Why is there a ‘general’ trend amongst Filipinos to become developed like the ‘West’? Is economic and human development a form of colonialism?

*This has been submitted for my undergraduate dissertation in Anthropology. Still waiting for feedback but thought I should share the research. This is not entirely identical to the one I submitted as I changed some words. I know it’s not perfect and could have been improved but let me know what you think!*

ABSTRACT

There is a general trend amongst Third World countries to ‘progress’ and become like developed nations. Many people from developing nations wish their countries would become as ‘wealthy’ as the United States, Europe and Japan, comparing their countries to these affluent nations. This dissertation will explore this dichotomy between the ‘rich’ and the ‘poor’. I will explore reasons why ‘development’ is highly favoured and why developed nations are regarded as models of development. In examining why the OECD countries and intergovernmental bodies, such as the United Nations, and non-governmental organizations promote economic and human development, I shall investigate whether development is a form of colonialism.

This paper is divided into two sections. In Part I, I will discuss why Filipinos are desperate to become developed and provide examples of development initiatives in the Philippine and the complications associated with it, introducing important points that are key to the development discourse. In Part II, I will explore the theoretical, philosophical, and ethical aspect of development referring to voluntourism as a prime tool to ‘help’ developing nations.

Key words: development, colonialism, poverty, Millennium Development Goals, the Philippines

ACRONYMS

BRIC – Brazil, Russia, India, and China

CAGPL – Canadian Arctic Gas Pipeline Ltd.

CIA – Central Intelligence Agency

CMA – Centre for Migrant Advocacy

CSR – Corporate Social Responsibility

DFID – Department for International Development

GDP – Gross Domestic Product

GNI – Gross National Income

GNP – Gross National Product

HIC – Highly Indebted Countries

IBRD – International Bank for Reconstruction and Development

ICS – International Citizen Service

ILO – International Labour Organisation

IOM – International Organisation for Migration

LEDCs – Less Economically Developed Countries

MEDCs – More Economically Developed Countries

MDGs – Millennium Development Goals

NEDA – National Economic and Development Authority

NGO – Non-governmental organization

NIC – Newly Industrialized Countries

OECD – Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development

OFW – Filipino Overseas Workers

POEA – Philippine Overseas Employment Administration

PPP – Purchasing Power Parity

SAIH – Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund

UNCTAD – United Nations Conference on Trade and Development

UNDAF – United Nations Development Assistance Framework

UNDP – United Nations Development Programme

UNGA – United Nations General Assembly

UNPD – United Nations Population Division

VSO – Voluntary Service Overseas

WB – The World Bank

WDI – World Development Indicator

WEF – World Economic Forum

WHO – World Health Organisation

WWII – World War Two

PART I: PHILIPPINE DEVELOPMENT

 

WHY IS DEVELOPMENT IS THE WAY FORWARD?

 As my flight descended into Manila in 2012, I recalled how rapidly the city has changed. Green fields have disappeared, the water has become filthy and like many megacities in industrially developing countries, Manila is becoming more congested and more polluted. About eighty percent of the city is composed of slums comprising self-built, ‘informal’ housing. Urban development has dotted the landscape with high-rise buildings constructed and infrastructure established (see fig. 1). It appears the Philippines is embracing development and it has decided not to be the last in Southeast Asia.

This paper has been inspired by my experience of growing up in both developing and developed nations, interacting with different peoples from various beliefs, backgrounds, world-views, and socio-cultural groups. Until I was thirteen, I lived in the Philippines before moving to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with my family where we stayed for almost six years. Afterwards, we lived in Hanoi, Vietnam for a year prior coming to Hong Kong for a couple of months before starting my undergraduate studies in Aberdeen. Throughout these periods, I have seen the best and worst of countries. A common question arises when observing Filipinos in their conversations about their government and the global and socio-economic standing of the Philippines. Why do Filipinos think that development is good for them? Why is it that Filipinos wants to become Westernised and what does the West possess that is inherently attractive to the peoples of the Philippines?

So I selectively asked my Filipino friends certain questions in order to investigate what the layperson thought about development in general terms and to explore the Filipinos’ veracious appetite to become ‘developed’. The last question concerns the specifics of human and economic development which this paper focuses on. I included my Vietnamese friends in this endeavor to see how my research question above applies to another ‘Third World’ country. Regardless of their age, profession, and demographic background, I asked them (1) which country first comes to mind when they think of a developed nation; (2) Should the Philippines/Vietnam become developed like United States, United Kingdom, Europe, Australia, Japan, etc.? (3) Do the Philippines/Vietnam have the potential to become a developed country? (4) Should the Philippine/Vietnamese educational system follow a Westernised education system? If so why? Finally, (5) can education/foreign investment reduce ‘poverty’?

For question one, the answers are as follows: Japan, USA, Australia, Canada, UK, Europe, France, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Singapore, Israel, Sweden, and Norway. These are technically, according to the World Bank and the United Nations, considered as ‘developed’. The first five have been mentioned more than three times. Some answered China, the Philippines, and Qatar however these are anomalies probably due to personal preference of what ‘developed’ is and/or have been educated.

With regards to question two, majority of the Filipino informants said, ‘yes’ “the Philippines should be lined up with the world’s first class”. Why? Because, “the living conditions and the quality of life is much better in those countries” and that “these countries prioritise their people”; “Industry, agriculture, and science are beneficial” and that “we can have an opportunity to make a living”. If the Philippines is to become ‘developed’ then the country will “be more ‘organised’ in terms of infrastructure and the people would be more ‘disciplined’”. Very few said ‘no’, “because every nation is different (culture, language, government, economy, geographical location, etc.)” and that the Philippines should “simply adopt a more disciplined culture like the West” and not wholly convert to being ‘Western’ (selected answers, some are paraphrased, personal communications).

As for question three, most are resolved with solid ‘yes’, arguing that “the Philippines is rich in natural resources – geothermal, mineral, natural”, that the “Filipinos are intelligent, smart, multi-talented and hardworking” and that “the population is young and well educated”. Many also agree that the economy is growing, for instance, “the Philippines has already surpassed India as a Call Center Capital of the World”. This has gained headlines in the media over the past five years (examples, Bajaj 2011; Brooks 2014; Heydarian 2014). In asserting this, one person declared that, “Filipinos are working outside the Philippines in many of these developed countries as engineers, doctors, nurses, PTs, teachers, etc. [they] are highly productive in these countries and many also hold positions in large companies, hospitals, governments and businesses. These countries use Filipinos to sustain their economy and maintain their standard of living, so why not in their own country?” As the reason for this failure, most have mentioned that the government is ‘corrupt’ and that “If the government is honest and if the Filipinos are united and co-operate with each and have the same vision for the growth of the economy” then “the country can progress” (selected answers, some are paraphrased, personal communications).

In question 4, generally, Filipinos answered ‘yes’. They wanted the Philippine education system to be more “competitive with other countries”, so the “quality of education would be better”, so “the ‘backward’ Filipino mindset can be changed and improved” and so that “we can ‘develop’ as a nation”. Some have stated that international schools in the Philippines “produced world-class extraordinary pupils” so therefore Philippine educational system should follow the international or world standard of education. (How can ‘international’ standard be defined, when there are so many educational systems?) On the other hand, a good proportion of Filipinos said ‘no’ because of their pride in Filipino achievements overseas which are the “result of the Philippine educational system”, moreover “even though Philippine schools and universities are short of funding from the government, they are still able to produce good graduates who are able to compete academically abroad” (selected answers, some are paraphrased, personal communications).

Regarding the response of my Vietnamese friends for the second and third questions, it is intriguing that all of them aspire to Vietnam becoming ‘developed’, however, not in the same ways as the ‘West’. As one said, “I want Vietnam to be a developed country with the Vietnamese culture, which is different from American and European culture.” Similarly, one contended that “the US, UK, Japan, etc. are not the happiest countries in the world”. Based on living in Vietnam for a year, it seems that the Vietnamese people have a more cohesive identity of which they are more proud in comparison to the Filipino population who generally aspire to become something or someone else. All my informants have said that Vietnam has the potential to improve its world economic and human ranking but is far from achieving it. As for education, they want the Vietnamese educational system to be aligned with the international standard as “it is more practical and it can help students find work easier after graduation” and “it will improve the quality of students and will make it easier for them to work abroad”.

The last question asks can ‘education’ and ‘foreign investment’ bring people out of poverty? Most thought ‘yes’. For education, “it will empower the people to decide and think what is right and not just blindly follow the few elite who are in power.” Filipino families in general tend to focus on the importance of education, which they think is the only valuable investment for their children. They believe that performing well at school and university can lead to better employment and jobs. One Filipino informant has argued that this mindset should be changed as this is the reason why the majority of Filipinos, except for the few wealthy families, are geared towards working for someone else as opposed to the Chinese who send their children to prepare them to take over their family businesses. Some believe that although education can pave the way, education alone is not the answer as there are many Filipino graduates whom are jobless and have no choice but to look towards other countries. Hence, the reason why the Philippines is the world’s top exporter of skilled, cheap labour to other countries, according to ILO, IOM, POEA, UNDP, and the World Bank (Santos 2012).

Although many agree that a boost in foreign investment can lead to a rise in employment and monetary gain, many also argue that the Filipinos and the Vietnamese should be given assistance to encourage them to invest in their own country, allowing Filipino and Vietnamese businesses to flourish and to open new job markets. This is so as not to rely heavily on foreign investment “who do not know the needs of their countrymen”. In reiterating this, many blame the government for corruption, arguing that change has to start from a ‘top to bottom’ process including improvement of educational standards “with focus on communication, mathematics, science, and technology”, “supporting new ideas and innovations in all branches of work”, encouraging Filipino and Vietnamese families to educate children to be “entrepreneurs, designers, developers, and artists”, building better infrastructures, and expanding investment.

These questions allowed us to see that many Filipinos are determined to become ‘developed’ and to ‘progress’. They see the United States, Europe, Japan, etc. as great models of this. They see that in developed nations, infrastructure and education systems are better, as are standards of living, social organisation and legal and judicial systems. We have also seen that they view the Philippines and Vietnam far more differently from developed nations in terms of wealth and world rankings. Thus, they view themselves as needing ‘development’.

PHILIPPINE ECONOMIC AND HUMAN DEVELOPMENT

The Philippines is a Southeast Asian archipelago of 7,107 islands, currently under threat by climate change and rising sea levels (CIA 2014a). Its topography consists of mountainous landscapes, dense forests, plain terrains and coastal lowlands with 18% of land as arable (CIA 2014a; UNDP n.b). The country has a high percentage of flora and fauna species, being rich in biodiversity and natural resources (CIA 2014a; Davis 1987; UNDP n.b).

