Josue Berman - PCV, Nicaragua

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By Admin1 (admin) on Wednesday, June 27, 2001 - 2:47 pm: Edit Post

Josue Berman - PCV, Nicaragua

Josue Berman - PCV, Nicaragua

Josue Berman - PCV, Nicaragua

Issues, Cont'd, The Edge of Survival and Golf

For those of you not into reading the story I sent out, here's a continuation of some of the tough issues brought up in the "Drinking Against It" update I sent out last week. It's a dialogue with one of my readers that I thought was particularly interesting. Further comments are welcome.

>Hey Josh, >Where did the "Drinking against it" come from. The point is, where do >you stand on this issue? I can tell you that I look for the most time, >money and energy efficient way to solve a problem. In my mind, doing >things one person at a time on a part time basis isn't efficient in any >of the above.

I guess it depends on the problem you're talking about, Big Guy. If you're talking about world hunger, environmental degradation, inequality of wealth, then no, chipping away isn't going to solve any of these quickly. But what if that small scale, incremental change is the ONLY alternative. What if the problem is so big, it will not be solved until it implodes on itself. Eg. unchecked world population growth. Is teaching family planning to a small group of 12 mothers in a tiny African village going to solve the problem? Even if such family planning is being taught in 100,000 poor villages, I still don't think it can battle the Malthusian mathematics of population. There will eventually be so many people and such thinly stressed resources, that we're in for a big population crash - war, disease, famine, whatever.

>I am not against the Peace Corps, in any way, shape or >form, but I have to believe that some issues are more defined than >others. One can certainly quantify the benefits of soy beans to a >society. But can one really change a culture or even a child on a part >time basis. If the purpose of the Corps is to change one or more >children, then the way to do it would be a full time teacher for at >least two years but probably more and hope you get lucky.

For one thing, Peace Corps is theoretically a full time job. Actually, it's more than that as we are told that we are Peace Corps Volunteers 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Fact is though, you slip into the pace of the culture around you where three-hour lunch breaks are nothing out of the ordinary. Let's just say some days are more full time than others. Now, one of the purposes of the Corps is to impart the technical knowledge the Volunteers bring with them to the host country people. Not to unload that knowledge on them, but to integrate it with what they know to try to empower them into changing their lives for the better. The other two goals are to promote world peace by teaching other cultures about Americans and by teaching my fellow Americans about other cultures. I know, I know it's touchy-feely hippy bullshit, you're saying, but who knows. . .it's as simple as making friends, being better neighbors, learning about people without an American-infused psyche. How will these skills serve me in the future? I don't know, but I have a strong feeling that the unquantifiable successes of this experience will be the ones that last the longest and end up causing the most change.

>I guess I am a miserable cynic but I wonder how many of the former PCVs >are now just >trying to justify their service.

I'm sure there are plenty, but the justifications aren't always immediately obvious, and the one constant thing that hasn't changed with the Peace Corps is that your two years will not change the world. I once read about an old Peace Corps ad that showed a run-down village with the caption: El Naranjo, Ecuador Before the Peace Corps. Then it showed the same photo and said, El Naranjo, Ecuador After the Peace Corps. Your idea of big, grand, 'efficient' development projects has been tried and it presents many problems. [I highly reccomend you find a documentary video called "The Edge of Survival." It is absolutely fantastic and presents the different development philosophies, including the billionaire tycoon who set off to convert millions of acres of 'wasted' rainforest in Brazil into productive fertile cropland. He brought in millions of dollars of equipment that ended up sinking in the swamps, and ran into a lot of other economic problems as well. His development scheme, for one, was for profit, and when capital comes first, that means labor and the environment and the indigenous people and culture come second. Try to find this video - if it's not at one of the big book stores do an internet search or check I'd like you and everyone else to see it - it's the best documentary I have ever seen - eye-opening and very moving.]

>I have to believe that I did more >good by being a big brother to Mark than if I had to randomly deal with >societal issues when they presented themselves in another country.

But working through those societal and cultural issues gives so much reward, and it will be that much easier for me to find a group of Marks in the future with whom I can really do some good. I mean, you gave a few hours, a few days to Mark when you could, but I've given two years to really try to understand a people and see what I can do (and for all the selfish reasons, two years to understand myself better, my creativity, and work on some of my personal battles in a new unique setting at the expense of the U.S. taxpayer). Not to belittle your relationship with Mark - actually, through that you should be able to understand even better some of the small changes I'm talking about. Eg. one of the afternoons you took him to a movie, and you sat throgh 'Barney Goes to Hollywood' or something - he would have just sat home if you didn't do that and he wouldn't have laughed out loud at the movie. How do you measure that laughter? You weren't trying to solve big world problems, were you? You were just sharing a little bit with a poor kid, and you racked up some extra smiles. . .where does that fit in?

>I am saying is that the Peace Corps is great but I wouldn't romanticize >it and not have unrealistic expectations.

No, I don't need to romanticize it - it does it to itself sometimes, and as the years go by and put this whole experience behind me, I'm sure it will get all gooey and honey-coated.

>I hope I don't sound depressing >because I really am not, even though your Dad beat my ass in golf today.

=================================================================== Josue Berman Alcaldia, 4 cuadras al norte La Trinidad, Esteli Nicaragua, Centroamerica tele#: (011) 505-742-2343 POR AVION, DIOS TE AMA! jberman@i... (Joshua Berman)

"HAVE A GOOD TIME, ALL THE TIME." -Viv Savage ===========================================================

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Story Source: Personal Web Page

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Nicaragua



By lobovold on Monday, November 11, 2002 - 10:05 pm: Edit Post

rigth know i´m bussy but i ´ll tell you somethings
take care

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