with the MCN- still not sure exactly how to feel about it. just to preface my thoughts: there is nothing wrong with using your privilege and your education to contribute to poverty alleviation, or feeling that it’s your duty to. it is. no one should live in conditions/situations in which their most basic human needs and human rights are denied and violated. it is definitely important to support those who have been wronged by the world’s cruel system of imperialism and capitalism. and while other organizations and groups focus on political and governmental change and tackling some of the roots of the issue of extreme poverty, i understand the MCN’s ‘focus’ is mobilizing young educated people to not necessarily tackle the roots of the issues, but to support communities that need assistance in the short run (which may lead to long-run stability). about, again, using your privilege and education to serve others.
my issue is that the MCN, like most poverty-alleviation human-rights grassroots non-profits, does not do nearly enough to pass on to its members and those it is mobilizing the very basics of doing humanitarian/human rights work in the world today. aka topics within ethics, specifically ethics and humanitarian work, perception, ethics and globalization, the history of colonization and imperialism, gender relations/gender and poverty, etc.
they emphasize the feel-good nature of humanitarian/development work and the coolness of the innovation and collaboration that is often seen in the field, but they don’t emphasize the deep humility and self-awareness that has to come with compassion. they emphasize universal education, but not educating yourself before you take action - no workshops or seminars, no blog posts, no video series, no anything to help everyone [who may have a good heart but no experience] understand some vital concepts:
- humanitarian work/human rights work, especially overseas projects, is not for you to brag about. your being involved doesn’t really say anything about you, besides you have some good connections and money, and that you are a decent human being.
- it is fine to want to experience different cultures. that is good. but please, don’t get involved if you just want to travel or feel better about yourself. you really should try to make it not about you.
- you can’t go into a community in the so-called ‘third world’ thinking you are a self-appointed savior- if you can take part in a development project, you are to participate with the sole goal of learning from that community, and showing your solidarity and your support in a respectful manner.
-you cannot speak on behalf of people who don’t wish/need to be spoken on behalf of; you have to listen and speak with them, not for them.
these are all concepts that i don’t think many in the MCN or in similar organizations have heard much of, or bothered looking into. i guess an easier way to say this is that they absolutely need to take a more scholarly and academic approach to the youth of the world banding together to ‘alleviate global poverty’. it’s hard to organize students nationwide and motivate them to get out of their comfort zones to do something for others, let alone try to give everyone a crash course in ethics/the history of the world/everything that essential to understanding why poverty exists (and this is definitely not a simplistic answer that can be 110% attributed to colonialism/imperialism, though a large percent of it can be). but i believe it is necessary. it has to be done, or else much of this ‘work’ everyone is doing is, in my opinion, done in vain.
it kind of grossed me out to have to staff MCN’s silly ‘global generation award ceremony’/ annoying flashy fundraiser back in september of last year. they presented awards to Eliza Dushku, Monique Coleman, John Kerry, and others for being outstanding humanitarians and advocates of international development. it made me feel deeply uncomfortable and i wanted to walk out after 15 minutes. k’naan walked out after 30—which says something. using celebrities and well-known political figures to raise funds and [superficial] awareness is always iffy for me. it is of course detestable when the public figures themselves are as uneducated as their audiences, but it’s just generally very irritating to have people getting excited or inspired mainly because the deliverer of the message. or feeling good about themselves because they are somehow affiliated with this human being from the big screen. and this is pretty much MCN’s biggest method of outreach. attracting celebrities to their annual conferences - “teaming up” with those who have more social influence and fame, those who have been someway involved with travelling to some country and taking some pictures with some cute kids with a different skin color. anyway- i understand, money is a huge part of humanitarian work. it is crucial. without it, you cannot offer either physical or monetary support to any community that needs it. you cannot organize the students that will raise funds that will go towards these community centers, schools, wells, irrigation systems, etc, etc. and when you’re doing humanitarian work, money can’t really come from partisan groups or governmental organizations or the government. but it’s hard to reconcile the absurdity of raising money through celebrities and wealthy donors with the delicacy that is needed when approaching something like poverty.
but yeah, i’m just not sure whether or not i should be angry at myself for being involved with it and being a spokesperson for it. obviously, i’m at odds with most of the organization’s methods. idk. i mean, ultimately, i think the internship was a process that taught me the things that i have written in this post. and also…i am not sure if i should be trying to suggest things to reform the organization, or if i should just let it go.
i’ll end by saying this—when i saw a photo of MCN staff members with Edward Norton back in 2010, i couldn’t even bring myself to be upset that I wasn’t there (and believe me, those who know me would expect me to be very, very upset. lol.). because. taking photos with celebrities at conferences and meetings centered around ‘global justice through international development’ or ‘development and sustainability’ or whatever, or making celebrities and flashy fundraisers and videos the centerpiece of your campaign — it trivializes the very strong and steady forces that have come to create this world of extreme inequality we live in. it trivializes what we have to do in order to see a better world. and maybe most importantly, it trivializes the suffering those who live in destitute conditions face.
i do believe 100% that youth can work together to create smart change. and we can say that the MCN has encouraged this successfully in some aspects, and their work is noble and has good intentions (which it is and it does). but the methods with which they approach their work are far from optimal. or… acceptable… no way around it.
also, did i mention that they seem to be extremely fond of USAID? come on. obviously not even the higher-ups of this organization understand how completely wrong and counterproductive that is.