Today we had a discussion on what defined a developed nation vs. a developing nation. This time last year I was having the same discussion in economics class, sitting behind a desk. An important point that my econ teacher made focused on laundry machines. He said that in developing countries where there are no laundry machines, washing clothes is an arduous and time-consuming task. He said that washing machines revolutionized lives. It gave women more time for other things like reading or spending time with their children. While none of this is wrong, at the time it came across to me in a negative light. I thought to myself how unfortunate those women must be, and how sad it was that they weren’t given the same opportunities.
I am only now beginning to see the flaws in my thought process. After the discussion with Dragons I headed back to my home stay and began doing laundry with my Aamaa by hand. It was difficult and time consuming, yes, but not at any real cost. My Aamaa does laundry for her whole family, cooks, cleans and spends most days doing nothing but house chores. All of this work and she still has a wonderful relationship with her children, is fluent in two languages and is learning two more. So what really defines the difference between her and my own mother at home? They are both extraordinary, hard-working women, laundry machine or not.
One of the group members made the point to ask how we can redefine “success” in relation to what makes a country developed or developing. The overall problem is that success itself is defined differently from culture to culture, or person to person. Another group member suggested we use a study done a few years ago as an example an measure success by the happiness of the citizens. Is happiness a fair determinant? If so, my Nepali Dad would take home the gold. Measure success of a nation by happiness could completely flip-flop the places on a map that we define as developed and developing.
Every place on Earth has a different way of doing things. Some use more or less money, with different beliefs and varied attitudes. Why do we label some better than others? The question of developed vs. developing seems to have become a question of superior vs. inferior. Is this really a judgement that must be made?