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A Third World Plea To America


For the power of man to make himself what he pleases means the power of some men to make other men what they please.

— C.S.Lewis

Introduction

The manipulation, exploitation and destruction of human life that we see today in the First World is clearly reflected in First World neo-colonialist policies applied to Third World countries. These policies destroy Third World men, women and children!

“WORK IS FULFILLMENT,” proclaimed the sign over the entrance of the concentration camp at Auschwitz. Inside, thousands of Jews were forced to work on a starvation diet before being eliminated. The white man’s civilizing mission, having similarly eliminated aboriginal people all over the globe, is joined today by many of our own elitist corps in a drive for ‘sustainable development.’ ‘Sustainable development ’ is nothing but a cover for the final liquidation of our natural resources coupled with the destruction of our rich, indigenous cultures which love life — life in the family and life in the fields. Indeed the Third World has enough for every man’s need, but not for others’ greed.

Development as plunder

Development projects often destroy rather than develop a nation, for example: the farmers of Pantanchern near Hyderabad, whose fields have been destroyed by the effluents from industrial poisons; women of Garwhal whose wood fuel and leaf fodder sources have been destroyed by the rapacious commercial, exploitation of forests; peasants from the Philippines who have run into debt with new rice varieties requiring costly inputs; tribes whose lands have been submerged under dams; and costly drugs sold at exorbitant prices when excellent, harmless and locally available remedies are available. Sad, too, are the women who have been persuaded to nurse their infants with bottles and lost them to deadly dehydration; and mothers and young women lured into contraceptive use. Modernization has weakened the practices of breast feeding and sexual abstinence and thus increased the level of natural fertility. Thus instead of building on existing marital and family values, modern and ‘civilized’ contraception has actually worsened the mothers’ health and damaged the life style of centuries. Now the spectre of AIDS has appeared along with ‘safe sex’ slogans promoted among people who abhor the idea of sexual relations outside of marriage.

‘Development’ has benefited the Third World elite and the entire First World. Indian paper mills buy bamboo at rates cheaper than those paid by poor basket weavers. This makes cheaper paper available, not for educating the poor, since the number of illiterates have been growing every year, but for glossy magazines and packaging materials for urban consumers.

It is not a rare sight to see an impoverished tribal, who has lived in close affinity with nature for thousands of years, cutting a tree to sell to a contractor to make a crate to export apples, which millions of Indian children can never dream of tasting or even seeing! This is what ‘development’ has done.

In fact it is said that animals in the North eat more grain than the people of India and China put together. While a woman in a slum in Madras city scrapes together a pot of ‘Kanji’ (rice water) for her children, the chocolate industry in Switzerland tries to discover one more exotic flavor for the insatiable palates of children in the industrialized nations.

In South America subsistence agriculture has been taken over by technology-oriented commercial farming and thousands of Andean plant varieties have been almost completely wiped out. Vast hectares of land are devoted to cultivation of coffee and soybeans which are exported while the foreign exchange is used for Defense! Thus food prices have accelerated and the cash crops benefit the elite. The ever-increasing use of artificial chemicals to counter pests has seriously damaged the health and environment of the South. Indigenous pesticides are abandoned in favor of modern Northern ones. The mechanization of India’s coastal fisheries has meant canning and export and ultimately a reduction in the availability of fish for the local population, for whom it was once a cheap and abundant source of protein. Experts have almost totally ignored the Third World’s tremendous potential for energy sources such as, solar, wind, sea, biogas and waterfalls.

The Gene Revolution may increase production but whatever good it can do is far outweighed by its possible dangers. The gene revolution is controlled by the private sector in the Third World, and it feeds the rich. It is time for us to change the ethics of development.

New population control technologies

The human face of a crisis is the face of women in Asia! By no means can we say that new technologies for population control are culturally compatible with the Indian psyche. Not only are they invasive to the woman’s body, but they pose a serious threat to her already endangered physical condition. Women’s health is worsening year by year in the land where ‘goddesses’ are revered. Malnutrition, anemia and parasitic infestation is the lot of most women. These increase morbidity and mortality and it is this, neither her pregnancy nor childbirth, that demands our most urgent attention. Further, the status of the Indian woman, which is already very low, suffers further degradation when she prostitutes herself for experimentation in pregnancy vaccine trials. These trials, which are going on at present for a consideration of Rs. 500/ – per month (as are hormonal implant trials), are shrouded in secrecy and subsidized by the West.

