Three cups of tea. And a lot of bullshit?

Greg Mortenson with AK47

Often I can't explain why I feel something about certain things. But there is not doubt I felt something strongly about "Three cups of tea". Now I might know why:

Greg Mortenson, the high-profile advocate of girls' education in Afghanistan and Pakistan, has been forced to defend his best-selling book "Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations ... One School at a Time," against charges that key stories in it are false.

Mortenson shot to international fame with the book, which describes his getting lost in an effort to climb K2, the world's second-highest peak, being rescued by Pakistani villagers in the village of Korphe and vowing to return there to build a school for local girls.

He also claims to have been captured by the Taliban and held for several days before being released. (...) however -- Jon Krakauer of "Into Thin Air" fame -- told a CBS "60 Minutes" investigation that aired Sunday that the story is not true.(..)

Mortenson's record of charity and his tales of derring-do have helped fuel the Central Asia Institute. The organization recorded income of $14 million in 2009 (...) However, in 2009, less than half of that money -- 41 percent -- actually went to building schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to the institute's board of directors.(...)

The institute also says $1.7 million went to promote Mortenson's books in the form of advertising, events, film and professional fees, and some travel. It said the contributions generated by Mortenson's promotional events "far exceed the travel expenses." (Source)

Over the past years, several people recommended I should read Mortenson's book, "Three cups of tea". A Friend lent me the book, saying "You might not like it". And I didn't.

I read the first twenty pages and had to put it aside. I tried to continue reading it several times, but I could not. I can't say why exactly. There was a fake ring to the whole story. There was a fake smile on the guy's face. And I surely have an issue if anyone promoting girls' education, likes to pose with his wife and kid, and a couple of AK47's... And proudly publishes the picture in one of his books.

Above all, I smelled "CIA" all over. Winning the hearts and minds of people. With loads of American dollars.

Next!

4 comments:

Michael Kirkpatrick 18 April, 2011 17:36  

This particular case epitomizes why a certain segment of of blogosphere writes about the effectiveness of aid programs and charities. Most DIY aid organizations don’t like partnerships or collaborations because they are afraid of scrutiny. They want to create their own standards and rules to follow. Everyone wants to be a hero. The founders of these DIY organizations fear that someone else may get credit for their ideas and accomplishments. I call this the “Nobel Syndrome”. Being transparent might jeopardize their egotistical dreams of standing on a stage in Oslo and accepting the Nobel Peace Prize for their outstanding contributions toward humanity.

These are some of my observations regarding the subject.

Slactivism in Africa | Independent Global Citizen
http://independentglobalcitizen.com/2011/01/19/slacktivism/

jacqueline 18 April, 2011 18:20  

I have to admit, I'm a more positively-leaning skeptic when it comes to Greg Mortenson and his organization, CAI. After reading both of his books, and hearing several positive and negative reviews of his work and writing, I must be the devil's advocate here and say that he has mentioned several times his trepidation to work with government organizations, for fear of sacrificing the mission of CAI. I've also met the man in person, and his "awkward" smile is moreso an honest confirmation of his often said testament that he feels a stranger in the world of non-profits and smiling faces asking for money/donations. His book is not the best written piece of work, but it is well worth getting through and giving a little bit more of a fair shot.

That all being said, I love your blog, Peter! You offer great insight, especially to someone like myself who looks forward to being involved in aide work after nursing school. Please keep up the great writing.

Anonymous,  19 April, 2011 02:54  

I also think this guy is an espy from CIA. Probably his frist intention was good but after 9/11 the US government hired him because of his field experience on that geographical area.
Well this is my conspiracy theory.

Anonymous,  19 April, 2011 20:46  

Better 3 cups of tea and whatever weapon framed not for advertising purposes or 3 cups of -rotten/spoiled rice (depends from the cases) advertised by one of the most known aid organization (Nepal 2009, -http://www.ngoforum.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=7645)
a real dilemma the choice between the 2 options!

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