Before the world united in trade and this land became your land, civilizations flourished with knowledge, resources, and nature. Indigenous peoples understood the essence of the Earth and the necessity to grow in conjunction with it. While I unpack globalization and development (and I admit to not fully understanding the surrounding history and consequences), clarity persists that my previous notions of developed and developing counties are clouded ideas of misunderstanding.
A citizen of the “developed” America, I, of course, bought into Harry Truman’s logic of underdeveloped countries needing a global market to catch up to the rest of the world. Author Wolfgang Sachs uses Truman’s logic to prove that these countries need the exact opposite. Rhetoric and money have us convinced that there even is an “underdeveloped world.” Now that I bask in the wonders of India—a developing country—I realize how offensive and degrading it is to think of one’s country as “underdeveloped” or “developing.” These undeveloped countries, such as India, China, and Africa, are what make it possible for “developed” countries to flourish, to be “developed.”
Despite the developing countries’ resources, culture, and past sustainability, they are seen as less civilized and impoverished. Between visits to Wayanad’s farmers, Adivasi communities, and a women’s self-help group—all of whom struggle to survive—I began to see the illusion of empowerment that society, government, and NGOs claim these groups have. While it appears these groups are empowered and receiving help, Caroline Moser’s (an academic specialist in social policy and urban social anthropology) development framework would place these groups in an anti-poverty approach to development, which argues that these groups lack resources and skills and need to be given such to support themselves. True, these groups lack resources; however, these resources lack because they were taken from these groups when globalization emerged. And now society wants to argue these groups are undeveloped and need the globalized world to save them?
I realize my claims are bold, but if the history and circumstances of each group are dissected, one can see the manipulation at play. The farmers I met explained that they once thrived, growing food for their families and local communities. Once the global market opened, competition and government encouraged (forced) food crops to become cash crops and diverse organic farming to become chemical-induced mono-plantations. Overtime, this eroded the Earth, depleted the crops, and diseased the consumers. Because of the chemicals used, their plants have weakened and can no longer survive heavy rains and climate change. Now, farmers—those who provide the world with necessary food—are poor and undeveloped.
Similarly, Wayanad’s Adivasis, a once self-sustaining indigenous people, face cultural erosion and land depletion. Author T.G. Jacob retells the history of the Adivasis and explains that their rich land was taken from them and now these communities are left poor and landless and are surrounded with diseases of alcoholism and violence. Before globalization, these communities were exposed to simple, nutritious, and healthy food. Between the pesticides and the take-over of cash crops, this healthy food diminished, and Adivasis, like a young Adivasi woman I met, are convinced they are lucky for plantation owners to let them live on their estates. When, what really happened is what the theater troupe of Naadugadhika stated in their performance to support the Adivasi communities: “We repeatedly gave way for others to come in. Now there’s no land left.” Not only land but culture, tradition, and health have vanished, leaving Adviasis to be seen as backward and needing assistance.
As for women, they’ve been oppressed since Eve’s conception! Women’s self-help groups, in particular, emphasize that women lack capital and skills and need to be helped. Never mind their unequal access to capital, societal status, and job opportunities, never mind the use of caste, class, and social organizations to continue justifying women’s roles in society, never mind the abuse women across this planet continuously face—women just need the right resources and skills to help themselves.
These injustices surrounding women’s self-help groups, Adivasi communities, and farmers amplify that the idea of “development” is just one big scheme to allow a select few to continue advancing as the resources and labor of a vast majority are exploited and depleted. “Development” itself is an anti-poverty approach, justifying why some countries are poor and need the financial capital and skills that can be granted by globalization to advance and sustain. Instead of using this capitalistic anti-poverty approach to development, the globe needs to take an empowerment approach to realize that countries viewed as “developing” are being unfairly treated and need liberated by becoming conscious of the injustices placed upon them. The world needs to fight for justice and human rights, not for who can consume the most.