Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Emergency Sex and other Desperate Measures

Don't worry...its not what I've been through, but that's the name of the book I'm reading at the moment. Its a bit of international development sensationalism, as you can guess from the title. Three idealistic western do-gooders who want to "save the world" chronicle their tales of professional and personal trials while serving in some of the most dangerous places on earth as UN staff.

I think the book goes a little overboard with its sensationalism; still it does a very good job of showcasing what working with the UN (or other international development agencies) is like, what the lives of the staff and peacekeepers really is like, and puts to rest any romantic notions people may have about war, the UN, or outstanding US foreign policy.

The character I liked the most is Dr Andrew Thomson, a physician from New Zealand, who seems to get more into the cultural landscape than the other two characters. Here's a snippet of his thoughts as he is forced to exit Haiti after a poorly orchestrated "savior" operation by the US:

Over and over I replay in my head the implications of what we've just done. We told the Haitians that we couldn't physically stop their government from torturing and killing, but that if they told us in detail who was doing it and how, we'd bear witness and seek justice. Eventually the world would eb outraged enough to send soldiers and reinstall democracy...

They believed us, risked their lives to turn up at our offices all over the country, in full view of their attackers, to tell their stories. They exposed tehmselves, crawled in and spilled their guts, sometimes literally. They trusted me... Now that they are atheir most vulnerable, we're abandoning them, frozen in teh ehadlights, roadkill for the macoutes' machine. And we're flying out, clutching our precious blue UN passports and bags full of Haitian art.

We just showed Haitians that our lives are more valuable than theirs...

The most basic primciple they teach you at medical school, years before you even get to touch your first patient, is "First, do no harm." But harm is exactly what we've done, identifying the next victims for the asassins running Haiti..."

Definitely worth a read. If not anything else, you'll learn a lot!

1 comment:

NEO said...

Nice post. I am going to read the book :-D