Thursday, 23 February 2017

The Documentation of Kindness

These days it seems like our experiences are not real or not authentic or not complete if they are not photographed. We have made the world such that documenting a meaningful experience feels not only more important than having that experience, but as also an evidence of the truthfulness of that experience.
It bothers me.
It bothers me because kindness is no longer kindness, humility is no longer humility. What I mean is that it is impossible to just go out to an orphanage, for example, and just lend help to orphans who need it. I imagine that an act of kindness ceases to be that once pictures are taken. It becomes a craft of showmanship. I began to think of this seriously around the end of last year. I and a group of course mates went into a community to do a field posting exercise and we were basically hustling to get everything on camera, we wanted to take pictures of every single form of help we rendered. It was literally a hustle. But it was not wrong because we actually did not intend to help anyone. Our primary objectives there were dictated by our course and so we were not being kind, we wanted to get the marks and we could only get them by taking pictures so we would show our lecturers that we did such and such while we were there.
However, thinking about it in the light of people who just want to render help and assistance, It did not seem like they would do anything differently. In fact, social media is littered with such images: People taking selfies with orphaned children or motherless babies or street beggars and so on with cartons of noodles and cartons of milk and bags of rice and bags of beans and sacs of yam littered so obviously on the ground. They are giving to the less privileged, but they are also advertising their goodness and kindness and humility and humanitarianism to the rest of the world. They are telling the world about their kindness, like: Look, world, look how kind I am. Look how caring I am. I am such a good person.
And then they post these pictures all over social media and other folks like them gush about their humility. I am so, so utterly proud of your kindness; how you are helping out these miserable kids who are nothing, absolutely nothing, without you.
It bothers me.
It is worse when white, privileged people come into an African country, say South Sudan, with their bright, long blonde hair and dark sunglasses and their tanned skins and their tight jeans; and wrap their arms around skinny, kwashiorkored African kids and smile dumbly at the cameras and then post long sermons with these selfies on Facebook and Instagram about how their lives have been changed by their visit to the very war-torn, ravaged Africa and the poor, poor, suffering African children with zero hopes in life.
Utterly silly hashtags such as #InstagrammingAfrica are used to depict these selfies. The narcissism is immense. How about they shove their ideas of voluntourism in Africa down the toilet and instead send the money for their trips and hotel accommodations and feedings and bracelet buying to Aid Agencies stationed in those countries, the kids, these kids who they claim they love and who’s suffering has utterly changed their lives, would definitely benefit more from that than from being featured in their ridiculous photographs and silly hashtags and lengthy captions.
The less privileged are not tourist attractions, they are not beautiful bronze carvings, they are not murals made from papier-mâché art; they are human beings just like you who is so intent on taking pictures of them. All they need is love and kindness and food, they definitely do not need their faces on your stupid, conceited, narcissistic selfies.

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