Y'all know the old axiom that starts "give a man a fish"..... The same could be said for shoes, clothing, disposable diapers, baby formula and a whole pile of other crap humanitarian development professionals refer to as SWEDOW (Stuff We Don't Want). So today is supposed to be "One Day Without Shoes" sponsored by the oh so progressive Tom's shoe brand, with a pile of dirty soled melanin challenged celebs leading the barefoot charge for all the poor chirrens of the world who ain't got shoes. Because it's so much sexier to show manicured toes than it is to finance development teams (of real people who know how to make stuff) to go wherever is shoe-deprived to assist with planning and building a community run/administered shoe factory, training shoemakers, and sourcing local raw and semi-finished materials needed to make said shoes.
No, these limelight seeking twits prefer to send containers of shoes that do NOTHING to support and grow local economies. Shoes that damage local shoe makers and repairers businesses. Shoes that strip the dignity of work from people.
But someone says "The poor people can't afford shoes for their chirrens"...
to which I say "derp...you moron...mom and dad could afford a pair of shoes for junior iffen they were employed at a shoe factory."
and then someone says "butttt...not every mom and dad could get a job at the factory".
And then I sez "herp derp.... mom and dad will have money to buy food at the local market if they have a job at the shoe factory so that the lady who runs the shop will have money to buy the shoes for her kid. And the man with the cattle will sell the hides to the local tannery and both the herdsmen and tanners will have money to buy shoes and go to the market and maybe they will need more markets because there is more money to buy stuff with, so more folks open shops and the money goes around and around and it's called an economy you blithering Dudley Dogooder ijit"
But Dudley gives me a blank look of incomprehension and goes ahead and ships shoes anyways; thereby flooding the market with freebies and discouraging business start-ups etc.
It's the sexy side of imperialism. Along with the shoes they send their views: that other people are incapable of caring for themselves, their children, and their communities without Tom's Shoes. Did you hear about Madonna's Mali school fail? 3.8 Million spent and they did not even have a damned piece of land when the project collapsed. Do you know where the preprinted winners gear from the losing Superbowl team goes? World Vision ships it all to the "third world" as "charity" - ignoring the fact that many developing countries have their own textile industries and cotton farms etc..... that could probably use a donation of upgraded machinery/training + generators or agriculture specialists?
Imperialism gives with a spot-lit open hand that can snap shut at any given political or personal moment.
Development teaches skills and promotes community self determination and then without a press-release or star studded concert, just lets go any hold they had on the project and goes on to the next task on the never-ending list.
A Day Without Dignity is the brainchild of Saundra over at Good Intentions Are Not Enough lots of links at my first link to others blogging about this issue. Some really good reads. And if you've arrived here via the link in Saundra's blog, check out CN. It's a pretty good place to engage in faux nation building, political slap-fights, and generalized explosions as anonymously as you wish.... a retreat from the hard work of aid and development and all that. Also a place to make friendships and have some escapist fun.