While I was away my long-ago written contribution to Stuff Expat Aid Workers Like finally came out. For those of you who missed it, here it is again (slightly edited to restore the original intended meaning of the final bullet point). Those sensitive to sarcasm should stop reading now.
“Please can you speak on our behalf?” (Image: Avatar – the ultimate white knight movie)
From time to time, every Expat Aid Worker will be asked to speak on behalf of their project, and, by implication, on behalf of said project’s supposed beneficiaries. This could simply be in a workshop, which is not such an issue. However, it may also involve fronting up to the insatiable maw that is the modern international media circus. It’s these circumstances that fill the newbie EAW with trepidation. Oh, the moral minefield through which she* will have to tread!
- On the one hand this could be a great opportunity for the EAW to get her name out there. It could be just the career break she needs. Plus the oxygen of publicity can be great for Field Cred!
- Except that all EAWs are justifiably wary of White Knight Syndrome. Being called a White Knight (or Lady!) instantly reduces the EAW to some totally insensitive boor.
- Moreover, except for those EAWs who have utterly succumbed to the Dark Side, there is still a kernel of idealism that EAWs like to nurture inside their hard candy shell of cynicism. Falling into the White Knight trap is simply terrible for one’s idealist karma.
- The veteran EAW will thread this needle by prefacing her points with the disclaimer that she really has no basis on which to speak for her project’s beneficiaries, but here’s what she thinks any way.
- Unfortunately this will be cut by the film editor, and the EAW will have to tell everyone she knows how she hated being portrayed as the White Lady she is not. This makes a good excuse to let everyone know that she was interviewed by the media, even if it was only featured for 5 nano-seconds on an obscure piece put out during the graveyard shift on Crap Network News.
The smartest EAW, however, will realise that all of the above is utter tosh, and will instead write a snarky blog post about it, explaining the Lewis Carroll-esque contradictions of her position: that frequently in such situations there is nobody else in the room in a position to speak on behalf of her project’s beneficiaries, so if she doesn’t step up to the plate, they’ll be left entirely unrepresented. Anyone agonising about such issues are therefore just spouting self-indulgent pretentious BS.
And who needs karma any way? If her project’s beneficiaries had even a fraction of their fair share, they wouldn’t need the EAW to speak on their behalf in the first place.
*All male EAWs are honoured to be called she or her, as nothing else quite demonstrates our gender sensitivity than not objecting when others get it wrong.