“We recognise we have a problem.”
The head of Oxfam in response to the “outrage of the moment” latest “sex scandal”. How we love our outrage! How we put those responsible for allowing “these scandals” on the end of a rope so we can make them twitch – apply some targeted verbal-cattle prods – watch them wince – see them bleed! It is digital bear-baiting.
“We recognise we have a problem.”
I don’t think “we” do. I don’t think the headline-grabbing-click-counting-journalists recognise it. I don’t think we click-induced viewers recognise it. I don’t think the head of Oxfam recognises it. I don’t think anyone wants to recognise what the problem is.
The problem I think is a culture that assumes the role of “Planet Superhero” and “Victim Saviours (Global Division)”. It is an industry like any other – individuals climbing a career of care-giving (on a massive scale): “Head of Country – Aid Division” their prize and goal. Careerists who scoot from one disaster to another just like any commercial project manager scoots from one project to another (generous expense account at the ready – obviously).
A tidal wave (I have heard those in the know refer to it as “a tsunami”)” of travelling “aid and aid workers” who deluge an area of disaster – who hire the best of everything and push up prices for everyone (travelling or itinerant) – who splash more cash than any of the locals at a time when the locals have nothing – who are as used to being feted and indulged as any head of government. And who then roll out of town as soon as the next disaster calls.
A culture that sees government having to hit targets of funding – and which these charitable organisations allow governments to achieve. A culture where there are many complicit in order to be able “to look the other way” with a clear conscience. A complicity in which you and I are part.
So back to the bear-baiting.
It’s much comforting to see a polished-networking-top-of-the-tree-career-climber twitch than it is to address a problem much closer to home: mine and your preference to not get our hands dirty (or to change our comfortable lives) with the reality of suffering, poverty, starvation, deprivation and abuse all over this world we like to think we all share equally.
A complicity that knows (but would never say) that we, who are comfortable, are upset with the reality. That we, who are comfortable, prefer to give a few coins in order to look away. Who know “funding governments” haven’t the time or will to look too closely. And which allows those who jet from disaster to disaster with their expense accounts to operate with immunity from public scrutiny.
It is an industry. A thriving industry. A long-term and well-established industry.
And so long as it provides pictures of smiling children with black faces, or tearful children with black faces, or the “whatever kind of faces” – usually black – that work best at raising money (so we can live comfortably knowing we are doing our bit) … then that industry has no reason to change.
I see the same every time a massacre takes place – of tearful children with white faces – tearful adults with white friends – and nothing happens. I see those same pictures time after time with “natural disasters” – just of black faces – and of a different industry.
“Industry” knows we all prefer a good “scandal” to be “the problem”. I think they know us well.
Because scandals don’t last. And scandals allow us to be outraged. And scandals last only as long as it takes for the next scandal. And we shift our outrage to a new target. And nothing changes. Except the news industry gains a few more readers, a few more clicks, a few more advertisers. It is as though each “industry” needs the other. One industry needs another industry needs another industry – all so that the money keeps coming in.
I wonder why we all think money is the solution. I wonder why we prefer drooling with outrage over the repeated scandals and well practiced bear-baiting. I wonder why nothing changes.
Maybe because it’s too damned comfortable for you and me.