Saturday, July 18, 2009

Joy: what the media doesn't cover

Nearly every journalist working in the third world is guilty of only showing the death and destruction. As a mater of reality, the image of Africa being filled with “war, poverty, and sorrows” has been beaten to a pulp by the media machine. It is true that the Third World has its problems. In Uganda, you don’t have to walk outside for 30 seconds to see something that wouldn’t be justifiable by American standards. Beggars are everywhere, the air smells like tar, and the streets are littered with rubbish, trash, and open sewers. This is only the pleasant surface of the problems that face East Africa.

The problem with the media focusing solely on the problems is that the public can often be desensitized to a point of apathy about the issues. As a friend of mine here would say, Americans know Africa has problems, they just don’t care. She’s right--People don’t care. What happens in Africa doesn’t really affect American life. Instead of thinking how screwed over Africa is, maybe we should start to think about the reality of the Africa and its people.

The reality? yes, there is a great deal of struggle present here in East Africa, but throughout the struggles, the people never forget who they are—they never forget to choose joy over bitterness. And for that, we should never forget them. The strength displayed in the hearts of Africans should make us Americans question what happiness really is.

People should care about the impoverished and war-torn out of the kindness in their hearts, not because of guilt. Without showing the joy of Africans, we neglect that in times of famine, disease, or war that something fundamental to their human rights has been ripped from them. If the only images that come out of Africa are images of suffering, journalists like myself devalue the human condition and do a disservice to the dignity of those in need.

It is my responsibility as a visual journalist to show the images of suffering. For atrocities to go undocumented is an atrocity in itself. While the coverage of the ills plaguing a nation is inevitably crucial to its transformation, so is the coverage of it’s potential and grace. We should never forget that Africa should be a place of peace and prosperity. For the public, next time you see a picture of suffering, remember that the individual(s) depicted are real and have lived life to the best of their ability, and at one point were very happy, and that no matter what, they are a real person. For the media, remember that there is more in this world than suffering, and it’s our job to cover the happiness as well.


Anonymous said...

A lot about which to think here, Tyler. Many of us do care, very much. Need to re-read this a couple of times before I react further. The problems world-wide are coming at us faster than we can react to them. Thanks for showing a little bit of happeniess too.

Woodspritemama said...

beautiful post.

Jennifer said...

We are too often faced wih only the pics of the dead and dying and those who are suffering in their midst...seeing the humanity is also seeing the ability to find joy in the face of a mother and child who are brave enough to try to give that child a better life through matter how it can be found-or to see a couple in love thru the eyes of the saga that is their life...we never know what tomorrow will bring...some people enjoy life just for being alive-no matter what their circmstances...too many live a life of luxury and bitch every day about how hard they have it...thank you for also finding the good and the spirit of hope in these people...

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