One of the great joys of my missionary experiences has been meeting like minded people with a similar taste in books. Jesse, a friend who works at a clinic in Mtata, and I swap books and share opinions on occasion. It is fun to visit him and his growing library of stimulating books. The Ugly American is one such book. I had seen it on shelves and been told to read it. I can tell you now the book would not have meant a thing to me prior to my adventures here in South Africa. The Ugly American was written as a criticism to American Foreign policies during the cold war in East Asia. The author William Lederer writes short fictional bios of Americans living and working overseas. It is so refreshing to read ideas from the 1950s that are so relevant to me my experiences in 2009.
The following are some quotes that stuck out to me:
"When we've licked the basic problems, we can move on to grander projects. But we have to start with the things which are Sarkhanese [insert the name of your community here for relevance]." For three more hours they talked of little things.
"Why, Homer," Emma said, "with all that money you've got in the bank back at Pittsburgh, why don't you give some of it to these nice Sarkhanese?" Atkins looked up sharply, but saw at once that she was teasing him. He grunted. "You know why. Whenever you give a man something for nothing the first person he comes to dislike is you. If the pump is going to work at all, it hast to be their pump, not mine."
"You have to let them use the machine themselves and in their own way. If you try to jam it down their throats, they'll never use it."
"The headman and the elders reminded him very much of the diplomats to whom he talked for so many months in Phnom Penh. He was quite sure that Jeepo had an answer for these comments, and he was also sure that it was not a political or personal answer, but technical."
"Emma knew when to drop a conversation. She had long ago discovered that people don't stop doing traditional things merely because they're irrational. She also knew that when people are critcised for an action, they stubbornly persist in continuing it."
The Ugly American is a great book, but you don't have to take my word for it. Check it out for yourself, but until then..... See you next time. Butterfly in the sky....(Reading Rainbow childrens' television show reference)