The country however is prone to natural disasters including a earthquakes, tsunamis and experiences fifteen to twenty destructive typhoons each year. There have also been a large number of environmental issues including landslides (due to uncontrolled deforestation, urbanisation, and land conversion to agriculture), air and water pollution in urban areas, and degradation of coral reefs and mangrove forests (CIA 2014a; Global Footprint Network 2012). Along with long-term armed conflict in the south (Mindanao), government ‘corruption’ and population growth, these natural disasters make it difficult to establish lasting infrastructure and reduce the rate of poverty, impeding sustainable development, and increasing food and energy crises (Global Footprint Network 2012; NEDA and UNDP Philippines 2014; UNDP n.b.).

The Philippines has a population of about 107,668,231, (July 2014 estimate), a considerable rise from twenty seven million in the 1960s making it the thirteenth most populated country in the world (CIA 2014b; Global Footprint Network 2012). About 48.8% of the population lives in urban cities, which are exponentially increasing in population every year (World Bank 2014). The capital, Manila, is home to about 20 million residents and counting (ibid). The nation had an active working population of 37% aged 25-54, followed by 33.7% aged 0-14 years, then 19% aged 15-24 years in 2013. This equates to a total of forty-one million people in the workforce, of which 53% work in the services sector, 32% in the agriculture sector, and 15% in the industry sector (CIA 2014a). Its world ranking in economic performance is improving; the country’s GDP (PPP) was $454.3 billion in 2013, ranking it 32nd in the world; it’s GDP (real growth rate) was 6.8% in 2013 ranking it 27th in the world and its industrial production growth rate is 9% in 2013, ranking it nineteenth in the world (ibid).

In 2000, following the United Nations Millennium Summit, eight international goals were set by more than 180 UN member states and the NGO and business sectors, to be achieved by 2015 with set targets and indicators to measure the progress (IBRD and WB 2013). These goals are to eradicate extreme ‘poverty’ and ‘hunger’, to achieve universal primary education, to promote gender equality and empower women, to reduce child mortality, to improve maternal health, to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, to ensure environmental sustainability, and to develop a global partnership for development (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and The World Bank 2013; United Nations 2014).

Some of the goals have been met well ahead of the deadline. According to United Nation’s MDGs report last year, the world has reduced extreme poverty by half, “in 1990, almost half of the population in developing regions lived on less than $1.25 a day. This rate dropped to 22 per cent by 2010” (ibid: 4). Gender parity in primary education has been reduced by all developing nations in 2012 and access to drinking water became a reality for 2.3 billion people since the ratification of the MDGs, “halving the proportion of people without access to an improved drinking water source by 2010, five years ahead of schedule” (ibid). On the other hand, some were slow to reach the targets. Although there is an improvement in the rate of primary school enrolment, this has stagnated. “In 2012, 50 million children were out of school. High dropout rates remain a major impediment to universal primary education. An estimated 50 per cent of out-of-school children of primary school age live in conflict-affected areas.” (ibid: 5). Chronic hunger, child and maternal mortality continue to decline but more assistance is needed to ensure the needs of the hundreds of millions of people are met.

How does the Philippines stand in this? For human development, the country has halved the proportion of people with no access to basic sanitation, raising the percentage to 74.3% (both urban and rural statistics). Access to safe drinking water has improved to 91.8% of the population in 2012 (CIA 2014; World Bank n.b). Poverty has been reduced significantly from 34.4% in 1991 to 25.2% in 2012 (NEDA and UNDP Philippines 2014: 2, 4, 6; World Bank n.b). Literacy rate (defined by persons over 15 years who can read and write) has increased from 81% in 1990 to 95.4% in 2014 with males being 95% and females 95.8% (CIA 2014a; UNDP n.b). Consequently, the WEF (2014a,b) ranks the Philippines as first in Asia in terms of gender equality on health, education, economic participation, and political empowerment and ninth in the world out of 142 economies, scoring 0.7814 (0=inequality; 1=equality).

Although some targets have been met, the country still has to improve in many aspects scoring only 0.654 in the Human Development Index. According to Arsenio Balisacan, Economic Planning Secretary of the UNDP country team, the country is behind schedule in completion of secondary education (although there’s a high enrolment rate), equal distribution of income (there’s unequal flow of income between the rich and poor related with education completion), slow decline of poverty reduction, and decreasing maternal mortality, amongst the few (NEDA and UNDP Philippines 2014).

As for economic development, the Philippines has been described by the UN, the World Bank and other inter-governmental agencies as a ‘resilient economy’ because it “withstood the recent global food, fuel, and financial crises and graduated to middle-income status at the end of 2009” (United Nations Philippines 2011: 2; UNDAF). This is due to “minimal exposure to troubled international securities, lower dependence on exports, relatively resilient domestic consumption, large remittances from four to five million OFW, and a rapidly expanding business process outsourcing industry” (CIA 2014a). For instance in 2012, the Philippine stock market was operating the second best in Asia (ibid). This means that the country is now depending less on international development aid and shaping its own course of development (UNDP n.b.).

In the first quarter of 2012, according to the Philippine Office, the economy grew by 5.9% out running other Asian economies (Poquiz n.b.). GDP grew from 4.9 in 2012 to 6.5% in 2014 and remittances from OFWs raised GNI from 2.4% in 2012 to 5.6% in 2013 (Poquiz n.b.; World Bank 2014). Economic growth became possible due a buoyant services sector, increasing public sector spending, household consumption, external trade, tourism and manufacturing (Poquiz n.b; Castro 2012; NEDA and UNDP Philippines 2014). The government, according to Balisacan, will therefore continue to increase spending to support capital formation or investment spending (Poquiz n.b).

DILEMMAS OF PHILIPPINE DEVELOPMENT

In this section, I will address three problems in Philippine economic and human development and will introduce key points that will be discussed further in Part II.

  1. Many of the working adult population are emigrating to developed nations, making the Philippines the world’s third largest labour exporter, supplying First world countries with cheap labour (CMA 2009: 5). This results in ‘brain drain’, defined by ILO as when “emigration of tertiary educated persons for permanent or long stays abroad reaches significant levels” (Lowell and Findlay 2001: 7). As with the case of the Philippines, the “best and the brightest dominate the permanent outflow, leaving behind less-qualified workers” (ibid: 12). Due to the ability of Filipinos to converse in English well, “there are more Filipinos in foreign lands than any other nationality percentagewise” (Gripaldo 2006). China has 35 million abroad (2.6% of total population), India has 22 million (1.5% of total population) and the Philippines has 12 million, that is 13.95% of total population (ibid).

Instead of protecting their own resources and contributing to their own society, the lack of jobs and particularly well-paid posts as well as the global need for cheap labour, pushes Filipinos to work abroad. As mentioned above, loss of professional workers “due to continuous demand for nurses overseas, former Depart of Health Secretary Doctor Jaime Galvez-Tan said that the number of doctors who have downgraded themselves into nurses has reached 9,000. Almost 6,000 of them had left for the United States. More disturbing is that 80% of these doctors-turned-nurses were government doctors…. Many teachers have opted to seek alternative employment abroad, agreeing to work as domestic workers and caretakers. These jobs are well below their academic training but nevertheless pay much better than being teachers in the Philippines” (CMA 2009: 28).

Most OFWs are also vulnerable to abuse and violence abroad where labour migration laws are not strict, even risking their lives to feed their families back home and to give their children better lives. For instance, many employers in Hong Kong and the Middle East confiscate the passports and legal documents of their workers to manipulate them into working long hours and subjecting them to sexual harassment. Many immigrants also fall into difficult situations such as being stuck penniless in the host country because of rogue employment agencies, which sent them there. Although the Philippine government is working to curb this problem, the system itself is slow to change as many politicians are corrupt, robbing millions from public funds and murdering their opponents.

Another problem is that multinationals in developing countries often bring in their own managers and skilled workers making it slow for them to employ locals in senior or better-paid positions (Lowell and Findlay 2001: 9). As a result, high percentages of local employees working in corporations are in difficult positions to pull themselves out of ‘poverty’. With their low-income salaries they cannot feed or provide adequate shelters for their families. In addition, lack of employment opportunities are an issue when there are mass migrations from rural areas to cities like Manila. As a result, slums build up and when natural disasters such as typhoons occur, they are usually the worse affected, keeping the poverty cycle going (NEDA and UNDP Philippines (2014). When the vast majority of land is being bought by wealthy families or foreign corporations, many farmers and low-skilled people are pushed into dangerous jobs such as gold mining, risking their lives.

  1. The United Nations and its inter-agencies agree in all their global development reports, that all children have to stay in school and attend primary and secondary education. There is the Filipino belief that education can alleviate people out of poverty. NEDA and UNDP’s 2014 MDG report of the Philippines shows that “the average daily wage of a worker who has a college degree is more than three times the daily wage of one who is an elementary graduate and more than double that of a high school graduate” (ibid: 8). By merely educating people, can graduates pull themselves out of poverty? Is formal education really a necessity?

As with the previous question, lack of job opportunities in the Philippines makes highly qualified graduates take ‘lesser’ jobs in response to global shocks and demand (Lowell and Findlay 2001: 14). For instance, an electronics engineer will become a seafarer or an IT graduate into a maid (ibid). Education can be a means to landing in a better life but it’s not the only option. As Ferguson (1994: 12) reiterates, “Schools, the Marxists argue, were established by the capitalist state in order to reproduce labour power for an industrial order whose jobs were organized hierarchically. They are not tools of engineering social equality – they are by nature mechanisms for reproducing labour power for a class society”. Putting children in schools encourages a society of monetary division of labour which is different from traditional life where they learn on-hand practical things with their families and where social relations are centre in their subsistence economic system (Doeppers 1984; Larkin 1972; Reed 1978). This kind of education where people are prepared for a specialised roles as opposed to teaching sustainable options such as self-reliance does not help people as many sell their land to earn the extra money for their children’s education.

Another problem I have with education is that due to the value placed on it within the society there are many who fall into deep debts when parents send their children to higher education, especially to universities that has good reputation including University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila University, and De La Salle University. However, the Philippines face high rates of unemployment even today hence the reason why many go abroad and change their career paths (Lowell and Findlay 2001). Even when graduates apply for jobs, employers usually discriminate based on educational background, favouring those who have studied in exclusive schools and high ranking universities which tuition fees are not affordable by the bread-winner in the family with no stable job. Therefore, in this case, education does not alleviate the poor from their conditions.

  1. The Philippine economy is growing however, what does this mean when ‘poverty’ is still widespread? How is economic growth defined when there is still poverty? According to NEDA and UNDP Philippines (2014: 2, 4, 6; also World Bank n.b), “despite the high economic growth in recent years, progress in reducing poverty has been slow. While income poverty has declined from 34.4% in 1991 to 25.2% in 2012, this is still far from the MDC target of 17.2% by [this year].” In 2013, Unemployment is 7.1%, 2.9 million unemployed persons, which is an improvement from 27.9%, 11 million unemployed persons, in 2008 (CIA 2014a; CMA 2013; Lowell and Findlay 2001; NEDA and UNDP Philippines; World Bank 2014)… [However] having a job does not guarantee living above the poverty line. The average income of the households belonging to the richest is about eighteen times that of the average income of the households belonging to the poorest.”

