Underdevelopment – mostly identical with poorness – can be removed by economical, technical and also ecological measures.
The undernourished should be fed; health service should be provided for the suffering and endangered people, education and information should be established for the illiterates and the uninformed. All that has to be done and it requires high importance. But - it is by far not enough.
The underprivileged, the hungry, the poor themselves must promote the development, especially their own development.
In many parts of this world development policies do not work. The reason behind this situation is the fact that the underdeveloped, although being supported with the aim to motivate them, are not really enabled to start organising their own further development.
The reason is they suffer from a deep feeling of inferiority. Giving them support,
opportunities and ideas – all these may lessen their needs – which is a good thing. But as long as the feeling of inferiority prevails, people will not create their own programmes to develop themselves and to achieve a permanent improvement of their situation.
It is not so important for the people to exercise their duties, exactly the orders given to them. It is important that they do, what they want to do, driven from their own ambition, by their own impulse and that they foster this desire in their hearts.
The first phase of a development project and the implementation of necessary work might last longer – sometimes much more longer –, if we are not giving orders to them, but encourage the people to execute their tasks following their own intention. Nevertheless - in a long range, it will be much more effective.
But we are confronted with one serious difficulty: Social workers, teachers and others in development work have a tendency to estimate themselves superior compared with their clients.
One of the reasons for this feeling is that they feel themselves more westernised compared with them. It is a widespread feeling – partly conscious, partly unconscious – that modern civilisation would be superior.
Another reason is the pharisaic arrogance of fundamentalist Christianistic groups found in some former colonised countries. They believe not only that their religion, but also their special life style would be the only right way to conduct life. The majority of missionaries fostered in themselves and their followers a really arrogant feeling of superiority.
In the similar way Arabs fostered a feeling of superiority of Islam in some countries of Central Africa. Both – so called Christians and so called Muslims misused their religion as a medium to maintain their power.
There is only one solution. We can show – and give – respect to the underprivileged and discriminated. We can respect their way of life, culture and social structure.
Step 1: So the first step is to fight against the feeling of superiority and belong to a superior culture / civilisation / religion / social group in our own consciousness. It is critical as the awareness must be fostered that underprivileged and discriminated people are on the same level in the society and their culture has the same human value as the one of the development activists.
Step 2: It is important that all negotiations – all exchanges of information, all teaching and all advices – are executed at eye-level. Every form of “down speaking” has strictly to be avoided.
Language is an important instrument to install inferiority and superiority. In some cultures, for example, women are addressed with inferior marking terms (as younger and not with polite terms), their men at the same time are marked as superior (as older and with polite terms). To alternate such customs, thaht means to use language as a vehicle of emancipation. The impression to be treated absolutely on the same level as others will very quickly reduce the feeling of inferiority.
Step 3: All cultural aspects, which do not conflict with human rights, should be accepted as just of the same value as the development activists cultural background. And it must distinctly be shown to the clients, that their culture is fully respected.
If there are exist cultural traits that are very strange and hard to understand by the development activists - this should, by no means, influence the acknowledgement of these traits as of high value.
(Often it may be difficult for us to understand cultural and religious traits, when confronted with them for the first time. A research may later on reveal the high value of such cultural elements for the society that is practising them).
Irula tribal people are generally treated inferior by the authorities as well as other social groups because these groups feel superior to them. There were clear evidences of tendencies in the past to exploit Adivasi population and marginalize their village groups.
For example authorities foster a tendency to divide their village units and expel parts of them from their community.
Culture and religion of the Irular and especially their high standard social life are totally neglected.
All this induced a feeling of inferiority among the tribal population. In addition, the Irular’s economic situation is extremely poor. Malnourishment came up after 1978. At that time a forest act forbid the Adivasi making use of the resources in forests and mountain areas. (The old law is now partly withdrawn by a new forest act of 2006).
From the beginning of my regular meetings with Irular communities I tried to realise consequent and conscious efforts fostering the feeling that both sides – the Irular and my friends an I - are on an equal level in our relationship.
+ We accepted meals from the hand of the Adivasi and ate it.
(In the Indian society, generally the so-called “higher class” will give edibles to the so-called inferior groups to make them depend on “high people”. But the “high class people” avoid taking meals from “inferiors” for not to become polluted by their “impureness”.)
+ We are speaking in a very polite manner in personal discussions during exchange of information. “Down speaking” as well as addressing women with inferiority announcing terms are strictly avoided.
+ We are showing an interest, that naturally really exists, for culture, religion and social life of the Irular. Research has been carried out to get knowledge about their important festivals. The researches included interviews, photo- and video-documentation, as well as tape-records of festival songs. Such research in the field of Cultural Anthropology and Religious Science produced a new awareness and pride for their own culture within the Irular society.
