Frequently Asked Questions Concerning the Philosophy, Politics and Historical Problems of Volunteering
This is a general and quick post in response to Frequently Asked Questions about the problems of choosing where to invest one’s time and labour when volunteering in foreign places with good intent. It started as a reply to a comment – part of a long thread about a conservation project in the Amazon – then expanded slightly to become this first draft of a short reply to questions concerning volunteering.
Where and what is good agency put into which structures? It is an endless journey through the soul and the corridors of political thinking, philosophical reflection, historical recognition and ethical considerations – and it is also that first single step of your journey. It begins in the mind, unfolds in the imagination and will have a material impact on the place you go to.
Over the years we have spend a lot of time and energy helping people finding their ways in Ecuador and Peru, we have spend a lot of time suggesting projects, providing contacts and so on. However, in the end, people mostly go and do their own thing anyway. However, if you have only 4-6 months time and want to connect sooner, and should you really want to do something in or around Tena, Napo, in the Ecuadorian Amazon, or in San Francisco in Peru, and if working on a small scale and community level with people outside of NGO structures, doing down-to-the-ground, bottom-up work, with lovely families, if that is your thing, then do get in touch.
Some people still have a romantic idea about Denmark as a little social-democratic haven in Scandinavia where people are free, no one is poor and the rich pay a lot of taxes.
That is a long time ago.
In 1982 Denmark followed the U.S. and the U.K. into the Reagan-Thatcher era with Poul Schlüter as Prime Minister.
That was the end of the social-democratic experiment.
Notable, for instance, in the destruction of what was once – as far as a nation state goes – a relatively benign state of affairs was Bertel Haarder (currently the Interior and Health Minister in the Cabinet of Lars Løkke Rasmussen). From 10 September 1982 to 25 January 1993 he was Education Minister and orchestrated the destruction of the educational system and returned in November 2001 and remained until February 2005 as Minister for Refugees, Immigrants and Integration in the Cabinet of Anders Fogh Rasmussen, which helped elevate Denmark to one of the primary targets of islamist extremism and made Denmark known as one of the most racist, xenophobic right-wing, imperialist warmongering countries in the world – just a couple of steps step down the totalitarian ladder from Iran and North Korea, one is tempted to suggest.
This is what it looks like (and sounds like) today as the police enters a bicycle workshop where people are playing music, repairing bikes and cooperating and sharing skills (notice the comments: “We don’t need any papers AT ALL … I am aware that you have another system in those countries where you are from”, spoken with that typical Danish superior attitude to foreigners..):
In today’s Politiken we are told that several people have been arrested for threats against “Dansk Folkepartis formand, Pia Kjærsgaard“, that is the ring leader of the fascistic, ultra right-wing, Islamophobic and generally xenophobic and racist, socalled Danish People’s Party. The first article tells no more than that, but soon others were to follow.
It is now declared that the five people arrested are supposed to have a Somalian background and that threatening a hate speaker is a threat to democracy. “If you threaten an elected politician you threaten all the people who voted for them”, says an appeaser of the Conservative Party, while the Prime Minister, also in dire need of some popularity, calls the threats “totally unacceptable“. (EDIT: It has now been stated that one of the Somalians is a “self-taught imam” another is a director of a bank, allegedly with connections to al-Hikmah, that in turn relates to a school in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, called Ibnu Baz Islamic Center, and that “some of the school’s youth are suspected of having joined Hisbul Islam og al-Shabaab“).
Although colonos are not in favour of threatening people, we are also not in any possible way surprised: When you threaten an entire religion and way of life, then you threaten – or at least insult – all of those people who identify with that religion and way of life. How difficult can it be to understand that? Moreover, the vice-president of the party’s youth organisation, a local council member, has just been excluded for violent threats against named Danish individuals who are said to collaborate with legal muslim activities, such as the building of a mosque. In this case, the party does not deem it relevant to report the threat to the police – “they leave such doing to others“?!?
Another press release:
RIGHTS: U.N. Condemns Land Grabs in Native Territories, By Haider Rizvi.
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 14, 2010 (IPS) – Millions of people around the world who belong to indigenous communities continue to face discrimination and abuse at the hands of authorities and private business concerns, says a new U.N. report released here Thursday.
It is happening not only in the developing parts of the world but also in countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, which champion the causes of human rights and democracy, the report says.
Despite all the “positive developments” in international human rights setting in recent years, the study’s findings suggest that indigenous peoples remain vulnerable to state-sponsored violence and brutality, which is often aimed at confiscating their lands.
“This carbon market insanity privatises the air and sells it to climate criminals like Shell so they can continue to pollute and destroy the climate and our future, rather than reducing their emissions at source…”