Foto's & tips
22 november 2007
'Veel reizen, veel zien, veel ervaren. Daarnaast vaak onderwater te vinden.'
The Face of Poverty
"Sir, Sir, please!" The fragile yet hardened hand of a tiny girl touches my arm. Barely old enough to walk, wearing nothing but a filthy piece of cloth, she stares straight up at me with her begging eyes. I am in a taxi, squeezed to the open window, in rush hour Dar Es Salaam's traffic. The girl is on the road, pressed in between vehicles, in her every day depressing livelihood. More than ever I want traffic to move. Not just because I want to get home, take a warm shower, eat a healthy meal and crash on my soft couch, but merely because I want to hide from this girls reality. Usually when a beggar approaches me on the street I walk a bit faster, I keep on staring straight ahead and I mumble something like "I'm sorry, I can't help you". Now there is not such an easy way out. Now there is nowhere to run. Now there is nowhere to hide. Here I am, stuck in reality and literally face to face with poverty, misery and human sorrow. Why is traffic not moving? Are they pulling out a traffic control from one of the potholes again? "Sir, Sir" the girl is still pulling my arm. What can I do? Should I just ignore her? Is there even any way I can I help her? My mind starts running. I can give here all the money I have, I can give her the laptop I carry and I can even give her my silk tie, my leather shoes and my mobile telephone, but will this really make her situation better? Will this really change her life? I don't think so. The sad fact of the matter is that it will most likely even deteriorate her situation. Besides, anything that I give her will probably go to the older women, lined up on the curb sniffing glue from a bottle with a baby tied to their back. Why is traffic not moving? Did a group of 'born again's' start preaching in the middle of the road again? Even though giving money will not lead to a sustainable solution, it would be a quick option out. A cheap provision of moral satisfaction and a blessing with the 'good' feeling, for helping this 'poor African'. It doesn't, however, address the larger issues at stake and is comparable to the macro level dependency theory, proposed by scholars around the globe. Power relations are kept into place by keeping those in need dependent on those in possession. Foreign aid arguably undermines local responsibility and obstructs a contextual development process. Nice thought, but this theoretical approach does not ease my mind, nor does it seem to fulfil the girls needs. Finally, traffic comes into motion and saves me from having to decide whether to give away all my possessions or not. Black exhaustion fumes cover the girl in smoke and block her from my view. But not from my mind. Why am I here and why is this girl on the street? How is it possible that in a world with so much wealth so many people live in poverty? Can anyone be held responsible? If giving money does not help and if development aid possibly leads to neo-colonial post-dependency relationships, then where should the solution to this girl's, and so many other human beings in Tanzania, be found? Besides these dilemmas, I am still wondering why traffic was dead stuck for such a while. As we start moving it occurs to me that the answer to the last question might be related to the answers of the previous ones. In the distance I see the presidential convoy that just passed by. The Mercedes, the soldiers and of course the Tanzanian flags, floating in the wind, representing the presidents patriotism, leadership and genuine concern with the well being of all the people in his country!