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.