Entertainment Education: Holding Hands and Making the World a Better Place. So Why Do I Feel Queasy?

Something struck me while doing research on the diffusion and varying successes and failure of Sesame Street in different countries. I found particularly disheartening the fact that little Israeli and Palestinian children could not hold hands and play on the same playground because they just could get get the logistics together, couldn’t for a moment suspend reality and put put politics aside. What hope then was there for the adults to find any modicum of peace? Why wouldn’t they get with the program? Literally.
But the something I couldn’t put my finger on also made me queasy.Then a light. It’s the underlying objectives, those sublimated ones couched as human rights concerns and altruism that bear consideration. At the root of many EE projects is the furtherance of US goals and objectives. We know the ones that are always at the forefront: US national security and interests of multinationals and the creation/expansion of a free market so that MNCs can sell their wares and increase market share thereby making shareholders rich, happy and remain blissfully oblivious to third world concerns.

Traditionally, the reality has been the flow of Western ideals and values cut and paste onto that of subaltern states with little consideration or care of success or if it fits well into the culture. Some can argue – and I think Dutta does without calling a spade a spade – that EE is a new fangled form of imperialism and a hold over the enslavement of subaltern population. Dutta writes, “The criticism begins with…EE projects located within the realm of modernization…rooted in Western hegemony without involving subaltern participants in problem identification and solution development.”  They’re like little children; we have to tell them what’s good for them.

I wonder however, how much freedom these nations have to refuse certain EE campaigns or to insist on playing a greater role in solving their problems. What, would be the consequences of socio-economic aid, to relationships with International Organizations and NGOs if a subaltern state say refuse an EE campaign? Yes, their attempts may be stymied by lack of funding, knowledge and technological capabilities but I argue that speaking your own truth and writing one’s own narrative is an empowering tool in development.

There are several sides to this coin and we can play devil’s advocate for years. For instance, I understand issues that give rise to the need for need for population control. In this era of the trickle over effect of globalization, burgeoning population growth affects the world’s population in terms of migration and refugees, availability of food and other vital resources and the need for development aid. But this is an oversimplification of the matter and to place sole responsibility on a segment of the population that often has little voice or power. There are no free lunches. The solution may lie in finding a sustainable balance between Western-coordinated EE campaigns that are interspersed with and strengthened by subaltern voices and solutions.

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About inteltakeover

This blog is written and maintained by of a group of graduate students in the International Communication program at American University's School of International Service.
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