We Call This “Developed?”

  • Ten to twenty thousand children dead from starvation every single day.
  • A $64 trillion-and-growing world debt without the slightest inkling for change.
  • Contamination and pollution growing at an exponential rate.
  • Endless wars to discipline those who oppose our economic agenda.

When Columbus landed in 1492, there was no poverty, no pollution, no banks and no wars. He noted in his logbook about the friendly, generous, strong and handsome natives who would share anything they had. But he also added, “I could return with 50 armed men to subdue them and make them do whatever I want.” Today we see the effects of this imported ideology and call it “development.” But if we had the courage to open our eyes, we’d have to call it “barbarianism.” Instead we puff ourselves up with pride and say the Indians had nothing. We brought them civilization. We brought them more stuff. But we conveniently forget the age-old saying, “If a man is not satisfied with what he has, he won’t be satisfied with what he wants.” So perhaps we’re overlooking the blueprint for our survival.

Economists give us the terms “North” and “South” to summarize economic differences. We automatically assume the South to be incapable of development. But we never even consider that the people whom Columbus discovered were completely satisfied with life and didn’t need superficial, self-embellishing wants to drive themselves into oblivion. But, “No,” most insisted. They were backward, ignorant, stupid and primitive. But not all who originally came felt the same way.

American history conveniently eliminates the history of the very first church service in the very first rustic chapel in the New World. Sent by Queen Isabella “the Catholic” in 1521 to report on religious conditions, Dominican Friar Antonio Montesinos rallied out in his very first sermon, “I am the voice of Jesus Christ in this isolated land and I’m here to tell you you’re all living in mortal sin. Look into the eyes of the indigenous people. Do you not see rational souls? Are you not required as Christians to love them as yourselves? By what right do you enslave, torture and even kill them?” He, of course, was booed as violently as I often am. And later he was killed.

But as I write in my works in Peru, “He planted the seed of compassion in a garden of genocide.” And the later developments tell the rest of the story. The chapel was in what is now the Dominican Republic, presently populated by Spanish-speaking mestizos living in poor but survivable conditions. But Haiti lies on the same island, populated by French-speaking people of African descent living in extreme poverty. All the Indians were exterminated by the French and replaced because they rejected slavery. Jamaica has an English-speaking African population; again, all natives exterminated but by the British. Spanish-speaking Cuba has the unique addition of the Afro-Latin race, a mixture of mestizos and Africans who were obviously not racist.

After Columbus, the Spaniards and Mestizos crossed Mexico and moved up the coast to California, founding San Francisco in 1771, five years before the United States was even a country. A treaty in 1821 declared what is now the Southern half of California, Arizona and New Mexico to be Mexico. But after the Gold Rush of 1849, a wave of land-hungry pioneers continued to drive away or slaughter Indians, along with anyone so vulgar as to breed with them. Today, with an indigenous population of only 1%, we call the new nation “developed.”

The Spaniards continued to South America creating more and more Mestizos and forming new nations, all of which speak predominantly Spanish, but still with areas that speak the ancient languages of the indigenous people. If all the blood were measured in South America, it would be half indigenous.

But, oh they are so pitifully undeveloped. The lesser-quality Indians were given deeds to their land instead of being shuffled off onto reservations. And look what they’ve done with it! Nothing! All they’ve done is live, survive and preserve that threatening natural world we find so menacingly inconvenient. What a terrible waste! Why can’t they produce automobiles and computers to make the land more profitable? What’s wrong with them? Why can’t they hurry up and get things done?

But perhaps we’d find their patience more attractive if we had the courage to take an even closer look. I’ve been in Peru for more than ten years. I now teach English at a Telecommunications and Telematics institute in Lima to help students pass their Cisco Certification exams. Many of them are from the isolated regions of the Andes or the Jungles of the headwaters of the Amazon. And many speak Quechua, the ancient language of the Incas. They’re friendly, generous, strong and would share anything they have. And although many only have only one change of clothes, they’re quite satisfied with their lives. They also have an uncanny insight into what the future might bring if they carefully scrutinize their “development” to include caring for their loving Mother Earth. “If we take care of Her, She’ll take care of us.” I have no desire to subdue them. And perhaps without hair on their arms, their evolution is more advanced than mine.  Perhaps as they plod along, they’ll develop a more formidable world than we have.

–Those who can’t enjoy their planet without destroying it have no right to call themselves “developed.”

Richard Asmus
Vietnam Veteran, Gulf of Tonkin
Telecom Engineer, USA, Bangladesh, Europe, Iran and Australia
Independent Telecom Consultant, USA, Central and South America
BA, Walter Cronkite School of Broadcasting and Journalism, Arizona State University
MFA, Brooklyn College of the City University of New York
MBA, Keller Graduate School of Management


© Copyright 2016, The Other Third World


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