Thursday, March 08, 2012

From shoes to Ugandan war children

Ugh. So stressed today.  I'm trying to wrap up a jillion things at work before taking next week off and of course I got hit with a bunch of requests, which I love working on, but which are stressful.  


Then I ended up crying at my desk no less than 2 times, a steady, salty leak from my peepers that I tried to furtively wipe away to avoid any unnecessary commentary from my office mates which would no doubt have sent me spiraling into full-on wailing.  The first set of leaks was as a result of an email exchange with my mum, the second set was after I watched that Kony 2012 video (Twitter hashtag #stopkony), which is EPIC long for an internet video (29 minutes!) but was only uploaded like, 3 days ago and has 40 million hits.  Here it is:



I came across it cuz John Green, my hero, posted about it.  So I watched the video and of course was swayed by it's slick construction and message (can you IMAGINE someone kidnapping the Big Yam and forcing the little Boobla to be a child soldier?!) and got all weepy.  

I followed it up by reading the inevitable educated liberal backlash (you know, the kind that results in crippling inactivity) like this article from The Atlantic (note: I agree with and frequently invoke the author's point about the dangers of western banal sentimentality when speaking of the developed world, thereby continuing to put my training in post-colonial studies to good use) and this one in The Washington Post and now I'm right back where I started, which is knowing a little bit about a pretty bad situation happening outside of my own privileged sphere in the world and paralyzed by the opposing forces of wanting to do good and not knowing enough to be able to be a true agent of change into self-loathing and doubt.  Which is basically the calling card of the educated liberal elite.  Sigh.

I don't know how people do it.  I barely have it in me to stay on top of Ontario news, which I need to for my job.  Let alone Canadian news, let alone what's happening in the REST OF THE G-D WORLD.  Let alone attain a nuanced, critical, educated understanding of a particular issue enough that I would be deemed to have the "authority" to be able to speak on it.  If that was the case, the only topics I'm qualified to talk about are:

- Pinterest
- the Big Yam
- which ramen restaurant in the GTA serves the best tonkotsu
- the relative merits of AYCE Japanese restaurants in the greater golden horseshoe
- why Jazz music is the refuge of the damned (and by "damned" I mean tragic nerdy guys)

It's just so demoralizing.  So, even as I so fervently wish that I could be a proactive, smart, contributing member of civil society (like so many people I admire!), I end up reaching that point of cognitive saturation where it's just easier for me to watch Top Chef or like, think about where I want to eat dinner with the Goosetang Clan tomorrow than do anything that will make any real change (however minute, at least it's not so self-gratifyingly directed) in the world.  

It's bigtime depressing.  BIGTIME.

Edit: The Dotytron coincidentally and independently also watched that video today and we talked about it, and as usual, he helped me to crystallize and formulate some thoughts on the above.  To wit: the critiques of the Invisible Children movement miss the point.  All the movement is hoping to accomplish is to harness the short attention spans and vapidity of the Facebook generation towards a common goal, within a short, fixed deadline (the only kind that exists today, the only kind that is sustainable today) and then leave the politicking and the logistics to the experts.  It's pretty smart and savvy and neatly tailors the activity to the right people - so you let the social networking dummy masses generate the momentum to push policy makers to then turn over the details to the experts.  

The post-colonial theory discourse of the banality of sentimentality doesn't necessarily hold true here.  In this case, it's different than when Paolo Friere or Gayatri Spivak talk about enabling the disenfranchised "Other" to attain their own autonomy free from the paternalism of the northern elite.  Friere and Spivak and the like are talking about more insidious and, some could argue, dangerous systemic power dynamics than in the case of the LRA and its actions.  In the case of the LRA it becomes a question of human immediacy.  The citizens of Uganda (by all accounts) don't have a conflicted, complicated relationship with the LRA - the LRA is terrorizing the people and the rest of Uganda don't have the means to do anything about it, but want to.  Big difference.  I think.  I have to think this through some more, but I can say that I find The Atlantic's critique to be fatuous.  

The Big Yam had his first visit with the pediatric dentist today.  His canine teeth are coming in okay and his molars seem fine...so it's just a matter of monitoring.  The dentist said the canines should act as placeholders to prevent shifting and there shouldn't be any impact on his speech development.  Basically, loosing his four bottom baby teeth shouldn't impact his speech any more than if he had lost them in the regular course of life, in their proper  time.  He can eat everything and we have to see the pediatric dentist every 6 months to keep tabs on the situation.  Phew!


As a reward, I jettisoned our dinner plans in favour of Amaya takeout and cupcakes from Bobette and Belle.  My book club was supposed to meet tonight at the Harbord House but people were sick so in the end, we called it.  I'm glad.  On a rainy cold day like today (with hail!) Indian food and cupcakes at home with the boys is exactly what the kind of restorative measures I need.

Fin.

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