“The continued mechanistic approach to contraception and sterilization: the insistent din of the message has brought about resistance not only in the people but also in family health providers” (Source: IPPF Branch in India). Methods of birth control that are dangerous or unproven are promoted in — and exported to — the Third World. Witness the debate in France regarding RU-486 — the abortion pill that has been described as necessary to combat population growth in the developing world — a place where women are seen as dispensable!

There is a general belief, unfortunately, that contraceptives reduce maternal mortality rates. Statements conclude thus: “It is much safer to take the Pill than to become pregnant.” In actual truth, childbearing becomes a risk only in those poor anemic, unvaccinated (against tetanus) women who already have an overall high morbidity rate. In many Third World countries (even Japan bans the Pill on ‘health grounds’), the quantum of morbidity produced by oral contraceptives is far too high to justify its use.

When one modern contraceptive after another failed to be accepted or was ineffective due to unforeseen factors, abortion was presented as the perfect solution, the final solution to population control. Abortion would ‘liberate’ woman whose body was her own and neither the church nor the state could or should intervene or interfere with this ‘progressive step’ of Third World Women: Thus said the FIRST WORLD. All that abortion has done effectively is to increase promiscuity, teenage pregnancy and maternal mortality, which has doubled within seven years. It also plunged the status and dignity of women to an all time low. This picture is duplicated in the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand. In Latin America foreign aid and population control are unashamedly tied together.

Laprascopic sterilization has long made its debut in India in spite of its complications. The possibility that IUD users were at a higher risk of ectopic pregnancy first became apparent in 1965 when Lippes reported that four out of 23 pregnancies that occurred with a Lippes Loop in situ were ectopic. In recent years there have been several reports of an increase in the number of ectopic pregnancies. Now, there are reports which link vasectomy and prostate cancer. This potential fatality is being explained away in the usual casual way (JAMA, “Vasectomy,” February 1993).

In China, a supposed “family planning” success story has been uncovered by Stephen Mosher. Chinese married women, with no children, must apply for permission to get pregnant. The Pill wrapped in rice paper, is placed on the outstretched tongues of women standing in line every morning. Their menstrual periods are posted on factory notice boards to ensure non-pregnancy. Sometimes a bucket of water is kept at the bedside of women in labor to drown a girl child unlucky enough to be born!

“In order to reduce the population, use whatever means you must, but do it!,” Premier Chen said. He continued, “With the support of the Party Central Committee you should have nothing to fear.” Such barbarian measures ill befit China, an ancient and great culture which should bow her head (and her abettors too) in shame. If an ‘authorized’ baby is the second, third, or subsequent child in a family, and sterilization is not accepted, the family will be denied permission to build a dwelling, their water and electricity will be cut off, grain coupons will not be issued, drivers licenses and private business licenses will be revoked. America where are you with your statue of Liberty and democratic preaching? Are you fiddling while we burn?

The technological terrorism of the West has finally invaded the East! As for Bangladesh — the playground for conferences on how to reduce population and encourage development — in “package deals” hybrid seafoods are grown for Japanese palates at the cost of much-needed rice. And experiments with invasive forms of contraception for the malnourished mother vie with each other. The scenario calls aloud for help and a true understanding of needs. America: “We ask you — will you listen to our cry?”

Amniocentesis for genetic testing is used solely for sex determination followed by female feticide and infanticide in India, a practice which has resulted in a sex ratio disorder of 929 women to 1000 men. Reproductive technologies, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), are being used when there are thousands of babies waiting for adoption. It becomes clear that such technologies are often pushed because doctors, scientists and pharmaceutical companies gain fame and fortune through their development.

Experience shows that this penchant for the ‘latest’ Western science, technology and ‘collaborative research’ has caused India to spend large sums on repetitive research, creating dependency and stifling the originality of younger scientists. It has also diverted attention and resources from the application of available knowledge and technology which could transform the health and welfare of Indians.

Demographic distortion

The First World, having to contend with rapidly declining birth rates, now seeks a power-domination over human life, creating a fear psychosis about overpopulation and its consequences. The lack of babies and youth encourages the development of expensive and psychologically traumatizing procedures of IVF. These techniques have unbalanced the demographic pattern, so that, even in India, there is a serious discussion of legalizing euthanasia under the pretext of mercy for the sick, the aged, and for the ‘conservation’ of resources.

In Kerala, as the population ages, the proportion of the working age (15–59) will also decline. The median age was 19.5 years three decades ago; it will be 35 years by 2025. Kerala is promoted as the wonder state with a birth rate of 21 per 1000 but its morbidity rate is the highest in the country! Also, the demographic modernization of Kerala is not matched by economic development as was promised! So much for “a small family is a happy family” — the slogan popularized in Asia and Africa!

