Sunday, April 08, 2007

Framing



Reading the newspaper on Friday, an article, Judge gets tough with convict who spit at officer produced a perverse chuckle. It seems that a man of whom the court-ordered medical opinion stated is "narcissistic beyond the point of rehabilitation" set out to represent himself in court over a matter of spitting on his probation officer. The judge exceeded sentencing guidelines and sentenced him to four to 10 years.

A friend sent me that photograph of me and I wanted to share it. I'm not an awfully good judge of character, especially my own. The picture captures a certain je ne sais quoi; no wait, it's pretty easy to say: I'm a goof. Partly wanting to run a picture has to do with having signed up this blog to Afrigator on the Ugandan channel. The problem is, you see, I'm not Ugandan. I've never been to Uganda, much less been to Africa. Oh and there's the unfortunate choice of "Kaunda" as a handle, and the even more ridiculous decision to post for a while a photo of me in an afro wig in my profile. Geez! What was I thinking?

The name was chosen because I was sure I'd make a fool of myself blogging and thought that some anonymity might be in order. All the good handles I'd dreamt up were already taken. Kenneth Kaunda came to mind. At the time I was hoping against hope that President Musevini would step down as Kaunda eventually did. Not surprisingly, because of Kaunda's authoritarian presidency, no other blogger had snapped up the name Kaunda. I bet I can change the name, but have figured out how to. In any case, I soon discovered doing searches from my blog quickly yielded results displaying my real name and other aliases. I was quite naive about online anonymity, or at least how to go about creating it.

Part of my mirth about the case of the irredeemable narcissist in the courtroom stems from my, decidedly unqualified, perceptions of the judge in question gleaned over time. You know, he strikes me as a wee bit egotistical; well, and maybe a tad on the narcissistic side of the scale. The Assistant District Attorney on the case said during the sentencing hearing:
Anyone who cannot control himself with the judge on the bench deserves the maximum sentence.
Note to self: Should you ever be compelled to defend yourself in court; get representation!

I'm not at all sure how clinicians make their diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. One clue that I might not raise to the level is that while the report of about the defendant did raise a chuckle, I'm well aware of my own ability to make a fool of myself publicly, so felt embarrassed for the defendant. Schadenfreund was offset by: "There but by the grace of God go I."

Living in this world seems a little crazy most of the time. And as a very ordinary American the notion of being of service to African people is something to deserving of some skepticism and inward reflection.

I was delighted to discover that Keguro has been blogging at new quarters. The man never ceases to amaze me with his capacity to peal back the layers revealing what's inside and under. In the post I read today he looked at a recent New York Times poll which asked readers: "whether 'rich countries' should help 'poor countries' with problems stemming from climate change."

Keguro notes that most people in "rich" countries are hardly rich, but then directs his attention to the rhetorical framing of the question:
Responsibility, what I would term culpability, is re-translated, through a very clever sleigh of hand, into altruism. Rich countries help Poor countries.

Recoded as altruism, culpability becomes yet another way to bolster one’s ego. Pushed to a certain illogic, the potential for recoding injury or criminality or responsibility as a form of altruism guarantees ongoing inequality and oppression.
Reading the whole post is very much recommended as is reading his blog Gukira frequently. The precision of the word, culpability, over responsibility is worthwhile. The connotation of trustworthiness in "responsible" tends to paper over the "blameworhiness" implicit in the word culpable.

Acting responsibly is of course no mean feat. How should one, privileged as I am, respond in a mad and unjust world? The strategy of narrowing ones boundaries contains a logic and even an inevitability. Broadening ones boundaries to include in sight people in the world far away is fraught with pitfalls, but also exposes one to a richness of life unavailable from a closed, provincial perspective. Without much wealth the advantages to the broader perspective would seem to easily outweigh the pitfalls. Nevertheless negotiating the unfamiliar terrain requires tact and self-awareness. Neither quality, it appears, have I in abundance.

Keguro's illuminating the rhetoric of "rich" countries and "poor" countries reminds that the problem isn't just me, but a pervasive framing, even propaganda, that shapes our worldviews, especially as Americans. Narcissism isn't only a personal disorder, but a persistent cultural expression; surely it's annoying.

Hash points to new developments at Kabissa and online social network for civil society organizations working in or for Africa. In the member spotlight at the Web site is Thembathi an organization dedicated to the support of orphans and other vulnerable children in the KwaZulu-Natal region of South Africa. Thembathi means hope with us in Zulu.

I bear culpability for injustices of many sorts, just by being born who and where I was. It doesn't seem fair, but there you go, injustice is a funny that way. So I have an obligation to try to help repair the world. But I'm a shirker and feeling guilty seems to motivate me towards inaction. Whereas, the invitation to hope with others moves me. My Ugandan friends inspire me to imagine Uganda's potential. Hoping with them enriches my life. Like so many of my ideas--have you seen Hats For Health?--Bazungu Bucks is a bit half-baked. Still the intention is to invite others to hope with us. I'm sure together we can create something good.

1 comment:

Mary M. said...

Hi Kaunda,
this is mary africahope. Check out http://africa54.com/index.htm it is my new site.
Leave me a message at
africa54@gmail.com

thanks Kaunda.
Mary