If you’re interested in reading more on urban poverty in the developing world, I highly recommend Mike Davis’ Planet of Slums. It starts out as a tough read because the first chapter contains a lot of statistics. If you can through that, however, it’s an informative slam of current policies by world institutes, state governments, and transnational NGOs.
I like Mike Davis’ work, but sometimes it feels like the reading equivalent to being smacked in the back of the head over and over again. He’s insightful, harsh, and uncompromising. The worst part is that everything he writes about is true, regardless of whether or not you agree with his analysis.
Needless to say, reading Davis can be very discouraging.
It’s easy to be pessimistic about the state of humanity. Just look at it. In the 1960s it appeared that we were moving towards an improved, more equitable world. Then neoliberalism replaced Fordism in the 1970s while globalization concurrently led to the rise of transnational corporations. As a result, we’ve done a lot of damage over the past 40 years.
Wait… 40 years? That’s nothing! The middle ages lasted 1000 years with relatively little world (European) change.
Imagine the good we could do in the next 40 years if we forced our governments to change their policies! Imagine if we stopped condoning wealth built on exploitation! Imagine if we stopped measuring happiness by economic prosperity!
At this point, part of me wants start yelling, “Communist revoluuuuuution! Come, comrade, take my hand and help me change the world!”
To get back on topic, let’s quote Anne Frank:
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
That’s easier said than done. How does the average individual stop the global forces that are shaping our societies?
My number one piece of advice is to educate yourself. Please refer to the following flow chart as an illustration of my educational journey thus far:
Outrage -> Hopelessness -> Empowerment
“What” “Why” “How/Who”
The first stage, outrage, began in high school and continued through university. My instructors described WHAT problems were plaguing the world. I thought, “How can a few people have so much excess wealth while the majority have so little?”
Intertwined with this indignation was hopelessness. Professors described WHY these problems had evolved over time. These global processes seemed too large and distant for an individual like me to make any sort of difference in the world.
As my education progressed, however, I delved deeper into some of these issues to learn HOW they’ve occurred and WHO is behind them. This led to empowerment. I understand now that key organizations and individuals can make significant decisions that affect the direction of society’s evolution. I see how the huge problem of “international development” is actually a myriad of smaller, interconnected issues that individuals such as me can positively affect. The world has changed significantly in a relatively short amount of time: we can bring about change for the better much sooner than we think.
So far this blog has largely focused on the “what.” As I continue writing, however, I hope to expose some of the “why” then the “who” and the “how.” The purpose of this blog is to describe my personal efforts at rebuilding Africa’s foundation; I want to bring you along this new part of my educational journey. At the same time, I hope to demonstrate that, yes, an individual can have a positive impact on the world’s development.
Not that I’m advocating everyone to move to Africa. There’s enough migration here already! But there are plenty of ways to contribute positively at home too. I hope this blog helps empower you to realize your potential. We all impact the world. Floating along with the current is the easiest choice, but going along with the status quo is still a choice. You can walk whatever path you want.
Sorry to get all preachy. I had to get these thoughts out there at one point. Don’t worry – no more posts will be like this.
Next up: Rumi quotes.
Although I will probably incorporate some Rumi poetry at one point. I just can’t help it. Global forces beyond my control are shaping my behaviour.