Global North: January 2008 Archives


In researching a forthcoming post, I stumbled across this remarkable video about rural Kenyans who have gotten the rights from the corporation that owns the Simpsons to produce and sell handmade soapstone carvings of characters on the show.  They receive $6 for each carving, which they use to support and educate their families.  The spokesman from the group is very pleased about the work and the impact it has had on the community. 

But then we find that the carvings can be sold in the UK for ten times that amount, $60 a piece.  Does it really cost $54 to ship a small bust of Homer Simpson from Kenya to Britain?  Perhaps, but I am skeptical.  But I’ll refrain from complaining too loudly since if the project were ended for some reason, the Kenyan artisans would clearly be worse off than they are now. 

As an educated Westerner, objectively I have little to complain about compared to most people in the world.  But when thinking about the trenchant problems people in the Global South face and will likely face for the rest of their lives, lately I’ve been dangerously short on optimism.  It’s just so depressing.  It’s easy to understand why often the first response to such widescale suffering is to pretend that these challenges don’t exist or that they’re primarily unsolvable and of people’s own making. 

So it lifts me up to see people like videoreporter Ruud Elmendorp, who made the piece I’ve embedded here, publicizing daily life in Kenya and elsewhere on his website.  He has some reports on the recent unrest in Kenya.  Check it out

Update: I'm still working on the embed here--sorry to all inconvenienced by the automatic start on the video. I need a tutorial or something ...

Later update: Ok, hopefully it'll work now through YouTube.  Embedding the clip through Typepad proved to be beyond my meager abilities. 

Everything makes sense when I go back to Guatemala.  I've gotten increasingly interested in local politics here in Massachusetts, but going back to Guatemala puts everything in perspective.  While I still have yet to be able to fully articulate it, I think I'm finally starting to get a feel for what matters for the billions of people that inhabit the earth. 

When I put it that way it might seem simple.  But in the world of new media, where it's theoretically possible to make an impact anywhere in the globe, at any time, prioritizing makes the difference between change and keeping things the same. 

It's never been enough to say, "do good", because almost everyone, at least in their mind, feels they are a good person at heart.  It's certainly not enough to say all each of us needs to do is help a few other people, because those with the privilege to do so are too few and those that need help and support are too many.  The question has always been when and how to better the world, and the answers certainly aren't always and however.  That leads to burnout. 

I think my mind is finally grasping the necessary nuance that has always allowed me to prioritize between issues like Boston's rat problem or a "virus of potholes", and malnourished children in Guatemala.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Global North category from January 2008.

Global North: December 2007 is the previous archive.

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