I made the decision to undertake a journey that has thus far brought me from Bamako to Douentza. My purpose was to observe first-hand the impact of the past two years of disturbance on the ordinary people. This seemed like a great idea while I was sitting in Canada with a café au lait and reading the daily paper.
We've seen an increasing amount in the news about Mali lately. A West African country in the grips of a conflict so brutal almost 400,000 people, mainly women and children, have had to flee their homes. With these concerns in mind, Plan has been stepping up our regular programs in Mali to help people through this period in their lives.
If you like your tales of Canadian do-gooding to be humble and cutesy, I imagine you'll be charmed to learn that the primary reason why our air force intervened in Mali this week was because we were already in the neighbourhood. Once you begin to watch the headlines, it becomes harder to ignore the decidedly inelegant possibly that Canadian foreign policy is actually governed by much of the same lazy logic as the rest of Canadian life -- namely, we'll do whatever's cheap, fast, popular, and easy, and -- if time and cost permits -- right.
As a city-dwelling lifestyle journalist, I tend to write about high-end spa treatments and the like. So when my editor at Chatelaine asked if I knew anyone who would travel to Mali in West Africa to write about the food crisis there, I was as surprised as she was to hear the words "I'll go." My time there changed the way I think about charitable giving. Mali is plagued with misfortune and desperately needs our help.
As Harper dilates on the virtues of Calgary, and the United States slogs into one of its dullest and nastiest presidential campaigns between two of its least impressive candidates ever, the West may take some comfort from the relative tranquility around their major office-holders. As dismal as things can seem over here, we should be aware of how bad things can get, and in some countries, generally are.