By Reinoud Meijer (Holland), May 2008
I saw a video of a German professor recently, who spoke at a conference. He was telling how his father used to say that what separated man from animal was stupidity. It took him 54 years in which he was an advocate for sustainable development to have to admit that there is a lot of truth in that statement.
There are no stupid cows. They do exactly as is best and suitable for them. Whereas us humans, how utterly and willingly thick we often prove ourselves to be!
We can build airplanes. From the first man digging in the earth for the raw iron to the last hovering the cabin before the plane leaves the works. And what do we do with them? We use them to put kiwis on European tables instead of apples. Nothing wrong with kiwis, I like them, but on the whole, what does this add to civilization? Where is the cultural and human development that really matters in doing this? How much of our incredible innovative powers are used up and tied up in things that really don’t move us further?
Recently I find myself wondering to what extent I/we create scenarios in our physical and social surroundings in order to (consciously or subconsciously) catalyse a crisis that will force us to change/develop, because we are unable to force ourselves to that same development or change from within. To what extent do I/we project things into the world that really have no place there, but should be tackled inside us instead?
Especially with the planet in crisis, it seems urgent to me to be clear on what are ‘real’ challenges, and what are ‘alibi crises’ we create for ourselves because we know no other way to make the change inevitable.
We have one shared existence, one source and one planet that we have to manage with.
We cannot afford to project our inability to change/develop into that world until it comes round hitting us in the face and forcing us to change. Not much longer anyway…
At the same time as feeling stupid and inadequate, I have an almost naïve, fundamental trust in people and development, and in the fact that decisions can alter both for the better.
I guess as my answer to ‘what differs man from animal?’ I would have to say the ability to decide. I feel that in the capacity to decide, lays the most tremendous and humane potential and much of our freedom.
I see a world full of everything we need to become everything we are meant to be. We have all the skills, the knowledge and resources, but fail to put them together in a way that makes each part a necessary part in the whole; put them together in a way that makes each part so, that its purpose derives from the whole it is a part of.
I see so many symptoms of part being deprived of their purpose and being lost, as they have lost the connection or have no idea of the whole they would have to derive it from. I see it in people, professions, cultures and countries.
It might be naïve, but I truly believe that we have what it takes. It’s there, or ‘out there’. I believe and continue to believe that ‘we can do it’.
It’s up to me/us to decide.
We can decide to renegotiate values, to rearrange and connect the parts that are displaced in new and healthy ways, to use the best of our abilities to serve rather than consume our livelihood.
I feel a start is to foster times, places, structures and connections that allow us to recapitulate, to collect ourselves and the context we are a part of, to gain a bird-eye view that can allow a holistic picture that can be the basis from which we can direct and redirect our activities, so they may be or become a meaningful part of the whole again.
There are many ways to do this, one of them results in the attempt we are making with YIP.