“This isn’t politics. This is saving lives. We ask that you donate blood, money, or both”
The room is kept frigidly tempered. Shocking your system into recapitulating its comprehension of the space you occupy. Ensuring that your mind registers the fact that the world you are entering is vastly different from that which you retreat. As your skin adjusts you are physically prompted to open your eyes and stretch your limbs, your body craving homeostasis. The architecture is dominated by clean lines and unassuming forms. Ornament is distracting and distractions hinder results. Nothing can impede why you are here, why he is here, and how pivotal your symbiosis could be.
He is Beat Richner, a Swiss doctor and the current head of Kantha Bopha, Cambodia’s largest children’s hospital. The event is a weekly concert during which Richner and his cello advocate for the audience’s donations, for their participation in intervening on behalf of the children of Cambodia. As Richner tallies the citizenship of his congregation, identifying various constituents of the western world, he fails to implore if any Cambodians are present. Though meticulously dredged in humorous banter, his intentions are made clear, as his program appears increasingly rehearsed. Through a culmination of imposing statistics, history, and Bach, Richner coaxes the western ego into relinquishing that which it has been wired to bequeath. He seems to comprehend that his targeted audience not only wants, but needs, to give. They need only for someone to ask, a role Richner appears proficient in executing. His consistent claim that this issue is devoid of politics strives to decontextualize his cause, painting it in the black and white contrasts of humanity, rendering the grey invisible. Regardless of tactic, his work in providing medical care for a considerable portion of Cambodia’s youth can be difficult to argue with and there are many commendable aspects of his efforts.
However, Richner’s program highlights key aspects that amalgamate within the psyche of a donor. “Helping” these bodies is not enough, consumption is the goal. Congruous to an idea presented by author bell hooks, donors are looking to consume the other, smothering them with their infatuation, fully participating in a cannibalistic envelopment of the third world. Perceiving the vanquishment of colonialism, the individual is struck with an overwhelming need to atone for the sins of their manufactured history. This is the “white man’s burden,” a parasite of kindness. To donate that which might drench the world in the altruism of the west. The synonymous value of blood and money serves as disturbingly succinct representation of global interaction, a realistic equation for the guidelines of international relations. Our very presence in this hall links to the position our world expects us to play. Despite personal convictions, our identities are irrevocably linked to the country, the education, and the institutions that have made our entrance into this space possible. The faces present in this hall of humanitarian seduction are all integral members of a global network of intervention. Ignorant of true strength, the powers that be have dubbed us the faces of change. That is why we are sitting in this auditorium, in this hospital, in this city, in this country. We are “the chosen ones.”