Characteristics of Modern Development Trends

Exploring the framework for a “Balanced Development” model

 

Ramses Rashidi

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

 

 

The Social Evolution

 

When we look at the development trends throughout history we see a very interesting phenomenon. At certain points in time, about every thousand years or so, there is a great surge of knowledge, discoveries, ideas and advancement in human civilization. These great-leap-forward milestones usually invigorate and stimulate economic activities and start a major shift in the lives of people and the way human beings relate to each other and their environment.

Examples of this kind of historical milestone include; the creation of the family, the formation of the tribal unit, the emergence of the city-state, the establishment of nationhood and as a natural progression, the process of the globalization which we are experiencing now.

This change in the way the civilization functions takes place gradually and over a long period of time. It reaches its summit of glory and the golden years of its effulgence followed by a period of slow decline which signals the need for renewal in thoughts, commitment to expansion of relations and new ways of doing things.

Doesn’t this process remind you of how the world of nature operates?

 

 

Individual and Society

 

In this process of development and advancement of civilization a very important concept seem to occupy man’s thinking – freedom and the ability of the individual to choose. Freedom has been the subject of great many debates and millions of lives have been lost in wars and conflicts that have sought to achieve it. Meanwhile some have placed great emphasis on the importance of society and social responsibility. Major ideological platforms and theories have been based on the choice between individual’s freedom versus social welfare. Capitalism and socialism have emerged as two distinct schools of thoughts; each highly focused on a specific platform of operation and economic activities. Many nations are still trying to stay true to one or the other. The dilemma of choosing between capitalism and socialism has changed the course of history and the way human beings view the process of growth and maturation.

Here the question is; why is it necessary to make a choice between these two theories? It’s like offering someone a choice between apples and oranges. Obviously one can respond in a variety of ways and depending on one’s creativity and understanding there could be a whole range of solutions from “none of the above” to a fruit salad or adding other ingredients. To site a solution in progress would be the emergence of market economy in socialist countries.

 

 

Absolute vs. Relative Thoughts  

 

The idea of “absolute thinking” or seeing things as good or bad, black or white, capitalist or communist or as some would put it as “highly defined” concepts has placed itself at the core of modern development philosophy with great global appeal since the success of many nations seem to ride on this premise. At first glance this seems to be a wonderful idea which makes life easier in the age of complex technologies and unlimited choices that are before us. However, a deeper reflection reveals the emphasis on the role of individuals in this decision-making process and how individualism sits at the center of this concept. In contrast, “relative thoughts” and thinking in terms of relations, which is the foundation of many ancient cultures, places the emphasis on being sensitive to others and ethical behavior. Relative thoughts sees good in bad and vice versa. In the Yin and Yang model, there is a white spot in the black half and a black spot in the white. The idea is to constantly evolve into a relationship much in the same way that a successful marriage works. It would seem that our need for social harmony in this chaotic period would call for this school of thought to become the dominant mode of planning and development practices. However, in reality the individual motivated by self-interest reigns supreme in causing movement in today’s global economy. As a result of this fragmented approach the global body of humanity has become further torn apart as individuals pull in different directions and as the strain of the over-utilization of our natural resources reaches catastrophic proportions.

 

 

Trial and Error

 

Certainly, the chaotic nature of development in the modern times, as observed from different perspectives, confirms the trial and error nature of our exploration and application of knowledge. Definitely, the guidance and warnings of the great visionaries of our times to focus on unity have gone unheeded. In our entrepreneurial and individualistic spirit, we move down a path at breakneck speed until we see something terribly wrong is taking place where we are facing a great health hazard, a public safety issue or the well-being of the environment is at stake. Even then we justify our action and try to come up with or engage another technology that would address the symptoms. Unfortunately oftentimes the damage is irreversible. Here it’s proper to note that the goal of these series of articles which is to reflect on the effects of economic development on human relations and social balance has not even begun. We are so entrenched in certain patterns of industrial development that even when the grim side-effects of our own doing can be clearly demonstrated, it’s almost impossible to divert or stop the process as it would mean the bankruptcy of the establishment.

 

 

Global implications of development trends

 

On the global level, we are challenged by moral dilemmas in our attempts to reach higher levels of prosperity and further development of the already highly “developed” areas while we observe a good portion of the people of our planet struggle to have access to basic needs such as; clean water, proper shelter or even enough to eat.  The idea of investment saturation of the “hot business spots” is a natural element of the “supply and demand” model. However by following that path, we are risking increasing levels of pollution and over-population of these centers of economic activities. This trend also attracts human resources from the rural areas who come to the “big city” in search of work and prosperity and oftentimes live in sub-standard conditions of the “ghettos” in these major metropolitan areas. There are a number of issues to reflect on in the modern development practices that have been adopted by majority of countries around the planet. There is much to talk about and consult on how we can develop a vision of balance in the global economy. Meanwhile the disparity continues as we fail to realize that the global body of humanity is intimately connected and what happens to one cell is transmitted to all.

 

In the next article we will examine economic models that have emerged as a result of new technologies and advancement in the field of science.

 

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.