We might chart a formula for these ills and dysfunctions or global society: Poverty + Ethnic tensions + Ideological/Religious/Political motives = Suffering, Oppression, and Violence. Pick the global problem that most concerns you, and see if this equation doesn’t mostly fit.
Admittedly this equation is a broad generalization—perhaps even simplistic. But we believe it can be helpful to see poverty as a fundamental cause, along with contributing factors, of many or most of our world’s ills today. (See CYS on Poverty.) Ebola spreads most where there are inadequate resources of water, sewage, hygiene and medical care. Parents only sell their children under unendurable financial distress. Those who are hungry will accept aid from criminal gangs or tyrants. The unemployed and unemployable can naturally turn to crime and violence.
A social response to criminal or gang violence is investigation/arrest/incarceration. The U.S. has relied on this response to a large degree—with more incarcerated persons per population that most other countries. Yet, no one would say that arrest and incarceration (hopefully with some rehabilitation to socially accepted values) are not needed. And in the case of genocide or wanton beheading and killing of innocent victims, most will accede to military intervention.
But most also believe that programs that provide prevention of violence, child slavery and prostitution are important. In the midst of ominous news reports and dire warnings, we should not lose sight of the many programs and persons working to prevent global and local ills.
Often, aid and prevention are being offered by competing agencies—competing, in a sense, for persons to serve and funding to continue their programs. This has been noted as the “silo effect” where urban agencies are serving common populations—often without strategic collaboration. Still, these programs must be continued.
But beyond the satisfying results of many aid and prevention programs, there is a bigger picture—a long-term hope for reducing the work of police, armies, and the many responses to those in need. The work of prevention begs for positive development of local assets and capacities—the development of local communities and global disadvantaged countries.
Development describes the act or process of growing or causing something to grow or become larger or more advanced, or the state of being developed (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/development, retrieved 9Oct14). Growth or development is the natural course for all living things. It is a similar need for human institutions. Human life and its institutions are either developing or decaying, and healthy growth/development always demands change or removal of anything that prevents such growth and development. Change and reform usually involve some pain, loss and resistance. The negatives of situations without positive development become our motivation to develop unused assets and potentialities in any human situation.
Local and national development can provide crucial infrastructure and jobs leading to improved housing, education, health, and general welfare. Such development will reduce suffering, crime, and violence, as it offers positive directions for anti-social or dehumanizing endeavors.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
Why are you concerned about local and national development, and what do you want to learn about it?
How helpful an introduction is this article to the issue of neighborhood, town or municipal, and national development? Is there anything you would add from your own perspective and experience?
What are you key questions about development, and how can we best learn together ways in which positive development can relieve negative problems?
Do you ever tend to become frustrated, or even cynical, regarding the primary ills of our world? Why is this? How do you think you should respond?
With due respect for pacifists, we can see military interventions and (proper) police arrests as necessary—and still work toward more positive responses.
Development cannot just be longed for or talked about. It is a complicated process that must come from the grass roots, from the top down, and from all parties around the target area—working together.
Prevention programs of all kinds are needed. Collaboration among such agencies can contribute to development plans.
All those who care, and especially rising generations of youth, must be ambassadors of the positive in a world of negative motivations and resistance.