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How Capitalism and the White Saviour Complex Destroy the Moral Foundation of International Development Work
One of the key things I learned working in the international development sector is that, aside from some of the well-established NGOs like Oxfam or Doctors Without Borders, some of the best development work is being done by small, specialized organizations with close ties to the communities that they work with overseas. That’s because development work isn’t about charity or “saving” the impoverished or sick, but rather, it’s partnership, one that requires a two-way relationship between those offering resources or funding and those on the ground who understand how to efficiently use those resources or funds.

This week, two investigative articles were published about large, well-established NGOs — the type that attract the Bonos and the Bransons of the world —  exposing the hypocrisies, inefficiencies and, in one case, the absolute corruption and exploitation that can occur when organizations recklessly try to take on the delicate and nuanced work of aid and development on a large scale.

The first, an investigation into the ubiquitous “WE” organizations by Jaren Kerr for CANADALAND, exemplifies the contradictions that inevitably arise when an NGO attempts to combine the growth-logic of capitalism with the concept of aid philanthropy. As Kerr explains: “WE has been hailed for its innovative, hybrid approach to philanthropy, blending capitalism and charity, and preaching the philosophy that individuals, including children, can change the world through their consumer choices.”

This hybrid approach, perhaps most neatly exemplified by TOMS — buy a pair of shoes, and we’ll give a pair to someone in Africa! — has thrived in recent years, despite being heavily criticized for watering down the idea philanthropy and humanitarianism, allowing consumers to feel good about simply consuming without addressing the ways in which their lifestyle or political choices may perpetuate or exacerbate global inequalities or social injustice. Kerr explains:

“[WE] champion[s] the idea that consumers have the power to do tremendous global good through their product choices, selling “bracelets that change the world” and encouraging people to “snack on superfoods and change the world” (a Kuna Pops promotion). Their “Track Your Impact” program encourages consumers to buy their partners’ products and enter purchase codes into a website that tells them exactly how they have contributed to “life-altering change with your everyday purchase.””

There’s a short YouTube video that does a good job explaining the limits of this sort of “global capitalism with a human face,” in which philosopher Slavoj Zizek explains the limits of a system that purports to help the world’s most marginalized while acting firmly within the structures and institutions that perpetuate such systemic injustices and inequities in the first place.

In the case of WE, Kerr discovers an organization that set out to fight child labour has ended up working with a slew of companies that rely on slave labour somewhere within their supply chain.

However, the capitalism/philanthropy blend exemplified by WE seems downright harmless compared to the extremely thorough and disturbing investigation written by Finlay Young in ProPublica about the acclaimed American NGO More Than Me. (Warning: though we highly recommend that you take the time to read this article, do note that it is distressing and deals with the rape and sexual exploitation of children).

Founded by a young woman named Katie Meyler from New Jersey, More Than Me (MTM) is an NGO was created “save” young girls in Liberia from sexual exploitation, and to provide them with an education and opportunities. Over the years, Meyler used a shameless combination of social media savvy, poverty porn, and white privilege to grow MTM from a startup NGO into a multimillion dollar endeavor with international clout — MTM was propped up by the Liberian government and funded in part by the US government, while Meyler was giving speeches at Forbes events and taking photos with Warren Buffet.

However, Finlay diligently uncovers a darker side to this story, revealing a horrifying network of aid workers, teachers, board members, all led by Meyler, who were willing to turn a blind eye to a predator within their ranks, facilitating the rape and sexual exploitation of dozens of children and young women within the MTM program. This brutal investigation exposes the ethical bankruptcy of development organizations that embody that white savior complex, and the racist attitudes that create the conditions for organizations from Europe and North America to treat marginalized people from the Global South as less than human.

“They think we are all stupid people with little or no education, and our system is fragile, and they can get away with things because their skin is white,” she said. “That is what Katie feels. But it is not true.”

Reading the article, it’s easy at first to lay the blame on the predator in question and on Katie Meyler, who enabled and covered for his despicable behaviour. However, as the final section of the article makes clear, even the current board members and MTM executives — people with complete knowledge of the systemic exploitation that occurred within their organization — are  willing to defend the organization and fight for its continued existence.
Recycling is… Inefficient Garbage Collection (unless you’re in B.C.)
Most Canadians conscientiously sort our recyclables (crucially, it is what you interpret to be recyclable not what is actually recyclable), which are then separately hauled to a sorting facility, where they may or may not be sorted, sold, and in the best case scenario, shipped to another country and turned, usually via a resource intensive process, into recycled products (which will eventually end up in a landfill). But lately, or rather, since China refused to take any more garbage, Canadian municipalities and recycling companies have been taking our recycling... to the landfill. 

