Tuesday, 29 June 2010

The Two-Thirds World

The terms "Third World" and "developing country" are ripe with notions of inferiority. They imply that every country with a low gross domestic product (GDP) wishes to adopt Western models of economic development, which simply isn’t the case. For instance, Cuba has chosen not to adopt Western economics, and despite being labeled “a developing country” due to a low gross national income, has a lower infant mortality rate than the United States. Another example is Bhutan, which despite having the lowest per capita household income in the world has the eighth highest gross national happiness (GNH). The United States ranks twenty-third. Bhutan's leaders achieve such high levels of citizen happiness not by focusing their policies on achieving GDP, but by following “the four pillars of GNH: promotion of equitable and sustainable socioeconomic development; preservation and promotion of cultural values; conservation of the natural environment; and establishment of good governance.”

Because so-called “developing countries” are often rich in local knowledge, systems of compassionate justice, cultural diversity, and preservation of the natural world—practices which are vital for sustainability—I propose using Madhu Prakash and Gustavo Esteva’s non-ethnocentric terminology of these countries as The Two-Thirds World. These countries, after all, compose the majority of the world’s population.

We must rid ourselves of notions of superiority and realize that we have more to learn from many of these cultures than we have to teach them. It is for this reason that Prakash and Esteva argue for an initiative of:
creating solidarities with communities and groups suffering the most marked and vicious discrimination of our times—imposed by the educated as professional assistance, aid, or help upon the three contemporary [lower] castes: the miseducated, the undereducated or the noneducated, who constitute the majority of people on earth, the Two-Thirds World.

They argue in their book Escaping Education: Living as Learning within Grassroots Cultures that Western education and promises of professionalism destroy communities and local knowledge. This occurs by imposing the employment, high mobility, and economic growth of Western life. These pro-education Westerners, despite often having good intentions, neglect the fact that if everyone on the planet lived like an American, we would need five earths to sustain us. Furthermore, Prakash and Esteva assert that human rights activists, supporting “the universal human right to health, employment, modern medicine, sewage, roads, and other social services” impose unneeded Western values on a people deemed inferior due to their non-modern lifestyles.

Those who are well-informed about the twin crises of global warming and peak oil know that our modern life as we now know it is coming to an end. As we look to our post-carbon future—what some call our ancient future—the lessons we have to learn from The Two-Thirds World are infinite. Unfortunately, our industrial society is not only trying to convert The Two-Thirds World to our way of life, we are destroying the last surviving indigenous cultures. Driven by blind desire for natural resources, industrial multinational corporations are consuming what remains of the natural world and the people who inhabit it. Luckily there are activist groups, such as Survival International, working to save Indigenous cultures by educating Westerners about the relevance and need for their cultures, notifying struggling tribes of the survival tactics of other tribes, and campaigning to governments, banks, and corporations to protect indigenous homelands. The importance of tribal cultures will become more evident to the masses as the effects of global warming and peak oil are apparent in the collective consciousness, but it will take the foresight of ecologically-concerned Westerners to support tribal people while we still can.
[Please watch Survival International’s “The Real Avatar: Mine - Story of a Sacred Mountain” and support Survival International by acting now.]


  1. I do wish to point out Bhutan has been cited for egregious human rights violations against the Nepalese Hindu minority, as far as deporting hundreds of thousands of people. It also has a strict Buddhism first political policy which has also been cited for lack of freedom of speech and the press.

    Cuba has always had enormous human rights violations against its own population, from political torture and assassinations, to suppression of any political dissention.

    While I understand both these countries like to put a pretty face on their public image, the truth is much uglier and darker.

  2. Can you give me some sources of these violations? I have not heard of such things. I by no means believe these actions to be excusable if they are in fact true, but there are similar injustices in Western nations against minorities. From Guantanamo Bay to police brutality murders, America is not so great either. It could also be noted that America and other rich nations may not suppress political dissension because they don't need to; the government has obvious ties to the media and therefore can control the public mind with ease. Noam Chomsky calls this manufacturing consent. Futhermore, the human rights violations of Western nations upon foreign countries in the name of freedom and democracy are incalculable. I wish this were not the case, but it is true.

  3. In this post I made, I cited many international organizations that have charged Bhutan with human rights violations. http://www.thereformedbuddhist.com/2010/05/bhutan-forgotten-crisis.html Some of which include Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the United Nations.

    Cuba has been a one party Marxist/Leninist state since Castro's victory over the rather corrupt Batista. They have run Cuba since with an iron hand, jailing, torturing and especially in the 60-70's executing political prisoners. There is no freedom of the press or many of the other rights Western nations enjoy. I can cite ad nausea sources on Cuba if you like, but its like a big pink elephant...kinda hard to miss.

    Sorry to say, most of the problems faced by third world nations is as much an internal problem as it is a foreign problem.

    "It could also be noted that America and other rich nations may not suppress political dissension because they don't need to; the government has obvious ties to the media and therefore can control the public mind with ease" - That sounds very conspiracy like to me to be honest. Not criticizing, just an observation.


  4. Thank you for the resources. And I am far from a conspiracy theorist, I am very wary of such ideas. Take a look at some of the writings of Noam Chomsky, or watch the award winning documentary Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media. This is taken from the movie:

    "It's basically an institutional analysis of the major media, what we call a propaganda model. We're talking primarily about the national media, those media that sort of set a general agenda that others more or less adhere to, to the extent that they even pay much attention to national or international affairs.

    Now the elite media are sort of the agenda-setting media. That means The New York Times, The Washington Post, the major television channels, and so on. They set the general framework. Local media more or less adapt to their structure.

    And they do this in all sorts of ways: by selection of topics, by distribution of concerns, by emphasis and framing of issues, by filtering of information, by bounding of debate within certain limits. They determine, they select, they shape, they control, they restrict -- in order to serve the interests of dominant, elite groups in the society."

    Source: http://www.chomsky.info/interviews/1992----02.htm