Thanks to Graceanne who reminded me of this guy. I first read about him (probably the last to know) in this New York Times article. But I just checked out his website and now I’m really impressed. Why? Because I read his posts from Mali and Morocco and really liked the way he considered the moral issues that come up in his travels. Here’s something he wrote after doing a dancing clip with some kids in Morocco.
Afterwards, I faced a moral dilemma that is very common in Africa. The kids wanted money. I agree with the notion that handing money out to kids is a bad idea, as it creates beggars. If I’d simply ignored them, there would be no issue. But I’d invited them to join me. To boot, they were great dancers. They still wanted money, and I had a little bit of change handy, so I obliged.
To keep them from pouncing once they saw what I was holding, and also to prevent the biggest and strongest kids from grabbing everything, I threw the change up in the air. It seemed smart at the time, and it sort of worked, but there was also an air of degradation. It felt icky. Melissa, standing nearby through it all, got a sudden and overwhelming dose of what Africa is like. Even the best intentions turn out icky.
She was troubled. For a moment, while it was processing, she was a little upset at me. But what, exactly, was the right thing to do?
It would be unwise of me to dwell on this subject, but yes, what I’m doing has a large commercial aspect to it. The word ‘exploitation’ hovers over everything. Whatever is going through your head right now, please understand that I have considered it. The dancing video is something very simple, but it’s also complex. It’s sort of a moral prism; you can look through any facet and see it a different way. Suffice it to say, while I’m not a religious person, I am freakishly moral. I believe this video is, ultimately, a good. And it’s only a good if that’s how I make it.