International development or global development is a complex worldwide project to improve countries and ergo the lives of their citizens. From safe drinking water, hygienic shelter, literacy, liveable income, elongated life expectancy – ultimately its aim is to make a better world with less suffering.
But its ideology and apparatus are critique worthy. It forces, often disparate, communities into a nation where cultural difference – native people – are assimilated into a state, and the lifestyles of millions are changed without their consent or even competent desire. Where swathes of natural habitats are destroyed into city and communities are broken apart, where poverty often nonetheless persists, where debt keeps these new nations as debt-colonies, where people become depressed, where natural ‘resources’ are exploited for mostly outside gain.
Global development assumes that the western industrialised world is the best world for everyone, everywhere. Secularisation, capitalism, democracy, meritocracy, western ethics and fake justifications of ‘nature’, ‘scientific happiness’, ‘linear progress’, make it so. And for all the appearance of autonomy and neutrality the vested interests of larger – developed – powers over-determines what undeveloped countries, and ergo its citizens, are allowed to think and to do.
There are negatives to secularisation. Secularisation removes myths and faith that largely make a culture what it is, from that culture. It removes the community feeling of belonging and of project and instead pervades apathy, meaninglessness, discontent and personal (as opposed to Godly) responsibility- that often results in more disappointment and guilt than imported definitions of success.
Capitalism, ironically, pushes a Calvinist work-ethic that achievement is ultimate (demoting satisfactions of relationships as in Catholicism) that keeps citizens pursuing property and status. Property and status that do not provide as much happiness as enjoyment; having a good time is usually deferred till after an over important deadline. And entrepreneurship as a drive to improve involves by nature much risk and dissatisfaction, and frankly selfish hoarding of gain by the prestigious innovators (that in turn shames non-innovators). Work is so specialised that workers become like cogs in a machine they cannot comprehend therefore cannot appreciate nor enjoy. Capitalist economics is volatile so work situation, lifestyle, and the price of food ascend and descend, unfairly, beyond individual control. Capitalism involves commodity fetishism where the value of something – be it a new mouse, or a friendship – is too often mistaken for its price.
The majority of the population – that democracy ostensibly serves – are wage slaves serving mega-rich masters. Democracy has negatives, of course, too. It makes citizens frank, overconfident, jealous, materialistic, and disturbingly establishes a normalising or normative basis for right, correct, moral; with citizens desperate for external validation and fame. Popular opinion is conflated with the right opinion. Democracy, moreover, fosters a trust in an equality that exists in principle more than practice and in enjoyable leisure that is not all that enjoyable – but feeds off human weakness, for example, watching numbing ‘reality’ (pretend democratic) television for six of the twenty four hours. Theodor Adorno blames the entertainment industry for taking away our agency.
Meritocracy is inseparable from democracy. It makes citizens sad and disappointed because it unrealistically raises their aspirations beyond their ability or social position. Meritocracy lies that it is not class or social connections that secures a good education or a good job. It puts the onus on the individual and in doing it puts the guilt, shame, blame of a failure that was actually never individual responsibility. Arguably increasing depression, suicide, anxiety. Vested interests show-case success stories in media that, in reality, are exception-outliers rather than a realistic representation of social immobility. Social mobility is highlighted; social immobility erased.
A rhetoric of science and progress and objectivity are expounded for making the whole earth like this, via institutions that do not question their assumptions, by assumed history, by measures and indexes like the Human Development Index and ‘world’s most liveable cities’ that claim good transport, for instance, as criteria for a good city overlooking that the need for such transport is essentially unsustainable (and probably less pleasurable than pedestrianisation or cycle cities). Or that measure happiness by report and label Mexicans as falsely thinking they’re happy: “they can’t be, they’re poor.”
To actually develop the world, if the developing nations people can consensually demonstrate they want ‘to be developed’ at all, ought to involve a prioritising of country autonomy and respect for its culture. Institutions made by the Washington Consensus – the World Bank, World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund should a. Release countries from debts that so long as they are in debt they can never repay b. Discourage violent assimilation of land into urbanity and the assimilation (read: destruction) of small communities accept a mixed economic model of partially open-free market capitalism per the infant industry argument that made Britain and the United States what they are and, what China is rapidly becoming. D. Aim to spread better capitalism to eradicate poverty, not propagate the faults of the west and the past.