Wednesday, September 5, 2007


My experience in Tanzania is humbling. Today I taught a man about start-up financing, online marketing, and about web analytics. He repeated my words, he nodded, and he sought my expertise when it is only afforded by circumstance. A proud man, an older man, graciously thanked me for my time as I, a 24-year-old from 10,000 miles away could only question the inequities in the world. Who am I to explain success to a man with calloused hands, pocked cheeks, wise eyes, and a good heart. He is a man who has seen hardship, who has labored through a world with fewer opportunities.

Through resolve he has devised a business plan in English. It’s more than 20 pages, and he is a tribesman from the Kenyan border. He has learned and misused the cliches of the Western world, fighting for an acceptance that may bring him opportunity. And I see the sad irony of a proud man misusing English phrases, pandering for opportunity that does not exist for him natively. And who am I to lecture on this. I seek to advise, not condescend, but my very opportunities dispose me to condescension. It is condescension not by consent, but by circumstance. And this is without my desire. I seek equality, and I search for this through self-mockery. I fumble in Swahili. I spark conversation about football and Bollywood. I am determined to mentor as an equal, but fortune has driven a sharp wedge between our circumstances. Cultural understanding can minimize the wedge, but it exists as a persistent thorn. And I cannot ignore it.

I only hope that the very act of being cognizant of inequalities mitigates the extent to which I am guilty of my circumstances.

No comments: