One of the defining events of my life was a trip I made to Africa in 2004. It seems like a life time ago and for many people around the world 16 years is a life time. One of the first things I was told is that when we went “into the bush” we should not mess with the children. Don’t make over them, don’t take pictures, don’t approach unless addressed and approached by parents. The reason – some austere religious cleric, namely a Muslim cleric had told indigenous folks far from city centers that white people were trying to kidnap their children for some nefarious purpose that was never explained. The austere clerics of that “peaceful religion” were constantly causing some kind of arrest. The fact is that on my first trip I saw no white people for ten days and the ones I did see were in a restaurant in Nairobi, The reason – some austere Muslim cleric had peacefully pleaded with his followers to blow up the embassies in Tanzania and Kenya.
I took a lot of pictures and my interaction with children especially was one of the reasons that Project 24 was envisioned and built by folks from North Dakota and Minnesota and all over the place. Project 24 is meant to be rescue centers or boarding schools for children. I have some wonderful pictures and I was sometimes in a moral quandary as to how to use them. I don’t abide exploitation and I hate the maudlin portrayal of people as victims. The children I met were not victims except the infants who had no control over anything. The older children I found to be resilient, smart, resourceful and amazingly joyful in what some might believe to be awful circumstances. My issue was always how to use the pictures in a tasteful, truthful, and non pandering way. I chose to use pictures that I knew I had asked permission to take. I never used names because that always has the possibility for bad actors getting into the picture and causing all kinds of problems. Anyway, in my statement about politics corrupting so many things, I found this little known and not greatly reported story that –
Pete Buttigieg, ran an ad listing 400 black South Carolinians who endorsed him. That is fine, but the fact was the ad turned out to include people who did not actually endorse him; plus 42% of the names on it were white people; plus the photo setting it up was of folks in Kenya.
I’m not sure what to do with stuff like this when it shows that the people who do such things have no shame, the truth is far from them and human beings are objects to be used, not individuals of infinite value. I have hundreds of pictures and unless they are crowd pictures, I always asked permission and tried to convey that I might be showing them to people back home whom they would never meet. I was turned down once. Human dignity seems to be a big issue in politics today. How can it be a big issue if you cannot display a dignified treatment of others in a simple campaign ad?