Voces inocentes

July 13, 2005, [MD]

Today we all went over to the students from Mexico city who are working at the project, they rent a house in the village. We saw Voces Inocentes (Innocent Voices), a movie about some little boys growing up under the civil war in El Salvador. Although sometimes a bit clichy, it was still very well done, and certainly managed to move the audience. The contrast between children playing, making all the mistakes they have to make in order to grow up, and soldiers, guerrillas fighting, mothers screaming. Friends dying.

In a way, this movie is similar to many others, Hotel Rwanda being one of the last one. As much as it hurts watching these movies, I think they have a useful effect on me. They shake me. Make me remember the suffering in the world. That I know so well, but that I tend to forget (how can we forget?) in daily life. It makes me remember why I choose to study International Development Studies.

Because I wanted to make a difference. Yeah - can you imagine words more full of cliches? Especially in these Live-8 days. But deep down it does have meaning. The question is not whether we can make a difference, because we do - every day. But I wonder. What will I do - what will I be able to contribute with? How will my expensive education help me? We are studying the history of Africa, international economics… when what is needed is engineers and doctors. My friend is delivering babies in Papua New Guineau. I have had an amazing life, travelled and lived in several continents, speak many languages. Yet still - the two skills I have to offer is English teaching and modest computer skills. How will I be able to improve that situation? And which skills are needed? What needs to be done?

So many efforts to help have gone wrong, so many great plans turned into disaster. A study of international development is a study of errors and mistakes. And then there is the huge error in believing that only by being in the frontline, can you make a difference. By being a Blue Beret with the UN, or flying in to refugee camps with the UN helicopter delivering AID. Maybe working on intercultural education programmes, on antiwar and fair-trade projects in Western countries, on small grassroots-based development programmes is not as sexy. But my egoism and my sense of heroism is not what is important here, what matters is building a foundation for something lasting. What matters is not being the only one brave enough, “holy” enough to oppose something bad, but to convince everyone that they can help and participate.

But what do I know? One can only try one’s best, I suppose.


Stian Håklev July 13, 2005 Toronto, Canada
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