Ethan Zuckerman blogs about the future of advocacy. He demonstrates a shift from programmatic "representation" to the "pointing and contextualizing" of the blog world. This amplifies an important lesson regarding "tolerance." Just as it is embarassingly presumptuous to emphasize "tolerance" as a value (who am I to presume to tolerate you!?), so also is the tendency idealistically to adopt-a-cause and represent the less fortunate who come along with the ideal.
Ethan quotes Martin Kimani,
[A benefit show's organizers] will lay claim to the very last thing so many Africans own: our problems. And it will be terrible and evil beyond imagining for owning your problem is at the heart of what it is to be human. It is when we wrestle and suffer and triumph over our problems that we are most human, but this alas is not to be if the soul stealers on show succeed. I do not want anyone to suffer needlessly. I would prefer everyone to live in a democratic, prosperous community that knows no war or want. But these are conditions that must be battled and struggled for; they have never arrived as a gift from a stranger.
It's a far cry from representing others to representing ourselves, and the smug sanctimonious bullshit that can accompany our charitable impulses often dehumanizes, depersonalizes and neutralizes the best intentions. How much better it is to support another's representation of herself by pointing to it and providing context.
(cross posted at NetSquared)
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