The UN and other inter-governmental agencies currently define the global poverty rate as living on $1.25 a day (Kweifio-Okal 2014; Legrain 2002: 50; United Nations 2013; United Nations 2014; World Bank 2014). According to Rist (2008) poverty is usually measured by what you have financially, if you have less money, then you are poor. The industrialised world places emphasis on commodity (goods and services) the idea is, the more we have or accumulate the better life is (Rist 2008:16). However, there are certainly many conceivable ways of being ‘affluent’ and ‘poverty’ (Sahlins 1972). I will expand on this in the next section.

Why, with ample resources, “a fertile country rich in natural resources… flora and fauna abound… and the widest possible varieties of fruits and vegetables are to be found” is the Philippines labelled a ‘poor’ country? (Davis 1987: 1). Are poor countries really ‘poor’? When we consider that Philippine resources such as timber, petroleum, nickel, cobalt, silver, gold, salt, copper, and natural produce are exploited mainly for export and not for local and national use and that multinational companies are benefiting from this resource extraction as opposed to locals. Hence, developing nations provide the developed world with raw materials needed for production and manufacturing. It seems plausible to say that economic expansion and foreign investment does not alleviate people from ‘poor conditions’ (CIA 2014a; UNDP n.b.). There is sustainable development as an alternative to mainstream development, however it still means venturing into the capitalist system and adopting a consumerist and materialistic lifestyle, which is not sustainable.

The UN and other inter-government organisations express the need “for developing countries to concentrate all their resources for the cause of development” (UNGA 1974: 3). This means two things: (1) resource exploitation and environmental degradation and (2) increase of inequality (Rist 2008: 13-16). Resource extraction for commercial profit can be seen everywhere. It is usually attributed to the destructive forces of the capitalist economy (Mosse 2013: 229). While the effects of development and globalisation are being recognised, it is also required that all nations need “to put an end to the waste of natural resources” which is an oxymoron (UNGA 1974: 4).

Economic exponential growth is not realistic ineffective (Seligson and Passé-Smith 1998). Rather it stagnates when it reaches its ‘carrying capacity’ (ibid). We live in a finite world in which primary sources are being depleted and are already running out despite our technological advances (Meadows et al 2005). Capital and wealth accumulation on the national scale does not mean poverty reduction (Seligson and Passé-Smith 1998). The root causes of poverty must be considered.

According to James Ferguson, an American anthropologist, neo-liberal capitalism furthers the divide between rich and poor. “It appears self-evident that debtor Third World nation-states and starving peasants share a common ‘problem’, that both lack a single ‘thing’: development. If capitalism is not a progressive force but a reactionary one in the Third World – not the cause of development but the obstacle to it, not the cure for poverty but the cause of it – then a capitalist-run development project is a fundamentally contradictory endeavor. If it is meant to promote imperial capitalism (and why else would capitalist institutions like the World Bank, USAID, etc. do it?) then it cannot at the same time be an instrument for development, at least not for ‘real’ development” (Ferguson 1994: 11). Growth in numbers without real difference in the lives of people is ineffective (Seligson and Passé-Smith 1998)

As Katy Gardner (2012: 23) puts it in her book about the consequences of extractive multinational industries in Bangladesh, “while DFID and the World Bank clearly believe that the exploitation of the country’s gas and coal reserves by multinationals will lead to growth, and hence contribute to a reduction in poverty, [this is however far from guaranteed] for resource extraction invariably involves dispossessing large numbers of people from the land and profits are accumulated by the elite. Indeed, there is ample evidence that global capitalism has a habit of increasing inequality and hence exacerbating poverty.”

 PART II: ANTHROPOLOGY OF DEVELOPMENT

WHY DOES THE WEST PROMOTE ECONOMIC AND HUMAN DEVELOPMENT AND IS THIS A FORM OF COLONIALISM?

 Even though European imperialism has been a thing of the past and most countries in Africa, Asia-Pacific, and the Americas have already gained independence, could current discussion on who is rich and who is poor, which countries are prosperous and which we should help develop, re-surface the colonial heritage of power and domination but in a different form? Why are developed nations and inter-governmental agencies such as the United Nations, pro-development? Are there alternative forms of development?

According to the Oxford Dictionary, development is “the gradual growth of something so that it becomes more advanced, stronger, etc.” (Hornby 2005:418). Development as a word in itself is a relatively recent addition to the English language. However, the idea of ‘progression’ is not a contemporary phenomenon. It has ancient roots (Rist 2008; Latouche 1996). For instance, in antiquity, the Romans, the Greeks, and their easternmost counterparts reflected on the advancement of their societies.

For some, the idea of development stemmed from the Enlightenment Period because during this era there were advances in scientific research and industrial production of materials. This led to a greater emphasis on scientific rational as opposed to religious and spiritual beliefs (Lewis 2005; Edelman and Haugerud 2005). Others would argue that modern development stemmed from WWII when European states lay in ruins, their governments with the help of America, pledged to “improve the material circumstances of their citizens” (Edelman and Haugerud 2005: 6). After the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944, the role of development was to reduce world poverty. When U.S. President Harry S. Truman took office in 1945, he promised that the US would help reconstruct the ‘underdeveloped’ areas of the world, which included Asia, Africa, and Latin America by providing financial assistance as well as technological and scientific enterprise opportunities (Edelman and Haugerud 2005; Lewis 2005).

A consequence of development is social evolution and socio-cultural change. The Enlightenment gave birth to the idea that there is only one path to human progression. Social evolutionists at the height of the colonial period applied Darwin’s theory of evolution to human societies, arguing that the Africans, Asians, and the natives of the Americas, were ‘backward’. Hence, development is favoured. If a society is to develop, it has to leave ‘primitive’ practices, characterised by ‘impoverished’ traditional subsistence economy and tribal kinship rule in order to adapt the ‘modern’, ‘civilised’ and ‘advanced’ life, characterised by industry, capitalism, science, technology, and bureaucratic rule (Edelman and Haugerud 2005: 2; Ferguson 1994: 15). The hope is that societies shall transform from one end of the spectrum of human evolution to the other. Those who have not yet achieved this transition have to catch up with the industrially developed countries (Rist 2008: 9).

A primary reason for this is their subsistence, believed to be intrinsically linked to intellectual capacities. Agriculture is seen as a driver of civilisation and those whose subsistence does not depend on this – hunting-gathering-fishing and nomadism – are merely ‘starving’ as with the plight of the First Nations people in America to land claims and continuance of traditional life against the wider government and development companies (Asch and Wishart 2004; Diamond 1999; Murphy and Steward 1956). The barbarous ‘other’ was seen as still living under the mercy of nature. They were seen as incapable of managing or taming their own environments though it is not inherently true as, for instance, the aborigines of Australia burn forests to cultivate resources thereby investing in their labour (Diamond 1990; Pyne 1997). Colonialists thought that by mastering nature and environment, people could control it to their advantage hence becoming ‘civilised’. Social and environmental improvement is seen to improve and transform the people’s capabilities hence is considered the way forward.

Another aspect of development discourse is the idea that non-agricultural societies are on the verge of hunger, are living lazy lives and are ‘poor’. In his book, Stone Age Economics 1972, Sahlins, has put the food quest to the test. By doing fieldwork amongst the Bushmen of Africa, Sahlins noticed that the hunters were in fact intelligent, highly skilled and were not living on the edge of survival. They hunted what they needed and did not overkill. They did not place value on material possessions this was key to their affluence. On the constant move through seasons, accumulated ‘wealth’ was not necessary. They were in themselves not ‘poor’. Such people focus their energy on complex formations of their religion and kinship relationships. They have more leisure time attributed to spending more time with their families, forming bonds, and socialising. All needs are easily met, in contrast with a materialistic culture in which one accumulates more things but is not satisfied. This economic system and lifestyle was a problem for colonialists as it was anti-imperial. It was hard to subdue such peoples when tribes are living their own economic lives.

Who declares that a country is either ‘under-developed’ or ‘developed’? Who has the power to place countries into categories such as HICs, LEDCs? How is it decided when a country should graduate from ‘poor’ to ‘rich’ status? The economies of developed nations generally fluctuate, especially in the 21st century where economies are inter-connected. When the global economy crashed in 2008, developed nations were greatly affected. Governments had to cut expenditure and come up with legislation to boost economic development. Even though the developed world “declare [themselves] to be [as they are], they are [however] far from lacking interest in their own ‘development’” (Rist 2008: 4) they always want to advance themselves. Hence, if these categories signify something that is unsteady, unstable and dynamic, how do we best categorise nations? If these terminologies are so ambiguous having different implications, then why do we even use them?

In his book Orientalism (1978) Edward Said argues that the Orient was placed within the European experience of it, structuring the Occident within the myths of the Orient (ibid: 1). By attributing that the Orient is something that the West is not – geographically, religiously, and rationally – the subordination of the other was justified. This process is called ‘othering’ where societies exclude the different ‘other’ whom they want to subjugate. As Said wrote, “Europe is a collective notion identifying ‘us’ Europeans against all ‘those’ non Europeans… The hegemony of European ideas about the Orient reiterates European superiority over Oriental backwardness” (ibid: 7). The Orient was depicted as an inferior world, a place of backwardness, irrationality and wilderness. The West, however, identifies themselves as the opposite of such characteristics – progressive, rational, and civil. This stereotyping creates a binary division of the world between ‘us’ and ‘them’ (Said 1978). Although this process of ‘othering’ has been since antiquity in many forms, this is most relevant in development.

The process of ‘othering’ is central in development discourses. By defining affluent ‘us’ from poor ‘them’, we are reinforcing the disparity between cultures and societies. In discussions about global development, the United Nations, the World Bank, and other inter-governmental organisations defined the world into two categories. You are either in the ‘advance economy’ [also called ‘affluent nation, rich, Industrialised, developed, core, the North, the West, MEDC, and the First World’] or you are in a ‘less prosperous’ nation [also called ‘poor, Industrialising, developing, periphery, the South, the East, LEDC, and the Third World’]. According to Latouche (1996), these categories are convenient for one writing about the other.

“People struggle with categories. Categories make us feel comfortable because it’s how we make sense of things in our minds” – Grammy award winner Lecrae Moore (Reach Records n.b)

Methods of indicating the amount of progress nations achieve, rank countries of the world. Human development indicators are measured by standards of living (such as access to basic needs i.e. water, food, and shelter), life expectancy (health), education, and gender equality. These are to identify rates of child malnutrition and youth literacy for instance (Edelman and Haugerud 2005; Lewis 2005; Rist 2008; UNDP 2014; World Bank 2014). Economic growth is measured by the volume of a country’s output and household income (World Bank 2014). Its indicators are GDP, GNP, GNI, gross savings, government debt, inflation rate, etc. (ibid).

