by Dr. Denise R. Ames
Why can’t we just get along? This is a question that I have been working on in my new book, Divided: Colliding Ways We See the World. In the next several posts in this blog series I am looking at one of the five worldviews: Indigenous Worldview. I would like to share with you some ideas that I have been exploring.
Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents,
it was loaned to you by your children.
We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors,
we borrow it from our Children. … Ancient Proverb
Modern and Indigenous Economic Differences
Modernizers pressure indigenous people to change their economy in several ways. The use of machine power instead of animal or human power illustrates moving from the
simple use of technology to the complex use of technology. Since many indigenous people are farmers, there is a push for them to substitute tractors and gas-powered machines to do the work they traditionally did through their own human labor and harnessed animal power.
Modernizers want farmers to become more productive and efficient in their farming methods and produce a more abundant crop, usually a commercial crop for the world market. But for small farmers to be more productive, one of the changes they must undertake is to use modern, labor-saving machinery. However, tractors and other farm machinery need technical expertise to maintain operations; therefore, farmers must be trained as mechanics or rely on outside mechanics to maintain the machinery for them. Also, fuel for the machines and the machines themselves must be purchased at world market prices; hence, farmers participating in the market place to obtain cash to purchase these items.
Cash is usually earned by converting subsistence crops to growing cash crops. The cash crops are sold on the world market for market prices that fluctuate dramatically from year to year and even month to month.
The self-sufficient farmer does not need cash for farming and, therefore, does not borrow money from banks or other money lenders. But if the farmer participates in the global economy, cash is needed for machinery, seed, pesticides, fertilizers and more land to expand farming operations. To borrow money the farmer needs some type of collateral for the bank loan. The only collateral available is usually the land that is probably part of collective land held communally by the group.
Modernizers push traditional farmers to privatize their communal land into individual plots that have a monetary value and can be bought and sold. If a farmer uses privately held land for collateral for a loan, he faces the risk of losing it if his crops fail to bring in
the needed revenue for repayment of the loan’s principal and interest. Now, the formerly self-sufficient farmer is transformed into a farmer dependent on the world market and credit system for his livelihood.
Since market farming favors economies of scale, many small farmers are not able to make a living as market farmers and end up losing their land. Without a way to make a
living, many reluctantly move from their traditional rural villages to large urban centers for jobs, and, most likely, from self-sufficiency to poverty status. Other desperate small farmers seek work on large agricultural plantations that grow cash crops on a vast scale. They earn a low wage for their labor and live in housing, often squalid, provided by absentee landowners.
About the Author
Dr. Denise R. Ames is a long-time educator, grade 7-university, author of seven books, and president of an educational non-profit, Center for Global Awareness, based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. CGA provides books, resources, and services with a holistic, global- focused, and perspective-taking approach for their three programs: Global Awareness for Educators, books and resources for educators and students grade 9-university; Gather, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a self-organizing study and conversation program for adults focusing on seeing different perspectives of pressing global issues; and their most recent program Turn, Transformative Understanding and Reflection Network, which encourages lifelong and transformative learning to help us arrive at a place of personal and global well-being using a seven “path” approach.
For more about worldviews see Dr. Ames’ book Five Worldviews: How We See the World. $9.95