Un Mundo believes there are both objective and subjective factors of under-development. Objective factors include disease, illiteracy, and oppressive social and economic arrangements. Subjective factors include cultural identity, ethics, and beliefs — i.e., the world-view of a people. These objective and subjective factors are both causes and effects of under-development.1 Un Mundo also believes much of this debilitating cycle of under-development in Latin America exists as a direct effect of colonization, and that many of the dynamics of colonization are still at work today.2 Accordingly, we treat both the subjective and objective factors of under-development as historical realities, and as such susceptible to transformation, which also explains why we primarily focus on forming the youth. Our ideology and corresponding two-pronged approach to development work are rooted in our philosophy of empowerment.
One powerful explanation of the astonishing 'success' of the American conquest and colonization, both during the 15th and 16th centuries and today, is that European powers were able to conceptualize the pre- and semi-literate Native American populations in such a way that allowed the Europeans to conquer through division and deceit a virtually paralyzed Native American culture.3 This explanation is largely built upon the premise that underlying economic arrangements give rise to social and cultural forms. By striving to maximize profit, the premise holds, Western capitalism promotes risk-taking, which in turn promotes rationality and creativity; whereas the fear of famine in a subsistence agricultural economy constantly threatened by environmental disaster promotes risk-eliminating habits, which in turn promote a past-oriented, ritual-dominated, and mythical-thinking worldview.4 Accordingly, the past-oriented, ritual-dominated, and mythical-thinking Native American worldview was less able to improvise when confronted with the wholly unforeseen encounter with the 'other' than a forward-looking and rational Western ethos. Upon encountering the Europeans, the Native Americans suffered a virtual cultural paralysis, as their modes of interpreting the world and communicating broke down in the face of such a dramatically unprecedented event. The highly structured Native American worldview (wherein any event out of the ordinary was deemed heralded by another, prophecy and law were designated by the same word, and individual destiny was entirely preordained by a cosmic/religious/social order) lost its ability to promote coherent understanding, as ritual and divination suddenly ceased to offer guidance, and in doing so lost its ability to effectively resist predatory European interests. This same tradition-dominated worldview that catalyzed an improbable conquest proved fertile ground for subsequent colonial subjugation of the native outlook with a foreign one, spawning a false consciousness that today obscures the true nature and origins of under-development.5 This understanding not only provides insight into many seemingly ironic technical, social, and moral arrangements in under-developed communities, but also offers the pedagogical lesson that so called "under-developed" peoples must learn to unite and develop a critical consciousness if they are to resist power and control their own destiny.
1 For a more complete understanding of the value of approaching development work from such an objective-subjective dichotomy, see generally Under Development is a State of Mind: the Latin American Case. Harrison, Lawrence. The Center for International Affairs, Harvard University. 1985.
2 See The Open Veins of Latin America. Galeano, Eduardo. Monthly Review Press, New York, NY. 1973. (Introduction; Chapter 1, Lust for Gold, Lust for Silver; Chapter 5, The Contemporary Structure of Plunder.)
3 For a complete discussion, see The Conquest of America: The Question of the Other. Tzvetan, Todorov. Harpers & Row, 1984. University of Oklahoma Press, 1999. (Chapter 2, Conquest: The Reasons for Victory, Montezuma and Signs, Cortez and Signs).
4 See generally, The Moral Economy of the Peasant: Rebellion and Subsistence in South East Asia. Scott, James. Yale University Press, 1982.
5 See, Jose Marti, La America Precolombina Espanola. Acosta, Leonardo. Casa de Las Americas Publisher. Havana, Cuba, 1974. (Chapter 7, La Conception Historica de Marti.)