What this entails is that only one side of the story being told. Literacy was a tool to extend the sphere of influence and dominance during the colonial period. The literate were in control where written legislation was necessary in order for development projects to be carried out. In 1929, the British government issued a document to legalise British interest in their colonies. It aimed to promote, assist, authorise and encourage the improvement of “agriculture, [irrigation, cultivation] and industry” (ibid: 1). To achieve this, Britain provided advanced technologies. In 1974, a number of developing nations proposed a new economic trade agreement to promote their interests through the UNCTAD. It replaced the Bretton Woods system, which benefitted the leading countries whom introduced it. This document is called the Declaration on the Establishment of a New International Economic Order aimed at, supposedly, to give developing nations more freedom to control their natural resources, to improve terms of trade between developing and developed nations, to reduce export costs from developed countries, to enable developed nations to extend “assistance to developing countries” and promoting “the development of developing countries and the adequate flow of ‘real’ resources to them” (United Nations General Assembly 1974: 3).

In short, “Asia, Africa and Latin America can be defined as underdeveloped and that their communities are ineluctably in need of ‘development’” (Escobar 1997: 502). The way development aid is carried out is usually a one-way flow from North to South (see fig. 2). Whose history are we looking at? Are we looking through lens of the dominant power or the voiceless? With literacy being linked to power and authority, information is controlled. As treaties and contracts are made, people who are illiterate are often victims of exploitation. For example, people who cannot read or write would find it difficult to contest legal challenges such as land grabs.

Screen shot 2015-03-18 at 00.12.15

Fig. 2: One-way cultural flow of ideas in development projects adopted from the 1929 Colonial Development Act and the UN’s 1874 Declaration on the Establishment of a New International Economic Order. This suggests that the relationship is non-mutual where one benefits at the expense of the other.

When we consider the process of ‘othering’ in development discourse, according to anthropologists of international development such as David Mosse, Katy Gardner, James Ferguson, and Arturo Escobar, it sometimes implies the dichotomy between the exploiters versus the exploited.

As mentioned from Part I, development initiatives to increase economic growth, including extraction of natural resources and altering the environment, does not in the long term benefit the people whose resources are bound for generations. In Lesotho, farmers view livestock as ‘retirement fund’ and source of wealth and income when money is short. The World Bank, USAID, and the Lesotho government however viewed this as backward economic system, implementing schemes to increase livestock production and export to the world market. In this case, the development agencies used ‘poverty’ as a way to expand bureaucratic rule as opposed to alleviating their poverty conditions. “The purpose of a development project is to aid capitalist exploitation in a given country…by incorporating new territories into the world system, or working against radical social change, or bribing national elites… the implication is that any concrete aid program, be it any early 1960s ‘big dam’ project, late 1970s ‘basic needs’, or whatever, is explained almost by definition, by the ‘logic of capital’” (Ferguson 1994: 11).

INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT: VOLUNTOURISM

An example of development in action is ‘voluntourism’. This is when people from developed countries carry out voluntary work in developing countries. This has gained popularity especially among young people and carries a wide range of benefits for the volunteer such as cultural awareness and understanding of global diversity.

There are many organisations that specialise in this type of activity, both government-funded and not-for-profit. These include VSO, Progressio, Restless Development, DFID funded ICS and many charities. Activities range from tree planting and supporting community tourism projects in El Salvador to improving primary education materials for nomadic children in Nigeria, addressing gender inequality in India to promoting recycling and protecting the jungles of the Philippines. Strong marketing initiatives are used to generate interest in this industry. Eye catching advertising including phrases such as ‘challenge yourself to change your world’, ‘boost your resume or enhance your CV’, ‘help fight poverty abroad’, ‘work and travel in an exciting new country’, along side graphics which imply the experience is fun for the volunteer.

Although the intention is to assist ‘poverty stricken nations’, voluntourism has been widely criticised. Our portrayal of the ‘other’ is ethically and morally distorted. A Swedish group SAIH (2014) recently released a video on the Youtube website which voices concern at the stereotyping of people in developing countries for fundraising campaigns and charity marketing. In the video, after teaching children how to read in English, a Caucasian female is filmed taking ‘selfies’ (self portrait taken with a digital camera, smartphone, tablet, laptop or other electronic device to be posted on social networking sites) with the children.

A journalist writing on U.S. foreign policy, is one of the first critics to respond, (Jose 2014) wrote, “a white, blond girl jumps out with high-calorie food in hand, dressed in a white tank top, shorts and a stylish bandanna. She runs toward an unknown destination and does what every good volunteer does: starts hurling food at hungry mouths. There is nothing wrong with the humanitarian impulse…. But as the SAIH video shows, this aid often comes in the form of activities that make little difference or misunderstands the cultural context in which it operates. There are ways to make a difference abroad. But snapping selfies with orphans isn’t one of them.”

Many undertake voluntourim because they are awarded “with a sociocultural badge of honour” (Jose 2014). Voluntourists are usually commended and are regarded highly in their own society because “they have chosen hardship and have survived”, according to Zakira (2014), a political philosopher. “There is a sense of glorification and sense of heroism… whereas working in community projects locally, people are not as enthusiastic” (cited in Herrman 2015, an Emmy-nominated filmmaker). Moreover, the experience gained gives them advantage over other job applicants. Therefore, the volunteer is benefiting, “as opposed to the recipient community’s actual needs” (Zakira 2014). Also, “other people’s problems seem simpler, uncomplicated and easier to solve than those of one’s own society. In this context, the decontextualized hunger and homelessness in Haiti, Cambodia or Vietnam is an easy moral choice. In simple terms, the lack of knowledge of other cultures makes them easier to help.”(ibid).

In her documentary film Framed (pending release date), Herrman sets out on a quest to find the motivations behind the West’s fascination with saving Africa and the rest of the developing world. America is the biggest exporter of voluntourists to Africa. About a million Americans volunteer abroad every year and this “has become almost a rite of passage for Americans, particularly students” Herrman (2015). But why look to far-flung places when problems closer to home are similar to that in Africa? Issues like racism, hunger, child poverty, and homelessness can be found in America. In the short extract of the video, Kenyan photojournalist and activist Boniface Mwangi asks ‘why help us when your own country needs help’ (paraphrased) to high school and university students alike who are enrolled in international volunteer programs elsewhere in the world in order to challenge established images and myths of developing nations. ‘Start local before going international’ (paraphrased) (ibid).

SAIH produced other videos regarding development aid. In one satirical video, Radi-Aid Warmth for Xmas (2014), the tables have been turned around. Here, instead of an affluent country generating public empathy on starving Africans, they portrayed Norwegians as living in poverty. At the end of the video, we see an African ambassador giving aid to the Norwegians. “Imagine if every person in Africa saw [the video] and this was the only information they ever got about Norway. What would they think about Norway?“ (Africa for Norway n.b.) (see fig. ).

Western charities and NGOs use professional filmography, photography, and the media to win people’s support for an unquestionably good cause. However, in doing so, we produce generalisations thereby promoting prejudicial stereotypes (Zakira 2014). Going back the film Framed, Western portrayal of the ‘other’ unfortunately creates difference and divides people. We are fabricating power construction in which a people is perceived better off over weaker others (Herrman and Mathers 2014). This is referred to as ‘poverty porn’, ‘famine porn’, or ‘development porn’ coined by Matt (2009), a research fellow at the Centre for Global Development Europe and Centre for African Economies at the University of Oxford. In his blog Aid Thoughts, he defines this as “any type of media, be it written, photographed or filmed, which exploits the poor’s condition in order to generate the necessary sympathy for selling newspapers or increasing charitable donations or support for a given cause…” (ibid). We are thus ‘exploiting’ them to achieve universal ideals of basic human rights.

Matt (2009) states, “the argument that the poor are completely incapable of rescuing themselves, either at the micro or at the country-level, removes all respect for their own agency and cultivates a culture of paternalism”. This ‘culture of paternalism’ is what Cole (2010), a writer and historian, describes as the ‘White-Saviour Industrial Complex’ in which the people of Europe consider themselves able to effect good change for the rest. A Ugandan journalist argues, in response to a worldwide campaign to overthrow a rebel leader in Uganda, it seems “the power lies in America and it does not lie with my government, it does not lie with local initiatives on the ground. I have a problem with that because it is the same narrative we have seen about Africa for centuries” (Kagumire 2012). Advocacy and humanitarian impulse has been turned into something that reinforces geo-political power structures and establishes a relationship of that of a ‘saviour and a victim’ rather than as of human compatriots, according to associate sociology professor Zine Magubane from Harvard University (Herrman and Mathers 2014).

In his book The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good (2006) Easterly argues that sending billions of dollars of aid to developing nations does not simply make poverty disappear or make situations better. The ‘planners’ “try to design the ideal aid agencies, administrative plans, and financial resources that will do the job… they keep pouring resources into a fixed objective, despite many previous failures at reaching that objective…. They escalate the scope of intervention when previous intervention fails. They fail to search for what does work to help the poor” (ibid: 10-11). Developed nations may not take it into consideration that that developing nations are capable of helping themselves and that they are not waiting passively for the West to save them (ibid: 23). In short, development aid does not always consider the local context and situational needs of its recipients.

No matter how much development aid affluent nations pump into other countries, poverty cannot be eliminated and ‘development’ cannot be achieved (Rogoff 2014). We can’t make a lasting difference in poverty reduction and economic and human development because our aid efforts do get to the source of the problem – internal conflict, despotism and the effects of Western imperialism on the people, the environment, and their economies (ibid). Bolton (2007), a diplomat and aid worker working in Africa for DFID, argues that the West sometimes does not consider that it took themselves a gradual process of social change through years of civil unrest, Enlightenment, and two World Wars to reach their development. By telling the ‘rest’ to comply with United Nations standards of human rights and development, we are imposing our values again as we did centuries ago. This ‘interventionist attitude’ causes further inequality in our world as we actually make the rest dependent on us (Easterly 2006).

Institutions such as the UN and governments of developed nations, are inherently grooming the Third World to think themselves inferior. Most people in the Third World, desire the power of ex-colonisers because of the perceived ‘greatness’ of the European entity. “This attack on self-image furthers exploitation” (Latouche 1996: 19). The presence of European volunteers in these places re-emphasise this ‘greatness’. As a result, locals admire the knowledge and technology that the West brings to their country. Foucault (1977) reveals how institutions condition the mentalities of people to follow institutional guidelines. In development, this is effective in keeping former colonies in line with the West. This negative manipulation imposes fear on people to make them adopt international economic guidelines and human rights. Fear of the West’s power triggers others to obey the rules of the dominant power.

In addition to the questions I sent out to my Filipino friends, I sent another batch of questions to find out if the ordinary person is aware of ethnocentrism in development. I chose a few people who specifically pointed out that Philippines should become like the West in many aspects. The questions are as follows: (1) why are developed nations models of ‘progress’? (2) What is ‘progress’? (3) Are you aware that there may be ethnocentrism or Eurocentrism in modern human and economic development? (4) If development is defined in ethnocentric terms such as linear progression in human evolution, then would you say this is neo-colonialism? (5) What is ‘poverty’? (6) What is important in life? Do you agree with the MDGs?

