“Communicating hope and trust in our time.”

- Pope Francis

In Pursuit of Authentic Human Development (Part 1)

Fr. Andiy Egargo

By Fr. Fernando Navidad Egargo, Ph.D

GENERALLY, politicians are elected on the basis of their promise of a better life for the people. More job opportunities. Higher income for the regular working class. Easy access to medical care and education. Safe environment for the children and the youth. Reduced instances of crimes and violence. And the list could go on.
What is overlooked, however, is that this promise of a better life is easier said than done. The concept of a “better life” is just as diverse as the number of politicians. But it does not mean that this quest for a “better life” is unattainable. It’s just that people, along way, start to disagree with what needs to be changed in order to end up with something better than before.

So, let me discuss here what some experts say about this “better life” that we all dream of. Let us call it development.

Development is defined differently from various perspectives. Some reduce it to mean industrialization. This is seen in the extensive use of technology and machines in the manufacturing sector. For example, even bakeshops now use “assembly line” in the manufacture of bread. Kneading and mixing and shaping of the bread are all done by machines. Others look at development from the point of view of modernization. This is seen, for example, in the obsession with the latest gadgets (like mobile phones and computers), futuristic railway system, and high-tech medical equipment. This line of thinking was, in fact, the development paradigm of the 60’s wherein the problem of development was viewed as a problem of growth.

The proponents of the theory of Diffusion of Innovations provide one of the more influential definitions of development, asserting that “Development is a type of social change in which new ideas are introduced into a social system in order to produce higher per capita income and levels of living through more modern production methods and improved social organization. Development is modernization at the social systems level.”1 Development, in this sense, is understood in its broad context as the transition from traditional society to industrial society through different stages quantifiable in terms of advancement in technology and growth in GNP.

But is this the “good life” that an ordinary Juan de la Cruz dream of? Does this whole thing about modernization-industrialization-high GNP result to an enjoyable “good life”? Does a society with a highly mechanized bakery or the most modern (and expensive) medical equipment or a modern pollution-free e-jeepney produce a generally happy community living a good life?

I think an ordinary citizen living in the periphery of society would appreciate more a kind of a “good life” where he can eat bread three times a day (even if such bread is not produced by a mechanized bakeshop). In other words, a “good life” is something felt through the improvement of the well-being of the individual and the betterment of the quality of his/her life. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) gives a very striking definition:“Human development is a process of enlarging people’s choices…Human development has two sides : the formation of human capabilities — such as improved health, knowledge, and skills — and the use people make of their acquired capabilities — for leisure, productive purposes or being active in cultural, social and political affairs. Development must, therefore, be more than just the expansion of income and wealth. Its focus must be people.”2

Some politicians who promise the moon and the stars and the “good life” fail to take into serious consideration a deeper reality — the human person. Any form of development, be it social, cultural, economic, political, etc., must always consider the centrality of the human person as a major factor. Otherwise, it will become a useless bureaucratic exercise. One concrete sign of authentic development is when the human person actively and freely participates in the various social processes, which concerns his well-being.

1 Rogers, E. M. and Shoemaker, F. F. (1971). Communications of Innovations : A Cross-Cultural Approach. New York:Free Press. p.11.
2 UNDP. (1990). Human Development Report. New York: Oxford University Press. p.10.

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