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!

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Equity and Equality – The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Euphemisms in Development

Equity is a right.  Equality is the platform on which it is achieved.  Neither occur in development.
In a democratic world, we want to say that we aim for equality of opportunity.  In an idealized world, equality of opportunity presupposes that a person or collective does not experience barriers to power for reasons of, say, sex, creed, colour, religion, or race.  Once in power, or at minimum having power over yourself (ves), you experience that thing called equity.
Well, dream on utopia.  A universal set of standards and institutions that represent and defend your personal interests or those of your chosen collective?  The development industry offers up only the hand-in-hand sisters of public education and capital economy and democracy.  You know, micro-credit schemes, primary schools, and international observers for elections.  You can either make money or not.  You can go to school or not.  You can vote for your government and majority wins or not.
Sorry, but it is an endgame.  No choice but uniformity.  No choice but a single integrated system.  Don’t like it?  The industry offers up the narcotic that as an individual you can be as different as you like.  Just be sure to go to school and get a job and vote.  The only place for action, however, is in the latter.  You do not decide what is taught, how your money works, or how you govern yourself (ves).  If you do try to decide for yourself, you and you collectively are asking for trouble.  Just ask Ghadaffi.  Or aboriginal peoples pretty much anywhere.  Has anybody lately seen an economy based on the principles of the common good?
My proposition is based on at least several premises.  One is that public education, in setting standards, teaches us first to conform to broader standards and then measures our success by our ability to mirror those standards which we do not personally own.  Through public education, we become specialists with narrow streams of knowledge.  First we buy into a broad social standard and give up our selves.  We then only claim to know what we have been taught in education institutions; our non-institutional knowledge, such as methods for good husbandry, have no value.  The public education process neutralizes our individuality, defeating the practice of who each of us are and what we might be capable of knowing and acting upon outside the realm of those standards.
A second premise is related to employment, for which any sense of equality must be subject to the rules of a given economic system; for all intents and purposes we now have only one recognized economy, call it capitalist, its tentacles having reached into the remotest corners of the planet.  There are those who are employed, who produce, earn and consume, and there are those who lose their homes and ways of life for hydro electric dams, expanded suburbs, corporate farms, mines, the trees in a forest… the list is endless.
You are either in this triad game of public education, jobs, and democracy, or you are not.  Winners.  Losers.  Plenty of lost souls in between.  But neither public education nor wage earning jobs nor democracy level the playing field.  On the contrary.  They are the playing field.  And you are either in the game, or out.  If you have gotten into the game, you necessarily behave according to established sets of rules.  Sorry, but when you paid the price of admission to the game, you left behind long ago your uniqueness and your principles of equality and equity.
Sameness and standards have nothing in common with the unbearable lightness of being.

No comments:

Post a Comment