There’s an inherent cynicism that has always accompanied my thoughts and perceptions that I could not really imagine myself without. Andover has not only accentuated that cynicism, but also made me unable to separate myself from it. Everything I read, I see, I do, I always take with a grain of salt, searching for fallacies or signs of dishonesty or reasons to distrust.
This cynicism ultimately makes way for a distorted sense of superiority to settle in. Righteous hypocrisy in some sense, because I unknowingly feel simultaneously superior and condemn those who emulate that entitled way of being. I suppose I partially believe I have justification for this. I felt cynical towards service trips because I had seen first hand the detrimental affects of orphanage tourism and non-lasting impact. I had seen planeloads of “missionaries” walk into my country, forcibly converting people in exchange for the promise of building a school, a well, a washroom. If it wasn’t religious conversion it was a conversion of mentality; an attempt to “civilize,” others without any regard for their lifestyle as being legitimate or practical. (Even though I’d say they were a lot more efficient and much less unjust than any system I had seen proposed by Western counterparts.)
I had decided that seeing this I had the right to feel superior. Sometimes it even translates into how I see come of my amazing peers on this trip. I unknowingly believe that since I have lived, and traveled to a developing community, which like many communities of its caliber is often a victim of Western exploitation, I had nothing to learn, and nothing to gain but a stamp in my passport and a memory to recall to my grandchildren.
I know, in fact I have always known but I suppose that I now choose to acknowledge, that my mentality is flawed, horribly flawed. Although I call my cynicism inherent, it really is a defense mechanism into making sure I can always distance myself from the harm I have seen done by well-meaning albeit unknowing people. I will gain nothing, and this trip will be a waste, if I continue to put up this arrogant wall, and take everything I experience here with a grain of salt. I need to cease believing that I know better because I truly do not. I might know more about what it is like to get malaria, or why it isn’t appropriate to wear booty shorts down the streets, but all in all I need to be empty-minded. India is not Burkina Faso. It is harmful for me to assume and classify all developing nations, as so many often do, and generalize them into one big category. My experience in Burkina Faso does not dictate how I will experience India and I am limiting myself by taking this self-righteous stance. I need to, and I will leave this cynicism and superiority behind. I will come with an open heart, admitting readily that I know as little if not less than my peers about this wonderful nation we will visit, and it is okay for that to be so. I will take away my interrogating nature and turn it into one that is inquisitive. To elaborate, I will stop trying to ask questions to find flaws and start asking questions to find meaning and understanding. Hopefully when I left my accidentally left my Adidas shoes under my bed when packing, I was also able to leave my cynicism and my sense of superiority there too.