Identity in a post-colonial world

The White Savior Industrial Complex is not about justice. It is about having a big emotional experience that validates privilege”  – Teju Cole on

“Africa. A whole continent dedicated to helping white people understand what it means to be poor and undeveloped”. – comment on

“Racism is embedded in most of the institutional structures of our society. It is difficult to see patterns that have always been before our eyes, especially if they are eyes that have enjoyed the benefits of white privilege” – Huffington Post writer

“…privileged “first-worlders” who assume their 22 cents a day is saving some starving African child a la Sally Struthers, or intellectuals paralyzed by guilt and fear of paternalism” – Christopher Robbins of the Ghana Think Tank

“We can participate in the economic destruction of Haiti over long years, but when the earthquake strikes it feels good to send $10 each to the rescue fund. I have no opposition, in principle, to such donations (I frequently make them myself), but we must do such things only with awareness of what else is involved. If we are going to interfere in the lives of others, a little due diligence is a minimum requirement.Teju Cole in the Atlantic

Western NGOs, Celebrities and Charities may bring needed attention to some critical issues in the so-called ‘developing world’, however they are also benefitting from the hegemony that perpetuates these issues, as well as the solutions. Why do foreign organizations and governments think they know how best to deal with issues in Africa? Asia? or South America? Why is it assumed that the people that live there, who have always lived there, and will still be there after the charities have gone,  should have no input into the solutions? As if they didn’t have the capacity to solve issues or raise children on their own? Why do westerners fail to understand that they lack resources not intelligence or problem-solving capacities?

This is the post-colonial world, where the previous self-appointed administrators have long ago been shown the door, but are dragging their feet to leave. Can we rid ourselves of their legacy or are we doomed to it forever? How does this influence our identity?

We are constantly subjected to images of the outside world being in perpetual crisis and encouraged to do something. We are convinced that doing something is better than nothing even if it is really just to make ourselves feel better ?- to convince ourselves that we are somehow balancing the scales that our colonial fore bearers tipped?  – to persuade others that we are kind and compassionate beings, even if we engage in consumerism that enables corporations to exploit the same people and resources of the world? Why do we have such fragile egos?

Should privileged westerners and just butt out and mind their own business? or is there a way to act truly compassionately, and unselfishly share our wealth and abundance to support endeavours elsewhere? Why do we always feel that it has to be ‘elsewhere’ when there are starving children and people dying of aids in our own backyard? Do wealthy people have an obligation to assist others?

How can our ‘good deeds” alter deep-seated oppression? How do we ensure our actions do not provide argument for military action within the countries we so desperately wish to assist?

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