What does it mean to bring progress--schools, electricity, roads, running water--to paradise? Can our consumer culture and desire to "do good" really be good for a community that has survived contentedly for centuries without us?
In October 2008, climbing expedition leader and attorney, Jeffrey Rasley, led a trek to a village in a remote valley in the Solu region of Nepal named Basa. His group of three adventurers was only the third group of white people ever seen in this village of subsistence farmers. What he found was people thoroughly unaffected by Western consumer-culture values. They had no running water, electricity, or anything that moves on wheels. Each family lived in a beautiful, hand-chiseled stone house with a flower garden. Beyond what they already had, it seemed all they wanted was education for the children. He helped them finish a school building already in progress, and then they asked for help getting electricity to their village.
Bringing Progress to Paradisedescribes Rasley's transformation from adventurer to committed philanthropist. We are attracted to the simpler way of life in these communities, and we are changed by our experience of it. They are attracted to us, because we bring economic benefits.Bringing Progress to Paradiseoffers Rasley's critical reflection on the tangled relationship between tourists and locals in "exotic" locales and the effect of Western values on some of the most remote locations on earth.
It was with some reticence that I chose to read Bringing Progress to Paradise. Perhaps I have been unlucky in my nonfiction choices, but I have experienced some really dry, slow and boring nonfiction reads in the past few years. Additionally, after this book had arrived but before I'd started it, some book pals of mine mentioned that they found the author's writing arrogant. There is little I hate more than arrogance in a writer (except perhaps bad writing!). Thankfully, my … more