Leymah Gbowee, speaking at the Millenium Development Conference a few years ago, told an eager college-aged crowd of how women in Liberia had done everything they were supposed to do: they organized themselves in a movement for peace and gathered overwhelming support all across West Africa. They met formally with political leaders. The short response they got for all this effort was, “They don’t do this in The United States, why should we do it here?” End of conversation. Her message was for young leaders whose hearts were moving towards international development to clean up our messes at home first. Everyone cheered and clapped, which I don’t think she expected.
Tagore’s reflections on the world and especially the Eastern University, “The deepest source of all calamities in history is misunderstanding. For where we do not understand, we can never be just… If the whole world grows at last into an exaggerated West, then such an illimitable parody of the modern age will die, crushed beneath its own absurdity…” brings me back to thinking the most good I could do with my time and technology might be here at home. Is it fair to spend so much time and money and energy traveling to gain an understanding of other parts of the world while the West has such a negative impact on it?