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The Power of Love

This blog is part of a series where we unpack our Backpacktivist Manifesto using video, articles, music, and other forms of media. We invite you to critically reflect with us on what it truly means to be an ethical traveler.

A backpacktivist stands in solidarity with those who are confronted by oppressive powers. A backpacktivist stands in solidarity with all peoples, regardless of race, gender or class. Solidarity promotes greater understanding and inspires the oppressed and those who stand beside them to shape a more just world.


The following is an excerpt from Kenyan author and journalist Binyavanga Wainaina’s The Power of Love, a satirical view on charity and international development. It brings into focus the assumptions and, on occasion, the arrogance that comes with Western world’s “help”.

I was 14 years old when We Are the World filled our television screens—and I discovered that we are loved.

That was an amazing kind of love: a giant chorus of exotic-looking people coming together as one, and they pouted and gurgled and they agreed. Yeah, yeah. Once in a while one of them would bend forward as if they were retching their love for Ethiopia from a really deep place in their belly, a personal testimony, and I knew it was true the world would be a better place, for you-uu-uu, and for me-ii-ii…

In the years since then, much love has poured into my city, Nairobi. For The Girl Child, for many hundreds of Awarenesses, for Poverty Eradication, for the Angelina Jolification and Anti-Desertification of Semi-Arid Regions in Sahelian Countries.

The resources poured in have been incredible: tens of thousands of 4x4s are tearing the country apart looking for a project to love. It used to be that big expensive cars were needed by the Fathers of Our Nations, so they could Develop Our Nations. Now, the Lovers of Our Nations are here to Develop Our Nations, and of course, they need cars to be efficient. Standards must be maintained. Things need to be run with International Standards.

Rents in Nairobi are now on a par with Europe, to service the tens of thousands of Kenya-loving people who run Kenya-loving projects to save Kenyans and Sudanese and others from Misery…” 

Read the full article here. 

Questions for Thought…

  1. What do you think are the differences between solidarity and charity? Is charity a bad thing?
  2. What are your thoughts on the last line of the article, “What you can be sure about in all these love projects is that it is easier for a thirtysomething Scarlett O’Hara—or a Boomtown Rat—than it is for a PhD-wielding, Maasai-speaking, Maasai person, to decide who the Maasai will be to the world.”
  3. Knowing that this viewpoint exists, how will you act respectfully and responsibly on your OG program?

what are you waiting for?