Those who wish to make a positive impact on the world are faced with a paradox born of the very privilege that motivates them to help others. They are at once the beneficiary of oppressive structures and their product. Insofar as they have become awakened to the plight of the impoverished masses they are reactionary to the knowledge of suffering and the empathic guilt of enjoying the spoils of injustice. On the other hand, were it not for this privilege the motivation to rise up in activism would be lacking as well as the technological means to analyze the problem and the social influence to pursue reform.
Emerging from this context, activists in pursuit of reform are faced with a self-reinforcing dilemma. Spearheading a movement requires the oppressed (the proposed beneficiaries of reform) to submit to preconceived models of action and adopt objectives derived from their personal experience. Naturally, not spearheading a movement would obviate the possibility of marginalizing the directions and incentives of the masses, but would remove them from the field of service. Emotional and motivational repercussions of this problem overshadow any academic shortcomings conceivable, as social organization and collective will in the rural setting are far more susceptible to unspoken implications. Overall direction being set from the outside is the hallmark of failed development initiatives.
The exacerbation of the Us-Them divide renders the population purported to be served an intractable obstacle. Alternative extremes result in cultural relativism and relinquishing the task of transformation in the name of others’ rights to self-determination and autonomy. Colonial invader or assimilated relativist seem like the only two viable options.
Are human beings doomed to be outsiders to every group except a single subculture, narrowly defined by nationality, ethnicity, social class, religion, and occupation? I believe not. But can you think of a reason why? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.