Today the Guardian have launched a new project called ‘Katine’, the subtitle: ‘it starts with one village.’ What starts? An ‘ambitious’ project to dig boreholes and ship in a few books over three years? Despite Katine being a village with no running water and electricity Alan Rusbridger of the guardian writes “We want mosquito nets – thousands of them; bicycles – hundreds of them; solar panels – dozens of them. We’ll need books, footballs, buildings, boreholes, pumps, computers and much else.” Mosquito nets? Computers? The plan of (in)action is here. Rusbridger is mostly concerned about how the Guardian will maintain the attention of readers in the UK. “Three years is a long stretch” he says. My concern is that three years is arbitrary; that this project is unambitious and highly patronising; that it is another stunt to make a pretty loose institution seem moral and humane. There is no talk of the local economy, so beloved of people of a certain ilk here. No talk of laying down pipes or an electricity grid. No talk of higher education, of maybe inviting some of the older kids over; no talk of roads or small businesses. Instead solar panels. And Barclay’s Bank – who were involved in the Trans Thai-Malaysia Pipeline, Apartheid, Domain name abuse and various other wholesome, fun activities.
But what really gets me is the way the Katine mini-site is worded. One example: on the front page there is, on the right, a picture of some pretty unappetising fish in a blue bowl. It is titled ‘lifestyle’ (the hilarity) and the link takes you to an article describing how to make the dish:
“Wash and gut the fish and cut in half. Light fire. Heat some cooking oil in a pan and fry the chopped onion. Then throw in the fish. Fry on both sides. Add water and, if you have any, tomatoes.“
If you HAVE ANY? Who is this article addressing? Certainly it isn’t the villagers of Katine – since they came up with the recipe and are probably eating as I type. No, it must be aimed at you and I, who in two minutes could buy plum, beef, vine or cherry tomatoes for under a pound. Could it be that I am being made to feel like a poor villager? And if so, why? Because the project IS aimed at you and I. Isn’t this obvious? Isn’t everybody complaining about it? Aren’t we getting bored of Bono and Geldof and goats for christmas? Isn’t it clear that the ‘three years being a long stretch’ is just a gimmick – like adding celebrities to big brother? Are the people who work in the media blind? Do they not read the thousands of comments and articles written criticising This Sort Of Thing?
And why does the same photographer work for all these charities? Their style – which includes black children running, crying/starving/naked black children, crowds of black children, old black women and dark huts – is extraordinarily dull and it would be better if they resigned and let someone else have a go.
Also: Am reading Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by Simon Armitage. Hurrah medieval literature. Luke Kennard too, who I shall be reading with at the Battle of Ideas. The Harbour Beyond the Movie is okay – I liked one about a choir and something about an interview with a wave, but something tells me the rest of the humour is over my head. I’m hoping it will be clearer when he reads it.