“Talking with Dr. Molly Geidel about her Provocative Cultural History of the 1960s’ Peace Corps”
Thank you John for facilitating this discussion and giving it quite a rocket engine of a start.
First of all, I neither have time nor energy to expose all of the logical fallacies upholding this many-headed argument accusing 50 years of goodwill by Peace Corps volunteers of committing more harm than good. However, I will attack the most egregious of them here.
For starters her entire argument assumes the Peace Corps must be guilty by association with the US federal government and never once attempts to quantify how exactly this argument should be upheld. As a scientist I was taught, “if it cannot be measured, it does not exist.” How exactly does Geidel intend to measure Peace Corps’ negative effects on indigenous cultures around the Third World? And even if it were proven fact, the Peace Corps is invited by the people being served.
Besides the circular logic of begging the question, Geidel also slyly moves the Peace Corps’ goalposts based on the US government’s nefarious original intent for the Peace Corps; everything America does must follow imperialism as a rule with no need to qualify or quantify counterarguments. After all, Noam Chompsky and others have done the hard work of establishing the guilt of US imperialism so why should Geidel do any hard work to bring down the Peace Corps?
Everything good Peace Corps has attempted to do in the Third World can be simplified into a mere seductive backrub by do-gooders paving the way for the gross paternalistic imposition of American imperialism. Bend over Third World; here comes the Peace Corps!
What offended me deeply was how Geidel used PCVs’ words out of context to suggest the Third World would have been better off had Peace Corps volunteers stayed home. I would love to see a comprehensive poll by Returned Peace Corps Volunteers on the validity of their PC service. We ruined the Garden of Eden by paving the way for mass consumerism, right? Hardly.
To counter Geidel’s anecdotal “evidence”, I offer my own anecdotal evidence: a Gabonese schoolteacher approached me one day with a strong desire to reconnect with his childhood chemistry and physics teacher who happened to be a Peace Corps Volunteer with an engineering degree. The Gabonese teacher shared his epiphany that “if chemistry and physics are so important that an engineer would leave his career in America to teach me, then this chemistry and physics must be very important stuff!”
The Third World has a right to know chemistry too.
Geidel suggests she has no desire to join PC because she could do more good by staying home to (write) promote (anti-establishment) just causes. That sounds like a cop-out to this RPCV! In my first month of service in a rural village in Africa I taught my incredibly innocent Third World students (for the first time) about the AIDS virus and their guaranteed human rights. Ignorance is not bliss in the proverbial “Garden of Eden” or anywhere else for that matter.