The world is complex and the more we try to simplify it, the more difficult it is to see the large picture in its full complexity per se. This rule is applicable to politics, religion, science, economy and to our daily life. Oversimplifying a situation or an issue by making hasty generalizations will undoubtedly lead to inaccurate conclusions. And basing a broad conclusion upon unrepresentative or insufficient statistics or facts will lead to a rhetorical result ; each story or new situation helps to build a more in-depth and more nuanced picture of a crisis. Unfortunately, we live in a world facing many issues and we are often overtaken by events (News cycle turnover, our today’s worst enemy?) so we tend to care more about our own problems and we want to get quick answers to the many questions we ask ourselves. This is when come the inconsistencies, preconceived ideas and snap judgements.
The aim of this preamble was to introduce some remarks I recently heard. I was at a dinner party and controversial subjects were suddenly brought up. Then I felt like I was trapped, kind of alone in the world because what I heard was such a caricature of the reality, so narrow-minded, so condescending, not to say unacceptable. Fortunately, these moments are seldom but the feeling was so frustrating and the comments so mind-blowing, I wondered if I should either bother try to reason with my interlocutors or just leave the table, running far away from this awful discussion… I decided to stay and listen to the sales talk and I wasn’t disappointed, it was enriching (figure of speech). These people don’t represent any specific group (either political or religious) but they definitely represent a part of the people we all know, or people we at least met once. If everyone was open-minded and more understanding, we would know it by now and the world would be much better already. These moments are very enlightening (not to say dismaying) but if I want to stay connected with what really makes our world and not be out of touch with things, I must never forget that.
I have close friends working in local, national and international organizations, some are volunteers to deliver meal to the poor, others are involved into environment protection, and some others are aid workers in countries that need everything. They work hard and they know exactly what the world is about, how hard and unfair life can be. The last couple months, as part of the ’60 Signers for the 60th Anniversary’ Initiative I launched, I met with many important people, working in the same organizations my friends are but in upper circles. Like the people I know, they are committed and they work hard to raise money and awareness for their cause(s). They are not directly in touch with the people in the field (although some of them had a volunteer experience in the past) and they deal with politics and all the complexity of the international laws and diplomatic relationships (When Gaddafi met Sarkozy: faked orgasm?). Everyone works hard and they get my unconditional support, even if I stay strongly impressed by the work done by volunteers. I admire their iron will, their patience and also sometimes, their bravery.
I am not a fool, I know nobody is perfect, bad and good people are everywhere but I think open-minded persons, giving a lot of themselves (time, money, even their fame or in making movies…) to help others are more interesting than the ones with a fixed way of looking at things. I am not a know it all, I am not an expert and I don’t pretend to know more or better than anybody else but I listen more than I talk and I am open-minded enough to even listen to people doing nothing, criticizing and always complaining. The most pessimistic may say all these efforts are like digging through the Sahara with a teaspoon or chasing after windmills, but judging is easy. Of course we can’t always see the impact of the work done by NGOs but it doesn’t mean there isn’t any. Of course we should be more careful with the way we help people and respect their integrity (culture, religion…). Of course we should do everything to put in place reporting mechanisms to measure NGO’s effectiveness and how donations are really changing things in the field because some donors think the money is thrown down the drain, even if it is not. Of course we should amplify people’s voices and empower them to create long term change internally without it is considered as foreign interference…
No, nobody is perfect but in the end I think it does more good than harm. Things can always be improved, and you can always find an exception which proves the rule that will confirm somebody in their opinion. I truly think Tall oaks from little acorns grow and that civic engagement and citizen action should be more encouraged and supported. I may sound a little bit naive but I am rather cautiously optimistic about the situation (Will 2009 be better or only ‘less worse’ than 2008?). I am always humble when it comes to find remedies because again, there is no all-purpose solution (Burma: Aung San Suu Kyi and a thousand monks. Again.), no easy way to solve a problem and many different interests (Darfur: a World Wide Role Playing Game) to take into consideration. This is why we should all feel concerned about what is happening around us and not only think everything will change by itself or just wait for an hypothetical miracle (Will the World of Obama ever become a reality?).
The world we live in is complex and our fates are intertwined, so maybe it is time to think globally. The economic crisis showed everyone the consequences spread worldwide (Original Fake Kaws Cat Teeth Bank against global crisis), and the environment issues don’t only concern a specific country but every country (Will the Sama Water Tank save the world?). I would like to think a global awareness will come eventually and will allow us to instigate change in the unequal world we inhabit (this is when you call me naive); alas everyday I watch television and read the newspapers and honestly, I don’t know how down we will need to go before everyone agrees to work together for the benefit of all (now I am being quite pessimistic: Darfur: when History is a never ending story…).
Again, nobody is perfect and there is no need to make anyone feel guilty, but maybe we should now think as a whole and unique human kind and about human rights before it is too late, with all our differences (color of the skin, religion, way of life…) that also make our richness (Martin Luther King Jr. and Obama’s election: Free at last?). It would be a good start, in my humble opinion, instead of only looking on what separates us. I guess I am not that naive after all, I am more like an ‘optimistic-pessimistic realistic-utopian person’ ^_^