"Visions of World Benefit & Global Responsibility: Perspectives of McGill Students

Monday, August 13, 2007

What will be your legacy?

The Spiral Dynamics concept is one which is used to show the different stages or tiers of human evolution. According to this model, we are now in the turquoise tier which is one based on inter-dependence, cross-culturalism and working towards a common good; “A sacrifice self-interest system which is still forming” . As a student and member of this world, the only inter-dependence I see is the need for the strong to keep the weak oppressed. This oppression can come in the forms of illiteracy, cheap labor, government oppression, etc. If we are to achieve the “goal” of our tier, we must take a new perspective on the world. In the past, there have been countless occasions where the weak have risen and over-thrown the monarchy; The Peasants Revolt of the 14th Century, the Slave Rebellion in the US, etc. We must not repeat history. People should no longer be given reasons to revolt but rather, be given reasons to work alongside one-another.
All problems, whether they be managerial, social, scientific or mathematic, do not just happen to occur. All problems are results of a miscalculation, an error in the line of production or a dysfunctional social system The social problems of the world are no exceptions. Wars do not happen because people feel like it, millions of orphaned children are not the result of a freak accident, hunger and famine are not a new and unexplainable phenomenon. These social crises are the result of actions, or more specifically lack of action of previous and the current generation. The time to act is now.
The most common social issues in Third World Nations are poverty, exploitation, illness and violence. The saddest thing about these issues is that they could easily have been avoided had they been acted upon earlier in history. All human beings come from the same place. We are all made the same. However, we have all been put on different places of the earth for a reason. During the Industrial Revolution, machinery and technology replaced man in the workforce. This resulted in the emergence of new methodologies, new human behavior and a new “calling” for mankind. This new behavior created large gaps in society and people were divided into intellects, artists and workers. Ever since this period in history, intelligence was deemed more important than creativity and hard labor.
The areas known today as Third World nations (Africa, the Middle East and Central America) are considered “lower” than the rest of the world for these exact reasons. The people of these areas do not have the knowledge that the rest of the world now has. They do not have the same advanced technologies, the same intellectual mind frame or the same standards of living. Does this mean that they deserve to be used by corporations for profit? That millions of children deserve to be orphaned by the age of four? Anyone who believes that this suffering is a result of their own ignorance is greatly mistaken. I believe that by turning a blind eye to these issues years ago, past generations are partially to blame for the devastation of today. It is therefore the obligation of today’s generation to go in and educate the people on how to ameliorate their situation and how to take control of their lives. The catch? We have to educate the people in a manner which is beneficial for their lifestyle and not for the lifestyle we believe they should have. “Economic assistance to developing countries must be in accord with the stages of development in the recipient countries” .
The idea that we need to educate people based on their culture is not one which is normally given much consideration. People tend to forget that we, as a civilization, did not end up where we are now overnight. It took hundreds of years for us to arrive where we are now. We cannot, therefore, realistically believe that by imposing our laws and knowledge on other cultures that they can achieve what we have in just a few short years. The type of education I speak of has many different levels and each level takes time. You cannot ask a child to write a book before it learns the alphabet. The same is applicable for society; you cannot ask a civilization to build a skyscraper before they can learn to be self-sufficient.
The strategy behind this concept is that by giving people the tools to ameliorate their current situation, they will eventually have the ability to create a more powerful society in the long run. All people will agree that the African culture and way of life is very different than our North American culture. Therefore, I do not see the sense in teaching the African people how to live a life similar to ours. It is a false belief that if we show Thurs World Nations our “industrialized” way of life, they will beg us to teach them the way. It is our duty to give these nations the tools to develop their own way in their own time. We wouldn’t let another culture impose their way of life onto us so why should we have the right to impose our way of life onto others?
I was recently having a conversation with a friend of mine who has just finished his five years of residency at a hospital. We were talking about our families, our education, our lives etc and then we came to the topic of childhood memories. He confessed he barely had any memories between the ages of 5 to 15. I, on the other hand, fondly remember all of my years at elementary. To this day, I still remember random facts my grade 3 teacher taught those many years ago. I remember being excited for school in the morning. I remember where I sat in class, whom I ate with in the cafeteria, and how much I adored my teachers. I strongly believe that I would not be where I am now had it not been for the education I received and the fondness I felt as a child for knowledge. I want this to be my legacy. Changing the life of a child, or of any person, is not something that can be given a value.
