Rebuilding Foundations

An exploration of international development work in Africa

Authenticity, Part II

When I first arrived in Ghana, an established Canadian and I had a conversation about grocery shopping.  He said something along the lines of, “I’m terribly western.  I buy my groceries from the supermarket.”

“I don’t think that’s a western thing,” I replied.  “In South Africa, I used to buy fruits and vegetables from the women selling them on the side of the road, but my coworkers made fun of me.  They’d say, ‘Don’t you know those are dirty?’ They always bought the more expensive things from a proper store.

I think it’s awful (and unfortunately quite “western”) to assume that poverty is somehow “local” and “authentic.”  Why pretend to be poor when you aren’t?

A girl back home has millionaire parents who bought her an apartment, yet she complains of being broke all the time.  The capitalist in me wants her to get a job, but mostly I think, “Don’t construct an image of yourself based on other people’s suffering.  There is nothing inherently noble about poverty.”

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