Friday, September 19, 2008

on developing nations and the morning breaking

It is four a.m., and the morning is breaking but sleep is far from my mind.

I spent my late-night moments composing a speech to give to my United Nations class just a few short hours from now, and there is something stirred so passionately inside me that keeps me awake and wondering. Tonight, more than ever, I am thankful that I am pursuing a career and an educational journey with the purpose of working towards betterment in the world instead of just my own personal gain and interest, my own eventual wealth and accumulation; how empty that would feel and how fruitless it would be, in my own heart at the very least.

In a few of my classes we are studying developing nations and smaller-scale communities that most people have never heard of that live in the outreaches of the civilized world. I have been reading about how they function and breathe, how they form relationships and how they make do with what little they have, and it is so interesting to think of how little we know of what they live daily.

The funny thing is, when we hear about people like the Australian Aboriginees, or the San people in the Kalihari Desert, we think of them as uncivilized and in need of our assistence to help 'catch them up' to the present day, so to speak. We think of them as our pet-project that needs a helping hand to become just like us economically, socially, spiritually and educationally.

What often goes unrealized is how beautiful simplicity is. In my own mind, at least, I have always assumed that hunting and gathering groups lived a rough life and must spend days on end just scavenging for food, living in unrest and in relentless pursuit of life's necessities. What is really never presented to us is that they really only spent three to five hours a day collecting food in an intricately-organized plan to minimize effort. They live this way so that the rest of their afternoons and evenings may be spent focusing on what is important: relationships and conversation, story-telling and feasting together on the things they are thankful for. They have more complex kinship systems than we do, with more elaborate ways of categorizing relatives and more ways to interact in an egalitarian society where no individual is elevated above the rest of the group (though I'm sure there were exceptions).

How amazing it would be if we still all felt equal. If instead of working for yourself and your own friends or family, you give what you have to the group and it is shared equally. So if one person is unsuccessful, it goes unnoticed because of the achievement of someone else. I am well aware that in our society today, that would never work, I am not implying that at all (save the speech). Most people would have an issue with that today because they would have no chance to stand out or shine, to 'show what they've got,' so to speak, and would get consumed in not getting noticed and not getting enough attention for their achievement (which some would argue is essential to American culture, and I would agree, though I think it is self-motivated and self-seeking). The more I'm learning, the more I realize that the richer countries of the world always seem to think they've got it right, and become stuck in ego centrism, evaluating other cultures based only upon the perspective of where you come from, drawing from the data bank of your own experience instead of reaching out for what could be newer or richer.

My speech I finished tonight is about developing countries, and what role we as independent and developed nations should play in the course of their future. The first thing that usually comes to mind, for me at least, is sending over heaps of money that will hopefully reach the right people and work towards the right things when it gets there. But how do you find that balance? There has to intensive framework in place to ensure that the small percentage of rich people in those poor countries don't receive some more pocket change. There is also the issue of corrupt governments, and people trying to get ahead on what should have been someone else's gain.

How crazy and complicated and complex is our world?

If there is one thing I am learning in my International Studies major, it is that all cultures evolve at a different pace, and that is a beautiful thing. Even recently I looked down at certain cultures for being not as 'caught-up' with the present day as we are. For not embracing our clothes or culture or monetary system. We think of them as unrefined or savage, as naive and ignorant of the world growing and changing around them. I am learning to disagree with what I have always been taught. I am learning that most people we would call 'indigenous' loathe that term and consider it offensive. They scoff at how we fumble trying to classify them.

I don't want to try to classify cultures that are misunderstood or misrepresented anymore. I just want to reach out, to understand, and to get some sense of how they live and why. I want to stretch myself and experience, to open my mind and heart to how I can help them be who they are, originally, apart from who we would desire them to be.

It is so great to be learning again. I just can't wait til I get in my Issue Emphasis classes about Global Resources and Development. Way excited to know how I can get more involved in the right ways.

I will keep you posted. = )

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