without striving for something more because it may pollute them, it parallels too closely with the "pie in the sky" arguments used by segregationists to keep blacks, and poor whites, from organizing.

Poverty holds no nobility for me. Neither does wealth. One can be an asshole whether you're rich or poor. Forgive the rambling nature of this post, it's just an issue that has tugged at me and continually comes up in varied forms in different conversations.

I pray everyone is well. Keep commenting.


Lauren said...

Isn't it the idea that the way to eliminate poverty is to assist people in affording access to material wealth? Why would anyone be against that, exactly? I suppose I wouldn't think to force development on any tribe, etc., that functions perfectly well in seclusion, but if it's the answer to picking up a faltering society, then isn't the point to ultimately bring everyone into the 21st century? Development and materialism are signs of wealth, which is good if you're trying to fight poverty. Plus they make people happy, and I'm still convinced that happiness plays some role in this whole "fighting poverty" scheme.

Oh, and glad you found some good goat.

Jamaal said...

Well, I moreso meant that it pisses me off that people work in poverty alleviation and development work and and yet spout this new-agey squishy bullshit stuff of "Are we really helping these people? I mean, they're happy as they are, aren't they? Aren't Americans really unhappy and materialistic?". I tihnk that argument holds little weight. Americans are like that not because they have material comfort but because they have substituted that materialism to self-worth and the like. it's a self-defeating viewpoint and a morally bankrupt one. But I refuse the notion that helping people get more to eat, education, decent healthcare and some material wealth is tantamount to killing their "innocence". Poverty isn't innocent, it's just poverty.

Frank said...

I've seen some pretty impressive dignity in poverty, but yeah if it means that they're lacking the basic supplies that will let them lead healthy lives then it's something that the more fortunate need to pitch in on... just cause they've gotten strong enough mentally to bear the weight doesn't meant they should have to. The people so say the new-agey stuff you said seem to think that we soon as they get a new hospital or new school or new business in town they'll snap and turn into a spoiled suburban kid.

PS: you now made me hungry with the goat part, and thanks for the birthday wishes bro.