Maybe this belongs in another category. I just spent a long time trying to decide.
I grew up in Dallas and lived there until 2009. I met a lot of people who would talk about going on “mission trips” and other similar activities, religious or otherwise, usually in Mexico or Central America, and sometimes elsewhere. Eventually, after doing a lot of research of my own, I wondered why I never heard anybody come back with a reaction like this:
“Wow, Guatemala is in many ways a disaster area. It says here in Lonely Planet [or other source, and/or local discovery/testimony] that the CIA overthrew the country’s democratic government in 1954, and then supported dictators for the next forty years. They turned the place into a killing field, and some of the same policies are still in place today! The US supports the corrupt, plutocratic regime. No wonder it’s so poor! What can I, an American citizen, do about it? Maybe we can start by not scapegoating illegal immigrants. They’re really refugees, and besides, they help both economies anyway. Now, about the support for repressive regimes…”
In 2009, I came to DC to get a Master’s degree in US Foreign Policy, with International Development as an added bonus. I got to meet some remarkable people who’ve done deeply admirable work around the world (many returned Peace Corps volunteers, for instance), and who plan to do a great deal more. I found that there was a varying degree of understanding of the connection between imperialism (no, not just US imperialism) and poverty, it was, perhaps understandably, viewed as the responsibility of someone else (me?) This makes some sense, as these people have a monumental task in front of them, however, it is so monumental because of the root causes I mention.
So why the lack of connection? I marvel at the possibilities for social change, if more people were ashamed/angry at what their governments do thanks to fear of competition and a desire for illusory gain.