It is the middle of my week here in Puyo. Classes at the Amazon School are in full swing and the students have engaged and dedicated themselves to the coursework. I, although an observer, have done the same, as their eagerness is contagious. And, I am learning a lot. For many of these students, it is the first time that they have had any explanation of the World Bank and the other international financial institutions beyond knowing that they helped to finance a project in their home town.
Things that are common to me are completely foreign to them, and yet in many ways they have a deeper understanding and thus have the ability to examine things from different angles, to question assumptions that I had previously accepted as true, and at the same time to accept things that I see as the place where we should begin to fight for change.
Yesterday, CDES director Patricio Pazmiño taught a class on human rights and democracy. He began by asking the group of students to define some key words that they would be using for the duration of the course.
They are mostly words whose definitions I take for granted-words that have become so integrated into my academic vocabulary that perhaps I have lost a little bit of their true definitions. It’s always helpful to take a step back, to converse with and listen to people who are coming from a different perspective, in order to alter your point of view as well.
For example, when asked to define “capitalism,” the students replied that it was an accumulation of money-nothing more, nothing less. For them, capitalism is not an economic system. It is synonymous with US hegemony-the rich controlling and taking advantage of the poor. As for “democracy,” they said it was equality and people with sovereignty. No real hint of its being a political system, but rather the guarantee that all people are socially, economically, and politically equal.
Textbook definitions are of little use to the indigenous people of the Andean-Amazonian countries. They are living the real consequences of the actions of the Inter-American Development Bank and the IMF and they need real explanations of how these organizations work. They need the tools to apply the definitions that they already know to the realities that they are living and the Amazon School strives to help them gain that knowledge and those tools.
Posted By Christina Fetterhoff
Posted Aug 4th, 2004