Last night we showed Mine Your Own Business to students at the University of Southern California.
The event was organised by the Objectivist Club – who promote the writings and philosophy of Ayn Rand. We had to admit having not read any of her books and Jason the President of the club seemed to not take too badly.
After the screening there was an “at times heated” debate between us and some of the audience.
At one stage we were criticised for answering one of the questions too aggressively.
However it is hard to remain quiet when self styled “good environmentalists” brush over the racist comments of WWF country manager Mark Fenn and accuse us of picking extreme voices to discredit all environmentalists.
It is hard to remain quiet when a young woman from one of the most affluent and healthy parts of the United States, asserts that development should be stopped in places such as Madagascar because we have “messed up so much here’ and they must be stopped from making the same mistakes.
Strangely we have noticed it is always the healthiest looking (and perhaps wealthiest?) looking people who state this.
This was also followed up with a few comments from those who say that given our mistakes the people of the developing world for their own good must follow sustainable development.
Sustainable development is one of those ideas which all right thinking people truly believe that its time has come. We have messed up we have made the mistakes and we must stop others from following suit. But it is difficult to hear this from the mouths of the healthiest generation ever to live on the planet. We are living longer and healthier because of our unsustainable development. Our unsustainable development also means that we now have the money to make our rivers and air cleaner than it has ever been.
And we want to deny that to a woman in Madagascar who has watched her children die of a disease such as diarrhea that would be eradicated with development.
As we said last night anyone who tries to talk about sustainable development for the developing world should only speak about it if they give back all the wealth they have accumulated through our own unsustainable development.
It has to be that way – before we can impose sustainable development on others all the ill gotten gains we have accumulated have to be given up. This will never happen but if it does then we can speak from the moral high ground.
But to be honest the moral high ground is a bit too high and a bit too far removed from where we want to be. We either respect the rights of people to make their own decisions about their own development ( and maybe help them with technology and investment) but telling the people of the developing world where they can work and how they should live is not moral.