Rising rates of depression and anxiety.
Politicians telling lies and undermining the free press.
Unprecedented levels of consumer waste and pollution.
People freezing to death in winter.
I’m not talking about some far-flung failed state. These points could describe the UK, US, China, and – frankly – probably any developed country in the world.
If this is what passes for a ‘developed country’, then what passes as ‘development’ is clearly failing us.
Separating countries into the ‘developed’ and the ‘developing’ is not only artificial, it is dangerous.
To call countries ‘developed nations’ implies that they have reached a point where development is ‘done’
Can we really say that the way any country is working in 2020 reflects the pinnacle of possibility for the human race? Is there anywhere on the planet where people are universally able to live well, in ways that take care of the earth and each other’s well-being, too?
Have humans really been in existence for hundreds of thousands of years so we could reach an end-point where Kylie Jenner can paint her face on Instagram and make a billion dollars?
Is there really no higher we can aim?
In putting ourselves in the ‘developed country’ basket, we become lazy. We stop trying to reimagine things, and take them as ‘the way things are’.
We assume that things we invented – for example, the stock exchange – aren’t good or bad, they simply are. We stop questioning where we’re going – for example, we accept that ‘economic growth is good’ as a universal truth, without asking our politicians what this economic growth will do for us.
The arrogance of ignorance
We are marking ‘developing countries’ further down the imaginary continuum between ‘developing’ and ‘developed’. We are insinuating that there’s only one way to be truly developed – and it’s our way.
We imagine developed countries as ‘less than’ us – less advanced, somehow, but without being specific about what it is they are worse at.
And yet, whilst developed countries can complain about developing countries such as Brazil or Ecuador chopping down rainforest, they are still the ones driving the need for the rainforest’s resources.
Not only does this false divide between developed/developing create goals for developing countries that won’t necessarily make life better for humans (something politicians rarely talk about these days), but the divide also insinuates that ‘developed’ countries have nothing to learn from developing countries. So they don’t look. And yet, in many of these countries, there is still more harmony between people and planet, lower rates of consumerism, and lower rates of depression.
It’s time we accepted that all countries are developing.
Are humans really such basic animals that they are guaranteed to live better, happier, more fulfilling lives because their country has a higher GDP?
Of course not.
We need to be taking a more holistic look at what makes life worth living, to understand whether we’re creating the conditions for humans to flourish to their highest potential.
Only if we ever reach that state can we truly say that a country is ‘developed’.