Friday, March 17, 2006

End of Development?

If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with a conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life… for fear that I should get some of his good done to me. (Thoreau 1977 328)

This was the opening quote to Arturo Escobar’s article called Imagining a Post-Development Era. I really didn’t understand this quote until pulled into this context that it was the “First World” that invented this idea of the “under-developed” in the “Third World” and that in their deep industrialized beliefs, should come upon these developing countries and help them work towards being a “civilized society” and cure them from the ailments of poverty through their “development programmes”, aid organizations, and other expertise in the name of answer. It kind of reminded me of this story about Dan who invited some people into his house who wanted to talk about morality, spirituality and the way to the light… and he shut them down with his own arguments that didn’t see their return any time soon. It’s this self-imposing power relationship that undermines an individual’s abilities to decide their own fate. In the class, there was this discussion of the “voice for the voiceless” where one argued that it’s ridiculous to think that someone from the outside could come into a community and say they can relate and be an agent to say, an impoverished community and help them see the way to their survival. Another guy asked what was the problem with helping, say a mother with 23 kids who can’t go to a line-up that is 3 days long in order to request social services. I replied that it shouldn’t be our decision to make and that it should be decided by the woman herself when she is ready to speak up for her children and that the best we, as outsiders, can do is facilitate when the woman is ready to speak up for her rights. How can I be the judge that this woman is capable or incapable? That’s the idea of analysing the idea of social movements where people from the grassroots are deciding to take a hold of their lives and fight for their children’s right to a better life. I think it has to be local participation and locally owned establishments who understand their needs and the needs of their community under their own history, culture, language and beliefs can there be a change. It’s also this aspect of sustainability, loyalty, legacy, longevity, that makes localism seem more effective for development than say, the work of outside NGOs. Perhaps if it isn't social movements, perhaps someone else can look outside the box for any ideas besides "development". Then people can take Dan's lead and show development to door never to return.

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