The responses are as follows: (1) ‘developed countries have a function model that is successful. Are people in developing countries going to learn this?’, ‘developed countries all started from scratch but they have the right mind-set, attitude, culture, and philosophy to bring them forward’, ‘they are the only available model of progress as the opposite of this is under-developed or undeveloped. You don’t want a Third World country to be a model of development’. (2) Most responded in a way that indicated progress is a linear evolution, arguing that ‘progress measures the difference between the beginning and the end product’, ‘it means improvement’, it means ‘a movement forward not backward’ and it means ‘higher GNP, more job opportunities, less unemployment rate’. (3) Most left this blank, one person said ‘yes’, one uttered ‘nope, I have never heard of it’, and one argued that human and economic development is not race related but that it is influenced by ideology and religion. (But whose ideology are we talking about? Cultural ideologies?) (selected answers, some are paraphrased, personal communications).

(4) Most argued that colonialism is non existent today not knowing the arguments put forward on this paper about the ‘othering’, homogenized idea of ‘poverty’ and ‘affluence’, and unequal power relations partly driven by the literate, educated elite. One argues, ‘what is colonialism anyway? Influence from a developed country does not equal colonialism’, ‘at this era of World History, the thought of western domination is an antiquated idea’ and one person said ‘this is not new’. (5) Most conceded to the universal idea of what ‘poor’ is and that is ‘living below the minimum wage and who are not making a good living’, ‘it means lack of many things including money and resources’, it means ‘living below the standard where one does not enjoy basic needs’, people who live a ‘lifestyle of laziness’ and ‘improper use of finances’. (6) Most argued that the most important things in life are food, shelter, health, and family and the other two are finances and education. (selected answers, some are paraphrased, personal communications).

The question I want to leave with you is, in a capitalist system where everything is commoditised and in a world that emphasises on accumulation of wealth and consumerism, how can we put these important aspects first? Money has been central to our social and economic activities affecting our relations with each other and with our planet. According to Jondai, a farmer and founder of an organic farm in Northeast Thailand ‘Pun Pun Centre for Self-reliance’, we make life very difficult though it should be easy (Tedx Talks 2011). We make everyone work hard, to be more educated so that we can get jobs yet we eat poorly, disregarding our health for monetary gains. “The birds make a nest in one or two days, the rats dig a hole in one night but the clever humans like us spend thirty years to have a house. Why do we destroy our strength, why do we destroy our ability that much?” (ibid). Farmers are being told that they are ‘poor’ so they can move to cities working and studying for many hours. “I start to look at the subjects and every faculty has destructive knowledge. There’s no productive knowledge in university for me [at least for rural farmers]. To be an engineer and agriculturalist is to destroy the environment. The good land and mountains will be covered in concrete more and more. You learn how to poison the land, the water, and learn to destroy everything” (ibid).

Jondai argues that 30-40 years ago, “everybody worked only two months a year. Planting rice in one month and harvesting rice in another. The rest is free time, ten months of free time. During the day everyone can take a nap. Because of this, they have a lot of time to be with themselves, and when they have time to be with themselves they have time to understand themselves. When they understand themselves they can see what they want in their lives. As a consequence, people see beauty and love in life. They express this by carving the handle of their knife and weaving baskets nicely. But now, nobody can do this. People use plastic everywhere… we are so reliant on money, for food, for health, etc. But to make life easy, we need to come back to ourselves, to connect to ourselves again and to connect to other people. Food, housing, clothes and medicine must be accessible for people. That’s civilisation. But if you make things hard for people to get these four basic needs, that’s uncivilised. I feel like now is the most uncivilised era of humans on this Earth. We have so many people who finish university, have so many universities on the earth, have so many clever people but our life is harder and harder. In schools, we were taught to make life complicated. We make it hard for whom? We work hard for whom right now? This is not normal. Let’s come back to our senses and be inspired by the animals around us. So I stopped living in the abnormal way and start living normally but people look at me as abnormal” (TedxTalks 2011).

This is a voice that many from marginalised communities, including indigenous groups in developing nations are cohesive with. Examples are Michael Tausig (1977)’s fieldwork amongst South American peasantry and Aihwa Ong (1988)’s fieldwork amongst the orang-asli of Malaysia during the advent of the capitalist system in the 1970s and 1980s and Ash and Wishart (2004)’s ethno-historical study of the plight of Slavey Indians against the construction of a pipeline by CAGPL.

Colonialism is the process of establishing, maintaining and expanding influence over another place or people. New territories are claimed by sovereign powers through mercantilism and missionary actions. Colonialism is partly driven by economics in that Europeans who need raw materials set out to discover places rich in resources. Through their ‘advanced technologies’ and ‘rational ideals’ they took advantage of the environment and people. Those who lived in the land for many generations, centuries, or thousands of years were forced to leave or be killed as they were considered to be hindering civilisation. Their version of history is often ignored and denied. Is development any different?

For Serge Latouche (1996:20), a French emeritus professor in political science and economy, “development meant aspiring to the Western model of consumption, the magical power of the whiteman, [to develop is to be] in communication with the religion of science and revering technology – but also demanding Westernisation on one’s own account, so as to become more Westernised (Latouche 1996: 20). The West has already taken over the world in so many different aspects making its mark in world history permanently. For instance, adoption to a unified time-zone system, the Gregorian calendric system, constructing infrastructure, exporting and importing resources on an industrial scale, “forests exploited, deserts re-afforested, high-yield plants, use of technology, establishment of factories, and wage-jobs.” (Rist 2008: 11).

“It seems that in both theory and practice, development is nothing but the sequel of colonisation, a new and more radical kind of Westernisation.” (Latouche 1996)

 

CONCLUSION

This paper has set out to understand why many in the Third World want to become like the West in many aspects with particular focus on the Filipino story. I found that not many is aware of ethnocentricism in development, arguing that colonialism is a thing of the past and that we are all ‘civilised’ in today’s world. They perceive economic growth and human development as ‘progress’. Surely there is not a sole way to progress, certainly not a linear one in human evolution. Their responses are in geared towards a Westernisation of the Philippines. They do not know that ‘poverty’ and ‘affluence’ is culturally relevant and that one can have less or live in so called ‘poor’ conditions but still live a happy and satisfied life. Poverty and affluence has been universally measured through financial means but this is not usually the case for minorities and indigenous communities throughout the world whose satisfaction lay in their own life-ways and world-views.

We have seen that inequality between the rich and the poor increase with international development. The Philippines is an example of a developing nation struggling to meet the expectation of developed nations and the international standard set by the United Nations, the World Bank, etc. The lack of employment opportunities despite many graduate with exceptional grades keeps poverty going as opposed to curing it. Education, foreign investment, and businesses are not the only paths to a successful life. As Jondai has proven, it makes life so hard when it shouldn’t be. Mainstream education breed people to be dependent on monetary terms for food, shelter, and health as opposed to training people to be self-reliant, including growing their own foods and building their houses with neighbours or close relatives. Everything has been centralised and basic needs are controlled in the industrial society. Even though factory farming is supposedly to feed large-scale societies, lack of money meant starvation, driving people to commit atrocious actions.

Escobar, Gardner, Ferguson, and Latouche contend that extending the capitalist economic system to the rest is committing cultural genocide hence, this is no different from previous colonialism but an extension of it. The United Nations and developed countries are forefront to global development however their ethnocentric and Eurocentric ideals are not the means on its end. They are regarded as models of progress because of hundreds of years in grooming the rest to think that way. This process of ‘othering’ is significant in understanding unequal power relations and geo-political power structures in our world where it may be invisible for the layman. Can we allow other people to develop in their own terms? If not then we are embarking in a world that is becoming more homogenised and Europeanised ideologically (scientific rationale and universal human rights) and technologically.

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Indigestion with insight from John 15 (NLT)

I had a really bad indigestion on April 29. I ate food every one or two hours from 6am-8pm. I do not know if the food I ate was the cause of why there was pain on stomach and abdomen or if it was the amount of food. But here is the story…

6am – breakfast with rice, hotdog, and scrambled egg

8am – camomile tea

11am – lunch with the famous beef bowl of Yoshinoya

1pm – Cheese fries

2pm – Vietnamese food called “Bún Chả Cá” at a Vietnamese restaurant (however, the food was far from original. I know this for sure because I have lived in Hanoi and most Vietnamese food served outside Vietnam taste so different because they are either an adoption from the original version or taste weird due to different ingredients used.)

4pm – milk green tea at Gong Cha with a friend and finally,

7:30pm – tempura at Yoshinoya.

So…. what was wrong with the food I ate?!? I cannot find any solid reason because I have eaten more food in a day than that time.

I felt pain on my stomach and abdomen at 7:30pm after reading for two hours at a bookstore. It became worse after having eaten dinner. After the final meal of the day, my stomach was already hard and I could not bend down. Every time I stood up, it hurt even more. I was dizzy and felt like vomiting so I told my aunt that we should go to a nearby cafe to drink tea to hopefully help my digestive system work properly. I resulted to drinking tea because I have heard that  tea helps the digestive system.

I cannot pinpoint if the ginseng peppermint tea helped reduce the pain for awhile or if it was the prayer my parents had uttered on the phone but I believe it was the prayer that reduced the pain for about 30 minutes but  why does it have to came back after 30 minutes? Does God have a reason or was it just a natural occurrence? I am saying this because sometimes God let things happen to protect his children from what is  about to happen. For instance, I have heard a testimony from a person who shared that his life was spared due to minutes of delay, with no actually reason, from eating breakfast in the lobby of Marriott Hotel when it was bombed in 2003, Jakarta, Indonesia.

When my aunt went to buy medicine for me, I called up my parents and forced them to stop doing what they were occupied with to let them pray over me. After praying, my father asked me to stand up to check if it is still painful. Apparently, the pain was gone! I was so surprised of course because I was suffering from it in a not so private place and suddenly, it was gone. I told my father over the phone, “I was praying desperately before I called you but the pain never died down”. Then my father asked me, “why, why do you think God listens to my prayer over yours when it’s the same?”. I replied, “Maybe because you are closer to him than I am? Maybe because you read the Bible everyday and spend time to understand and hear His voice than I do? Maybe because you chose righteousness over wickedness?”

This incident is interesting because my devotion two days later is related to it. I read John 15 (New Living Translation) and the following is what I have got from my devotion:

Message: Jesus is the grapevine and God is the gardener. God prunes everything that does not produce fruit and prunes the branches that produce fruit to produce more (15:1-2)

  • When we obey God we remain in His love (15:10)
  • Our Joy will overflow as we remain in God’s love (15: 10-11)
  • Anyone who hates Him also hates God (15: 23)

Promise: If we remain in Him and His words remain in us, we can ask anything we want and it will be granted! (15:7)

Command: Remain in Him and He will remain in you. One cannot produce fruit and be fruitful without remaining in Him (15:4)

Warning: The world will persecute us because they persecuted and hated Christ first (15: 18-21)

Application: Remain in His love because we would be joyful, and we may ask Him for anything that He grant.

