Think Global, Fuck Local

Is the title of a short play showing in London next week.

“Kabul’s like f**king Ibiza now. Heaving with pretty Sloaney girls. Quite good clubs. Plenty of drugs. I’m too old for all that now.”

Humanitarians. By day saving the world. At night they drink, party – move on. And then, some time, they have to go home. Out of Joint takes a look behind the public face of UN and NGO workers.

It’s at the Royal Court Theatre, if any one’s interested and in town. And there’s a piece about it over at OneWorld UK.

“I find their world hugely fascinating,” Feehily [the writer] told OneWorld UK. […]

[Aid workers] “are the real celebrities”, she says, taking a poke at the celebrity culture that dominates so much of the media. “There are a lot of interesting people out there doing incredible work who go unacknowledged.

“I find the whole sector pretty cool. And at the end of the day, it’s a force for good: so what, if they kick up their heels and have a bit of fun?”

The sex lives of aid workers: what a topic for an ethnographic study. Or a David Attenborough wildlife documentary. Maybe a black comedy would be better.

It’s good to know the sector is ‘pretty cool.’ Perhaps I could even be a celebrity?

And it’s a good title that’s for sure. Less certain about the premise, but not having seen it I can’t say.

There is an aura of sanctity around aid work (someone else’s expression but I don’t know whose). Anything that helps to dispel it is surely a good thing. But I find it odd that of all the many many issues about the sector (cool as it may be), the only ones that get an airing are about sex and fast cars: loose living young expats driving round in large white Land Cruisers, terrorizing the local population.

OK, not ‘odd’ at all, but frustrating that of all the ‘fascinating’ aspects of this ‘world’ (like the tropical diseases you can pick up, or different people’s motivations for working in the sector or, I don’t know, maybe the ‘local’ people you get to meet?), the focus of attention is so limited.

The best, and certainly the funniest, portrayal of aid workers I’ve come across is the blog Hope4Dave: it’s fantastic, go check it out. If you’ve ever bought anything through Oxfam Unwrapped you might like this as well: Uncovered and wrapped. Much more accurate.

Then there’s Inepd, the ‘International Network for Enabling Poverty Development.’ Also hilarious, least I reckon it is (an in-joke though?), and slightly scarily true.

In line with this posts’ title and what is clearly the most interesting part of aid work, we also have Humanitarian Dating from Dave (this used to be a spoof I think – sexualrelief web, another in-joke – but seems to have become all serious) and the Humanitarian Couple of the Year Award from Inepd.

It is a fascinating world. I’d love to stay and write about it some more, but I’ve got a party to go. Some Sloane’s leaving do.

No Survivors cartoon

The Perry Bible Fellowship: No Survivors cartoon


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One Response to “Think Global, Fuck Local”

  1. Roberta Says:

    There’s a little known debut novel set in just this world by someone who went on to more famous projects. A young woman working in British television, surrounded by vacuous celebrities, makes a break from its emptiness and sets up a new life as a humanitarian worker in a fictional African country. When famine looms and food deliveries fail to materialise, she goes back to wicked London to mobilise support for a one-night telly special from people in the light entertainment industry, people she hardly knew then and doesn’t respect. Worlds collide in the well-named “Cause Celeb”.

    The author? Helen Fielding, better known as creator of 1990s phenomemon “Bridget Jones’s Diary”. She’s now vastly famous with her own new life in LA, and presumably vastly rich too. Her debut novel has never been re-issued, as far as I know, but it is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it has rather more solid values than the duplicitous Diaries.

    And then there is the semi-factual “Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures: A True Story From Hell On Earth”.

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