These words were inspired by a recent conversation I had with a Ugandan man who had
spent 10 years of his life living and working in the UK. He left shocked over the
lack of community, how you couldn’t just talk to a stranger on the streets like in
Uganda, and how people would refuse to acknowledge someone sitting next to them on
the subway. ”They all just want their space!” he exclaimed mortified. He looked
at his watch and said; “and it’s all about time.”
Here I seek to compile a list of my observations from living in both developed and
developing. In my eyes both have certain advantages and a merger is what we need
to aspire to.
2 24 November 2010, Kampala, Uganda
The Developing World
* Sense of community and openness: One thing I loved about arriving in the Philippines
was that you could drive along the street and see into peoples lives, doors were
open, children played happily on the street, everything seemed alive and you could
feel the heartbeat of the place.
* Evidence of culture and cultural identity: One of my biggest fears for the
world is that it will become like an extended airport. I’ve passed through many an
airport recently and apart from the shape of the building they really do feel much
the same. Sometimes when I’m in Manila, Philippines, I have to think very hard to
remember which country I am in, yet when I go to Bohol where I volunteered last with
Kiva, I know I am Philippines. Likewise there are parts of Kampala, Uganda, where
it is hard to tell what country you are in, and other parts where it is screamingly
obvious. We need to hang on to these parts, to cling to them like a kid you’re walking
across a busy road.
* Less emphasis on time, less rushed, more idle time, time to think, waiting
isn’t such a burden.
* Vibrancy, colour, disorder, noise – I think one thing one notices about the
developing world is it’s lack of aversion to colour, vibrancy and noise. A carnival-type
atmosphere often results which I think development can sometimes suffocate. Yes,
I think we want suitable infrastructure and a degree of safety, but I also think
we need to let the true colours of a society to shine on through.
* Local markets, buying from just down the street, vegetables of natural size,
* Lack of freedom based on financial restrictions – continually have to make
decisions based around money, very difficult to travel, can’t afford luxuries and
purchases that make life easier (e.g. washing machines)
* Lack of infrastructure, access to health care
* Stress from monetary pressure and greater physical hardships
* Less regard for the value of human life, safety
* Susceptibility to corruption, disease, natural disaster
The Developed World
* More freedom of choice based on access to capital, savings, in a word money.
* Quality of education, access to knowledge, world becomes oyster
* Physical ease of lifestyle, comfort, less time spent on menial tasks
* Potentially more opportunities to pursue dreams, to dream big
* Orderly infrastructure and sound legal system
* Increased stress from job pressures, often still monetary pressures to keep
up with a certain type of lifestyle
* More time pressures despite having machines to carry out menial tasks, what
I like to call “I’m so busy mentality” which is quite different to the “I might just
sit here on the side of the street all day” mentality of the developing world
* Lack of connection, safe houses with walls, gates, locks, not stopping and
* More structured sense of community instead of general ‘all inclusive’ sense
* Tendency to become disconnected with nature because of the lack of contact
with the outside world, and no longer relying on personal crops, food supplies (e.g.
cursing the rains when, in actual fact for someone growing crops, rains are a blessing)
Please note that I realize that many people live outside the generalizations I have
made. I’m merely commenting on observations I’ve made over the last few years and
realize this is not true for everyone.
Ultimately I think we need to…
1) Aim for quality of life as well as quantity – for us to develop, but to slow down.
Not to clock watch, not to have to be so aware of time. For all people to have the
ability to stop in the street and talk. For no one to say “I’m so busy or I’m so
stressed.” For those in the developing world who do live a slower paced life, to
have greater access to health care and to live longer.
2) Aim for greater financial freedom for all around the world, access to capital
and opportunities. For every individual to have the right to dream big. For everyone
to have the opportunity to travel, to explore different cultures.
3) Aim to maintain a sense of community and culture as we develop.
These are my dreams. Maybe I’m unrealistic. Maybe I’m not. Of course I can make
these decisions for myself as an individual yet realise that not everyone wants to
live like me, and that some people thrive on that fast paced lifestyle. I just want
to let people know that for some reason I think living 80 years at 100 miles an hour
probably feels the same as living 40 years at 50 mph. So how far have we really
come? What is development? Have we really developed at all? What does development
mean? Does it mean more money and better living conditions, or does it mean happiness
and the time to enjoy the wonders of life? I think as we develop we need to put more
emphasis on happiness and the enjoyment of life than on statistics such as life expectancy
and gross GDP.
Thus my belief… The developed world can learn as much from the developing world as
vice versa. Let’s keep this in mind as we grow.
I call on all those reading the blog, travelling, working in both developed and developing
to comment and share their observations.