Poem

The Development Set by Ross Coggins

This famous poem written in 1976 by Baptist missionary and USAID worker Ross Coggins (1927-2011) is all the more relevant today.

According to several sources it was published in a magazine called Adult Education and Development in 1976.  I haven’t been able to find a copy of the magazine so I am copying the poem as it appeared in the New Internationalist (Issue 272, October 1995), along with a few verses I found in another source.

The Development Set

Excuse me, friends, I must catch my jet –
I’m off to join the Development Set;
My bags are packed, and I’ve had all my shots,
I have travellers’ cheques and pills for the trots.

The Development Set is bright and noble,
Our thoughts are deep and our vision global;
Although we move with the better classes,
Our thoughts are always with the masses.

In Sheraton hotels in scattered nations,
We damn multinational corporations;
Injustice seems so easy to protest,
In such seething hotbeds of social rest.

We discuss malnutrition over steaks
And plan hunger talks during coffee breaks.
Whether Asian floods or African drought,
We face each issue with an open mouth.

We bring in consultants whose
circumlocution
Raises difficulties for every solution –
Thus guaranteeing continued good eating
By showing the need for another meeting.

The language of the Development Set,
Stretches the English alphabet;
We use swell words like ‘epigenetic’
‘Micro’, ‘Macro’ and ‘logarithmetic’.

Development Set homes are extremely chic,
Full of carvings, curios and draped with batik.
Eye-level photographs subtly assure
That your host is at home with the rich and the poor.

Enough of these verses – on with the mission!
Our task is as broad as the human condition!
Just pray to God the biblical promise is true:
The poor ye shall always have with you.

Ross Coggins

– From The New Internationalist Magazine

Here is another version which has three verses missing from the above.  This site is called Shores-System and  I am not sure who that is but I followed this link from the author’s obituary in Baptist News.

These verses are so witty.  Insert them after “logarithmetic” and before “Development Set homes …”

It pleasures us to be esoteric —
It’s so intellectually atmospheric!
And although establishments may be unmoved,
Our vocabularies are much improved.

When the talk gets deep and you’re feeling numb,
You can keep your shame to a minimum:
To show that you, too, are intelligent
Smugly ask, “Is it really development?”

Or say, “That’s fine in practice, but don’t you see:
It doesn’t work out in theory!”
A few may find this incomprehensible,
But most will admire you as deep and sensible.

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