Saturday, March 17, 2012

Modernization: necessity or pride?

Pictures: (1) (2)

For the past two weeks your parents have been nagging you to remember to make that amazing chocolate cake that THEIR parents have been nagging THEM about for the annual family dinner at the end of the month. You respond with the usual grunts and "yeah cake, dinner, family, eating...will do". And of course you leave the baking to the last minute....on the day...WHILE everyone's eating their main course and exchanging passive aggressive remarks on why they missed Aunty. "insert name here" 's birthday again....four years in a row. You would've done it the night before, but OBVIOUSLY you couldn't because you were busy trying to figure out why the person you've been stalking on facebook/twitter/blogger hasn't posted something in the past 5hrs. You figured maybe they were just busy, but then you realized that people don't have lives like that anymore, and proceeded to track down every single person/picture/video they either posted or commented on before that 5hr M.I.A period. You're a cyber psycho, you need help. You manage to get everything mixed and poured into the pan, ready for the oven, when...IT DOESN'T SWITCH ON. And no kicking it won't make it work. Ahhh, BUT there is luck, you happen to be neighbors with not only a professional electrician, but also this sweet African woman who just moved to the country but has been a cook in her homeland Zambia for over 10years! You stealthily move across the wall toward the backdoor, trying to decide which of the two you're going to ask, and you only have enough time to ask one of them. You could ask your mum, BUT she'd probably make you eat that entire cake mix raw because of your incompetence.

Naturally you'd just go over to Mr. Anderson's house, the electrician because that's the obvious choice right? He's a professional, he's actually studied this kinda stuff and he's probably fixed thousands of stoves. But then you feel a sudden surge of moral social obligation come over you, like those hives you got from wanting to be the hero and shortcut through the poison ivy trail. Why wouldn't you go to Mrs. Moonga you asked yourself? She's been a cook for years, she's even invented stove technology for the women in her village to use. "Oh but this is an electric stove so Mr. Anderson would be more familiar with it. Mrs. Moonga might not be and I don't want to waste anymore time", you rationalize with yourself. However, it really isn't about what kind of stove it is, your predicament is about who can you TRUST more to fix this problem and why? Western thought vs. Traditional thought and why it weighs so heavily on our conceptions of the world, is basically what I'm trying to get at with this post. I've been reading this incredible book on development and amongst the 100s of other issues that I've been struck with, this is one I thought I could diddle daddle with abit. We all have a pretty solid perception of men as engineers and women...well not so much. Which, is understandable because something like 1 in every 300 engineers in Britain are women! Crazy. In developing countries where stove technology is used in rural villages to assist women in improving their daily lives, well-being and livelihood, the white expatriate male engineer is ALWAYS perceived as the one who knows best, who can be TRUSTED. Why?Because of the belief that expertise adapted from Europe or America is superior to "traditional" technology. Is this the case though? Women just like Mrs. Moonga have been inventing and improving stoves they have been using for years to their environment and situations with the resources available to them. But of course with the factors of traditional beliefs vs. detached technical knowledge, Western thought wins. I mean, what are the intentions of modernization in this situation? To replace something inferior with something better? Or is this the pride of the 'civilized' being imposed upon another? I don't want to get too much into the complicated details. But it just got me thinking about how consumed we are by perceptions of "1st world knows better", to put it plainly. We might not consciously admit our ignorance because of their embedded norms in our lives and mindsets, but it's all there in ways we don't even know. Most of us will die with them inside of us, its normal, we're human, we can't expect to know every little thing, while simultaneously being aware of everything. The point is though, to be aware of ignorance, your own, more than anyone else's. This book I'm reading is certainly opening my eyes to that. Check yourself now and again, challenge your thoughts, your lifestyle, why you do or think they way you do? Who would you choose...Mr. Anderson or Mrs. Moonga and why? No right answer....OR IS THERE!!??? *evil laugh* MWAHAHAHAHHA. (Haha joking).

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