Saturday, May 28, 2011

Chocolate covered licorice, and other frivolities

Hmmm.. Personal hypocrisies are hard to come to terms with, right?

I find myself torn sometimes..

I came to Ghana with EWB because I care about people who are poor, or merely subsisting with unfulfilled, untapped potential. I hope and trust that the actions EWB Canada staff are undertaking in Ghana and across Africa are impacting the rural poor in a positive, lasting way.


But I'm still a partaker of this consumer society. In a discussion with my colleagues about "the things we love and hate about Canada", I shared that what I hate about Canada is how materialistic I am when I am in Canada. Oh the thrill of shopping on boxing day!

At first I wanted to hate Canada for excessive materialistic, consumer drives and obsessions. But I have to face the fact that as much I as I am trying to live out my beliefs and values- I want to lead a simple life- I am not perfect and I get sucked into it all and I have no one to blame but myself.

My mom recently came to visit me in Ghana which was amazing. Apart from all the memories we made and great discussions we had, I enjoyed gifts from Canada; my favourite purse- how I've missed it! A curling iron! Maple syrup! Chocolate covered licorice!

After she left, after a week of beautiful hotels, sightseeing, and tourism in this country I've been calling home for the past few years, I am back to normal life. No more air conditioned rooms; back to the heat.

I sat there, sweating under the fan blowing hot air at me, eating off the melting pieces of chocolate covering the sweet, chewy red licorice and I thought to myself wow. What a world. What a life. What a challenge.

I had hoped that after knowing so many impoverished people, after living with people who literally have no money, after seeing sick person after sick person who do not seek medical attention…. I had hoped I would be different. I hoped to be some kind of saint. I remember after coming back from Ghana in 2008, I vowed I wouldn't buy new clothes unless I actually needed them, and if I had to they would be second hand. I vowed I would use my money to support others and invest in transformation, not selfish, pride- driven indulgences. I wanted to become a type of modern day Mother Theresa; one who is selfless and sees the world for what it really is… merely a place filled with opportunities to exude love.

And yet I find myself still wanting to buy unnecessary things. The fact that we have a term "disposable income" is so telling of the middle and upper class reality. We have more than enough, more than we need for ourselves, and we dispose of it.. This is not an attack on anyone person or any one group, or a tactic to solicit guilt; this is more of an attack on myself, and a shared reflection on my personal shortcomings to live the life I want to and know I need to.

I believe that there is enough food and opportunity on earth for everyone, and that with an increase of compassion and love the world can and will be transformed (beware; idealism!). When I take off my "more, more, more!, me, me, me!" glasses and put on my "empathize! Love!" glasses I see that money spent on chocolate covered licorice and other frivolities could be better spent to invest in opportunities and people that will cumulatively become change and transformation.

Sincerely yours, with love, from recovering consumerist and aspiring revolutionary.


  1. Hey Robin,

    Great post - it's been awhile since you put one up and this one was bang on! I've been having similar reflections lately as well, and now I'm questioning purpose. I'll let you know how that goes!

  2. Beautiful post Robin!! I love your recent drive toward self-improvement. I really look up to you for that. I hope I can support you along the way! These are the types of posts though that show me that you are so great at supporting yourself through the process. It's really cool...

    Anyway, great post, loved it. Love you!

  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Robin. Always good to read them, even though our thoughts and feelings may be different in this case.

    Also, chocolate covered licorice...that's a new one...;)

  4. Amazing and honest post Robin, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with us. It is a tough, complicated, and emotional battle you are fighting; I commend you for taking it on.

    I wonder, though, where the line really is. At what point does our income become "dispensable"? With EWB increasingly investing in private sector development, what are your personal thoughts on the effectiveness of these business-based approaches? Incentive structures are so important, and you and I have seen first hand that the public sector is very difficult to work with in Ghana. But then, if we choose to go the business route, doesn't natural human tendency take us down a similar path to competition, economic growth, and eventually consumerism?

    I do agree that it comes down to the individual, and the individual's attitude and choices on a day-to-day basis. Compassion, and fairness. Not taking more than our part.

    Once again, thanks for sharing. All the best from (as-warm-as-Ghana) Toronto.