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The Power of Pictures

During the slavery era, slaves themselves often staged rebellions and fought back, but they alone didn't have the power to end slavery. Abolitionists in Europe and America also joined the fight. One of their most powerful tools was the picture shown here, which showed Africans packed into a slave ship for the journey across the Atlantic.

Karma colonialism was able to develop because it doesn't create such dramatic images. The visible facade looks positive, or neutral; the harm is often long-term, or hidden, or consists of what does not happen rather than what does. That makes it all the easier to ignore, and all the more important to record it with pictures when we can.

Here are some suggestions. If you have good photos to share, you can do it in two ways:

1. You'll get the most exposure from your effort by posting photos on Wikipedia.org. Anyone can do this, it takes just a few minutes to register.(1) With the caption or photo information, we encourage you to use the term "karma colonialism" if it's appropriate. For example, after describing the content you could say, "Some critics refer to this as 'karma colonialism.'" After the photo is uploaded, look for pages where it's appropriate to add it. Think creatively about all the subjects the picture relates to. Then, drop us a note with the name you gave it.

2. Send it to us directly, stating that we have permission to use it.

Photo suggestions

a mouthful of decaying teeth

This boy lives in a country which until recently had one of the world's healthiest diets. We use it to shown the harm done by Warren Buffett's love affair with Coke.

• Useless supplies donated from abroad, such as a shelf of irrelevant or outdated books in a school or public library. (For an example, see our story about How free books often hurt literacy.) Open a few books and if they identify the organization that sent them, photograph that too.

• Children in poor countries with decayed teeth. (We suggest that you block or blur the top half of the face if posting to Wiki; or we can do it here.) Coke and Pepsi are aggressively marketing in the developing world. The long-term effects, such as diabetes, are hard to capture in a picture; the effect on teeth is vivid.

• Examples of excessive, wasteful, or clearly ineffective spending by INGOs and aid organizations.

• Individuals or local businesses that were harmed by actions such as those we describe in Undermining economies and who are willing to be on record with a statement about what happened. This could include a business that invested time in training a key employee, only to have that person hired away at a much higher salary by an INGO that was happy to not have to provide the training; or a shop that saw sales drop when an INGO gave away things free.

cover of a French magazine, 1898

The power of a picture: This is from the entry for Nestle S.A. on the knowmore.org website.

• Harmful products (Nestle's relentless efforts to push baby formula are a prominent example) being aggressively or dishonestly promoted in situations where the population doesn't even have a fair chance to know the harm they can cause, or advertised in connection with their sponsorship of events that also receive aid money.

• Examples of gifts and perks received by the government, or government officials, from INGOs. For example, a ceremony where a gift is being presented, or a plaque on an administration building showing that it was built with support from the aid program of another country. Even the poorest countries are capable of building offices by themselves. When they get a much fancier headquarters from an aid agency, it becomes an incentive for officials to do what that agency or government wants, regardless of whether that's best for their own country.

Notes and Sources

1. Currently, the procedure is: Start at the Wikimedia main page. On the left, under "Participate", click to "Upload file." If you don't already have an account, there's a button to create one. (back)