When I went to study Development it was with the naivety of a middle-class, Canadian white girl with a Super Heroine complex. During my first (and last) placement as a Project Coordinator for a British NGO in Suva, Fiji I was quickly disillusioned. All the so called do gooders were driving around in air conditioned SUVs heading from cocktail meetings by the pool back to gated communities and HD TVs. They weren’t involved in local community culture and their interactions were transactional at best. They even had their own suburb 20 minutes out of town called Lami. No one seemed as interested in working to better the community as they did in dating hotter, younger local men and, well, that was their main priority. The foreign institutions were a hoax. I’d like to take this moment to shout out to the local Church organizations and the Rotary Club who do in fact follow their mandates in my experience.
Anyway back to me and my total break down of faith. Of course I quit my job. Of course there was a lawsuit. Of course there was a police report, with Interpol (at least that’s what the policeman said, he mighta been trying to get in my pants) but that’s a different story.
By the time I got back to Canada, I was a skeleton of my former self, both physically (my butt bones grinding on the airplane seat) and emotionally. Of course being my younger self, and unable to process emotions in a healthy way at the time, I dove into my next career. Or let’s call it studies. Advertising, about as far as you can get. Now I told myself some logical throwback to childhood dreams and interests story about why I wanted to do this, and I told other people my back-up justification story (It starts in a laundromat and ends with Colgate Palmolive – a real interview winner) but really I was just tossing myself onto the “next thing” so that I could overlook the trauma of the “current thing.” Solange called me out on it, or at least thats how I choose to interpret her song Cranes in the Sky.
At the same time I threw the baby out with the bathwater – I ditched my whole do gooder mission and sold out to The Man (though I did semi-self sabotage my pitch to Nestle “health” science… it still came in second, cuz I’m a Professional). I now saw Development as self-righteous and just, not my business. Why these people need my help? Who the fuck am I to help them? I later learned from a classic Canadian TV show that this “Heroine” complex is rooted in the heroine’s own feelings of low self-worth. Thanks Dr. Ogden.
Ok so where have I gotten to now? I think that we can still work to better the world without being anchored to white male privilege and his neo-colonial institutions. We can create positive change in any number of jobs and we CAN make it our life’s work without ever setting foot in a “Development” bank, a non governmental “AID” Organization or any inter-governmental institution dedicated to preserving their own prosperity and self-interest while disguising it as compassion and Human Rights. There is a way to move forward, put the baby back in his tub, to carry on.