Just watched Oprah on TV – She started by showing an old episode – on women in Congo who are raped, burnt and killed by Hutu Militias. Oprah started introducing the story and described Congo as the “Rape Capital of the World” – then showed the heart wrenching story of women and children who had been beaten, raped and killed. The story then proceeded to talk about what American citizens could do and what they did.
The story then followed a woman who after watching that show of Oprah, started by sponsoring education for two women for $ 27 a months – that awareness made other people to come forward and donate. Eventually this movement ended up supporting one thousand women in Congo and the numbers were growing.
The lady joined Oprah on the show and she said she discovered how these women in Congo valued the connection with the women from USA, more than the money – how they held on to the letters sent by their sponsors and felt humanised by the touch they received. Then there was a short video clip of this woman spending time with the women in Congo, twirling, laughing, shouting and dancing with her. Pretty touching picture I thought!
The camera then jumped back to Oprah and a journalist who worked in Congo on this issue and has written a book on this. The whole idea of the show was to showcase her book on this show. The guests and Oprah then talked about how important it was for the world to know the story of these women in Congo and how it was important to educate women all over the world to (and this is where I started to get my heebeegeebees!) to fight terrorism.
This was added and aided by some video clippings of the current Secretary of State of the USA talking about political situations around the world and need for educating the women.
The reason I felt unformtable is not because what they were talking about or the efforts they made in good faith. In fact, I really appreciate what was done and the spirit in which this was done.
What made me uncomfortable were:
- There was a tonality of being the “saviour” to the downtrodden of the world in the whole discussions. Now, realistically speaking, they had the resources and the willingness to help those women in Congo who were resourceless and stigmatized. But, as I sat there and listened, I could not help but detect a tonality of moral superiority. It almost seemed that in USA, none of those crimes ever happen against women, and that brutality and lack of education go hand in hand.
But this was not really that discomforting. What made me cringe more was the continuous reference that women must be educated to fight terrorism. That when women are educated and supported, they would fight to stop terrorism in the world was the oft repeated message in the show.
Isn’t this whole notion a bit too simplistic? I mean, yes, women must be educated by all means and that is their right to be so. That terrorism ought to stop is also a reality – but to connect education with combating terrorism in the way it was done, may also have a subaltern implications such as the following:
- That only uneducated people are involved in terrorism and having education will make them realize their follies. we all know that is not the whole picture.
- That education may show the people the right path (and I am guessing here the word education would mean the standard “civilized” format that is prevalent in most parts of the world) and that the conventional/traditional wisdom is not potent enough for people to see what is right and what is wrong.
- That terrorism is perhaps not a political reality but only a political liability which is thrown upon the unsuspecting world by a set of uncivilized people in less developed territories or countries.
- That no real attempt ought to be made to understand the culture, practices, ground realities and most importantly the socio-economic realities behind these unrest.
- And lastly, educating the women to prevent terrorism, may also imply to put half the world against the other half – that half the world (read uneducated barbaric men) ought to be corrected and brought back to the right path by women who are armed with education now and are in a position to have moral and intellectual superior position.
Make, no mistake. I am no supporter of terrorism of any kind, neither am I neither am I against education for women – which I believe is our fundamental right in any case.
But I am against a certain gross generalization and over simplification of issues as though the world is simply divided in black and white – the resourceful and the resourceless, the educated and the uneducated, the wise and the barbaric. and if only, these things are taken care of, the hungry, the poor, the uneducated, the downtrodden are rescued from their bottomless pits of misery, the world will be peaceful, harmonious and beautiful. That there are no other realities to be engaged with and looked into.
We have enough example of the same strain running in India as well … of most issues being over simplified while glossing over the finer nuances and ramifications – and then these are glorified as the next best thing that has happened in this country – the corruption issue being one such.
What do you think? what is your opinion? Do you have other examples of such generalizations?