Savior/victim mentality: a western tradition?
Reading Pedagogy of The Oppressed is making me question my own status: am I oppressed or oppressor? Could I be neither? Being an American, I think, sets me up as a colonizer/oppressor/privileged person… so I thought, perhaps I might be an ally, joining in solidarity with the oppressed. But that role is questionable too. It could easily (unintentionally) posit the oppressed as "victims" and myself as a kind of "savior." I see this all the time with nonprofit organizations, youth groups, missions projects, etc. What entitles westerners to conceive of themselves as capable of changing the world, one person at a time? I think Friere would tell them that individuals can only change themselves: "Attempting to liberate the oppressed without their reflective participation in the act of liberation is to treat them as objects with must be saved from a burning building" (47). Further, "it is only the oppressed who, by freeing themselves, can free their oppressors" (38). So maybe there's more to be explored in the the "with, not for" (30) concept: the savior/victim mentality is just as oppressive as the oppressed- or oppressor- status.
This makes me question the notion of "empowerment": What is the act of empowerment? Who can empower? By empowering someone else, are you actually treating them as less than human?