Sunday, March 12

Real World Fairy Tales

I took a 12-hour break writing this latest entry. While writing earlier this morning, I came across a roadblock and could not for the life of me think of a decent conclusion. I ran some errands, and read one of my books on globalization, all in the hopes of getting past this obstacle. However, a friend mentioned I should not worry about reaching a conclusion because some situations in life do not always have clear and tidy endings. Initially the idea seemed like unadulterated insanity (I do not mean it as harshly as it is written), but since our conversation the idea has grown on me. Maybe I cannot conclude an idea in my head now, but perhaps I will later or with the help of someone else’s ideas.

The next paragraph is a bit of a departure from the first…I am warning you now.

In 1990, the United Nations published the Millennium Declaration, a “compact among nations” in an attempt to advance development by, in part, halving poverty and world hunger by 2015. I will not spend time throwing out statistics, you can read all about it in the UNDP’s 2003 Human Development Report (Unless you’re really interested…don’t bother). Making a long story short, progress towards these Millennium Goals has been negligible and in many parts of the world, the number of people living under a dollar per day and without access to clean drinking water has increased (Sub-Saharan Africa being the worst). Now I do have a point and am not writing in an attempt to pull on people’s heartstrings or raise awareness towards those who are appallingly worse off than we are here in this country.

In the pursuit of my Masters, I am taking a development course and we spend hours reading the flowery language of international politicians and bureaucrats. Yet the more I read, the more frustrated I become with the failure of these development policies the UN and other development agencies have created. When rich nations stumble across a new idea for development there is usually a 10-15 year time lag before the ineptitude of the policies really sinks in. Many of the policies so strictly adhered to in the seventies and eighties by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have only recently been acknowledged as incompetent, and extremely detrimental to many of the nations they were forced upon, affecting billions of lives. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am no development expert, but I feel like these international organizations would be better suited to taking a scholarly or research-based approach towards development. Research poverty and brainstorm policy by living in a developing nation versus reading statistics in your comfy DC office about a country you hardly knew existed. Very little work is done on the ground actually examining the root causes of poverty. Most of the work occurs in towering glass and steel buildings in New York or Washington DC, in furnished offices with leather chairs. Yes, many strides have been made. The eradication of smallpox in 1980, and the dramatically increasing incomes of people in Southeast Asia throughout the nineties are examples. At the same time, poverty is skyrocketing in Sub-Saharan Africa and population growth rates are so high, more and more people are being born into abject poverty. It is a twisted paradox. Hold conferences and proclaim to the world you want to make a difference yet successfully manage to screw things up even more.

Now I will admit I can be a tad cynical at times. I spoke with my professor last week regarding this whole paradox and to my surprise he felt the exact same way while he was an economics student. He related to me how disillusioned he was with the international community especially considering he was a student at a time when the Millennium Goals did not exist and efforts at poverty reduction were a bit of a joke. In his mind, these conferences and reports were more of a way for the rich nation’s big shots to get together, write these reports and then pat each other on the back for all the hard work. As one might expect, politics plays an enormous role in preventing the policies in these reports from becoming a reality.

All of this got me thinking, is the eradication of poverty or ending world hunger even a remote possibility? All of the numbers tell a story of how easy it could be to improve the lives the billions of people yet nothing ever happens. And can this be applied to our lives? We hold our own “conferences” and invent our own utopia. Real world fairy tales to help us feel better about our own existence, justified by our ability to now say: “Well at least we’re trying to do something about it.” However, instead of working towards this perfect place, we spend our lives simmering in a dystopia, damned to mediocrity by the bureaucracy of our mind.

While on this contemplative streak, I am brought to another point. I have had countless discussions with people about how the world needs to relax and stop being so judgmental. We should not stress about what we have no control over and will not try to take control of. However, I find that when I stop worrying so much about the stupid things I argue about with other people, something else equally as dim-witted invades my consciousness. As soon as you feel you have reached a turning point, something comes out of your mouth contradicting everything you’ve just said. Like riding a carousel, I get off the horse and move to the tiger and then to the elephant, but I am still going in circles. May I please get off?


  1. though I might have to resent the unadulterated insanity remark, I thought I should share this with you. "Advice is like snow; the softer it falls, the
    longer it dwells upon, and the deeper it sinks
    into the mind."
    - Samuel Taylor Coleridge
    you need time to dwell on what you want to say, and what others say to you simply because our minds can only do so much. Something that may at first blow you away might end up being something you never knew about yourself. You just have to take the time to absorb it. But, you probably already know that.

  2. I was watching the news this morning and one topic was the “ethnic cleansing” that’s taking place in parts of Africa. Black Africans are being attacked; their villages burned to the ground; the women and young girls are being raped. I cannot even imagine what makes ANYONE think this is acceptable!

    I think that many of the problems in the world are caused by conflicting beliefs. Another example is terrorist attacks. Some people think that terrorism is what their god wants; while another group’s god absolutely condones such acts! How could there be such a disagreement on the value of human life?!

    I am overwhelmed just thinking about everything that goes on around the world, and I feel so absolutely helpless. What can little old me do to make a difference?

    I feel like there is SOMETHING that can be done. It’s just a matter of figuring out WHAT that is. Unfortunately, it sounds a lot easier than it really is.

    But like you’ve mentioned before, if you can at least make a difference in a single person’s life, then you’ve made a difference, and that’s what matters.

  3. anxiously waiting for an update from you...