Isaac Kyeremateng, Uganda, A Thought on Progress (Week 10, Post 10)

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“Do you have farms like this in America?” That was my host brother’s question to me during rural homestay as we beheld the vast land with cassava, sesame, sorghum, sunflower, and maize plants. My response was yes and no. As I have thought more about our conversation, I realize that his question was another question: Is life in America like ours? More, have we progressed that much?

From my brother’s perception, the American way of life seemed markedly different and it made sense to him that the things found in Uganda did not exist in America. America has progressed passed Uganda after all. I pointed out that there are at least three factors that contrast farming in Alengo Parish, Serere, and farming in a small town in Ohio for example. First, in small-town Ohio, all my neighbors are not farmers, and nor are they blood-related. Secondly, even if all my neighbors were farmers there will most likely be machines that make farming much easier. Lastly, much of our harvest is usually for profit and not for family consumption. For my brother, machinery, and mass production was the solution to their problems. Mass production would be a major source of income instead of subsistence farming.

From my view, I saw a community that eats the most organic of foods possible. The food we ate was always fresh from the garden. In Serere, everything is used. Little waste is generated. Intercropping exists to make effective use of land and resources. Food is made into compost. Domesticated animals consume leftover food. The way of life is tuned to the “place, people, plants, animals, and customs in order to live in a sustainable way.”[1] Goods and services are not produced at the expense of family relationships or ecological safety. In my mind, to ask for an industrial revolution of a kind is to break down the very fabric of society and the relationships that are being built and sustained. To be fair, Uganda has its struggles with sustainability as well.

Yet it is fascinating to me that we, in nations that are deemed to have progressed, “are socialized into a materialistic way of life that blinds us to both the cultural and ecological realities of our community and our landscape”[2] whereas developing countries like Uganda are more in tune with a sustainable way of life that opens their eyes to culture, humanity, ecology, and sustainability. Have we progressed after all? I do not devalue the place of progress in society, technology, or advancement, but there is truth in the fact that not all progress is good. It can be agreed that the introduction of bigger and faster machines does rob society of many values that are being lost in the western context such as the importance of human labor, family, communal living, and responsibility to land and society. The simple ways of living sustainably, and ecologically conscious are good for our souls and for the peace and tranquility of humanity locally and globally. I hope that as a people of the earth we do not progress too much into retrogression.

[1] Bouma-Prediger, Steven, and Brian Walsh. “Education for Homelessness or Homemaking? The Christian College in a Postmodern Culture.” Journal of Education & Christian Belief, vol. 8, no. 1, 2004, pp. 53–70, https://doi.org/10.1177/205699710400800106.

[2] Education for Homelessness of Homemaking? The Christian College in a Postmodern Culture.

**A version of this piece was originally submitted for a cross-cultural reflection.