Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Philanthropic Cluelessness Mocked in Radi-Aid - Africans Helping Freezing Norwegians

A friend tipped me off to this one.




It would be better, if it had been made by Africans instead of by Norwegians, but it's always good to see something familiar from a totally different angle. It has an overwhelming number of likes, but I was surprised to see the negative comments on this. It's hard to imagine people being offended by this.  But on further reflection, I guess some people feel the heat of this satire.

The Radi-Aid website doesn't have a lot on it, but it does link to this NY Times article from yesterday which does a pretty good interpretation. Here's a part:
The video comes from the Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund, a development organization in Norway that deploys funding and technical assistance to young people in Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa as well as Bolivia and Nicaragua. Its comedy, of course, is that Norway consistently tops global rankings of human development (and that the African chorus in the video struggles with the cold). The tragedy is that even if the worst conventions of development assistance can be mocked, they still persist.
Plenty of ink has been spilled over the pitfalls and pratfalls of aid to Africa and other less developed regions of the world. The Nigerian-American author Teju Cole updated the phrase the “white man’s burden” to the “white savior industrial complex,” an accurate descriptor for philanthropic cluelessness and waste, like ineffectual condom-distribution drives in India or “buy-one-give-one” shoe-selling schemes. Aid campaigns implicitly promise guilt reduction and ego inflation for donors.
The Radi-Aid video a play on Live Aid, a seminal musical aid campaign pokes fun at the very process of international charity. It makes the shrewd viewer ask: Who will receive the donations? What if the radiators break? Is this a long-term strategy to fight frostbite? Is frostbite the core problem anyway?

"White savior industrial complex" and "philanthropic cluelessness."  Ouch.  That's not in the video, but I guess some people recognize when they are being made fun of.  Here's a bit more that might explain why some people were pissed off:
This is a smart way to question whether assistance to populations in Africa — in the form of pharmaceuticals or water wells or even underwear — is more about making donors look good than about doing good for the needy.
 People want to hold on tight to their first world superiority.  They don't like it questioned.  Just listen to some of the recent Republican campaign speeches.   

And remember, Venezuela was sending oil to rural Alaskan villages not so long ago, so this isn't that far fetched. 

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