How to tell the story of poverty without exploiting poor people … again

Posted on Posted in poverty, STM, video

A few years ago I talked with a person who wanted to volunteer overseas. As she spoke she gushed about her love for the poor in Africa, and at one point actually said these words, “I just love those chocolate babies!” I am not joking. Those words actually came out of her mouth. She meant it in love and compassion. Her heart was in it, but her words were a bit insane.

Frankly, people like her are not that unusual. When a disaster happens in the western world, someone is sure to quickly place it into context with how many people die of malaria or polio each week. A lot of “tsk tsk” type language that tries to shame people into realizing the massive set of problems that still exist around the world. You know, things like #FirstWorldProblems

Here’s the problem. This technique totally does not work.

People just tune out. It is a bit like ‘liking‘ the Kony video from last year – it feels good, almost like you are signing a petition or something, but it is totally meaningless. Seriously, do you think Kony worried about how many Facebook likes the video got?

Speaking of video, I recently saw this one. It seems to be making the rounds. It’s funny? But it also made me uncomfortable.  How are all of the people in the video portrayed? Would you want to be portrayed and shown in this way?

Does it promote conversation and respect for the capacity of others, or just pull on heartstrings? What do you think the intent was?

Do you think that this kind of video makes a difference?

Mark Crocker

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4 thoughts on “How to tell the story of poverty without exploiting poor people … again

  1. Here’s what kills me about this video…the assumption that the “Third World” or “Majority World” people don’t understand the inconveniences of modern life. I also think it creates this false and unhealthy relational structure where #FirstWorld people can only relate with #MajorityWorld people through means of benevolence…

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