At the beginning of this month I posted on a project run by MIT that aims to produce a million lap tops at the cost of $100 each and distributing them to the schools of third world nations. I thought that this would be pretty good idea, but then I dropped the idea by Melodie, a friend of a friend and a student at the School for International Studies in Brattleboro, VT.
Melodie brought up some interesting considerations about the ramifications of such a project on countries in the third world. Not that she was flatly against the project so to speak. I think that she brought up the fact that this project may not do what we think it will do and may in fact bring about some unintended harm.
In the ensuing discussion with some friends over dinner, we talked about “post-development” concepts. For example, is it really helpful for the West to teach the rest of the world to play the economic game our way with our rules and our tools? Melodie has been trying to explore ways to help third world countries that go beyond the current trends in third world development. We all agreed that it’s a hard box to step out of.
I do find it fascinating to think that globalization, while benefitting some regions of the world, may also bring destruction to cultures that rely on simple, local economies. Even if big companies like Starbucks have chummy “relationships” with coffee farmers in Africa, is this really helpful to the people in the region as a whole?? Perhaps it is, but then there are always drawbacks in globalization. Is it a simple matter of the good outweighing the bad? Of do we need to seek a higher moral plane that dictates our economic, environmental, etc. policies?
As a part of God’s Kingdom that is bringing spiritual salvation and physical liberation to the world, I think that these kinds of issues are worth our consideration. Yes I want to support missionaries, apostles, and church planters who will share the Gospel message about Christ. But I also want to support the Gospel message that brings liberation to people, and I think that evaluating a cause to support can be a bit more tricky in this case. Indigenous church planting seems to be working; letting the locals lead the church and spread the Gospel is a great cause to support. But how to truly help people around the world who may suffer from deficiencies in food, shelter, education, work, or liberty is another matter that requires quite a bit of research and careful consideration.