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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Development: change at any cost? Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Norma, Kenya Nov 27, 2008
Health , Environment , Neocolonialism & Imperialism   Opinions


Primitive man was for many years limited in his ability to explore and exploit his environment. So he hunted close to home and had a limited sphere of influence. With time he learnt to explore and exploit his environment as he overcame many obstacles in his path. Initially, this exploration was out of curiosity. Then he learnt that if he needed certain resources, he could conquer, subdue, and annex for himself whatever he desired: the era of “survival for the fittest” was born.

Since those formative days, wars have been fought over land, water, minerals, food etc. Colonialism, for example, was a means to legitimize the ready exploitation of such resources, and to create markets for finished goods. When the era of "independence" dawned, acculturation was ushered in: world communities were reorganised to be in tune with a few dominant cultures.

Because of excessive exploitation by dominant cultures, many indigenous cultures were forced into decline. In fact, those who couldn't compete effectively in the emergent "global culture" fell by the wayside. There followed a period of "globalisation" of many aspects of modern life, with "the fittest" enjoying unprecedented affluence and privileges, often at the expense of an increasingly impoverished majority.

Today, modern "development" has come full circle: The promises of a "better life" for the majority remain just promises. Extreme poverty for the majority competes on "equal terms" with extreme wealth for a minority. Hunger, disease, conflict and wars afflict modern civilizations as they did during the medieval period. Begging is rife in many communities, as are diseases of deprivation like leprosy and phenomena like “spirit possession” and witchcraft.

In Africa, many strive to acquire a modern education, but the knowledge they acquire doesn't seem to improve their odds in life: many still die off in their prime of opportunistic diseases linked to malnutrition. Extreme disparities nurture decadence, resentment, conflict and promote further resource looting that degrades the environment at a faster rate. When agents of “development” are challenged, they rush to introduce even more exploitative programmes, like the infamous Structural adjustment programmes (SAPs), which impoverish the poor even more.

There has now emerged an era of subversion, using scientific tools that threaten the very survival of man on this planet. The exploitation of nuclear material without the proper disposal of nuclear waste is just one example. The world's oceans are common dumping ground for this waste. Yet man uses the same oceans as fishing grounds. Another example is the emergence of genetically modified foods which promise abundance but deliver malnutrition and diseases in the long term. Modern man seems to be so consumed by greed that he has forgotten our common destiny. This is what modern man calls “development.”

When I was young, I used to assume that “development” meant “betterment.” Today, I have come to realize that development simply means change at any cost. The future looks bleak for all mankind. No wonder there is a spirited race to explore and conquer outer space. Unless modern man learns to tame his greed and overconsumption, he is destined to destroy himself in the name of “development.” Development without a moral compass is unethical.



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I am an African community health worker interested in cultural practices. This is because I have come to believe that culture is a foundation for development. I am especially interested in food culture for the same reasons.
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