John 15 instruct us to remain in God so that He will remain in us. So if we ask of anything from Him, it will be granted because we are close to Him. The discussion about prayer is a lot more than this simple verse, such as,  the answer to our prayer depend on whether or not what we are praying for will benefit us in the long term, which I will not look into it further. I believe, ‘remain’ means taking time to be with Him to seek God in everything we do, to read His word, and to understand Him. What else can we do in order to remain in Him?  It does not mean that if we do not do this then God will not remain in us. Our relationship with God is similar with our affair with people, which is based on mutual relationship. God seeks to have relationship with each and everyone but it’s up to us to accept Him and remain in Him.

In conclusion, I never want to think again that any horrible experience I face is because of me not having a personal relationship with God. I shall try my best to take time to remain in God because I have not done so for years.

What about you? Are you going to try to remain in God? Why and why not?

Preference of communication: e-mail or sms over talking on the fone?

Are you a kind of person that prefers to send e-mail or sms as the main means of communication?

I would just like to ask if there are people who are such. This is because I confidently and formally communicate to people via e-mail or sms whether they be professors, fellow group mates/workmates, or anyone I need to contact for certain reasons. This is so I could explain and elaborate things further as I personally am not the kind who speaks on the spot with confidence.

For instance, if I have questions concerning a subject matter in a lecture, I do not inquire during the lecture or tutorial because I had some experience in which I get embarassed when the answer asks me back or when the answer is logical to which I have not thought of which makes me feel stupid. My mind goes blank or I speak with less self-confidence when I open my mouth in the lecture hall without practicing in advance. Another case was when I was the secretary at UNICEF on Campus at the university, I tend to contribute to the group and the group understand me much more when I e-mail them rather than speaking during committee meetings because of the same reason above that I speak unconfidently when I have not practiced enough of what I was going to say.

I believe, as a person, I am learning to speak with confidence on the spot and know what I will say or argue about as the time goes by.  It is part of the maturity stage to improve such character or trait because I am sure, after graduation, I do have to work with people in an NGO, charity based, or international environment to which communication skills must be excellent.

I would just like to share something that cost me £200 in a week. I spent £200 calling the US embassy based in London last year concerning my purpose of visit to Alaska. This is because my sim card is ‘pay as you go’ type and is not with contract. I remember had to practice what I was going to say and what kind of questions I was to ask so that I will not get a blank mind or speak nervously with lots of halt. Unknowingly this increased my blood pressure due to the stress this kind of communication brought. I had to call the embassy because it is required for visa enquiries. Sending e-mails is by selection on a case that the officer cannot answer himself.  It was stressful because I did not know what kind of english accent I need to prepare myself in order to understand carefully and I also do not want the person I was speaking with to repeat more than twice what he/she was saying. I would like to share something I have learned over the years living in different countries – and that is encountering various accents and ways of speaking english. For example, when I first came to Aberdeen, Scotland, It was hard for me to comprehend what people are saying due to the accent which was very new to me. But as the time goes by, I am able to  understand Aberdonians. Similarly, when I first came to Vietnam and Malaysia, it was hard to understand people when they speak english probably due to their own languages having influence on the pronunciation of english words.

Therefore, there is stress attached to speaking on the phone on my part because I had some experience in which it was extremely hard to understand the person on the other line resulting in irritation at times. In the same way, I get stressed out when it comes to speaking to someone personally or in a group due to the fact that I need to defend my argument in the spot without much preparation in hand. On the contrary, executing a speech, talk or presenting something is quite easy for me as it implies preparing what to say ahead in time and potential questions.

What is your reason to why you prefer to send e-mail or sms rather than speaking on the phone, to someone or to a group?

What is your main means of communication to people and why?

Be Lifted High by Brian Johnson is a wonderful song

Have you heard this song? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tq1G8V05yQw. This is the live version, feel free to search for the recorded version as it is quite good too.

I first heard this song 3 months ago at New Life Christian Fellowship one Sunday morning during worship. Today, my heart, mind, and soul want to keep singing this song because God had convicted me from selfishly pursuing my own plans leaving God’s plan and purpose for me stranded somewhere. I am aware that my own design for my life is nothing compared to when I set my eyes back to Jesus Christ and see things in his perspective for my life.

I am human, and I am not perfect. I must admit, majority of the times I plan my life without coming to God and consulting him first, which unconsciously make me feel boastful and egoistic of my deeds and achievements and also feel worry and anxiety at most times in the process. But this song takes me back to the real purpose of life – and that is to give glory to God and not to devote one’s life for one’s own passions, wants, and goals and not to put much emphasis in one’s welfare.

Whenever I feel that I am walking ahead from God when planning for the future and make decisions, I stop and my whole self sing songs that glorifies God. By doing so, I let God be the first in my life, in my decision making, and in my life plans.

I picture myself in the position of my dog. Whenever I walk him and at times when he walks fast in front pulling me, I shout his name so he will slow down and wait for me. There are also times in which he slows down to stop and to look at me in order to wait or check whether he is going the right pace. Any time I sing songs like this, I slow down my adrenalin and wait on God’s timing and words, after all, His plans and purposes are higher than ours. Though we may not like and appreciate it and though we experience hurt or bad things we think we should not deserve, God’s decisions always bring benefit in the long run and not just for us but also to others. This is because we may be a blessing to or learn from others or others would be a blessing to or would learn from us. I realise this from years of being a Christ follower because God is not all about one person itinerary, he is about changing lives and making an impact people, especially to non Christian believers.

This song is simple but it stresses out lifting up Jesus Christ in our lives.

Be lifted high….

For Your Glory, Be lifted high…

 

He is the King of all the ages

He is the Author of Salvation

He is the reason why we’re singing, for [His] Glory

He is the everlasting Father 

He is the all consuming fire

Shaved head: Day 1

http://shave4change.wordpress.com/2012/11/15/shave-for-change-no-to-human-trafficking/

Will put up the link to the video I made soon.

My experiences of being bald had started! It is once in a lifetime opportunity so I will document each experiences, if not everyday, every time I discover something. So far, since I left the salon at around 11:30am yesterday to right now, in terms of what I physically feel, I feel very super refreshed! My head is lighter. When the wind blows, my head feels like I just dipped it in the water. Though I feet as if I have my hair is in ponytail, I feel very refreshed!

After shaving my head and watched Little Princess Trust’s video, since my friend suggested me to donate my hair to an NGO that makes wigs for children suffering from hair loss, I realised that I have said “I think she should shave her hair and donate it toa charity” to every woman I see and come across with.

I did receive negative comments and criticism from my little cousins and those people who know me but when I stated the reason why I did it, they supported and accepted me for what I have done. On the other hand, my parents and my fiance, until now, cannot accept the fact that I have shaved my head. I thought my fiance was already slowly accepting it however for the past 2 hours, our conversation did not get far. He stated that I have hurt him by shaving my off hair but I argued that I want to do so and that he should not get angry so much that it is affecting our relationship. I feel limited again to what my fiance and my parents dictate to me however, shaved head is what I want. I want to post the video of my head being shaved and make a blog to why I did it. I did not cheat on him, I did not kiss or have sex with another guy. I still love him. I am still the same person, however, with a different kind of experience now that alot of people will get curious why my hair is gone.

After shaving my head, I went to a shopping mall. It was unbelievable that I was able to face the outside world after doing something socially unbelievable. I did not care about what other people thought about me yesterday, I just went on with my business as it is normal. I think being normal helped me in a way that I did not get conscious about other people and their thoughts when they stared me. In fact, I did not even realise people were staring at me until my little cousin disturbingly had told me about it as she was more consciousof my head than myself.

My little cousin was quite funny as she was hurling insulting words like “oh you look ugly now!”, “You look like a boy!”, “can you please put on a hat?”, “Why did you have to do it?!” and many more. I found it quite funny that she was the first one to test my patience and how long I can take such mental distress. On the other hand, she unknowingly made me stronger. While she kept hurling words at me in front of other people and especially while my hair was being shaved, I kept reminding her, “do not worry, I shaved it for a good cause”. I have no regrets, in fact I feel very refreshed! I love the fact that I am able to tell people so publicly about human trafficking, what it is, and what we can do to combat it. I like the fact that when people stare at me  for so long, I am able to go to them and speak about the cause. In essence, I am satisfied with my shaved hair because not only I stood up for a good cause, it also made me  mentally stronger.

Would I suggest other women to follow? One of my friends has told me that he greatly supports me because he thinks that every girl should have gone through like this for life changing experience. I agree with him. However, on the basis that she would mentally prepare herself for what is to come after shaving. My fiance has told me if I have foreseen that we would argue about this. I told him, no because there is no need to since I still love him the same. I understand that he very much disagree to me doing such a thing and has taken our argument into a further depressing level. I hope that we would come back to each other again after a few days or weeks of break 😦

Do you agree with my friend? Do you think you would ever shave your hair in your life for a cause or personal reasons? If not, why so?

This is a photo of my hair before shaving

This is the aftermath

Singing songs of a language you do not speak

A few days after arriving in Hong Kong, my little brother has been playing Gangnam Style by PSY (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bZkp7q19f0). I first watched a parody of it called “KL Style” shot by Malaysian Youtuber JinnyboyTV (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GOFkFHKVzyg). After then, I watched the original song which is Gangnam Style and I really do not know why but, I kept playing the song over and over again. Even when I am sleeping, I hear the song and even see people dancing to it (in my dreams). After I introduced Gangnam Style to my fiance, he sent me this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hh9yZWeTmVM because we tend to share amazing music to each other. The song is called The Beginning by the Japanese rock band ONE OK ROCK. Likewise, I have been playing it many times. I got so hooked up into these awesome songs even if I do not understand what they are saying! I have been playing other non english music from 2008 ranging from Japanese, Malaysian, Spanish, Filipino, Chinese and many more…but I have not been so in love with such songs which I do not understand until I heard Gangnam Style and The Beginning.

Do you also listen to songs to which you do not comprehend because you do not speak the language? If so, what do you feel? Do you feel weird and are conscious because you might be singing foul, offensive, and/or sexual words? Of course I do seek out for the translation of the songs and select which ones are not too sexual or not too depressing… but to be very honest, now I really love songs of a language which I do not speak because it keeps the fire going and it takes away the consciousness that I am singing something of wanting to have sex or want to do suicide or something like that. I basically play and sing a song that I do not criticise 100% all the time. Do you also share my thoughts?

Concentration in library

I do not know about you but for me I feel more concentrated and comfortable in the library than at home when I have to do academic things or just about any important task. In addition, I go to the library to relax and find my peace. It might be weird for you but I find the library better than Starbucks because of the relaxing and serious environment (I said serious because the library is full of books and other resources to which a person can learn from and increase his/her horizon of knowledge and intellect). On the other hand, if I spend 5-8 hours a day and 6 days a week in the library, I need to go to a cafe for me not to get sick of being in peace and serious all the time. For this reason, I need to alternate spending time in a library and in a cafe.

