Sunday, February 04, 2007

Doing Good?

I've had a good weekend. I wanted it to be a quiet one and it was - fairly. I saw the film Blood Diamond yesterday and enjoyed that. The dynamics between Leonardo di Caprio and Jennifer Connelly's characters was quite amusing and gave food for thought.

LDC played Danny Archer, a South African smuggler of diamonds (for want of a better description). He has no family, no real ties to anywhere or anyone, but has money and abundant street smarts with an astounding capacity for survival. JC played Maddie Bowen, an American journalist; extremely idealistic and fiercely determined to get and tell her stories. She derided Danny for the way he unscrupulously sells diamonds he knows come from areas in conflict or 'blood diamonds' and for how he intends to use Djimon Honsou's character (Solomon Vandy) to get his hands on what would be his biggest prize yet - a huge egg-sized diamond. He in turn sneers at what he believes to be her naive idealism. How can she think she's changing the world by typing up her contrived stories from the relative comfort and security provided by her US citizenship in a war zone? And isn't she also exploiting the same people she's purporting to help by her sensationalist writing?

The arguments between who's right and who's wrong could go on forever and sometimes in real life, it feels like they do. So who's right? Who's justified in doing what they do? Is there a clear-cut line between right and wrong? Does it matter in the end?

Questions, questions..... As I think of a lot of social development work carried out by NGOs and other 'charitable' organisations, I recognise that many people wonder what the point of it all is anyway? Won't there always be problems in the world? Who do we think we are to think that our contributions will amount to anything in the long run anyway? And I admit that sometimes it can feel pretty hopeless and the problems insurmountable.

In the film, Maddie said something to the effect that there are good people in the world doing good things and their contributions are making a positive difference to some people. It was meant to be a defence of why she continues with her work in a world of such chaos, heartlessness, greed and indifference and it sounded so naively optimistic and filled with a desperation to believe. I could totally relate. Although my main job is no longer in the NGO field, some of what I do still involves getting people to believe that their possibilities exist beyond the boundaries that society has presented. It's a tough job, but truly, it has to be done! And there are countless of individuals and organisations toiling away for the upliftment of others. I wish I could talk to many of them to find out how they keep on going even when 'common sense' would indicate that it is foolish to.


ade said...

I feel you. "Common sense" sometimes indicates it's foolish of me to pursue the field I am working on. "Poverty and injustice will always be with us", so why bother wasting years trying to get governments to see it beyond policy options? I don't know. I just think of myself as trying to light a candle. It may not be able to blank out all the darkness but hopefully, I'll manage to light my candle and hope somebody keeps it burning.

Ore said...

I like your way if looking at it. Trying to tackle the entire problem and thinking that we can solve it on our own is way too daunting. However many smaller-scale efforts amount to a lot over time.