Recently I was sent a link to a series of photographs of children posed with their favourite toys by an Italian photographer who has gone round the world to photograph kids from different cultures in their 'home environment' posing with their toy of choice. The photos are beautiful, touching, possibly telling, but the comments that follow say a great deal more about our attitudes and our society. They range from a straight "these are beautiful" to a range of what are probably best described as 'political' comments.
One says -
Come on people, “Children From Around The World” and you couldn’t show ONE Black child living in a financially stable environment? Africa is a rich continent and there are a lot of Black millionaire families living in those countries, what’s up?!
The author of that comment obviously hasn't read the heading, which states that these are a 'sample.' While he is correct in saying that there are millionaire Black families in parts of Africa, they are very far from the lives and conditions of the vast majority of African families - so why not choose an image which shows something of the majority? Another commentator thinks that these images are the perfect example of why the US should give 'more Aid.' He then states that no one in the US lives in this sort of 'poverty' thanks to social engineering, a claim flatly denied by another commentator further down the list.
Other comments also focus on the social and political mores of our western society. Some can't see anyone being happy unless they are within walking distance of all the amenities we enjoy and take for granted. They probably have little understanding of what it cost our parents and grandparents to secure them for us. Some dive straight into the 'psychological' questions of how far a parent might have influenced a child's choices - as if this were something horrendous. Of course the parents influence the children, not least by giving them a 'role model' to aspire to emulate.
It strikes me that we all see different things when we look at images like these. I'll confess that I looked at them and could identify with the societies and the lifestyles of the parents. I've been in homes like the one from Kenya. In many parts of Africa, such a house is almost luxury, and the lives of those who live in them are hard, grinding and a struggle. It would be very wrong to pretend otherwise, but it isn't going to change either, no matter how much I give up or contribute to 'Aid.'
Very few of the commentators seem to be able to see the simplicity of the child, the child's desire to show off his or her most treasured toys and just accept them for what they are. Children invited to share a moment with an interested adult. OK, I will confess that my sympathy is moved by the child in the wattle and daub dwelling in Kenya.