Family planning is a failure

India launched an official Family Planning Program in 1951 as part of its first Five Year Plan. Over the past 40 years the program has been expanded through a network of maternal and child health services and medical facilities in rural and urban areas. Almost every village and urban area of the country has now been provided with family planning supplies and services, often (about 30–40%) refused by eligible couples!

As of March 1988, a sum of Rs. 50/ -billion (about U.S. $2 billion) had been spent. Nevertheless, the program’s achievements have been disappointing. The Couple Protection Rate (CPR) includes only 40 percent of eligible couples as of March 1988 and fertility had declined less than expected in every Five Year Plan. The foreign agencies involved include the World Bank, the United Nations Population Fund, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the World Health Organization, the International Development Agency, and bilateral agencies such as United States Agency for International Development, the Swedish International Development Agency, the Danish International Development Agency and similar agencies of the United Kingdom, Federal Republic of Germany, Norway, etc. Everyone is interested in cutting down the population of the Third World!

Under the innocuous title, “Area Projects,” foreign agencies launched programs in 66 districts of all 13 states in India. How much has this aid helped those in need and how much has it helped the aid-givers? We have evolved a new breed of demographers, often quickly trained abroad through short term seminars and courses. Then there are fashionable management experts who compensate for their ignorance of Indian rural life with innovative management jargon. This unholy combination of the managers of funding agencies, the go-getter bureaucrats and the softheaded demographers, all working for the welfare of India’s poor masses, has created a dismal situation.

Targetitis

International funding agencies, which insist on constant monitoring of the Department of Family Welfare, have encouraged the spread of a new virus, “Targetitis.” Notestein once said: “Coercion in family planning is likely to bring down the government faster than the birth rate.” It happened in India and will happen in China. The worst part of the story is that family planning targets are set in air conditioned offices in New Delhi where they are dehumanized and treated like cement and steel quotas. We also have a gang of ‘target chasers at the grass roots level: in particular, revenue officials, school teachers, and health workers including the poor and frightened ancillary nurse midwives.

In spite of the government’s stand that India’s program has a ‘cafeteria approach,’ with people ‘free to choose’ whatever method they want, in effect the program is a sterilization program. The only concern is more sterilizations regardless of the impact on the birth rate.

In India, sex is sacred because marriage is sacred, and the assault on the sex life of couples in the name of family planning is totally unacceptable to the masses. Revenue officials have a clear advantage over health personnel since they make promises, though false at times, of land, loan, fertilizers and other goodies. They approach some hapless creature who is cornered by as many as five motivators for a single sterilization operation. In such a situation, the victim or ‘acceptor’(if you want to use ‘correct’ political language) quotes his own price — very similar to an auction sale! The tragic part of the story of this mammoth exercise is that nobody is bothered about the eligibility of the person. All that one looks for is a case which achieves the target. I call this disease Targetitis.

The target-setting exercise by developed countries is exclusively confined to the developing countries in the name of foreign aid. No wonder the Western countries are crazy about suggesting the Chinese model of the one child family for other developing countries like India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. But what if the Chinese model ends in a fiasco? The only reason why the target chasers are still in business is the illiteracy of the masses, who do not understand demographic programming. But they do know that given their extremely high infant and child mortality rates, they just cannot have only two or three children (40 percent of infants do not reach their 15th birthday)!

There are nine million tuberculosis cases annually, of whom 400,000 die. Tetanus, for which we have had a cheap and effective vaccine for several decades, still claims 240,000 lives each year in India alone. Childhood respiratory infections are due to poor housing and are caused by a variety of organisms. Will that mean another polyvalent vaccine because we cannot deliver a few tablets of sulphonamide for the cure? How then can any intelligent person be motivated for family planning? And we are an intelligent people. These diseases vanished from the West before the advent of vaccine or drugs. Have we not enough vaccines and drugs today to vanquish them?

No ‘family’ in family planning!

There have been numerous programs for the rural poor but thanks to growing government corruption, the average landless worker has more faith that the family and kinship network will come to his rescue in his continuing economic crisis, than he does in the State. He would rather have sons than seek salvation in sterilization.