I have recently just begun my year break from university and there were alot of things I wanted to share but I could not seem to write them without being in a library. Any library is fine, although I very much miss the University of Aberdeen new library which you can see below. I took this picture on December 2011, after the exams, when there were handful of people to which I can take pictures inside the library at ease.

How about you? Where do you find your concentration? Where do you feel comfortable at most? Where do you go to find relaxation and peace? For me, the answer is library.

“Maundy Thursday”/”Our Happy Time” Movie comments

Korean movie with English subtitles: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_poBtnt-Mao&feature=g-vrec.

9.19.12-This link does not work anymore so here’s an alternative link: http://www.veoh.com/watch/v6489466Y8NYt3SF?h1=KoreanMovie-Our+Happy+Time+(Maundy+Thursday)

I just finished watching a, what I characterise as, disturbing movie. Disturbing not in a horror or thriller way. It is disturbing because it is outrageous. I remember that my mom use to go to a prison, back in the Philippines, to share the good news to prisoners and to help rehabilitate them. My mom and her friend always come back with heartbreaking and saddening stories. I was always curious enough to ask and she has always been willing to tell. She tells me that she met prisoners who have been in prison for 10+ years, to some it may not be that long but what is heartbreaking is that alot of them are innocent and have been, in many cases, been blamed on for someone’s killing or crime. So basically, such prisoners have been in living hell for something they did not even commit. I believe this because it was not only my mom who tells me such stories, I have heard and keep discovering similar stories all over the world as I read biographies, journals, news, and academic papers.

What is outrageous about the movie is that Yun-soo Jeong, a convicted murderer awaiting execution, was executed after the fact that he had changed. He became a changed man from angry, bitter, hateful, and insecure person to an individual who has learned of love, forgiveness, acceptance, hope, and happiness. I am deeply saddened because I know there are prisoners out there who are crying out for second chances to live a changed life but never get to due to i.e. ‘the law’, corruption and… do you find any other reasons? I do not know how the law works for criminals, especially those who have killed people (1 or more). Yes they may have taken a life or lives but in my own voiceless opinion, if a prisoner, whether he be a death row prisoner or not, should be granted a second chance or if not, 3rd, 4th… chances in making his/her life right again if authorities have seen “changes” in their attitudes, not just in a period of months but years of observation to ascertain that the prisoner really did change. To me, taking a life (whether it be through brutal stabbing and beating to quick shots and quiet poisoning) is the same as any other ‘sin’. According to Oxford Dictionaries, (2012, http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/sin?q=sin) sin is “an immoral act considered to be a transgression against divine law”. I am a Christian but probably not the best role model as I do fall back quite alot of times and despite downgrading situations, I do know that God exist but right now, do not have enough faith and trust in Him.. but I’ll get there. Anyways, kinds of sins I can think off from the top of my head are human trafficking and adultery. There are alot more but I would just like to concentrate on these two immoral and disgusting factors. Human trafficking is the same as killing a life because one does more than enslaving a person. Human trafficking has many subdivisions, sex trafficking or sex slavery is one, to which traffickers kidnap little girls or deceive/bait vulnerable women (mostly those in poverty because they would do anything to try to get money to survive in their crippling situations) and force child labor is another, to which children (both boys and girls) are forced to work in any kind of industry available out there because of the very fact that they provide the cheapest labour. Here’s an example of child trafficking: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNpwIzeyjKQ and for further information about human trafficking please see below:

What I am trying to convey is that human trafficking does not only force women and children to do something beyond themselves (i.e. women who are trafficked for the sex industry have to have sex with 10+ men a day, depending on the traffickers, the country, and the situation, with little or no pay and treated like animals, hence, subjected to beatings and more violence… if you are in their situation, would you love being in such circumstances? I understand if a prostitute does what she is best doing but women who are deceived that they would have a decent job with a good salary but forced into sex slavery is so much different from women who sleeps with men in their own freewill. This is the case of the 8 Filipino women who were trafficked to Malaysia buy rogue agencies in June of 2009 in a local Malaysian newspaper, this still goes on until today), trafficking has long lasting impacts on the victims. Impacts can be physical, mental, emotional and social. Victims of human trafficking normally are traumatised and need rehabilitation to reintegrate themselves back into our societies. Human trafficking is the same as killing people because the victims have deep scares which will negative impacts in their lives.

In the same way, I believe, adultery is like killing someone because, even though I do not come from a family whose one of the parents have cheated or have sexual relations with someone outside their marriages, the emotional and mental hurt will have a negative impact not just on their married behalf but also on their children. This is because I know people, whose parents have committed adultery and hence been divorce or have multiple partners, who are very much affected and have a sense of long term hurt and pain which they carry on with their everyday lives. In addition, you may also include rape together with the two examples.

There are alot more examples of ‘sins’ but I believe that human trafficking and adultery illustrates how, whatever type of ‘sin’ one has committed, will still have impact on the victims. So in short, I believe that prisoners need to be re-evaluated before they are executed. Authorities needs to reconsider hard and need to study prisoners if they qualify to have a second chance of life. This is because this life allows each person in this planet to have chances to live a rightful and better life. I am saying this because, even though I have done so many guilty things which have lead to people getting hurt emotionally, physically, and mentally, I am heading towards a changed life as each day pases because I learn from ever mistakes I have made. Also, in a Christian point of view, I believe that God is just so amazing. Everyday is an example of His wonderfulness. Each day is a chance for us to change. Even though we may not achieve perfectness, knowing that trying to live a holy life is takes time and is a long process, He does not end the world right now because He gives each and everyone of us chances.

What do you think about the movie (if you have watched it from the link I have provided)? Do you agree about my thoughts or not? If not, why?

I really want to post blogs frequently but writing takes so much time because looking for links to my examples (as references) and arguments takes house and I have alot of things to say which could be abit challenging when writing a blog which I aim to be straight to the point. Anyways, this blog is not perfect. Normally, when I write a blog, it will take me a maximum of 1 week to write, re-write, and proof read in order to achieve a comprehensive yet intriguing argument (blog).

Wisdom over Knowledge

Yesterday,  May 20, 2012, something happened. I guess I was on the verge of breaking down but in order for me to avoid it, I began to pour out what I felt and what I am going through to my parents. My parents, of course, are just lovely people. I am so happy and blessed that I have such parents who read the Bible everyday, meditate on God’s word, and experience and teach His Word. My dad holds one of the top managing positions in Ericsson, Hong Kong but throughout the years, I always see him put God first in everything. He would never leave the house in the morning if he has not read His word, even if it takes him to wake up very early in the morning to read and mediate on God’s word, around 4am sometimes, about the time I wake up to do my high school work (but now I am in university, far away from them, I know he’s still doing it because (1) the advices he gives me is just immensely words of wisdom that comes only from God and (2) when I go home for the holidays, I observe him that he still does it). My dad and my mom; when they give me advices and when they always hear me cry and brag about my lonely and other uncomfortable experiences here in Scotland mostly in terms of university course work and in my first year, about adjusting into a whole new different environment, and other things; they, as parents who loves me, will not say lovie dovie words and say things will be fine compared to my friends who just wants to comfort me that way. Their way of comfort is to get angry at me and ask me alot of questions why I feel the way I feel and other things. Their tone of voice is so different. They sound like as if they do not care about me and not want to hug me when I am in a bad situation. I always resent them because of that, I always thought they really do not care about what I am going through. But now I realise, they do love and care about me, so much that they rather make me realise my faults or the reality than being of comfort like what most people do. When I got together with my lovely boyfriend (I feel weird saying that he is my boyfriend because to me, he is more than that), when there were times that i get pissed off of him telling me things that bothers him, I realise that out of love, instead of giving him hugs and telling him “its alright, its gonna be okay”, I tend to ask questions and make him realise the reality he is in and help him in a way that will sustainably give him strength and courage to face his situation rather than leaving him with comfortable words that will not help him in a way. I am not saying comfortable words do not do their job but what I am saying that sometimes, comfortable words are uttered because one’s true feelings cannot be released due to fear of hurting a friend or something. There maybe other reasons but that is not what this blog entry is about.

This blog is about choosing wisdom over knowledge. I struggle with my relationship and faith with God. To be honest, I read the Bible probably 3 times a month, only when I feel the burden to do so or when I am free and have absolutely nothing to do. If you are not a Christian, its okay, you can still read this blog, its about what my parents have told me yesterday and my helpless situation that I feel the urge to share to people. Writing is a way for me to relieve my stress and come to terms and organise my thoughts and mind. Just writing this blog makes me an already sensible person compared for the past 3 weeks that I have been lost. If you do not believe what I wrote, its okay, no one is forcing you so. All I can say is that for one person to believe and have faith in God is to experience Him. This is one of the key points we have learned in our Anthropology of Religion course last semester and I shall post a blog about this soon as I finish my exams and organise my stuffs.

Anyhow, I’m going to begin to talk about what this blog is about….

Yesterday, I called my parents through skype and was was crying so hard while telling them what I am going through. This period is exam period. I have a week to study for 4 of my anthropology and archaeology courses. As I have stated before in my previous blog ‘exam preparation’, I am actually calm and can sleep and eat alot. But if I am calm and can sleep and eat alot why am I now talking about the hardship of exam? All I can say is that it is not the 4 exams I am 100% so depressed about. It is the build up of events that made me so sad, depressed, and lost. I recently got my archaeology of social life poster back, and I got a really bad grade, in my opinion. 13/20 is bad for me because I have already attained grades 20/20, over 15 is acceptable but lower than 15 is an issue. I have become really depressed, I understand why I got that grade and to be honest, they should have asked for an essay rather than a poster. How can an art degree student make a fantastic and presentable poster? That requires graphic stills and requires a person to learn about what makes a poster good, presentable, and marketable. For me in general, presentation of a poster is not what matters (but apparently, more than half of the criterial is about whether or not the person is presentable and marketable such as “use of supporting materials, images, maps, and quotes etc.; application of design principles and museum standards for fonts and lastly, use of exhibit text guidelines), what matters for me is the content of the poster, the argument and the interpretation of the question. I know this is my flaw but I really disagreed to the assessment. It should have been an essay format rather than poster format. I really cannot write 500 words, how can I summarise all the key points in 500 words? In short, I could not cut down the words and later discovered that I have 1500 words in the poster. Well, it was an improvement though, I incorporated more graphics and pictures than last semester’s poster. In essence, I was really disappointed because I put so much effort into research so that I have basis to back up my argument. This is one of the main reasons why my other archaeology course assessment – a 3,000 word research paper – got degraded. I instead handed 1,500 words. I e-mailed the professor and he said it is indeed not a good essay and quite short, he told me if I want, I can still continue writing it but when I am sad and just finished my last assessment, I cannot concentrate properly so I e-mailed him back if the essay earned 10 and below, then I will continue but if it earn 11 and above then it is fine, I will just emphasise more work on my revision for the exam and then I have not heard from him since then (2 weeks now). I am quite depressed and sad because I humiliated myself in front of those professors who, apparently, I have to be under subject to for the next year for my honours year. Moreover, the course to which I could not submit 3,000 words paper, the professor is the co-ordinator for the Alaska excavation I am dying for to be in this summer. I got accepted but he said I just need to wait until last week Tuesday for him to decide whether or not it would go on as there were not many students who applied. Also, I still need to hear something from my other anthropology essay… but I am doubting a good result as I devoted most of my time and energy to my archaeology poster and the anthropology essay which I posted weeks ago ‘benefits of both anthropological and historical methods’. So basically, it is all because of these that I do not have confident in working hard for my exam revision. Since I have been making summaries and reading the lecture readings of all my 4 courses, I am quite calm. I just really need to remember the key points, some dates, and some case studies to do well but I felt so bad yesterday as I let last week pass without any thorough revision though I organised both anthropology course (anthropology & imperialism and colonialism re-imagined) study groups. Anyways, I was telling my parents what I have said just now while crying so hard. I told them. I could not get any motivation to sit down and revise properly and thoroughly because I did not get good results for my assessments. I felt like working hard to revise is just a waste of time because I might not get the grades I want anyways as no matter how much I study for exams, exam results are still lower than my assessment results (so this is why I put so much thought and work on essays and other assessments). But I can change this, there’s still a week, all I need is to set aside more than 8 hours of sleep, Doctor Who, Merlin, BBC, and other interesting things and just start revising. Now I am in my fighting spirit but yesterday I was totally dishearten and demotivated. I felt like my strength left my body.

