I want to do something to make the world a better place

Topiary, Bangkok.  Tourism is a huge foreign exchange erner for the Thai people, and in spite o what you hear,  the government does invest in human capital.

Topiary, Bangkok. Tourism is a huge foreign exchange erner for the Thai people, and in spite o what you hear, the government does invest in human capital.

We Americans are a bunch of naive ‘do-gooders’.  We still think we have the market cornered on altruism and integrity.

I have to admit that I started out as a ‘do-gooder’ when I  started volunteering overseas.  As I learned more about the world, my motives changed.  I still  want to continue to volunteer, as I am not a sot-on-the-beach type of person, but I want to share some information  that affected me and that might affect you.

Jomo Kenyatta, the first president of Kenya, said: “When the Europeans came, we had the land, and they had the Bible. They taught us to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened our eyes, they had the land and we had the Bible.”

Several people suggested that I read Franz Fanon’s classic, The Wretched of the Earth.  Fanon was an  psychiatrist from Martinique, who was trained in France, and assigned to work in Algeria who  realized that those living under colonial rule suffered mental illness for trying to be free.  He also realized that there would be a false consciousness after any revolution, and that the neocolonialists would be worse than  the colonialists, because they were of the people they ruled.  That’s  the gist in a nutshell, but the book, published  in 1963( a difficult read) is worth reading, as Fanon was such a visionary.  It is particularly important for the  north American ‘do-gooder’ to read.  Then read, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man,” by John Perkins. Be a little skeptical about  what making the world a better place really means.

You can still find The Ugly American , by  Lederer & Burdick. It was published in 1958, and it is still  disappointingly accurate.

Familiarize yourself with how our U.S. government really works. Read  Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, published by Dee Brown  in 1971.  Embarrassing—but well documented and true.

Finally, before you go off to volunteer to make the world better, you must—ABSOLUTELY MUST—read Things Fall Apart,” by Chinua Achebe published in 1958.  It is a great story about how a community was changed by ‘do-gooders’.  It is a classic.

You can’t make the world a better place if you don’t know the issues that affect most of the world’s people.  Most don’t have access to clean drinking water. that is a huge issue.  It affects  health more than any other issue.  Most don’t have access to real information or  education. When I served  in Malawi in the early 1990s, less than 15% of households had access to a radio!

Most people in the world do not have access to affordable medical care.  That includes Americans.

Literacy is still an enormous problem.  Governments will not invest more than they have to, so they can maintain a cheap, placid labor force.

If you want to make the world a better place, think about what YOU have to offer. Can you teach anything?  Do you have any skills?  You can volunteer overseas.  Google “Cross Cultural Solutions,” or “Volunteer in Africa.”  Living in a place, for as little as 2 weeks, gives you a much different perspective than just traveling though.

Don’t waste resources. Turn off the lights. Really.  Make sure you don’t have leaky water taps.  Recycle and compost your trash.  Because we can afford to waste resources, the rest of the world can’t afford them.


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