China’s implementation of standards for recyclable materials has provoked the latest crisis of awareness of the realities of recycling. They have refused to buy compressed lots of paper contaminated by greasy pizza boxes, and clamshell packaging with sticky labels still on them, among other things — things Canadians have been aspirationally recycling for years.

From The Walrus:

The effects were immediate: exports of plastics and scraps to China fell from 6,700 tonnes in January 2017 to 578 one year later. Paper-scrap exports fell from 53,000 to 15,800 tonnes. Some of that leftover material is finding its way to other foreign markets, mostly in southeast Asia and India. Some of it is ending up in landfills. Halifax has resorted to burning its plastics in waste-to-energy facilities. And, as of this May, Calgary was still storing more than 7,500 tonnes of paper. At that time, the city also hadn’t been able to find buyers for 1,000 tonnes of clamshell plastics

This is the story globally, from Australia to the U.S. and U.K. But we shouldn’t abandon the hope of recycling. Instead we should be willing to support initiatives that upgrade our existing infrastructure and systems, and put pressure on manufacturers to reduce packaging. One simple way may be to improve labeling (... sure). Also washing your peanut butter jars...

In an article from the Globe and Mail, the Canadian Plastics Industry Association points to B.C. as a model going forwards:

No city in the province is facing a recycling crisis because B.C. put all recycling in the hands of a non-profit, Recycle BC, whose costs are covered by all businesses in the province that are deemed to create waste packaging or products.
It doesn't export plastics because all plastics have been recycled in-province for the last three years, in part because Recycle BC guaranteed a supply of plastics to a local business. That allowed Merlin Plastics to invest in technology that helped it generate second-generation plastic products that are saleable.
B.C.'s paper recyclables, which are sold to China, are also cleaner because half of the cities in the province require their residents to separate paper from glass, metals and plastic.
"For B.C., [the new China policy] hasn't had an impact so far," said Allen Langdon, the CEO of Recycle BC. "We're still shipping but it's much easier for us to meet their standards."
“I need to keep the immigrant story in all my work, always, because that is what I’m trying to make sense of.”

M.I.A. sticks out as one of the few South Asian voices in hip-hop. She’s sometimes recognized as a musician with a great sense of social justice and commentary woven into her work. The documentary featuring her upbringing is worth a watch.

In a rags to riches tale, Matangi/Maya/M.I.A., filmmaker Steve Loveridge traces her personal life and how it’s influenced her work and personality. Her music drew from South London’s urban hip-hop music scene and a mix of world music. Her work being an experimental soundboard. As part of her work, she creates vivid sounds and imagery to go with it.

One theme that stuck out during the film was the common thread of the immigrant story in the Western world. It’s a trope around the lack of feeling of belonging and connection to your country of origin and where you live. She speaks to feeling unconnected to many white cultural references growing up, but also how they become a part of who you are. There’s also a shared understanding within immigrants of this sense of not belonging in a place you call home.

M.I.A.’s father was one of the founders of the Tamil Resistance movement. She didn’t know him and partly credits the lack of a father being around for helping become independent. She also clearly draws the need to speak up about civil war in Sri Lanka and human rights violations from this past. During one of her trips back to Sri Lanka as an adult, she talks about how her family makes fun of her for feeling like she has a stake in the violence and struggle of their family.

By featuring the contradictions of who gets to have street cred from a background of war, M.I.A. moves the conversation of the immigrant experience forward. It reminds me of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s call for plural voices in this conversation.
There is a duality to her work that mirrors this experience. At the same time she is talking about issues of race, challenges in integration, and different lived experiences of people, she is almost having fun with how she’s including that in her work. Her trademark track explores the notion of immigrants taking away good paying jobs and “all your money”. It mixes in sounds of a cash register and gunshots – and pokes fun at stereotypes of immigrants that exist.

The documentary is also a call to action for plural narratives. M.I.A’s story is full of contradictions and people more than willing to call them out for her. She is unwilling to be defined as a nice brown immigrant kid. To me, it features someone who’s not afraid to experiment. It’s a call to let the random influences and stories that form the immigrant experience be part of but not the defining feature of artistic expression.
Readers may remember my excitement when Team USA player Julie Chu and Team Canada player Caroline Ouellette got married and had a baby. Ouellette recently wrote a lovely little on retiring from playing professional hockey and her hopes for her daughter.

More importantly, there has been another cross-border hockey-playing lesbian wedding!!! Team USA player (and captain) Meghan Duggan married Team Canada player Gillian Apps at the end of September. Congratulations!!!

