Waylaid Dialectic

January 2, 2011

The Penn Effect

Filed under: Aid — terence @ 10:49 am
Tags: , ,

Meanwhile, at Tales From the Hood J. tries to come to terms with Sean Penn. In the process penning (sorry, the pun was unavoidable) what ought to be known as the four styalised facts of aid:

  • Aid is harder, more complicated, and more expensive than you think.
  • It takes specific knowledge and skills to get it right.
  • There are no magik bullets, there are no fast solutions.
  • Many, many factors, utterly beyond the control of aid workers or aid agencies impinge on the success or failure of an overall aid effort.

To which I’d add.

  1. Like almost every other worthwhile undertaking from love to science, aid is a human endeavour, meaning that – just like everything else we do – we don’t do it perfectly. Human failings intrude. We make mistakes. We learn. We try to do it better. We still make mistakes.

And yet, despite all this – despite the difficulty and costs, despite the absence of magic bullets, despite the fact that there are simply some things that aid can’t do, and despite the fact that we sometimes stuff up spectacularly – when it’s done well, and well-intentioned, aid can work.

It’s a pity that reality isn’t less ambiguous than this. If it was, we wouldn’t have quite to deal with quite so much Celebrity Saviour Syndrome. Nor would it be quite so easy for the ideologically motivated Dambasa Moyos of the world to weave together mendacious ‘critiques’ of the ‘aid industry’. And, most importantly, the problem of global poverty would have long ago been addressed.

But that’s not the world we live in and so, for now, aid remains an imperfect and only partial solution to some of the problems our planet faces. But that’s still reason enough to support it.  And to be supportive of doing it better too.


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