I feel like I might not quite be finished after that last post on Poverty tourism. For one, I recognize that a highlight of the post was one particular poorly-received chapel experience at my Alma mater, Messiah College. I must admit, it was a struggle waking up for chapel, especially after clocks got pushed forward "daylight savings" style in the spring; not every chapel was a gem, either, and sometimes that made chapel attendance more of a chore than anything else. However, for the most part, chapel was an enjoyable formative experience, and I was glad to see all the people involved put their hearts into making each session a success, no matter what small part they played.
Kibera is on my mind yet again. No less a celebrity than Madonna was in Kenya recently, and even she couldn't help but bring attention to Kibera. She visited the world famous slum, and highlighted the work of an NGO - Shining Hope for Communities. I'm pretty sure the NGO does good work, and Madonna will no doubt ensure that they get a great deal of funding. Against this backdrop, Kenya gets another slap in the face.
Sure enough, you can't deny the level of squalid levelled at you when you set foot in some parts of Kibera (and other less famous parts of Nairobi). I am not denying that one bit; however, with all things seemingly so permanent, there is the underlying thread that someone let all this happen. To paraphrase a quote I read somewhere,
"We celebrate those things which we hold dear."
Maybe we've just developed an uncanny ability to celebrate the mediocrity that surrounds us...to tolerate the sprawl and unplanned structures that have arisen in the recent past...to tolerate the poor excuse for public transportation that's supposed to get the majority of residents around. No less than a future aspirant for Governor of Nairobi intimated that his idea of progress was to turn a historic greenspace into a public transport terminus. Mediocrity par excellence.
I place this blame at the feet of our political class, and the other part on us for making it so easy to skate on by without any sort of work output.
The donors rush in and see all this desperation, and their response is to throw more money at the situation. That money is ultimately gobbled up by the attrition of Administrative costs. How can anyone in the developed countries that send us funding sit back in satisfaction as Kenyan politicians take home massive salaries completely incongruent to our GDP, refuse to contribute anything towards taxes, and plunge citizens into avoidable debt? And at the end of it all, the politicians still have the gall to ask for debt forgiveness and more aid.
Devolution, part of what was meant to address such issues, is not surprisingly stillborn. Rather than build institutions and capacity, the greedy politicians have instead diverted the funding to the top-heavy behemoth of government structure and personal emoluments; now that elections are a year away, they'll come to us with promises of what they will do if placed in positions of power, as if the past 4 years didn't count.
I might not necessarily be a fan of Donald Trump, but I certainly embrace one of his policies: refusing to send money overseas to foreign countries while there are pertinent issues that need to be funded within the USA. All the donor aid has made us lazy. How can we even claim to be sovereign if we have to factor the handouts from benevolent donors into the running of our country? In a country where we're forced to part with 30% of our earnings, it is not illogical to ask for some fiscal responsibility and maturity from those tasked with leading us.
And for goodness sake, we need to develop a semblance of a sense of shame. I've previously written about my South Korean friend (Park) and his sentiments about his country's current rise to prominence. There is a salient sense of shame about their humble beginnings and their treatment at the hands of Japan; that, in addition to a great work ethic keeps them striving onward. We need to be ashamed enough to keep these celebrities from doing things that we can address ourselves.
This is not middle-class me claiming that their money isn't needed; rather, I believe we have it within our own power to fix these things ourselves.
And in case anyone thought I've never been on a poverty tour, guess again. Yep, Messiah College times again. It was Spring 2003, and my crazy and loveable lecturer - Dr. Christian Van Gorder - took us to Washington DC. Part of that trip involved a drive in a tour bus through Anacostia (look it up!). In most likelihood, if I'd known about the itinerary beforehand, I might've given that trip a pass. Nothing of note happened, though, besides having our bus pelted by some kids who decided to toss eggs from their balconies! Sure it may have been a bad neighbourhood ("Training Day" bad!), but driving through it without any real interaction left no real impression on me.
I get it! Even the mighty US has some patches of roughness scattered in among the prosperity...that's basically every country that ever existed. I have no illusions about this world and the hard work needed, but set against a foundation of meticulate planning and funding, we can nip a lot of these poverty issues in the bud.
Have a blessed day.