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Thursday, June 17, 2004
Development and The Roy 

Saw this on a blog and mailed it out, asking for comments.
Everyone has something to say about development. I speak about DEVELOPMENT here, as in the development of a country, about its growth, its social
issues, its political causes, its environmental concerns and its economic strategy. As they should. I am all for it. In fact there is no two ways about it. Development is for the people by the people, of the people.
Otherwise is there really development. But when everybody who is a somebody walks around espousing on what development should be for everyone else, I think there is some confusion there. Development is serious business. Never mind that the government of many developing countries do not take it
seriously, or that NGO's who are supposedly sharing the burden are over
worked and underpaid and many times confuse it with being mere do gooders.
But development is serious business with a strategy, with a budget, with a goal, with a method, with an end.
Arundhati Roy is a case in point. I read her book on the Narmada issue a while ago. Excuse me! I worked on the Namada project as a young intern after my Masters in Communication. If you are going 'glamourise the issue and sell it in lyrical form then at least for gods sake get all the issues right.
Work on your central message. Understand the political dimensions, the social upheaval, the environmental repercussions and the economic
underpinnings of that project. And speak of it in technical terms. For you do not see a book for lawyers speaking of the labor policy in poetic language. We want to pass on a message to the World Bank, to the Government of India. We want to say, give us back our rights but singing it out in verses is not going to cut it.
I have seen Medha Pathkar age in the pursuit of this bigger cause and then I see Arundathi Roy establishing her celebrity status in this cause. Something is not right here.
I am not saying that all the development books out there have got their
ducks all lined in a row, but when a celebrity of whatever standing goes out there and makes a statement, then it must have credibility. Just because someone is a well known development practitioner you don't see them rushing off to act in a film.
I worked in a well known development organization a while ago. During one of our annual meetings the Vice President told us he has an issue, he would like our help in resolving. He said that every week he gets a call from some high flying executive who is at the brink of a nervous break down. Send me to one of your offices in your developing countries, they cry, we will fund ourselves and do whatever we can to help. What should I do, he asks. Tell them, I suggested, to walk down the stairs and help the homeless man at the corner, or volunteer in their child's school, or play ball with their kids.
You don't see me having a mid life crisis and rushing off to help a lawyer help defend an accused in a murder trial. We are qualified professionals I say, having paid good money to learn to run this business, the business of development, let it not be said that we are running a workshop for do gooders. We do development.
For I have been at the receiving end of this. A trying-to find-myself person tagging along on our trips to a village. Aww how sweet they are, the children are so darling, the people are so hospitable, I am so touched, I feel so welcome. Huh. Huh. Huh. We are not here to feel good about ourselves. Development with a human face of course, but not with a fawning one. We are here to look, to see, to listen, to discern to assist, to strategize. We are here to do development.
If you are looking to find yourself, please do it in a lawyers office. Ask him to write up a will, leave us all your money and go live in the mountains and find your way slowly back home. Let those of us who know this business run it.

And A Nonny Nonny (that's two "nonnies") said this:
Yah. Whatever. I generally avoid commenting in public on LeRoy BleedingHeart. This is the age of the media slut. We have not yet degenerated into into open cannibalism and slavery but at the same time, compassion has become just another yawn-cue -- there's none left to go around, considering that we all prefer to watch chimps being rescued than care about Ethiopian babies starving on-camera. In such a situation, the only people who get attention are those who are good-looking enough to rate air-time -- and if they spout heart-ache about the environment, all the better. We can have our environmental cake and eat it too, yum! I believe LeRoy's true predecessor was Lady Diet -- she too found her true calling in posing with Les Miserables, gaining immeasurable quantities of brownie points for herself while sharing a leedle teeny weeny ray of her spotlight with the darkling doomed.
Ay me. Nuff said! I shall return to my ebony tower to sharpen my claws.

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