The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Socialism*
Off and on, there and here and in between, I have been thinking about tomato's razor-sharp post on disaster tourism.
So... why did I go? The short answer is because they asked me to. There isn't much I can say about the specifics, but there are some serious information management 'challenges' (quite how serious I had no idea till I got there, to be honest).
Did I make any difference? Yeah, a bit. And could make more if a) I follow a few things up from here with the high-ups and the techies, and b) I go back early next year to do a bit more work with people there. I represent reasonable value for money. You get a lot out of me.
But those are the easy questions. I thought about some of the harder ones as well.
Why was I there to be asked? Mmm. Because I have more or less worked out what I'm good at, and I have more or less worked out that a) I need to be doing it -- ie that indolence is not good for me -- and that b) the end result of my labours needs to be convergent. I'm not an artist, I'm not a capitalist. But I'm not an altruist either. My motivations are as selfish as the next person's, but maybe less realistic: I think the best chance we have is via a fairer world. But I don't go out literally feeding the poor or negotiating with the G8. I'm an applied egalitarian. It's a bit weak, when you look at it hard. Unless you can be sure that good information management changes the world.
Which of course you can't. The biggest question of all is... should well-meaning organisations intervene in times of conflict, famine and flood (or is it true, as John Cage might say, and M points out from time to time, that if you try to improve the world you only make it worse)? There is no such thing as a neutral intervention, and even those with the most benign intentions can have, over decades, over centuries, potentially catastrophic unforeseeable consequences. The road to hell etc.
On the other other other hand...
In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act. (George Orwell)
You must be the change you wish to see in the world. (Mohandas Gandhi)
All that is necessary for evil to succeed is for good men (sic) to do nothing. (Edmund Burke)
What's a girl to do?
* with apologies to Max Weber, who, in his way, changed my life.