This blog is prompted out of a cumulative effect of reading better educated, better informed, more clever people bash the (often misguided) efforts of well intentioned but less educated, less informed, less clever people to change their world for good.
We all know where the road of good intentions leads...(historical examples abound--Biafra, BandAid, I could go on, but you get the idea)
But really, should only clever very well informed people ever take action? I mean, how much do we need to know before it's a good idea for us to do anything? Nobody with good intentions (those who are being critisized) wants to act in ways that ultimately screw things up (undermine self-reliance, create dependence, bolster power of political miscreants, corrode political accountability and good governance, feed racism and negative stereotypes, encourage false perceptions about realities on the ground to extort money and support--I could continue, but you get the idea).
Many of the critiques I find not only valid, but self-satisfying. I find myself marveling at how ignorant some interventions are--like many western run 'orphanages'--or how insensitive the use of particular language is--e.g. when I read someone's website recently talking about how they provide a "voice for the voiceless" "Who told you?" I asked the author in my mind, "that they are voiceless? They have voices and things to say if you were listening but even your tag-line smacks of a power dynamic you should resist and an unconsciousness to your own assumption of superiority." But then I read another couple of blogs that are proverbially critical of organizations like Invisible Children and Falling Whistles. I confess that I find myself equally put off by some of the self assured pomp and judgementalism (especially in the comments) as I am rather pleased with myself for arriving at many of the same critiques as the authors. Yes, I congratulate myself, (I guiltily admit this thought enters my mind), I'm more informed and more clever. Or am I? It's all so relative--and when I make mistakes and there are unintended consequeces to my interactions and writing about northern uganda someone more informed and cleverer than I will rightly point them out, critique my work and show how I could have avoided my pitfalls if only I had known more and been cleverer.
We're all in process and surely being paralyzed by a recognition of our limited understanding isn't the right way of living? We know that ignorance is no defence--but truly--we're all ignorant. I've always been of the mind that we have a responsibility to act on what we know and know as much as possible. But perhaps we equally have a responsibility to not act on what we don't know?