"You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life."
- Winston Churchill
Last year I travelled to Bali three times. This isn't exotic for an Australian. Indonesia is at our back doorstep. It's a rite of passage in your twenties to go, get drunk and sunburnt, haggle at the market, complain about the foreigners and then fly home. I'd never been before - it was pretty shocking. The beggers and desperation was not something I could get used to. I gave away money like it was sheets of candy - tried to stuff their dirty hands with my dirty guilt. Breastfeeding women, lying on the street with their hands outstretched. Sometimes it made me feel so uncomfortable that I had to go back to my resort.
I interspersed getting massages and facials ... with going to the orphanage, to take toys and pencils to the children. Because I am a do-gooder .. helping makes me feel good, down in the deep void.
Can you imagine the self-satisfaction I felt, pushing around this trolley?
Oh, that's right. I didn't push the trolley - my driver pushed it. Apparently I was some kind of Queen, because I was white. And rich. I'm better than them, aren't I? I'm white and rich.
I went to the orphanage a few times. Took a lot of pens and books. And paper. I asked the kids to all draw me a picture. I still have them all, and will keep them until I die. (Even though I can't remember any of their names - too hard to pronounce.)
Just before I left for the last time, the loudest boy of the group (the girls were all hiding out in their treehouse) ... pulled out ten dollars. This was a LOT of cash. I asked him where he got it from, and he never answered me. Just stuffed it back in his pocket. My heart lurched when I noticed he also had a gold chain.
The ten dollars worries me a lot. Who gives an orphan ten dollars? And jewelry?
I hated my last trip there, and don't know if I'll ever go back. It mocked me. The truth kept getting stuck to my shoe and I couldn't ignore it.
Was I an arse, for helping? Helping is selfish ... it made me feel better. Took me out of myself. Perhaps I should not have helped at all?
What of bloggers like Dooce - using her blog to share her experiences abroad? Is it just cringe-worthy - is she just too popular to be taken seriously? Why? Some people call it "poverty tourism." So, I guess there's no point in doing anything at all? Why bother.
There's some great discussions going on, about using your powers for something that can actually mean something. Imagine!
When I saw that photo of Erik Thomson I thought wow - he actually means it. That's no goddamn photo opportunity. All my American friends were like, "Butter menthol?!" (America, I am so sad for you. You don't have Bounty bars OR butter menthol flavoured throat lozenges. I thought you guys invented everything?)
I had a bad day today. Every stupid day is bad, lately - if it's not a cancer scare it's a stupid argument with my husband. Or struggling to be a good stepmother - a good mother. But you know what? I'm not lying in a street, breastfeeding my naked child, with my arm permanently outstretched for money. THAT is a bad day.
That's actually a bad life.
And if people want to use their time and their blogs to shine some light on issues that could do with some publicity? POWER.
If you are the kind of person who is going to shame somebody for helping, I will shame you. Because that makes you the biggest arsehole of all.
Cate Bolt is a top Aussie chick who is using her powers for good. She has a million things that need doing, at any one time. She started a foundation. *yawn*. She's not just taking pencils and paper into orphanages ... she's clothing those kids and sending them to school. I triple dog dare you to tell her you want to help. If you tell her Eden sent you ..... I'll, do something drastic. I will.
I may be a spoilt rich white western woman .. but I'm also an inspirational arsehole. It's a potent mix.