Creating long-term and positive changes in a society is a complex and difficult task, especially in places where the people have been oppressed for centuries. For many years, the “band aid” approach has been used in these types of areas. People are being given food but not taught how to properly grow crops and manage animals. They are being given medical supplies but not taught how to prevent illness. These actions are only beneficial in the short run. To fix an issue, one must go to the root of the problem. The root is a lack of education.
Educating women about safe-sex practices and giving them more options will decrease the amount of death caused by the HIV virus and diminish the amount of orphaned children. Educating the men will provide them with the knowledge they need to provide for their family and become self-sufficient. This simple knowledge can make a huge difference in the short and medium run. However, for long-term progress and development, we need to target the children. These children need to know that they have options and that there are people who are there for them and their families. They need to know that they are safe and that education will benefit them in the long-run.
Simple as it may seem, it is important to understand that attempts have been made in the past to give voice to the voiceless and empower the powerless. This type of empowerment will most likely not be accepted with open arms wherever offered. The manager of the exploited worker will most probably not be receptive to the idea that this worker is entitled to a proper pay and decent work hours. The regime oppressing its people will most likely not stand aside and watch while the people become knowledgeable, powerful and therefore dangerous to the government. Within the people themselves, there is always the issue of trust that must be delicately approached.
For long-run results, the process of education must be founded on trust and co-operation. The people of these nations must understand that those helping them are doing just that. They must see that they are not being exploited, used, pitied or manipulated. The only way for this to occur is by proving to the people that what you are teaching them, how to read and write, build houses and wells, manage a farm, etc, are for them and them alone. This knowledge will help them support and better care for their family.
I believe that the greatest respect must be shown towards the culture of the people you are working with. Due to globalization, many authentic cultures are being cast aside and forgotten. By doing so, we are limiting ourselves to a single and global mind frame. Diversity is what makes the world such an interesting place to see and experiencing. Many Third World Nations have such unique and rich cultures. Although we may not agree on certain beliefs, it is no ones’ place or right to eliminate such authenticity. We have very few things left in this world that we can call unique or authentic. Why destroy what is left of this authenticity for “the sake of progress”?
This vision is a very optimistic one. These are the things I would like to do and see done. However, I also know that you cannot save everyone and not everyone wants to be saved. There is an invisible line that creates a rather distorted type of balance in our world. I know that if every child born in every country was to live to the age of 80, our world would not be able to sustain us all. My goal is not to save every life on earth. My mission and my hope is to give people the opportunity to choose their destiny and take their lives in their own hands. All children need to know that there is someone out there who hopes them well and prays for their well-being; whether they know who they are or not.
People in today’s world are so preoccupied with their own lives that they do not stop to thank those who have shaped their lives. We only know what we are taught and what we see. Not many people realise that “Half the world — nearly three billion people — live on less than two dollars a day” . What about the fact that “Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names.” . I strongly believe that this world, is not the world that our forefathers envisioned
I do not believe that the people of Africa or Central America wish to become to power house of the world. I truly believe that if we teach them what we consider to be rudimentary knowledge, they will eventually become self-sufficient and may become contributors to the economy. Isn’t that what we, business students, want? My goal is to simply let people live. Give them the tools they need, watch them struggle with their knowledge, help them when needed but let them live the life they deem to be suitable for them, their families, and their community. As of yet, I do not know exactly how I will go about to achieve my goals but I feel that like with many other things in my life, I will end up where I need to be at the end of the road. I do know, however, that in order to help others abroad, you need to locally educate people about global issues and what we face.
An article ran by BBC News focused on the terrible state of existing schools in Third World Nations: Robin Bevan from Essex said they [the educators] were often so shocked by what went on in classrooms here that they left, often mid-way through term, causing further disruption to pupils' education . The solution to education problems of these areas is not simply building a school and then packing up. This is another example of a “band-aid” solution: it may fix the problem for a short while but in the long run, it may cause more harm than good. Children need stability in their lives to succeed and educational stability is just as critical in their development.
UNICEF , the Universal Declaration of Human Rights , RTE and UNESCO all describe education as a basic human right. No person has the authority to take away the rights of a child, especially one which was born into nothing and is already expected to fail. “Everyone has the right to education... Education shall be directed to the full development of human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.” (art.26 - Universal Declaration of Human Rights).

Footnotes did not post .. but there were links :)

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