Welcome to JP Melville's review, experience, and statement on foreign aid and the international development industry. A conservative faith in family. A love affair riding the riotous tensions between money, personal freedom, the majestic travesty of our specie's ecological footprint, and economic politics. Selected writing of both prose and poetry, anecdotal travel log to rhetorical essay, dating back from the 1980's to the present. Enjoy!

Monday, 20 February 2012

Collected Notes #4 - Self Discipline

Failed Commitments

We are confusing very unlike situations in our easy application of the `struggle for existence' to war.  The struggle is not now between individuals to decide the fitter; it is between vast bodies hurling death by wholesale.  We pick the physically fit and send them to the battleline; and there the fit are slain.  this is not the situation in nature... The final test in nature is adaptation... adaptation and adjustment mean peace, not war... The military method of civilization finds no justification in the biological struggle for existence.

The final conquest of man is of himself, and he shall be greater than when he takes a city.  The final conquest of society is of itself...

                                                                          Liberty Hyde Bailey. The Holy Earth. 1915

June 89                       
Arrival at my new job!  Woo Hoo!
Is the introduction of cash crops to a subsistence food production system as much a shock as withdrawing the opportunity for sales from a cash cropping system?
Boy, was I ever full of deep ideas.

July 89
Two mango trees planted right up against a stump that even in its state of decay stood taller than our jeep and stretched well over one metre in diameter.  Other charred stumps scattered over landscape.  Area recently cleared, in places soil underfoot still hot with smouldering roots.  Some dark colour in dirt - residual topsoil only.  Young, bright green cassava shoots, subsistence starch and export feed for European cattle.  A forest gone from incalculable diversity to two species of plants.  Awesome in the most horrific sense of the word.

August 89
How do I engage my new colleagues in development dialogue?
A recurring thought: if I had chosen to stay in Canada, I could have assumed an employment role that would have provided me with material resources well in excess of what my supervisor here might ever expect to access.  So what is his status based on?  A paltry, tiny pickup truck or patronage appointments to local government jobs?  Smug me who, on the basis of being able to purchase a suburban home one day, blithely deny that I could be corrupted.

September 89
Initiated the process of purchasing a motorcycle.
These people just can't think right.  Why don't they get their act together?  When it comes to the bullshit of materialism and environmental destruction and western influence I think I have a right to speak up.  I have convinced myself that owing a motorcycle is not a contradiction. Yip.

October 89
Do they have any ability to engage in objective research here?

November 89
What is this?  They've got information.  They have resources for field research.  Plenty of staff wishing they had more to do than hand copy old papers.  Why no research that I can see?  Why no ideas?  For example, one could just study increased soil biodiversity and any subsequent impact on grain production.  Nope.  Just fertilizer and hybrid seed trials in tiny plots on the edge of farmers’ fields.
Several farmers brought up the concern for the sale of their pararubber latex.  I said nothing but thought: can't eat it if you can't sell it.  Dispensable cogs in the international agricultural commodities markets, notorious for wildly fluctuating producer prices.
When I arrived in the village of Ban Nakham, a few nudges and winks from my colleagues indicated that I was to talk.  Some sort of speech?  I had not anticipated such a role.  I talked about world rice production, subsidies, and trade barriers for poor countries.  Blank faces.  Nudge, wink, whisper.  They want to know if you are married.  I am not married.  Smiles and laughter.
In Ban Nakham I met three women who had worked the underside of Bangkok, married foreigners, tasted the world, and under various circumstances returned to Ban Nakham without their husbands.  I wrote a letter for Kit to her husband in England - mostly to remind him to send money, without explicitly saying so.  Her two friends came over to visit while I wrote and we all smoked cigarettes and they invited me to stay and drink whisky and stay the night.  I declined but said I would come back and visit.  I didn’t.
Villages of many colours.

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