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The Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with the First Step.

January 1, 2010

I have been considering my first blog entry for the past few weeks. I’ve written others, and completed an article I am looking to get published, while still not authoring my introduction. I guess knowing that I plan on an innumerable amount of entries, there can still only be one first. Let’s see, one versus infinity. Well, that’s not too much pressure to get the first one right is it?

The first subject has become clear after constant rumination, steadfast in my repertoire as it is. It is that of perspective. More specifically, it is the idea of ethnocentricity: everyone sees (and judges) the world through their own lens shaped by their personal experiences and colored by their values. I think this is the most valuable insight one can take from the study of anthropology as it can help us understand our self and “others”. As international development is by practice cross-cultural in nature, those in the field must recognize their ethnocentric views in order to balance the integrity of their perspective and the ability to compromise.

The anthropologist observer may have noticed the irony of my being ethnocentric in my plea for people to be wary and understand ethnocentrism. I have taken a concept learned within an institution of learning in my culture and I am now espousing its value for everyone in the world. If you noticed, good for you, and you can skip the rest of this paragraph. For the rest of us I would urge a concerted effort to recognize the inductive logic that pervades most of the books and blogs that dominate our visual media. People take their personal ideas and experiences and extrapolate to comment on how the world is, or should be, in regards to their subject. By pointing this out I am not trying to discredit them or myself. I am simply trying to demonstrate how important it is to understand what you and the writer are bringing to the table. It is important to know who is saying what and possibly why. Guard against stereotype and generalization, but consider the source, even when it is you.

That being said, who am I? As I write I am thousands of feet in the air barreling along at hundreds of miles per hour on my way to meet family for Christmas. I obviously have the means to fly and the flexibility to get away for a few days. Being in the plane now is significant because it tells you I work off of a laptop. You will be reading this off of my blog alluding to some experience with web-based programming. Oh, yeah, and if you’re reading this you obviously know I write in English. From a development perspective these are all important. They give clues to who I am. The freedoms and opportunities I have been given. Just from this small general set of data you could probably make an educated guess that I am from the U.S. or Canada, from a Christian background, college educated, and at least middle-class. You would be right.

I was born in Indianapolis, grew up in North Carolina, traveled through many countries and now reside in Brooklyn. I was raised going to a Christian church but now feel resonation with Buddhist or Sufi texts. Which reminds me, I laughed when I read ‘Stuff White People Like’ though sometimes it was a nervous laugh. My family is of Italian, English and German descent. My parents are blue collar, but I have a Master’s degree. I studied anthropology as an undergrad and international peace studies and conflict resolution as a graduate student. I voted for Obama.

I start with this because rather than telling you to pay no mind to the man behind the curtain, I let you know my bias. We all have one. We all came from somewhere and were offered ideas about the world, becoming who we are through the acceptance and rejection of these ideas.

I am very honest and will at times push buttons because the politics of international development contain many conflicts over ideas of race, religion, economics and history. Sometimes these conflicts must be engaged in a controlled environment for there to be growth. I welcome responses but will not tolerate racism, xenophobia, bigotry or cursing. I want to attract different opinions but civility must be maintained, otherwise people will retreat to their entrenched positions and never approach compromise. And please start your posts with a little line as to who you are and where you are coming from intellectually or emotionally. Unless you are putting yourself or others in danger, anonymity is not something I want contributors to use to mask their opinions. Hope you like it!

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