Saturday, February 11, 2012

Protect, not destroy, the rural way of life

Many people think that to bring progress to the rural community is to introduce the lifestyle and modern amenities of city living to the country folks. "Progress" means new shopping malls, planned housing estates, recreation centers  - all of which only succeed in replacing a rural lifestyle with a city lifestyle, without a clear long term benefit to the former. In the process, it destroys a good way of life.

I grew up in a small town. People made their living from tapping rubber, growing vegetables, or tending to the orchards. Everyone seemed to have enough to live on while the government provided adequate and free health care and education. Those who had more did not indulge in anything extravagant; one had no need of such things in rural living.

Unfortunately, "progress" crept in. Instead of beautiful traditional village houses, brick and mortar link housed sprouted. They are cramped into little estates. Undisposed construction material in time are covered by weeds. The houses are small and their fenced compounds are barely sufficient for hanging the laundry. I cannot understand why anyone thinks this is progress.

In other places, I have seen farms being sold and converted into housing estates. This provides a windfall to the farmer but diminishes the country's food production. I see young people emigrating to the cities to look for work. Some make it big but most are just eking out a living. In my opinion, they would have done better if the authorities have protected the conventional rural way of life. Instead, rural lifestyle as a way of life is never consciously preserved as a complementary system to city living. A country must always have a good balance of rural and urban dwellers, without one overwhelming the other's lifestyle.

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