Ignorance is not the problem

When we (and by we, I mean those of us in the developed first world) look at people in the developing world, we are often struck by the level of hardship endured by these people. So, being good citizens, we organize and deliver various forms of aid. Unfortunately, these are often tied up in rather arrogant attitudes on our part.

Sometimes, I get the impression we believe that without our aid and assistance those poor people would be sitting in the dust trying to eat rocks - therefore, obviously, they need our knowledge to learn how to dig wells, how to plant crops and raise animals and, of course, how to run an effective government and judiciary.

We tend to forget that these people have been living there for hundreds, if not thousands, of years and have managed to survive thus far. While some of their woes may be due to antiquated or inadequate knowledge, the vast majority of their ills have nothing to do with ignorance.

Image nabbed from here.

Comments

Barbara said…
Unfortunately a lot of the problems in developing countries stem from climate changes and dishonest rulers. Even when we try, we can't do much about either of these and sometimes we just make things worse by trying.
Richard said…
barbara: Those are not the problems I had in mind. For me, saying "climate change" is like saying "the weather". As for governence, I think it oftentimes reflects the people - even if despotic. Many people have often been happy to get rid of a despot so they could get down to the matter of killing one another and avenging wrongs from the time of Adam and Eve.
tin-tin said…
i agree with barbara.. it's the dishonest and undisciplined people who makes the country worse.

but you're right also regarding survival. i remembered watching in national geographic about the eruption of mt. pinatubo. there are fewer casualties than expected because of the tribes who left the place coz they can feel something wrong and told themselves that their god is mad at them and they should leave the place. they did not believe what the scientists said, it's their instinct that they followed
Ulysses said…
Few of our ills come from actual ignorance. Most, if not all, stem from choosing not to see.
Richard said…
tin-tin: I think the dishonest and undisciplined people are a symptom, not a cause. Much in the way a fever is a symptom, but not the cause of an illness.

ulysses: when I was younger, I believed it came from suboptimal choices. I am no longer sure I believe that. Human nature seems far too ingrained to be just the result of choice and I find myself too different to be simply the consequence of my choices.
b said…
Absolutely. Much of the perceived current "problems" are due to the larger "developed" countries and their exploitation of these people and their land. But I tend to agree with your fundamental view (and please, correct me if I am wrong here) that corruption and struggle are inevitable human experiences that can be felt in every nation and "home" and individual.
Richard said…
breal: something like that. I am tempted to declare that the real problem is just human nature.
And of course, some of these cou tries suffer more natural disasters like tsunamis, cyclones, hurricanes etc. which necessitate our help in the form o supplies likewater, blankets and the like. I just want to make sure when I donate, that these relief items actually make it there. Blind trust I guess unless I'm willing to man a trip directly there.
Richard said…
MOI: there are definitely transient tragedies and problems. From a religious perspective (developed following the sarin nerve gas attack by Aum Shinrikyo in Tokyo in 1995 and trying to help my friend make sense of it) I see it as an opportunity for people to rise above their pettiness and celebrate their Divine nature.
mattbg said…
The same can be said of classes within a developed society, too, I think. Although there are plenty of middle class that are never satisfied and spend most of their time looking skyward, hoping to be rich one day, there are many middle class that are happy to be where they are and are just content to live out their daily lives. Many rich, though, probably couldn't stand such a meagre existence.

There's something beautiful about life in that the things that are really important are in reach of most people, regardless of how much money they have. Marketing's job is to convince us that that's not true, and it requires a constant barrage to maintain that belief in people, much like how Christianity, for example, requires frequent prayer and church on Sunday... so that you don't get waylaid.

Anyway, we have a wonderful ability to adapt. Even the most privileged among us would quite easily adapt, after some initial adjustment, to almost any circumstance. And, if we don't, then we die. And that's not bad, either :)
Richard said…
mattbg: we have to take care not to be arrogant towards other people. People can learn, but I tihnk it is better to assume that they actually know what they are doing. A lot of our behaviours (including the rich, civilized West) have little to do with ignorance. If they did, we should see things like prejusdice and intolerance vanish, but they do not.

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