The Look   Leave a comment

After watching the video* from the recently decease Tim Hetherington, many emotions arose. The film captures, as Tom suggests and I quite agree with him, there is an interesting/odd mix of Western field practitioners living and working in developing areas and/or conflict environments. It is odd because we choose to be in that type of atmosphere while performing the type of work we wish to perform. I emphasize the word ‘choose’ because (most of the time) Westerners have a choice to do the type of work they do, which is shown in this film.

In Hetherington’s video, one of many things that came to mind; one of them stems from a part in video of an African man staring into the camera after his/a Chadian village was raided by rebels. The look on this man’s face said a thousand words; this is the same look I saw in Senegalese, Gambian, and Guinean. By this, I hope not to generalize too much.

This is a look of desperation.

A look of “This is your fault, white man.”

A look of “Why didn’t you do something?”

A look of “You and your people could have prevented this.”

A look of “I have no resources to support my family.”

A look of “Why are you here (in my country)?”

A look of “You should give me money because you have much more than I will ever have.”

A look of “You came to help me? I don’t need your help because your people have ruined my country/continent too much already!”

A look of “What am I a child?! I don’t need your pity and ‘needs assessments’, just leave me be.”

A look of “Don’t blame me for murdering an entire village, some white guy who looked just like you sold me this gun.”

A look of “My daughter is dead from malaria because I asked you for money to buy her medication but instead you asked me a bunch of questions about if my drinking water was sanitary or not.”

This look will forever haunt me, as I enter the realm of development and conflict management in Africa. I, as a Westerner, have the right and ability to go back to my cozy life in America, have a car with AC, and live happily knowing my future daughters will never be forced to hold a gun. But to live and work in environments in which these Western traits would be the opposite, it leaves most feeling a little uneasy. I think Hetherington, amongst others, knew this feeling very well.


*ht View From the Cave

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