I don't yet know what (or how) to think about Greg Mortenson. Nick Kristof's column was thoughtful, at least. And I love his title..."Three cups of tea spilled" sums the whole thing up remarkably well.
There are a host of voices out there- those who are wholeheartedly on Mortenson's side, claiming he's been unjustly framed by accusers who should be using their time to focus on corrupt politicians. Those who claim to have known he was a phony the entire time, and that the rest of us are hopelessly naive. These two groups are the loudest, and the people in the middle, except for Kristof, who's voice is powerful enough to be heard (aside: Nick Kristof is possibly the best example I can think of of a privileged individual who uses privilege to empower others) are drowned out, likely because of that uncertainty.
And honestly....all the fury in the media and blogosphere makes me more lost and confused. And dumb- how come everyone else is always so convinced about everything? Am I the only person in the universe living in a hopelessly grey muddle?
Did ALL the smart people really know Mortenson was a fake? I kind of doubt it. Vultures come out at the smell of weakness...and international confusion/outrage/disillusionment at someone who supposedly helped thousands of people? That's a lot of weakness.
And those who insists that Mortenson is still a hero, and everyone else is out to get him? Given allegations this serious, that seems delusional to me.
What does CAI and Mortenson mean? As I briefly pointed out to my students, he's changed how we think about Afghanistan, and Pakistan, he's shed light on the critical importance of education. Will potential donors write off everyone building schools in remote corners of the world now? Will people ignore Pakistan even more (remember the remarkably absent charitable donations after the devastating floods last summer?)? I don't know. I hope not. I'm afraid so.
Mortenson was doing work he wasn't trained to do - as someone who's spent roughly a gazillion hours working on program planning, evaluation, community organizing coursework and projects , do I think that could have made a difference? Maybe. Yes...if you don't know what you're doing, hire someone who does. But do I think anyone else would have done a better job, or would they just have screwed up differently? I don't know. I'm not sure it matters. Maybe it's the only thing that matters.
Do I think we're all doomed to mediocrity? I don't know. Do I think we're all doomed to being misunderstood and misrepresented? Absolutely. Do I think there's some truth in those misrepresentations? I don't know.
In a little over two months, I'm getting married in a gorgeous Anglo-Catholic church. A couple weeks ago, the bishop who pastors this church sent out a church newsletter/calendar, with a senseless rant against the "feminization of politics" (a few gems:
" The more men turn away from their God-given responsibilities, the more women take over. “As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. “Behold, thy people in the midst of thee are women: the gates of thy land shall be set wide open unto thine enemies: the fire shall devour thy bars.” (Nahum 3: 13, prophesying the fall of Nineveh) Over two generations of all-pervasive gnostic feminism in the West mean that the culture now tends to: *Modify the English language to remove or neutralize masculine references, for a “unisex” modality, thus depersonalizing society. Steward – stewardess become flight attendant. The Biblical understanding of all life subsumed under the masculine is eliminated in language and life. *Avoid hard, tough, costly decisions and emphasize “therapy.” * Downplay sacrifice and heroism. “Feelings” are what matter. * Downplay, and soften, the military. Emphasize domestic spending and safety nets at home. Urge a soft foreign policy of appeasement with enemies. * Legalize death for all unwanted life, so that men can shirk their responsibilities, and women can pursue careers and power, unfettered by children and the aged. *Watch as marriages disintegrate, boys fall behind in school, prisons burst at the seams and more women become impoverished.
(That last is particularly infuriating- all the feminists I know are actively working against those things)
I read this as being angry, prejudiced, ill-informed. I don't know whether he personally wrote it, or if was copied+pasted from some parachurch organization. What I do know is someone who I like and deeply respect claims that I (and people like me) are destroying the world. Is there truth to these allegations? Maybe it depends on what you want the world to look like.
Maybe another example could help....my academic adviser has worked all over the world for women's reproductive rights. This means improving access to family planning knowledge and services (including hormonal contraceptives, and beads for women in villages to track their cycles) and access to safe and legal abortion, access to quality post-abortion care. Some see this as work that's seen as good, important, life-saving. Others (the circles I grew up in) would label her an assistant to murder, someone who destroys life, who has launched war on human sexuality and good and beauty everywhere.
Who is she? Who is the bishop? Who am I? Who is Greg Mortenson?