Both couples follow in the steps of long-time couple, Team Canada’s Jayna Hefford and Team USA’s Kathleen Kauth.

One can only surmise that the toxic masculinity perpetuated in the NHL is thwarting similarly heartwarming stories of hockey husbands.
When Tech Innovators are White
From Wired:
“If big tech companies are going to turn their back on US Department of Defense, this country is going to be in trouble,” Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said Monday, defending government contracts amid a wave of employee protests.
Bezos’ eagerness to cooperate with the Pentagon seemed to stem from his desire to keep America safe. “I like this country. I know everybody is very conflicted about the current politics and so on,” he said, but, “This country is a gem.”

During his defense of defense work, Bezos also grazed past the topic of immigration. “There aren't other countries where everybody is trying to get in,” he said. “I'd let them in if it were me. I like 'em, I want all of them in. But this is a great country and it does need to be defended.”

Bezos said he remains optimistic about technology, arguing that the potential for harm should not stop progress because humans are resilient. “The reason that we have pulled ourselves up as a species—by our bootstraps—is because we have continued to make technological progress,” he said. “Technologies always are two-sided. There are ways they can be misused.”

From The New York Times:

Within three years, the DNA of nearly every American of Northern European descent — the primary users of the site — will be identifiable through cousins in GEDmatch’s database, according to a study published on Thursday in the journal Science.
Aesthetically, resembles an internal company wiki in need of an update. But what it offers to researchers and criminal investigators is tremendous flexibility. There are now more than 17 million DNA profiles in genealogical databases, but most of the bigger sites restrict what can be uploaded, banning not only crime scene evidence but anything processed by an external lab. GEDmatch will take it all — blood processed by an obscure lab, spit processed by 23andMe — for free, so long as it’s in the right format.
By May, they had tweaked the privacy agreement to explicitly mention that users’ profiles might be used in a homicide or sexual assault investigation. By September, any lingering doubts they had were gone.

“I have absolutely no concerns that a person’s privacy is violated, because there are so many people whose DNA helped get to a capture,” Mr. Rogers said.
Salt Fat Acid Heat
James Beard award-winning cookbook writer and chef, Samin Nosrat, has a new Netflix series out called Salt Fat Acid Heat. Based on her cookbook of the same name, over four episodes Nosrat takes us to Italy, Mexico, Japan, and the kitchens of Chez Panisse (where she started her career), encouraging us to learn a few simple techniques that will make all of our cooking better.

Nosrat is curious, warm and clearly loves to laugh, and she cooks instinctively. Thus she is drawn to those who do the same - and fittingly much of what is shown are recipes that have been made over and over again until the hands almost move without the mind. The food isn’t set out to be sublime, it is delicious and meant to be shared.

Salt Fat Acid Heat applies the same lush cinematography of Chef’s Table or Ugly Delicious to the home kitchen. And yes, this means most often to the women in them. In an exceptional scene, Nosrat is making pasta with Benedetta Vitali, and Vitali demonstrates how they roll the pasta out to translucency around the rolling pin… Similarly, watching Nosrat salt and taste her pots of water, explaining how she thinks about how much salt is needed, was an eye opener for me. I’m already salting differently. ““I think the goal of Chef’s Table is that you are so moved by the story that you want to go and eat that person’s food at their restaurant,” Nosrat says, of the much-heralded food show. “But I wanted the takeaway from my show to be that you go and cook the thing.””

It is refreshing that the show doesn’t revolve around Nosrat’s ego - she asks supermarket butchers and street vendors serious questions about their food and cheerfully appreciates their food and expertise, in the same way she questions and appreciates the makers of artisan honey and miso. She doesn’t have to be seen cooking some fancy take on the abuela’s sour orange turkey and meatball stew. She shares her expertise confidently, but ultimately just encourages you to have fun. She cries over parmesan!

The last scene in the fourth episode sums up the entire series so well, and is something I wholeheartedly embrace when it comes to cooking and entertaining. It’s not about the food - it is about bringing people together, involving them, caring for them, laughing with them. And if the food is delicious, well that’s just another reason to be delighted to be at the table.

Basically, Salt Fat Acid Heat is emotionally intelligent, inclusive, feminist food TV, and I am going to Winners to buy a pot so I can make Nosrat’s mom’s tahdig ASAP.

