Ben Anderson Q&A
YOU’VE OBVIOUSLY EXPERIENCED A GREAT DEAL OF SUCCESS IN YOUR LIFE. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS YOUR GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT, AND WHY?
Honestly, it’s easy to feel like you’ve barely made a dent, in terms of actually helping the people you cover. If anything, I’d say I’m proudest of the fact that I’ve provided a fairly large documentary record of how badly we have left things in Afghanistan, and what a failure that intervention has been. Given the footage I’ve collected there, I think any argument against that is impossible.
LIKE EVERYONE ELSE, LIFE IS NOT ALWAYS SMOOTH. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT A SETBACK OR TRAGEDY YOU’VE ENCOUNTERED, HOW YOU DEALT WITH IT, AND THE IMPACT IT HAS HAD ON YOU?
I’ve recently had to face the psychological cost of all this- and I was resistant for years, comparing myself to the many others I’ve some into contact with and who have it far worse than me. But it’s been, and continues to be, a real learning experience, and it’s amazing that I was so closed off top it for so long, and still am, on some days.
DO YOU SET ASIDE “ME-TIME” IN YOUR CALENDAR, AND WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME TO RELAX?
As a follow on from the answer above- I am trying to now. And it’s taking real discipline because you can feel guilty for indulging yourself, guilty and over privileged. So I’m trying to read novels, I started running, doing all I can to actually sleep properly, I am trying jujitsu, and I’m making an effort to spend time with friends, cultivate relationships and not compare myself to others all the time. I’m very lucky to live the life I do, I shouldn’t waste it.
WHAT’S THE MOST MAGICAL PLACE YOU’VE DISCOVERED WHERE YOU CAN GO TO CHILL OUT?
A friend’s semi-private place in Jamaica. It’s in Port Antonio, far away from the all-inclusive resorts, and you live an outdoor, peaceful, healthy life there, I love it. If I could spend a few months a year there I would.
DOES PHILANTHROPY PLAY A ROLE IN YOUR LIFE, TO WHAT EXTENT AND HOW?
I often question the power of raising awareness, but that’s my role. I’ve come to know many philanthropists, who are in a position to do serious good with the money and resources they have. I also point people to great organizations I’ve come across- like IRAP, or Emergency, whose places I’ve spent lots of time in in Afghanistan and elsewhere. But this job doesn’t make you rich, so while I make small donations here and there, it doesn’t put you into a position to be a serious philanthropist.
WHO IS ON THE GUEST LIST FOR YOUR IDEAL DINNER PARTY, PRESENT OR PAST?
Martha Gelhorn. Malcolm X. George Orwell. Muhammad Ali. Oliver Sacks. Christopher Hitchens. A J Leibling.
CAN YOU OFFER ANY WORDS OF WISDOM FOR OUR READERS?
“To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle” George Orwell
“Credit no thought not born in the open air and while moving freely about” Nietzsche
“Don’t mistake movement for action” Hemingway