After another Portuguese-in-Amsterdam dinner last night, involving some of my favorite former Lisbonites turned Amsterdamers, I decided 1 in the morning was a goodtime to finally sit and watch the Constant Gardener. Now I wouldn’t normally talk about films on the blog, unless they really deserve to be spoken about… and this little picture caught my eye.
If many of you haven’t heard of it, It’s not very surprising, since it tackles the very un-hip themes of development, AIDs in Africa, diplomacy, big pharma, and white guilt. I’m sure Howard isn’t spending much time on those with all his free speech bullshit rhetoric. But the Constant Gardener, in all it’s imperfection, does a decent job of walking the line between increasing awareness about the health crises in Africa, criticizing how the west behaves towards those countries, and just telling a love story. Not great on either of these, mind you, but again – a good effort.
Surprisingly, what the film really made me think about was what I will call “white guilt.” What does this term mean to you? When I say white guilt, I’m thinking of the feeling by individuals from wealthy nations primarily in Europe and North America, who feel guilty about the incalculable amout of sufferring going on outside their country, and perhaps to their benefit. Sometimes this guilt leads them to act, by donating money or even becoming an aid-worker themselves.
In my daily routine at the university fishtank, I believe I’ve seen something like white guilt. Young men and women show up to persue their graduate degrees, but more importantly, they arrive determined to go “work in Africa.” Be they Canadian, American, German, Swedish, Dutch, French, Portuguese…. I’ve seen it all. I’ve looked into the eyes of young and inexperienced people and seen this look of duty; that their calling lies in the sufferring of the poor nations of the world. It is both impressive and bizarre- just considering how they arrive at this feeling, or why, or if they are even capable of making a difference. Sometimes, I admit, I even think they are full of shit, trying to fill some void or emotional short-coming with what sounds like a noble cause. That’s not to say they don’t go on to do great things – they do. But is the world getting better because of it? – that part is hard to see from where I sit in my comfy chair.
I bet the Lounge Chicken would be a good guy to ask about all this. I smell a show topic.