So right after I wrote that last post, I had to read this speech by Ivan Illich for a cross-cultural session and write a little bit about it. It touches on some of the concerns I have about my service here, which I mentioned in "Development" (particularly the need to consider and incorporate local culture in development), but Illich is much more condemnatory. He views the American international development mission as not only culturally insensitive but just plain disrespectful. He feels that on no level can the middle-class American volunteer relate to the poor and/or underprivileged that (s)he claims to serve. Most provocatively, he suggests that the American interest in international development (as promoted by the U.S. government through Peace Corps, for example) is to stimulate the development of a consumer class abroad.
Illich was speaking in 1968, and his views reflect the cynicism of Latin Americans toward the U.S. at the time. His speech was also made to a group of volunteers who had only committed to serve for a few weeks or months, which I think makes a huge difference. You can't do much in two months, whereas two years gives you time to learn about and appreciate the culture.
Anyway, I have plenty to say about this subject, but I'm really interested to read everyone's thoughts, so please comment!