+ We discovered during their research that Irular communities have a very flat hierarchical structure, which enables women and men to enjoy nearly equal rights. In addition, we have found that some customs and rituals, especially executed during distinct festivals, are of a high value for supporting individual health, social balance and harmony within the groups. These crucial points were discussed with the Irular and the value of their customs were stressed.
+ Dancing and singing, practised by Irular individuals and groups far more than by any other more restricted living social units of their surrounding, were acknowledged as a crucial mean of feeling good, expressing themselves and exercises for opening up and uttering their own opinion. So the motivation was given further on to be free in dancing and singing, that must be seen as an important part of Irular culture.
However, Irular children not geting a formal or informal school education before, are now by AG Zukunft Irular given an opportunity of studying to become later on recognised from all the different societies and accepted and to get better positions, like teacher, nurse, accountant or doctor.
# The Irular, especially the women, started to discuss their situation very openly and articulate their wishes.
# The Irular women are working freely and self-consciously together within women groups (magalir mantram) with other women (SCs and MBCs)
# The Irular support the education of their children.
# The grown ups want to learn reading and writing as well as studying English.
# The Irular women do not hesitate to speak freely in front of an audience, to sing their songs and to dance for others.
# The Irular women are the activists in promoting development.
Especially the coming out of the women within a short time is striking. An explanation could be the fact that the Irular are discriminated, but the men do not subdue the women.
Concerening Dalit women: There is some progress in self-confidence, but they are not so open, compared with the Irular women. So SC and MBC women are not daring to dance and sing during meetings at the moment. But there is some evidence that they will do it in future.
The reason for the restriction is the fact that SC and MBC women are objects of class discrimination, but are additionally oppressed by their husbands (and their husbands relatives).
Nevertheless the women of all these groups, who had never before experienced any relationship, are now working together, eating together, talking together and celebrating together.
The feeling of inferiority is not a rare and single phenomenon. It is a feeling which is spread worldwide and caused by colonialist powers of the western world, as well as by the Arab dominance in parts of Africa.
Ruling classes in different countries all over the world are adopting colonialism in n this respect as they are exploiting their own people continously.
Feelings of inferiority cause:
+ a lack of the ability to make decisions about finding a way out of misery;
+ an attraction due to the surrounding cultures with better economic status and power. This develops a tendency to lead by abandoning their cultural roots (often roots with an higher human standard, compared with the social life of the richer classes.);
+ in connection with certain additional conditions, in some areas (for example in the Near East) an acceptance to act in a terroristic manner.
Terrorism is created by the impression to be inferior, that you will never be able to solve the existing problems in a positive way.
To erase the feeling of inferiority is a worldwide task in order to motivate people to develop themselves.
This feeling is based on:
- discriminating ethnic groups
- under-privileging social groups and classes
- dominating children (by school or parents)
- bounding human beings into slavery and bounded labour
- subjugating women by men.
As the need to erase the feeling of inferiority prevails, similarly the feeling of superiority, that is haunting around within nations, social classes, religious groups, gender groups and educational staffs, should also be erased.
The appearance of the feeling of inferiority can be identified very clearly in the former colonialist countries. However, we also find it in the western countries. At the moment politics promote the spreading out of poorness.
Consequently, persons, confronted with poorness, have the impression they never will have a chance to escape from it. So the feeling of inferiority will take place. It does not make any sense to request, like right wing politicians used to do, to diminish the social support for to give more responsibility to the poor. This strategy cannot work as long as the feelings of inferiority are blocking every motivation to find an own way out of misery.
Firstly, we must motivate and convince people that their status and their abilities are reasonable equal compared with others. That will erase inferiority feeling and help to act, but of course only, if we provide real chances to come out of misery.
As we mentioned concerning the Irular, there have been some success in the last years to improve as well the economic situation, the education of Children, as the to free the minds of the people oppressing feeling of inferiority.
But it is absolute necessary that we proceed with our education and support programs to get a really sustainable development.
By Günter Spitzing
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Irular Varungalam Society founded
the official registration of the Partner NGO of Zukunft Irular e.V. (Future Irular) is done. Irular women are forming the board.
That means: The tribal people themselves will become deeply involved in there own development.
In this way a widespread severe mistake of development politics will be avoided. A lot of Partner NGOs are fostering a tendency to look after there clients and to dominate them.
These Partner NGOs produce paternalism instead to support independence and self-esteem.
But Zukunft Irular is not only working for the tribal population but cooperating with them. That is an important step to errase the fealing of inferiority!!!