Day 14: Nicholas Kristof Depresses Me

25 Feb

I’m gonna write something that is not directly related to women’s/gender issues. It is more on a particular writer and international development, but it is my belief that these are interconnected issues as many women (and men) of the world are still very much excluded from achieving better quality of lives and human rights.

I have read quite a few of Nicholas Kristof’s writing, and I even read a book written by him and his wife, Half the Sky. For those of you who aren’t familiar with him, he is a big time NYT columnist who has been writing extensively about women’s human rights in developing world.

But can someone tell me why his “courageous acts” never fails to appear to me as journeys based on “White Man’s Burden?” Watch this video first.

http://video.nytimes.com/video/2011/12/03/opinion/100000001203762/win-a-trip-2012.html

It just makes me feel uncomfortable that he often (dangerously and surprisingly naively) claims that people who might be ignorant but means well should get out of America (or whatever their comfort zone might be) and explore the developing countries. While these people may infinitely benefit from the life changing experience, I believe that their short visits are quite invasive to the daily lives of the people in the developing countries who have to live with poverty probably for the rest of their lives whether they come or not. Their visits may even give these people false hope that making personal relationship with them could possibly lift them out of poverty. I have seen such efforts, and it is quite heartbreaking and uncomfortable.

The “natives” or “those unfortunate women” being the elements that satisfy the voyeuristic pleasure. It doesn’t sit quite well with me. But then, isn’t all development literature coming from more or less that viewpoint? Aren’t we all, the citizens of developed countries (and those who are fortunate enough to get out of poverty or to be born in well-off families in developing countries), just talking gibberish about what poverty and injustice are to those who are subalterns (the entities who do not even have autonomy)? And who are we to call them subalterns? Or should we forget all of these “unproductive” arguments and just move on to come up with better solutions?

These questions ought to be constantly debated, and they are never going to have awesome answers for me (that could clear my head eventually), but those debates are honestly quite exhausting…

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