So my dad analysed the words I have told him. I told him I read almost all the lecture readings and my knowledge really did expanded. I am one of the few people to read lecture readings while others just either skim it or blab it. My dad told me, you did all you can. You are a very outstanding student but I told you to work smart. So we had almost an hour of debate on how to work smart and what are the ways to work smart to top up with working/studying hard. For almost 3 hours of talking, debating, getting irritated and wat not, he told me “you have all the knowledge of this world but you lack wisdom”. He did not tell me I am stupid but he told me I lack wisdom. What is ‘WISDOM’? The oxford dictionary offers an alternative definition to the Christian definition. Oxford dictionary online says “the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgement” (http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/wisdom?q=wisdom). However, the Christian definition of wisdom will state that it comes from God. There’s alot of verses in the Bible that explains wisdom I will state a few.

This is what my New Living Translation Bible provides in the concordance section (I have chosen only a few out of many for illustration):

1 Kings 4:29 “God gave Solomon very great wisdom and understanding, and knowledge as vast as the sands of the seashore. :30 In fact, his wisdom exceeded that of all the wise men of the Eat and the wise men of Egypt”

Basically, when Solomon ascended the throne from his father, David, God asked him What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you (1 Kings 3: 5). Solomon answered,  here I am in the midst of your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted! Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong (1 Kings 8-9). Then God replied, because you have asked for wisdom in governing my people with justice and have not asked for a long life or wealth or the death of your enemies… I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have! And I will also give you what you did not ask for – riches and fame! (1 Kings 11 – 13) So out of all the things he could have asked from God, he chose wisdom instead of richness, glory, and death of his enemies. Because of his selfless choice, God rewards him with other aspects together with wisdom. This is what my father always desire of. Not of richness and glory of this world but wisdom so that he may manage Ericsson’s appointed work for him. It is because of this very fact that my father got elevated throughout the years from a very low paid position to one of the top and well respected positions in the company. All this because God gives him wisdom that is not of this world. Wisdom that surpasses the knowledge of this world. I really like this. I want this kind of wisdom. A selfless choice indeed but what do I in this world? I can have all what I want (luxuries, travel to different places, clothes, books, expensive camera, skate shoes etc.) but I am not satisfied. We can never be satisfied but after my conversation with my father yesterday, I decided, okay, I’m going to put an end to all these suffering because again and again I end up in a similar situation. I want to set my eyes on God. This world is so temporary that really, our purpose here is to give glory and honour to our God. All these months, I have been swayed away from this sole purpose. The reason why I am here. I do not want to live a life that is all for myself. To be honest, I want to graduate with a first class degree at the same time I want to win medals from swimming and figure skating, I want my photographs to receive  excellent comments, I want to finish grade 8 in violin so I can play in orchestras, I want to travel the world and see places…. there’s alot of things I want to do which really stresses me out because now I have set such a high determination which degrades me physically and mentally in a way that if I do not meet the requirements i have set in a day in order to get into my goals i.e. do uni work, practice swimming/skating, practice violin, practice photography… I tend to become sad and depressed and feel like my strength have just left my body. I do want to do all these things and be such a great person that my parents and my relatives would be proud of. But I feel like, rather them becoming such a great motivation, they become distractions from my sole purpose, that is to give glory to God. To spend time with him and to finish my university. All the other co-curricular activities should be there for fun and not for competitive reasons to which I constantly push my qualities to the highest. I know and I believe that all these things will come if I spend time with God and acquire wisdom to live my life differently. I have never done this ever in my life but yesterday I have told myself to finally accept God, accept his wisdom and live a different and selfless life and all these other things I want to achieve will come with being submissive to God because I know God will also give our hearts desires (Psalm 37:4).

Okay so here’s the other verses from the concordance of my NLT Bible:

1 Kings 10: 24 “People from every nation came to consult him and to hear the wisdom God had given him”. So this is the fruit of Solomon’s selfless decision to acquire wisdom. All these material and worldly things came together with something that is from God.

2 Chronicles 1:10 “Give me the wisdom and knowledge to lead them properly, for who could possibly govern this great people of yours?”. This is one of the reasons Solomon put forward to God when he asked for wisdom.

Proverbs 3:13-15; 8:11 “Joyful is the person who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding, for wisdom is more profitable than silver, and her wages are better than gold. Wisdom is more previous than rubies, nothing you desire can compare with her.” So basically, wisdom cannot compare with anything. What comes with wisdom is better than any reward. Wisdom = understanding. This is not saying that knowledge is bad and really inferior but wisdom together with knowledge = immense understanding and better choices.

Proverbs 11: 2 “Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom”

Proverbs 16:16 “How much better to get wisdom than gold, and good judgement than silver!”. This shows that it is better to choose getting wisdom than first prioritising richness.

Ecclesiastes 10:10 “Using a dull ax requires great strength, so sharpen the blade. That’s the value of wisdom; it helps you succeed.” Hence, if one chooses wisdom, success will follow afterwards.

Ephesians 1: 17 “Asking God, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God”. Therefore, not only we will gain understanding in how to live our lives in this world and choose the right paths but also we will comprehend the complexities of God, his ways, and purposes. (I said complexities because I find God really complex to understand….)

Colossians 2:3 “In Him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”. Wow, this means that there’s more to wisdom than what we might think it brings.

Titus 2:12 “And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God.” There’s alot to be said about this, (1) we live in world that is dominated by the devil and evilness hence, the more we should focus on God and put him first in our lives to live a righteous life. (2) why is this world evil? Because the devil come here to kill, steal and destroy God’s creation and especially us believers that’s why we swerve in our faith and relationship with God. That is why we get so distracted. This is why we allow those distractions to destroy us physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially. This is true in my case. How about yours?.  (3) Why would God even allow evil to dominate His creation? Well, this is a very interesting philosophical question which I will address in my future blog entires. So keep in posted.

James 1: 5 “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. he will not rebuke you for asking”. This is telling us that we can just come and ask God that we need wisdom. He will not get angry nor disapprove and reprimand our selfless decision. God encourages us to come to him and such this Godly wisdom because in this we can gain understanding and successfully live our lives and be faithful to Him.

This is what my mom gave me just now while writing this blog:

Proverbs 1:7a “The fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” ‘Fear’ does not mean what we have in our minds. I shall write a separate blog entry for this later on. This verse is saying that if we love God and have faith in Him then we will begin to understand him and his ways which is even better than attaining worldly knowledge.

Proverbs 10: 23 “Doing wrong is fun for a fool, but living wisely bring pleasure to the sensible”. This shows the difference between worldly knowledge. This does not mean that knowledge of this world is foolish but there are others who do have knowledge yet use it foolishly that is why Godly wisdom is to be taken into consideration in order to live and sensible and better life.

Proverbs 28:26 “Those who trust in their own insight are foolish, but anyone who walks in wisdom is safe.” There maybe other interpretations on this but I interpret it as those people who have knowledge and proudly thinks that they should live their lives in their own ways they then are fools because wisdom would give one a better life to which better choices are made that follows success.

These are are one of the few verses I have chosen but there are others in the Bible which you can gain wisdom and knowledge from. I suggest that you read the Bible first before suggesting that religion is bad, it creates war, it does this and that etc. I shall address this soon in my future blogs with anthropological, archaeological and interdisciplinary incorporations to help us understand this so called ‘complication’ of the Bible, Christianity, and religion.

🙂 I have been writing this blog for almost 3 hours now. I need to eat my branch and start revising for my anthro-archaeology exams. Do not hesitate to comment and let me know what you think. As for me, I made a decision that from tomorrow, I will seek for wisdom (that means reading the Bible, spending time with God and meditating on His word everyday rather than when I wake up in the morning I read bbc news, watch Merlin, Doctor Who, Japanese/ Korean dramas and other things) more than relying on my own knowledge to live my life i.e. decisions on how to study for my exams, what to do with my passionate hobbies (playing the violin, figure skating, swimming, travel, and photography).

Exam Preparation

Whenever exams are near, my body and my mind physically shifts. Because I use my brain so much, I need more rest than usual, but the minimum is 8 hours. I also tend to eat more (both healthy and non healthy foods), my reason is to fuel up my brain.

How about you? Do you tend to need more rest and food in preparation for exams? When I mean preparation, I mean, when you are studying, revising, and getting ready for the exam.

I remember, when I did my International Baccalaureate exams in May of 2009, I was super stressed that I look like Johnny Depp in his recent film the Dark Shadows. But it should not be that way, there were personal reasons why I was like that but now, since I am far away from family (I am across the other side of the continent), I have to take care of my physical self, and mentally prepare in advance to prevent any suicidal feeling when it’s exam time.

I know there are people who stay up the whole night studying and cramming things in their minds. I do not know how they can do that. University teachers normally give advices in their last lectures concerning how to do well in exams and two of these is to sleep at least 8 hours a day and eat well (i’m assuming they are also saying, healthy foods… not processed and ready meals which may not be good for the body in the long term).

Are you the kind of person who studies the night before exams or do you plan ahead in time and study bit by bit for the long term memory? If you are the kind of person who is up all night revising just before your exam, why and what are your reasons for doing so? I know there are millions of reasons on this because each of us individuals are unique and have our own experiences and go through different hardships.

Before, when I was in high school, exams were my biggest and worst enemy. Now, it has shifted. I am more calm and normal. I do not look like a deceased person and pale as before. I can smile before exams while previously all I can give to people was sad face and depression.

I would like to know your experiences with exam. Let me know what you think and do give any advice you perceive is best for others who are stressing out. Good luck for everyone who is currently going through exams at the moment!