Below I’ve posted a little rant I went off on in response to a comment about Jumo, a website that is hoping to link non-profit organizations with ‘do-gooders’ through social networking. This article in Mashable covers it: “Facebook Co-Founder Launchers Non-Profit Platform called Jumo” The comment was in response to someone asking for feedback on a website called http://www.miworld.com. Make sure to go to the link to see the response as this really is just one big rant, and a valid rebuttal is given.
“Just as a preface to my comment, I come from a critical development background, meaning that while I truly commend efforts to raise awareness of the challenges of underdevelopment, I believe it is important to maintain a reflexive perspective on the inherent forms of trusteeship that accompany a desire to engage in what some have termed ‘neo-colonialism’. That being said, I like the underlying premise of miworld; that there is a need to use the power of the internet to raise abysmally low levels of awareness around issues of development. Especially outside of situations of disasters like Haiti.
I disagree however, with two things. First, the underlying assumption that the message coming from those stuck in poverty, from their own subjective experience will be one of despair, and misery that will inspire people to give. While relatively their quality of life may pale in comparison to countries in the Global North, surprisingly this does not translate into high levels of dissatisfaction and unhappiness. I do wonder, given the ability of the internet to globalize personal experience, what connecting people in the developing world with the existence of massive global inequality might have on subjective interpretations of their own situation. Is making someone acutely aware of their abject poverty necessarily beneficial? At the same time, what implications does a one way information road have for development. Is it only the stories of the poor going to the donors, and only ‘aid’ by anonymous patrons being gifted back?
Second, (and I apologize for the rant) I have huge concern with this sentence from the website:
“With just one click, MiWorld’s users will be able to ship useful wholesale goods and services (everything from Target.com baby shoes and Caterpillar tractors, to vaccines and college educations) to newfound friends around the world.”
Part of the reason that development has been so stalled, is because the ‘doing of development’ by the Developed world, fails to take into account the broader structural implications of global disparity. Shipping consumer products into underdeveloped countries may satisfy an immediate need, but has much deeper implications on the productive capacity, economy and potential for sustainable self-empowered models of growth.
I think that raising awareness and employing the internet to forge personal global linkages between the North and South is absolutely important, but I also believe that in doing so it should work to break down existing structures of power and inequality that reproduce underdevelopment.”