In The Violet Shyness of Their Eyes: Notes from Nepal, Scot reports her 1990 experience teaching English to young students in the growing tourist town of Pohkara. Scot has a realistic and refreshing sense of her own insignificance in bringing Nepal into modernity: she describes herself and other Western development workers as animated by "some vague feeling of wanting to share in the abundance our society has amassed." In the end, she knows the Nepalese will have to find their own way; this makes it easier for her to realize that the demands of her own relationships at home mean she should leave before her year commitment is completed.
While looking for her own path, Scot observed Nepal with a sharp and compassionate eye; for me, the value of this book is in occasional perceptive gems along the way. I'll share a couple:
In 1990, these students did not yet know the pervasive individualism and competitiveness of a modern capitalist society. Do they now? And are their lives less poor and filthy in consequence? I am sure the answer is not simple.
On the one hand, how easy a life this seems, knowing your duty and doing it. On the other hand, how sad, never to imagine new possibilities, never to strike out beyond conventional expectations. In particular, how limited a life this must be for those who start off one down, whether peasants, or women, or gay people.
Globalization means above all that such static societies don't have a chance. For some their demise means vast suffering, for others vast opportunity. The only certainty is now rapid change. It is not at all clear the human species can sustain itself through this challenge, but we have no alternative.