February 28, 2009
Looking at this picture reminds me of commercials I used to see in the
Yes, her button is broken – she’s wearing second-hand clothes. And yes she needs to wipe her nose. She also has a somewhat longing look on her face. Beyond that though, what is it? In my mind it’s just programming – clever marketing that has taken root designed to pull at heart strings and purse strings. Now don’t get me wrong. I have no idea what those organizations that take your 10 cents a day are actually doing. I haven’t seen any of them at work in
Like almost every other introspective contemplation that I have in
Now, I do think that there are some standards with regard to health care and education that are not relative and that are actually somewhat agreed upon. People have the right to drink water that doesn’t make them sick and a right to a decent education, for example. There are actually a decent number of NGOs and development organizations working on some of these problems. For the sake of the argument, let’s put those aside for now.
When I think of development, what normally comes to my head are roads and bridges and buildings and economies…and conquering poverty, like the girl in the picture – the idea of development that somehow established itself in my head. People need clean water, but do they need running water? Maybe a family is used to using kerosene lamps; do they need electricity? Paved roads? Automobiles? Where do you draw the line? Or, with a relative idea of development, do we keep moving the line farther and farther away like leading a horse with a carrot.
I occasionally hear some conspiracy theories about the white man trying to keep
We’re about to either hit a dead end or start going in circles, so let’s look at the question through a different paradigm: would you rather be a happy-go-lucky poor person or a miserable rich bastard? The idea is who cares about development? People want to be happy. If someone is living in a shanty town without running water but is a part of a loving family, has supportive friends, enough to eat and is not constantly sick, what’s the problem? Is the question how much stuff one needs to be happy or how one can be happy? They’re two entirely different questions. The person seeking the answer to the first question will probably never find enough stuff. The person seeking the answer to the second question, as in my case, will probably find little clues and tidbits of the answer along the way. And he might even find the quest just as enjoyable as the possibility of ever finding an answer.
Maybe it seems like I’ve changed my outlook a bit. It might seem that today I would disagree with what I wrote in the “What’s wrong with
Underdeveloped countries have a steep hill to climb and no one can change that. But that doesn’t mean you can’t smile while walking uphill.
* I took this picture in the traditional animist household I visited in Rumsiki. The girl lives in a nice walled compound with her dad, several moms and plenty of food to fill her belly.