Wednesday, November 5, 2008

an impact?

i'm not sure where to start with the previous post... to make an impact. how do i reflect on my thinking then, through how i think presently? ellen was right about indoctrination [see the 3rd comment]. i feel like it's been a steady process of unlearning a lot of what i've learned growing up. not just in school, though that's probably where it started. but also through work and in life.

there are at least 3 issues that come up for me as i reread what i wrote more than 6 years ago in that post:
  1. most importantly, what does making an impact mean?
  2. what do i mean when i write about a place called "Africa?" what "Africa?"
  3. how do i begin to address the last line in the previous post, for myself... where am i needed most?
while all 3 of these issues are certainly worth deconstructing, i'll only be focusing on the first one. for now.

so what does that mean? "to make an impact or a difference in a small village." i suppose i was referring to (international) sustainable development. peace corps training was my first introduction to that concept, explicitly. i'm sure many a peace corps volunteer has struggled with the idea. we often talked about it... were we making a difference? what would make us more effective? how could we have more of an impact?

and how is that measured, exactly? in the number of people reached? students taught? farmers trained? or community development projects executed? for other agents of international development, perhaps it's more easily quantifiable or more tangible... like miles of road built or rural infrastructure constructed. tons of food produced or local income generated. to say nothing of attempts at quantifying "quality of life."

i can't help but notice how all these are external measurements... how about the difference or the impact made within? on ourselves... as humans. reciprocally. reflexively. b/w people. not just "development agent" and "beneficiary." how do we begin to measure the depth of human exchange or relationship?

and what if that exchange, by definition, is not reciprocal? what if the relationship, no matter how "human," is not at all of mutual benefit? the thoughts of ivan illich come to mind [thanks to ellen for sharing in an early comment]... and what he describes as a likely "new awareness" for "North American do-gooders":
...the awareness that even North Americans can receive the gift of hospitality without the slightest ability to pay for it; the awareness that for some gifts one cannot even say 'thank you' (from To Hell with Good Intentions, 1968).
i'm not sure what to say, really... there's more from illich. much more. and i'll let him speak for himself in the next post. yet i can't help but wonder (without going too much into it here) about the 3rd question i raised above, "where am i needed most?" and is it simply a question of where?... or what? and how?

No comments:

Post a Comment