14 Nov

This weeks it’s the Tales From the Hood rock ‘n’ roll marathon.

Here’s the first tune in the playlist:

U2’s “One” sounds to me like a conversation between aid workers and beneficiaries about the issues in the aid system…

Is it getting better?
Or do you feel the same?
Will it make it easier on you now?
You got someone to blame

Sometimes aid is broken. Sometimes, no matter how badly aid donors or aid workers wish otherwise, change just doesn’t happen. We do our best and it’s not enough. Or maybe we’re just tired and can’t get it together.

Sometimes, no matter how abject things are “on the ground” or “in the field”, and no matter how well-planned the intervention is, it fails. Sometimes there is local resistance to aid. Sometimes it’s overt, “get the hell out!” Sometimes you can’t put your finger on it.

Everyone in the aid equation is culpable at one point or another.

Did I disappoint you?
Or leave a bad taste in your mouth?
You act like you never had love
And you want me to go without? 

Everyone – aid workers, beneficiaries – comes to the conversation with expectations that, in the end are not met. We expected each other to think differently, to act differently, to value and prioritize different things. And we were all disappointed, disillusioned at some point.

Well it’s…

Too late
To drag the past out into the light

Sometimes it’s good to analyze what’s happened before in order to clarify the way forward.. Sometimes, though, the past is just that: the past. Sometimes you just need to start from where you are right now and move on.

We’re one, but we’re not the same
We get to
Carry each other
Carry each other


Have you come here for forgiveness?
Have you come to raise the dead?
Have you come here to play Jesus
To the lepers in your head?

Every aid worker on the planet comes to this line of work, in addition to whatever else, for personal reasons. Maybe we have a Jesus complex – we are going to save the poor from their poverty. Maybe we seek absolution from a dark past. Maybe it’s both of these and more.

Did I ask too much?
More than a lot
You gave me nothing
Now it’s all I got

What do the poor deserve from us?

We’re one
But we’re not the same
Will we
Hurt each other
Then we do it again


We’ll continue doing humanitarian work. We’ll get it wrong. And sometimes we’ll get it right. And one day – who knows? – we’ll find ourselves as beneficiaries of aid programs run by those we once purported to help.

6 Responses to “One”

  1. Annemarijke (@Annemarijke) 14 November, 2011 at 7:10 am #

    Well, I will never be able to listen to that song in the same way ever again…🙂

    • J. 14 November, 2011 at 8:48 am #

      and that’s a good thing, right?🙂

  2. Melissa B 14 November, 2011 at 11:55 am #


  3. @c-sez 15 November, 2011 at 12:40 am #

    “This week it’s the Tales From the Hood rock ‘n’ roll marathon.”

    Hmm, I had the impression that every week was rock n roll marathon at your place. Or do you just keep it on the down low when you’re having Gilbert & Sullivan week?

  4. Amelia 15 November, 2011 at 5:12 am #

    I loved this one!


  1. Plateau: the self-loathing aid worker’s theme song « Shotgun Shack - 14 November, 2011

    […] in on Tales from the Hood’s Rock n Roll Marathon, I offer you Plateau, which could be the Self Loathing Aid Worker’s theme […]

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