Tobias Roberts lives with his wife Yasmin in the Highlands of Guatemala where they work with Mennonite Central Committee and the Mayan Ixil people in their struggle to defend their ancestral territory through supporting the Ixil University and the Mayan authorities of the region.
Posts By This Author
Redefining the Messiah Complex
For those of us who work in the world of faith-based non-governmental organizations (NGOs), we're well accustomed to the snubs and not-so-subtle criticism of our “secular” NGO peers. All too often, we're seen as nothing more than the offspring of those overly zealous missionaries of old who partnered all too well with historical colonialism. As a result, we constantly are attempting to distance ourselves from this characterization of the Bible-thumping fundamentalist who triumphantly arrives to save the poor from their poverty and the ignorant from their ignorance.
Unfortunately, the Messiah complex mentality that typified the majority of those first outsiders who arrived with the “good news” — that turned out to be bad news for so many traditional cultures around the world — isn't simply a remnant from the past, but a mentality that is still very much present and influential.
The Economy and a Pair of Shoes
I believe that most people are good, decent folks who want to see their community thrive and be healthy. The can of worms with the globalized economic system we live with, however, is twofold. Firstly, it is pathologically designed to function towards injustice, and injustice implicates the exploitation, destitution, and ultimate collapse of local communities around the world, especially in the poorer countries. Secondly, this global economic system does all that it can to make “community” invisible. The vast majority of those coffee drinkers who stop by the local supermarket or coffee shop to buy a pound of coffee have no idea where there coffee came from, who picked it and under what consequences.
Thus, when one is confronted with the inevitability of making a “global” economic choice, my advice would be to take the time to think about what one would want for his or her own community, and then to question how that far-off, distant community across the world where this or that product is being produced is going to be affected. This is not going to be easy for it requires the determination to discover what is purposely being hidden by the designs of the global economic system. But that is perhaps the price we should be paying to be able to enjoy a hot cup of coffee grown thousands of miles away.