What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word ‘development’?
Progress?…the gold rush?… land grabs?…jobs and the economy?…heavy industry at work?
Since the publication of the short satirical comic ‘There You Go’ by Survival International in 2006, this little book has been used as a teaching tool in schools, in development courses and has been read by World Bank officials, development workers and politicians from Paraguay to Botswana.
The launch of the short film version of There You Go this month, narrated by British comedian David Mitchell, seeks to widen the reach and popularity in challenging rigidly adopted meanings of ‘development’ which have come to dominate public policy economic and project planning schemes in countries across the world, particularly those with indigenous and tribal populations.
This type of development, as Survival International campaigner Sophie Grig puts it, is still promoted at the highest levels of government in countries such as India and Malaysia.
Illustrated by Oren Ginzburg, the comic has been used to teach those involved in development in tribal areas in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh, Ethiopia and in the Solomon islands, with one indigenous activist in Sarawak, Malaysia, claiming that ‘What happens in the book is exactly what is happening in Sarawak.’
A leading Yanomami spokesman from Brazil, Davi Yanomami, believes that a more democratic approach to development is needed:
‘It’s not that the Yanomami do not want progress, or other things that white people have. They want to be able to choose and not have change thrust upon them, whether they want it or not’
The ideas and arguments in the film and comic will be familiar to anyone who has been following land rights struggles against governments and heavy industry facilities across the world in recent years, such as those in India and Brazil, to name but two.
If we are to support indigenous struggles from the violent and destructive consequences of corporate-state schemes this requires us to examine the legal and moral arguments that support and protect them.
For instance, as Western consumers (people in Ireland) of the minerals and natural resources that give rise to such extraction industries and processes of dispossession on the Yanomami and the Penan (in Sarawak), are we not involved in these struggles in one way or another?
Having an understanding of where goods and services come from – how they are made; the impact that this has had on the environment; calculating the social costs in producing said good; the impact that this good or service is having on the planet – is about the choices we make, or ignore.
This film and comic are useful tools in starting discussions on these debates.
More information on the background to the campaign, profiles of tribal groups caught in the conflict of development and actions being taken visit https://www.survivalinternational.org/thereyougo