Human Relations and Economic Development

Exploring the framework for a balanced development model

 

Ramses Rashidi

©2008 Center for Balanced Development (www.cbdus.org)

 

BACKGROUND

 

As a child, like all of us, I always had many questions on my mind. I could not understand why people behaved in certain ways. Why some did not have money or enough to eat while others would throw food away? Why some people were friendly and others were hostile? Why some neighborhoods looked so great and others were totally run down? Why did all children study the same exact books at school? These and many other questions were not answered to my satisfaction, even when I asked. So I learned just to focus on what most kids in my school were doing which was to study and get good grades.

 

Later in life I got to travel and see the world. During these travels, it seems like the child in me was awakened again with the same intense curiosity and innocent feelings of my childhood days. I spent the decade of the 90’s and early years of this century in China where I enjoyed strong personal relations with people that have been historically isolated from the rest of the world. I saw people with big smiles and very kind hearts. I saw people dancing in the parks. I saw people who had time to exchange ideas and get to know others. I saw people wanting to improve their lives …… and I observed China in its transition to become a “developed” nation.

 

I started to pay more attention to development trends around the globe. I witnessed the economic development of nations and the impact of the development on the lives of people and how human relations were affected by the new riches and opportunities for a better life. Meanwhile I started studying some materials from a research foundation in Columbia which examined the very roots of our assumptions on such subjects as development, economy, education, justice,  .…etc. . My observations and studies started me on the road to research and exploration of a framework for a balanced development model.

 

WHAT IS “DEVELOPMENT?”  

 

In today’s world, normally when we talk about development we mean the economy and the physical living standards. Therefore most reports about “developing nations” published by major organizations such as the United Nations, Asian Development Bank, the IMF and the World Bank focus on economic factors and numbers that reflect the income level, production output, exports and growth indicators. However, such factors as crime rate, divorces, health issues, access to clean water, medical care and healthy foods are not part of these financial institutions’ “development” measurement criteria – even though they have a direct impact on the daily living standards and sense of well being of the people.

 

THE SPEED OF DEVELOPMENT AND CHANGE

 

As a starting point we need to study the history of development and what has taken place so far to get a better picture of how we have arrived at where we are today. Most interesting is to observe the incredible changes that have taken place in the last century. The speed of change and development in the modern times, obviously, is unprecedented in the recorded history. We have evolved from horse and buggy to space shuttle in a span of less than a century. However, even more fascinating is the increasing speed of development and how human beings are so consumed in creating new technologies, products and services without much attention to the effects of these trends on the lives of the current or future generations.

 

The concepts of “balance” and “moderation” do not seem to be part of man’s thinking in building bigger, faster, higher and more of all the things that one can imagine. Obviously, this development pattern has brought with it new possibilities making life more comfortable and creating what used to be only a dream. However, we are gradually realizing that our lives are getting more chaotic, increasingly stressful and our health is challenged like never before. Our environment is getting more polluted and we are desperately looking for cleaner air, water and organic food. Our education system is unable to bring out the human potential and therefore most youth end up studying what makes more money and not what their unique talents can contribute to human civilization. We have become more isolated and apart from each other where we might not even know our next-door neighbor. The breakup of the family and the rate of divorce is on the rise with many children torn between their parents. The court system is backlogged by the ever-increasing number of conflicts and lawsuits while a failing adversarial judicial system is trying to choose between the winners and the losers. Today relatively speaking the quality of human relations is probably at its lowest ever throughout our long written history.

 

 

THE EFFECTS OF ECONOMIC ACTIVITY ON OUR ENVIRONMENT

 

It’s interesting to note that in the recent years the idea of protecting the environment and our natural resources progressively have become among the issues that are considered in development planning. The idea of a sustainable development model is a major concern shared by governments and NGOs alike and is considered an integral part of any good development initiative. The green products and ecologically balanced concepts that would help our environment are big industries and billions of dollars are spent on cleaning polluted rivers, lakes, landfills and improving air quality. So if the human-to- nature relationship (environment) is so important, wouldn’t human-to-human relations be just as critical if not more important?

 

The price we pay for today’s development activities could be potentially very high. For the most part, we don’t know what the future generations will have to pay for what is taking place today. We have become increasingly aware of the impact of development on the environment, realizing that at least parts of our natural resources have been damaged or destroyed beyond recourse.  There are ominous warnings and signs of impending greater disasters as a direct result of our practices in misusing our resources around the globe while there is very little the global community can do other than voicing concerns in the international media. Deforestation, strip-mining, landfills, water contamination, smog and nuclear waste are just some of the more serious environmental issues facing us which the proponents of sustainable development globally have been trying to address. At the same time, the impact of the development on our personal and social health is in dire need of further research and reflection. 

 

 

QUESTIONS DEMANDING A SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE ANSWER

 

Considering that our starting point is an economic model that is based on “supply and demand” and knowing that the “demand” could be purely based on personal wishes with little or no awareness of the long-term consequences, let’s raise some questions about the current popular models of development throughout the world:

 

      various demographic economic factors that the global financial community decide whether we are   a “developed” or  “developing” nation?

 

 

A BALANCED DEVELOPMENT MODEL

 

These and many other questions would open the door for exploring a framework for a balanced development model where the human potential in terms of learning and contribution is safeguarded.  Where environmental impact and our role in preserving our natural resources is clearly understood and applied. Where the sanctity of human relations is protected at all levels locally and globally. Where we are constantly improving our relations and achieving higher levels of unity and where we see that we are all connected together like the cells of a living organism.

 

In the upcoming series of articles, we shall further examine the framework for a balanced development model and how communities, individuals, institutions and industries can start to incorporate concepts that would help bring people closer together, maximize human potential and create better living conditions for all on earth.

 

Ramses Rashidi  (ramses@cbdus.org) is the founder and director of Center for Balanced Development. The center is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing resources and services that foster global balance in  social, personal, ecological and economic development.