Professor Nicholas J. Demerath, an American sociologist who worked as a family planning expert in India in the 1960s, discussed “why family planning fails in poor countries.” He received hardly any attention in India or in the U.S., thanks to the powerful international birth control lobby. He observed that, “the first reason why family planning fails in poor countries, is because of the obsession of the experts with techniques in contraception. The belief that just about any problem can and will be fixed by some new tool or technique is as Anglo-American as apple pie. It is unfortunate that in most discussions on family planning, the family is never discussed. Instead the obsession is with contraceptive technology. The poverty stricken masses in India still rely on the solidarity of the family for their survival, whereas the credibility of government functionaries administering various anti-poverty programs is suspect.”

Beyond cold calculus

India’s rural masses have outwitted the medical bureaucracy which pinned its hopes on sterilization and failed to make a significant impact on the birth rate. “I have always pleaded for demography beyond decimal points,” said Professor Ashish Bose, India’s and the Third World’s leading demographer. “I have argued that unless we go beyond the cold calculus of births and deaths and feel the heartbeat of the people, demography will remain a dismal science of population, dominated by doomsday predictions based on mechanical projections of population which can now be done in a matter of minutes on the electronic computer. Statistical competence is not enough to understand the population problem,” he continued. “And to solve the population problem, it is not enough to have competence in reproductive biology. Human behavior is rooted in faith — faith in oneself and faith in God.”

Has the Western model of 1.8 children and mindless consumerism improved the quality of life? How does the West propose to contain the erosion in the solidarity of the family and preserve the institution of marriage and family?

Global disorder

G.K. Chesterton wrote, “An open mind, like an open mouth, does have a purpose: and that is, to close it upon something solid. Otherwise, it could end up like a city sewer, rejecting nothing.”

Young people can conquer the world — but they don’t want it! Material prosperity, they often find, has not made life meaningful. The hunger for love and meaning are the forces behind the rebellion of youth. Denmark, for example, enjoys physical health but has the highest admission into psychiatric hospitals.

A new world disorder is emerging. In the closing years of the 20th century the traditional concept of development is no longer just a question of technology transfer, foreign direct investment, or even free market economics. Today, there is hardly a major political, social, or economic problem in the developing world that cannot be observed to some degree in both the capitalist and socialist industrialized regions. Societal decline, hunger, violence, poverty, homelessness, and human hopelessness exist in the most sophisticated, technologically advanced citadels of the ‘modern’ industrialized world. Euthanasia is viewed as a necessary tool of the materialistic society, and suicide a fundamental right.

‘Modernization,’ or the Western type of development as we have come to know it, is not an inevitable culminating stage in the evolution of societies. Some societies are choosing to leave ‘modernity’ behind or to go beyond it. The joint family system, parent/child interdependence, the honor of the aged, natural food, home entertainment and family togetherness need not be a luxury. These are necessary for a fully human life. Consumerism and materialism must not be the hallmark of any nation or person. Change, however, must first occur in the head and the heart in order to motivate the hand. We must engage in true human communication and solidarity or man will become merely a ‘consumer.’ America, will you awake, arise and speak before it is too late?

The sunshine people and the shadow people!

There are two kinds of people in the world — the sunshine people and the shadow people. There is no doubt that the people of the North live in the sunshine, but for how long? It appears that the South is doomed to dwell in the shadows! It is this discrimination that we are all aiding and abetting, and that you America must wish to correct. Every idle silence is also a crime. America you can lend the First World!

It is in the South that two thirds of the World‘s population is born into a world of hunger and squalor. It is here that the North, through its international monetary institutions, its transnational investment, its free trade zones and its policies of aid pulls the South into greater dependency, debt, and increasing poverty.

William Dyson, Director of the Canadian Vanier Institute for the Family recently said in India, “We who come from the Western European nations are held up as people who have found the path to follow towards development. We alone, so many believe, have the response to the question about what is the best way to enable us all to live well upon this planet. I come to say to you that this is a myth. We do not have the answers from the approaches to life of both your people and mine taken together. Something much better, much more appropriate may be found so that tomorrow all your children and all our children might together share life, better and more fully.”

We, in India, need understanding, mutually benefiting trade agreements — and not aid. Remember:

Only the rice we share together, nourishes

Only the water we drink together, quenches our thirst

Only the struggle we join in together, brings liberation

Only the words we find together, are understandable

Only the road we travel together, has a purpose

Only the purpose we aim at together, is reachable

Only the peace we make together, will be world-wide.

Dr. Marie Mascarenhas is a medical doctor who has studied extensively in the areas of community health, and social and medical demography. She is the founder and director of CREST which is the Indian society for natural family planning. She was a principal investigator for the World Health Organization study of the ovulation method of natural family planning in India.

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