We are excited about this series of editorials on development. Development is a very widely used term with varied definitions and perceptions. But every man, woman and child knows some element of what it means – from the highest echelons of society to the common man on the street. Whatever the sophisticated definitions of development are, the bottom line is that no government can fool the common man as to whether his country is developed or not. He knows what development is supposed to look like. As such, when he complains that his country is not developed, he knows what he means.
With mobile technology and increased access to the internet, the ordinary man has seen development. When he pays L$50 at the local video club, he pays to see much more than just a match between Barca and Madrid. He pays that L$50 to see DEVELOPMENT.
Ever wonder how the ordinary Liberian knows so much about European football? That’s because it makes sense. He follows the DEVELOPMENT of the game. He sees professionalism and discipline pay off, and indiscipline penalized. He sees the stadium built to seat hundreds of thousands. He sees Europe. That is how he knows that his country is not developed.
When he watches American movies, he gets to see roads. Train stations. Multi-lane highways. Bridges. Sky scrapers. Overpasses. People going to work. Twenty-four hour electricity and, by God, running water!
But those are just the basics of development. Much more than that, the ordinary man watching an American movie gets to see the standard of living of the citizens of the country. He gets to see QUALITY of life. Jobs. Food. Science. Art. Entertainment. Tourism. What modern day housing is supposed to look like. Freedom of speech and of religion. Effective government. Law and order. Zoning laws enforced. The legal system in action. He gets to see an enabling environment for businesses to thrive. Commerce. Industry. Aviation. Technological advancements. Countless rags to riches stories. EDUCATION and all of the many fruits thereof.
In the mind of the ordinary man, that is development. That is what his country is supposed to look like. The fact that he has not set foot in a classroom is in no way an indication that he does not know what development is.
The problem is that his government underestimates his “uneducated” mind. After all, the people don’t know any better. Every other day on the airwaves, however, a multi-million dollar agreement is being signed. Aid is coming into the country (in cash and kind) in the name of development. Oil blocks are being negotiated. Foreign investors are doing business here. Taxes are being collected.
It is in fact said government, it turns out, that is uneducated about how much its people know and expect. Said government creates expectations, repeatedly fails to deliver, and then expects that the people will forget!
And so when Takun J released “The People Lied to Us”, he knew what he meant.
As a matter of fact, we all did.