Cycling for clarity
Gaining virtue points through biking; a message from Into to his fellow aid workers in Phnom Penh!
Into works for the UNDP in Phnom Penh and also coordinates the Saturday Biking Group. He is something of a philosopher and, here, he offers advice to his fellow aid workers on how to gain virtue points through 'suffering' on the notoriously rigorous Saturday bike rides! Bike ride, Saturday August 13th Dearest Early Risers, Many of you are foreigners, some of the foreigners are aid workers, and a few of the aid workers feel uneasy living well off serving the poor. This is the starting point of a new study into the predicament of the development business in Cambodia. We listened to the researcher presenting her preliminary findings in a spacious Phnom Penh restaurant whilst the air-conditioning was zooming and the “Lords of Poverty” were nipping caipirinhas, gin and tonics and mango smoothies. Such talks are part and parcel of our comfortable lives. Dissecting our ethical unease, big principles of doing good came to the fore showing the contrasts of our daily aid experiences. Altruism. The term implies some kind of self-sacrifice which does not fit well with our two-weekly facials. Gift giving. The idealist may consider development as a gift without need to get anything in return, and certainly not all the money to buy an I-Phone listening to Amy Winehouse. Closeness to the poor. Living and working with the poor appears to increase empathy, understanding and ultimately the possibilities of change; but how do you do that from behind your computer and the photo of your latest boyfriend on your desk whom you met dancing in Pontoon or chattering at Metro? Virtue may be the heaviest of our burdens for we do not feel fully virtuous without some sense of suffering. How then do we explain that we like saving the world and the secondary conditions even more? That cannot be virtuous. Pleasure and virtue are Christian opposites. Hence the need of the Saturday bike ride. It offers a way out of your dilemma, forcing you to sweat, swear and suffer. You are allowed to enjoy your work week, yoga and ESPN football matches because you know you will suffer on Saturday mornings. This week we will endure….. Exhausted after the Saturday bike ride.
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