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I’ve been fascinated by the responses that have come in to our program with Binyavanga Wainaina. They’ve come in part from other Africans and from current and former NGOs, missionaries, and Peace Corps volunteers. This felt like a huge and daunting, yet pressing, subject to open up. And that’s clearly what we’ve done — not started a conversation but opened it a little wider; the questions and concerns he articulated are present in many closest to this work.

I’m especially intrigued, as well, by one e-mail we received from New Orleans, drawing parallels between aid to post-Katrina New Orleans and aid to Africa. It is a stunning reflection on how, even domestically, the dramatic gesture is deceptively satisfying. Most of all I’m pleased that so many found Binyavanga Wainaina’s insights emboldening, as I did. His hard truth-telling — even his satire — is the opposite of a call to cynicism. It is a call to attentiveness to the deeper truth of ourselves and the other.


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3 Comments

I've listened to NPR for a considerable time and of course it speaks from a western point of view. And now you are talking about aid to Africa. Of course Africa needs aid after the Europeans colonized them and upset there cultures by foisting on them western religion and the western idea of economies to them. But just what are we going to AID them with. I truly hope that we ask the common folk what they need help with before we try to help them. When we help them will it really help them or upset the system that can be established if people are left to there own devices. I know if we are attempting to spring capitalism or deepen the capitalism they are saddled with now will surly not help them. Every aid package weather it is governmental or nongovernmental tacitly or actively brings a non-system that takes the wealth from the many and gives it the few. Which finally results in depression where the rich have gotten rich and the poor own nothing with very few in the middle. Trying to force others into a (non)system that attempts to make rich men richer for ever and ever read- fails to circulate the money, is not aid it's giving them dollars that they have to spend in the united states to get any benefit. Until we get control of our self and base our economic system on reason (provides a job and the basic necessities for every one) not fear and greed we cannot aid any one. Cuba by training people from nations around the world to be doctors that pledge to serve the poor is probably the most effective aid possible.

I really enjoyed this show, and I'm so glad I recently discovered SOF! I think Wainaina's insights are applicable to many situations where those in privileged positions want to "help" those in less powerful situations. You can see it in suburban folks trying to help inner city folks, for example, in the U.S. As a white woman who has worked in the inner city for many years (in the family planning field), I've felt first hand this tension. Thanks for taking the time to explore this important and difficult issue.

Adena, I appreciate your analogy. I've wrestled with some similar issues in previous endeavors and in my daily encounters that are often forgotten.

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