New Yorker: White Men Save the World

Ideas and Issues Personal Writings

carrQuepos It’s probably always true to a huge degree in the New Yorker eye view of the world, but it was even more stark reading the current issue on the plane that was ostensibly about efforts to impact environments.  The “world changers” as the magazine labeled them were all stereotypically weird, outsider, loner white dudes.  What are the odds, especially when the parts of the world called into focus included Africa and developing nations?  Antarctica is so white already that I’ll give them that, but geez can it be possible for the rest?

The lineup is Bill Fraser on the Antarctica job with a Montana home address, a stove maker named Peter Scott (a British Columbia born “veteran activist” as described here) and Dean Still  (product of some kind of semi-political, civil rights, religio-activist family) centered around the camp fires of rural  Oregon, and then a super-rich loner, ex-Mormon from Utah named Greg Carr, who from reading the story is seems is single handedly saving a national forest in Mozambique with his millions in a true life, Ralph Nader-ish, “the rich can do it all for us” fable.

Organizations don’t exist in these stories in any real terms except as bumblers, fools, and enablers of stupidity, which in the case of many of these giant NGOs may actually be true, but doesn’t explain away that except in the case of Mr. Super Rich, you have to have resources to change the world, contrary to the arguments put forward by New Yorker think.  Women are either non-existent which seems to be the case for the stove makers and the Africa-saver or are somehow slackers or saints in the case of Mr. Antarctica…depending on how you see being stranded in Montana with children, though admittedly the dude is spending more time now with the saint and the son than with the other and the daughters.

And, the natives?  Well in New Yorker world they are predictably restless, if not childlike and simplistic.  They reject better stoves, if the cooking doesn’t conform to the way they like to eat.  Gee, duh?!?  They have complaints about white people taking the land they live on for parks without a fair trade in real development and life support.  In Mozambique we understand the ratio of 1 guy versus a couple of hundred thousand people living on the park, and are supposed to see the concerns as either antiquated or reactionary through the caricatured local leader or the sham and scam effort put on for the government official.

I love The New Yorker. After decades of restraint I finally succumbed many years ago and read every issue cover-to-cover save for the fiction and theater, which bore me.  I also found all of these world changers likable and admirable, but the “world view” being promoted here in this issue is a woefully wrong and inaccurate way of presenting the reality of how major, social changes are created around the world.  It’s not about weirdness, but work.  It’s not about super-stars, but masses of people.  It’s not about the outsiders and foreigners, but about communities.  The list is long, and the editors of The New Yorker need to look past their own penthouse biases peering down the street at the little people, and figure it out before doing another issue about “world” changing.New Yorker: White