Now, I am automatically suspicious of anyone who claims that they are “challenging our perspectives” because usually what they’re “challenging” is “rampant Political Correctness” and they’re actually just re-affirming the status quo and spewing a lot of reprehensible garbage on the way. So Hans Rosling’s “What Stops Population Growth?” video starts with the following intro:
You think you know something about the world? Listen to this man. He’s professor of international health at Karolinska Institute. He challenges our prejudices and view of the world.
I was a little wary, I have to confess, but in this case, I think it’s quite justified. The question he addresses in the following video is “Population growth destroys the environment, so poor children may as well die?” Since he’s coming down on the side of not letting kids die of totally treatable conditions just because they should’ve known better and been rich, I like him! Watch the video:
I am particularly pleased with the way he makes his argument. He really doesn’t Other the poor at all, not in the obnoxious ways of my peers, “oh, we can’t afford any more people, we shouldn’t help” but also not in the still-obnoxious, patronizing way that I see on the left sometimes, “oh, these poor people, their lives are so tragic, they could never survive without our help.” He talks about it just in terms of, “here’s the data,” and the data shows that although in the 50s there really were “two teams” of countries, the developing and the developed (as they were called), that sort of thinking just isn’t true any more. There isn’t a huge gulf between “us” and “them.” So it’s nice to see that method of Othering debunked.
He also fights the process of Othering by pointing out that the journey that “developing” countries made and are making is the same journey as that of the “developed” countries, and in fact, they’re doing it better than “we” did the first time around. Check out Poor Beat Rich in MDG Race, which is primarily about child mortality rates, which addresses, again, the uselessness of the “industrialized”/”developing” divide, but also really highlights the sameness of the human experience. For an even more direct example, there’s Yes They Can!, which addresses his students’ assertion that “they can never live like us,” and points out how much variation there is in “them” and in “us.”
I also like the way that he draws a direct connection between women having rights and choices, and a country moving in a sustainable, healthy direction (as with the example of Yemen in the embedded video above, and the mention of “having more information about breastfeeding” in the “Poor Beat Rich” video about child mortality.) Throughout his videos, I’ve seen a level of attention paid to women’s experiences that I find really just makes me happy– I think it’s easy, when one is a white, European man talking about statistics and data, to leave out the female-driven factors that may be driving the changes in that data, but in his first video, Health, Money & Sex in Sweden, tracing the history of his country is very much tracing the history of the women in his country, the women giving birth and the midwives assisting them. I appreciate that.
So, I like this guy. I find his videos really eye-opening and convincing, and the graphs are just absolutely fascinating. They’re hosted at Gapminder.org, and I strongly suggest you check them out! You might lose an evening, but that’s a small price to pay. 🙂