The Third World is receiving lots of publicity. We hear of oppression, extreme poverty, and malnutrition. We also hear conflicting explanations why such suffering exists. A common explanation—probably assertion would be a better term—is continually made, and not uncommonly to Christian audiences.
We are told, in essence, that poor countries are poor because rich countries keep them that way. The plight of the Third World, say exponents of that view, is due to an economic system under the control of countries bordering the North Atlantic Ocean (together with some others such as Japan and Australia). Christians and other ethically sensitive people are reported to feel embarrassment and shame because the rich countries are oppressing poor countries.
We can readily understand why poor countries feel the need to blame others for their predicament. After all, comparatively rich nations also blame others for the problems that they have. What is true for countries is also true for individuals.
However, nothing is gained by hurling blame on others. Instead, efforts should be directed toward squarely facing the facts of poverty and then doing what one can about them. A key fact is that most of the poorer nations have been poor for centuries. Moreover, only a few centuries ago the nations that are considered rich today were also poor.
It is often asserted that colonialism effected a vast transfer of wealth. But there are few parallels to the massive removal of gold to Spain from what is now Peru. It is far more common to find material conditions having improved in colonized lands from what they were before conquest. This end does not justify the means. But it should make us hesitate before blaming colonialism for the problems ...1
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