About One Dollar A Day

“More than half the people of the world are living in conditions approaching misery. Their food is inadequate, they are victims of disease. Their economic life is primitive and stagnant. Their poverty is a handicap and a threat both to them and to more prosperous areas. For the first time in history, humanity possesses the knowledge and the skill to relieve the suffering of these people….I believe that we should make available…the benefits of our store of technical knowledge in order to help them realize their aspirations for a better life”.

-January 20, 1949, President Truman’s inaugural speech

I have been involved with the idea of international development for several years both within academia and a practical capacity. The idea of ‘third world’ development as outlined in Truman’s speech, is commonly taught in International Development Studies programs throughout North American Universities. For a variety of reasons, I have become disheartened with the understanding that ‘development’ must take place in the so-called ‘third world’ and have instead turned my efforts towards what this development process looks like in the ‘first world’.

The intention of this blog, is to display the forms of international development in North America. Often disconnected from the issues and peoples they aim to ‘help’, forms of consumerism, pop culture and academia dominate the realm of development in North America. While I hope to critically examine these forms of development, I would also like to share challenges to this understanding of development. While a single understanding of ‘overseas development’ often pervades North American understandings, there are individuals, films and novels that are working to create more complex ideas of who the ‘third world’ is and what ‘development’ in their societies may entail.

The documentation of development efforts in this blog are meant to evoke conversation and debate. Any comments or critiques are welcome.

3 responses to “About One Dollar A Day

  1. Ray Corrin

    Hello,

    Good start…interesting premise that is counter to what I think is the current “received wisdom” on development. I thought that the term Third World (coined I think by J Nehru in the fifites) had gone out in favour of “developing world.” The latter sounds more positive and avoids the inferior position implied by using a numeric.

    How much of what people give to charity is spurred by things like letters from one’s “kids” overseas and wanting to see some sort of “result” of one’s efforts? Quite a bit I think. The tourist/development trips often involve building something that one can see, e.g. Habitat for Humanity type things, whether in North America or elsewhere. I think the power imbalance thing is very hard to battle. How does one counter that? It has to be long day-by-day in the trenches with the locals I think. People who deke in and out episodically will never hear what the locals really think or be taken seriously.

    Not sure whether you are arguing against Truman’s speech or not. Is he wrong to suggest transfer of technical expertise?

    Ray C

  2. Kelsey

    I’m excited for this blog to develop. You are doing a great job in enticing people to think critically about that which is seemingly unquestionable – the concept of giving. And of course, the larger picture of ‘development’.

    I really liked the comment posted by Ray and the line that he wrote – “People who deke in and out episodically will never hear what the locals really think or be taken seriously.” I think that’s a key point to start off with. In order to understand anything in any area of study, one has to be committed. Unfortunately, I think that the modern consumer-based economy has led youth and individuals to expect instant reactions and instant change. When in fact, you can spend a lifetime studying an issue and still find no solution. But you can bet that you will have contributed to the understanding of an issue and impact the lives of many should some real commitment be at play. So in essence, I suppose I’m telling you that all you may need to do is ban senseless technological distractions (reality TV, msn, facebook, etc.) and completely revolutionize methods of learning and understanding so that we can regain enough patience and open-mindedness to understand that real change comes from being in it for the longhaul. Simple, right? Hmm…

  3. Ray- I believe ‘developing’ has replaced ‘third world’ technically but I would argue that the world is still very much portrayed in the first/third world dichotomy (with those positive/negative connotations attached). In terms of Truman’s speech and the understanding of development he presents, I am attempting to challenge it. To argue against the assertion that development must materialize in the ‘developing world’. In terms of his suggestion of transfer of expertise, I think I could address this in another blog post. The understanding that the ‘west’ must bring our expertise to the ‘third world’, has been greatly criticized and I will examine it in detail. I also hope to illustrate the, albeit good intentioned, but somewhat ridiculous forms development takes in the first world (tshirts, coffee) and perhaps even delve into an alternative. Thanks for your comment and for reading.

    K- Thanks for your comment, I agree that our consumerist society has in part created an atmosphere where instant reactions are expected, however I would not wholly blame technological distractions. Mass consumerism is said to have emerged in the United States as far back as the industrial revolution, coming to look like consumerism as we know it during the Ford era. Our consumerist culture has a history and perhaps is exacerbated with the spread of new technology. However, tools like msn allow individuals around the world to stay in contact, facebook has been used as a tool of mobilization and technology is allowing me to write this blog. The use of technology in the classroom for young children is becoming the norm. Perhaps then what is needed are better guidelines on the use of technology, and a more holistic approach. Technology can be part of the ‘solution’ but not the entire ‘solution’. I do not have the answers….I appreciate you taking the time to write such a thoughtful comment.

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