Saturday, December 11, 2010

Musings on quality of life and development

Being Chinese, food is of particular importance to me. Being around all the scrumptious food in Cajamarca really made me think and rethink. I used to feel sorry for people in developing countries because of their lack of "cargo" (see Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel). Now I feel sorry for myself because of my lack of access to abundance of "real" food. Furthermore, I envy climates where temperature control is irrelevant and plants flourish.

What makes a good life? Maybe Starbucks is only a consolation for the poor souls that do not have coffee trees, pastured cows, and sugar cane plants in their neighborhood. Maybe all "cargoes" are really consolations. What does development mean besides clean water, good roads, education, health care...? If China can be used as a cautionary tale for development, what are the trade-offs regarding autonomy, environment, family ties...? On the other hand I am grateful on behalf of the developing world for Chinese manufactured compact florescent bulbs, clothing for the masses, and affordable vehicles. It's so complicated..

6 comments:

Crash Eddy said...

Wow! Navel contemplation while on the road;-}

Sun-Ling said...

@Ed, I am just glad you are not accusing this mandarina of plotting socialism again :)

Susan in Florida said...

I am really enjoying the blog. If I miss it for a week or so, I am always excited to get back to see the wonderful photos and the new narrative. This post was particularly thought provoking for me.

“Now I feel sorry for myself because of my lack of access to abundance of "real" food. Furthermore, I envy climates where temperature control is irrelevant and plants flourish.”<==that made sense to me and made me (too) long to live in a place where I could get fresh fruits and vegetables daily. BUT....I’m such a slacker....my actions fall far short of my ideals. Maybe I’ll get a juicer...that might make eating fresh fruits and veggies easier for me.

“What makes a good life?” <==I ponder that a lot. It seems a major theme of the philosophy books that I’m reading. I am now reading ‘The Pursuit of Unhappiness: The Elusive Psychology of Well-Being’ by a current day philosopher Daniel Haybron. He talks about the human need to always want to improve things. That need...that longing is perhaps biological...nurtured in us by evolution. BUT he questions the hypothesis that those improvements always enhance the citizen’s well being. Sometimes the citizen that lives the simple life enjoys great well being.

“It's so complicated" <==yes indeed.

The word “socialism” has a tenancy to give me the knee jerk reaction to think of failed societies that used that word or similar words.... The National Socialist Party (aka the nazis) or communist regimes that abused civil liberties. Those failed societies use words like socialism as IF it’s good for all the people BUT it appears to me that it’s mostly only good for the people in POWER. I think a good society is one that prevents the abuse of power. That is a HUGE key to success. Then the next ingredients are drinkable water, access to healthy foods, free education for everyone willing and capable of learning, at least minimum health care for everyone, and then after that...I think the key ingredients include an environment of freedom for the individual. The geniuses don’t just come from the aristocracy. All individuals should be given a chance to flourish. Plus all people deserve to be able to pursue happiness.

Anyway...hope it was OK to comment...I (too) have been thinking about what it means for a society to be good... and what it means to have the good life.

Susan in Florida said...

Leela just called me. She is walking up to the Coon Rock organic family farm to pick up her weekly CSA (community supported agriculture) box. She gets veggies from the farm every week. And it's walking distance from her house. Pretty cool, eh?

Kathy said...

So agree about the dismal state of food in the US - bio-engineered and factory farmed, ugh! I think the situation is a bit better in Europe...

Someone wrote a book a while back saying that everything started going to hell back when agriculture was invented - we should have stayed hunter-gatherers. But there are benefits from the division of labor and the cities that agriculture made possible. If there were just fewer of us...

john said...

@Kathy,@Susan,
Great comments! Thanks!
-john and sun-ling