Related: Here’s Rachel Ray’s entry for Food52’s Piglet cookbook tournament that pitted Salt Fat Acid Heat against the Russian-American cookbook Kachka. Tonight I made the most lovely and simple vegetable soup with oats, called ‘Monday Soup’ from Kachka, salting my water just the way Nosrat taught me. Don’t skip the butter and sour cream (everything is better with fat and acid obviously!).
A Canadian Heritage Moment with Pierre Berton
Related: Canadians politely purchase first legal pot 

Weekly Links

How the Toronto Sun helped a fake story about refugees “slaughtering goats” in a hotel in Toronto go viral.

Shouldn’t need to be said but: “There is no evidence to suggest that getting an HPV vaccination encourages teenage girls to engage in riskier sexual behaviour, according to a new study.
The study, published Monday in the
Canadian Medical Association Journal, used data from the B.C. Adolescent Health Survey, which collects health information every five years from B.C. students in grades 7 through 12. The study is based on responses from almost 300,000 female students provided in the years 2003, 2008 and 2013.”

The Ontario Superior Court has dismissed Faith Goldy’s attempt to force Bell Media to run ads for her mayoral campaign due to lack of jurisdiction. “Judge Peter Cavanagh, who heard the emergency motion on Monday and released his 22-page ruling Tuesday morning...found that the CRTC has “exclusive jurisdiction to grant the relief sought,” and declined to exercise his discretion to intervene.” Rogers Media has also refused to run Goldy’s campaign ads.

A clever clip on implicit racism from the BBC show Informer

From a piece in the Guardian on Informer: One way of regulating these stereotypes is through dramas passing the Riz test – a system that the actor Riz Ahmed set out in a House of Commons speech last year. It’s similar to the Bechdel test (which requires that a film features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man) in that not many things pass it. If the film or show stars at least one character who is identifiably Muslim (by ethnicity, language or clothing), is the character: 1) Talking about, the victim of, or the perpetrator of Islamist terrorism? 2) Presented as irrationally angry? 3) Presented as superstitious, culturally backwards or anti-modern? 4) Presented as a threat to a western way of life? 5) If the character is male, is he presented as misogynistic?; or if female, is she presented as oppressed by her male counterparts?

The New Arab Winter: In the wake of the Khashoggi disappearance, Evan Hill explains how the US, under both the Obama and Trump administrations, has helped nurture a new generation of Mideast dictators.

Liberals table new legislation to address solitary confinement focused on creating new penitentiary units called Structured Intervention Units: “Under the new SIU model, inmates who can't be safely managed in the mainstream population will receive interventions and programs tailored to their needs. They will also be allowed outside their cell for four hours each day (compared to two under the current administrative segregation model) and will have the opportunity to have two hours a day of "meaningful human contact."”

Kanye's Love For Trump Actually Makes Perfect Sense: Sitting there in the Oval Office, Kanye rattled off ideas on everything from criminal justice reform to an Apple-designed hydrogen plane that should replace Air Force One. The president, who might be looking for new opportunities for ratings gold, gave Kanye what he truly desired, 10 minutes of unfettered attention and validation. For that, Trump got a news cycle devoid of stories about his taxes, murdered journalists, or Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. It was a perfectly symbiotic attention grab and not unlike two reactionary YouTubers agreeing to appear on each other’s channels to discuss toxic groupthink or trigger warnings going too far. Like any good YouTube shock jock, they knew we couldn’t help but click. And further down the rabbit hole we go.

‘On Pandering’: an essay which gives me a jolt every time I read it. “Here are the lampposts, here is the single-screen movie theater. It’s all an architecture of pandering. It’s for them.
She can write like a man, they said, by which they meant, She can write.

You buy a purse at Walmart. There’s a note inside from a “Chinese prisoner.” Now what?

Gendered expectations in universities play out in myriad ways: “students request more special favors and friendship behaviors from their female professors than they do of men -- resulting in more actual work demands and emotional labor. The paper also suggests that "academically entitled" students more strongly expect that women will grant their favor requests than will male professors, and that they react strongly when women deny those requests.”

Roberta A. Kaplan, a founder of the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, said on Tuesday that she will represent Moira Donegan, the creator of a widely circulated list of “media men” accused of sexual misconduct. Ms. Donegan is the only named defendant in a lawsuit that was filed against her by Stephen Elliott, one of the men named on the list.” Along with seeking $1.5 million in damages, Elliott and his lawyer are seeking to force Google to reveal the identities of the list’s contributors, although they also claim that independent forensics will be sufficient to reveal the names of those that wrote in the original Google doc.

B.C. cracks down on chiropractors’ advertising which suggests they are qualified to treat everything from ADHD and autism to cancer and ear infections, and two anti-vaxxer board members of the Chiropractor College of B.C. have decided not to run for re-election.
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