Sunday, June 6, 2010

On definitions and development

I'd like to mention first of all that Krista, Serge and I have planted a couple hundred seedlings to grow our own fruits and vegetables this summer and fall. We'll see how it goes. We started from seed. Here is a picture of my plot, and I'll be uploading a picture of Krista's plot soon.


The words "development," "developed," and "developing" are used so frequently and nonchalantly today that people stop to realise what they mean. (I guess that is the case with any "word of the day" like "sustainable.") These words have been used to describe communities, regions, countries, economies and landscapes. Why do these words mean what they mean? And who has defined what they mean? And why have we accepted the definitions of those who have defined them?

On the surface, ascribing the adjective "developing" to something is a good thing - there is motion, there is ambition. But ambition for what? To go where? What is being "developed" and why does that thing need to be "developed?" Is there anything wrong in just letting that thing be where it is, in the same state that we found it? Today the West has defined the word "developing" to mean having control over and exploiting natural resources that country has. Or, it can mean a country providing services for one of the "developed" countries. People around the world, unfortunately, have accepted these definitions. The outcome of this arrogant definition is that humans everywhere are on the wagon of trying to make some thing, that thing, any thing theirs - they want control over it, to see what it can do for themselves and their families. It is because someone is willing to "pay for it," whatever it is. Why isn't there value in leaving something untouched and unviolated?

When does a country move from "developing" to "developed?" Why does the definition of "developing" not include other unquantifiable things like culture, community, kinship, compassion and love? These are sentiments that will stay around much longer than money and values of GDP, than presidents and CEOs would care to admit. A focus on values of dividends, profits and revenues leads people to drill for oil where they shouldn't. They then boast how much money they make, and how much the area around them has "developed" and how many families they "support." But when something goes wrong, terribly wrong, irreversibly wrong, those very people have the arrogance to take a moral and ethical high ground by saying "we do the right thing," "we will restore the Gulf to the state it was in before." But why now is the conversation moving away from your "development" to unquantifiables like doing the "right" thing and "the state something was in before you touched it?" I hope it is because they feel, deep down, that they are wrong, and that all "development" isn't good, and that leaving some things unviolated is more valuable than the job it will provide for someone, somewhere.


  1. Your comment on the meaning we put in the word "development" made me think of human development, as in a baby developing into a child, teenager, and then adult. That kind of development is following a line of growth that is already put into place, natural, and essential for that human to be able to explore and manifest all of his or her individual gifts, traits, and qualities. If only we thought of the world this way - development is not to get all we can out of it, but rather to cultivate it along the lines of what it is natually made to be - and in so doing experience all the wonders it can produce - just as, I assume, a parent experiences when seeing a child enjoy and excel in one of his or her natural talents.

  2. True that, Darshan!
    Maybe these developing countries have more going for them than the general public would like to think... If the countries of the world wer eindeed ranked by actual happiness and humanity quotient...where would the U.S. land?

  3. Most people do not question the language that Mother Culture teaches them to use. Perhaps if the act of reflection and contemplation was respected and expected in the US, more people would be asking the questions that you are asking.

    Instead, people go to work for a company that they most likely hate, continue this job in order to keep up with the Jones's (meaning produce so that they can consume), live in the T.G.I.F. mentality, then come home and drown depression with the unfulfilling and non-restorative act of watching television. What a mindless, thoughtless way of life; we act more like machines than we'd like to think.