Tag Archives: Trust

Education

People sometimes use the word education when in fact they mean brainwashing. I’m quite sure that most people who do that are not aware of the fact that they do so because they have been brainwashed themselves.

An example: “We should put more funding in education of African countries so that they can build a democracy from the bottom up”. Great idea, but how would this look in practice? Money would go to certain organizations, monitored by their funders according to Western standards. They would employ people to build education programs, benchmarked along Western thought, then train people to teach the deep truths that stand at the base our beautiful democracy, powered solely by light and guided by the highest ethics. Then, at the end, of course, they are checked for optimal performance.

Such structures provided by nation states are often seen as education. Mandatory programs, packages of concepts, knowledge that is transferred and tested, ranking the students into their overseeable life paths, may lift society to a different standard, but they are only a limited part, a controllable bit, of a collective learning process that could also be tuned to enlivening, respect and curiosity-driven exploration of whatever it is that the human mind is eager to find out. I would say real education starts at the point where teacher and student receive the space and the freedom to show each other their views on reality in all its colours.

Transmission of knowledge is important, but we should honour the pathway through which this occurs. That pathway would in my view be called mutual trust. The possibility that another might see something out there which you don’t, not because he or she is more or less capable or suitable to see it, but merely because that other stands on a different position. Exams and profiles undermine such trust.

To translate this back to the omnipotent West, perhaps indeed, there was a time when our long fought for ideals made sense and empowered society at large. But these ideals are starting to take the form of dogmas, heritage we should protect and keep in place with tighter rules and regulations. Our knowledge is growing old, expiring, starting to fail us and begging for fresh inputs from the same societies we have kept in the enlightened dark for centuries.

And yet more importantly, I think we should all allow our inner wise guys to sometimes shut up and listen to the voice of the weak and silent for a change. The fact that we still understand education in a top-down way, taking all these quality checks for granted, shows us a whole lot about our status quos. If only we could see that in the mirror…

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Selling CEO’s

Two Dutch banks recently announced a raise for their CEO’s of about €100.000 per year. In the week following the announcement, several thousands of their clients subscribed at the competing green bank: a sudden increase in registrations. Twitter boomed, some important politicians complained, and the CEO’s decided to cancel the salary increase.

Since about the time of the Occupy movement, western citizen’s trust in banks and bankers has dropped to below zero. Of course, over 99% of us still have bank accounts, but our perception of banks has shifted from ‘a service’, to ‘a group of slave drivers’ or at least ‘a bunch of greedy frauds’. Banks are doing their best to improve this. Since the 1st of April, it is even mandatory for employees of Dutch banks to sign a vague list of ethical guidelines for bankers.

The CEO salary case is interesting, because it clarifies some things. First, it reveals that the CEOs in Dutch banks are as greedy as they were before, but they use arguments for it now. Theirs was: by raising the salary, they’d be able to attract more reliable leaders, and thus become more competitive on the bank market. Because why would someone do his best for something, if he or she is not paid over a million per year, right? That would be playing your cards wrong. Not only can we conclude that the Dutch bank leaders are greedy (but try to hide it), the market of bank CEOs remains focussed astronomical salaries. It makes sense, because herding astronomical numbers is an astronomical burden: you have to keep them all in your sight, else they run away.

This event also reveals the power of these banks’ clients, especially when amplified by a social media outburst. A single decision of self-enrichment led to such buzz and fuzz that the CEOs had to take it back. No juridical court involved, it was all angry mob. And an overplayed hand. The careers of some of the dudes up there are even on thin ice now. They are made aware again that contracts are a two-way thing, and they have signed an astronomical amount of them.

This was a tiny battle. I’m curious to see how much the power of the people is really worth. It was about some salaries this time, but what if more important decisions are at stake, such as resignation of the board, or structural reforms? Could consumer disobedience still put leaders on their backs?

Becoming a collective

The World Parks Congress ended about three days ago. No more running around on the lookout for people to interview. Team buddies Lilian and Johannes left straightaway; back to Bonn and Beijing. Tom´s road parted from mine in Bombaderry:  gotta love the Aussie village names. I am now writing in the train from Kiala to Sydney. The melancholy in my heart helps me perceive the soothing charge of the rocky, wild beachscape passing by outside.

The video we made with the YPMC was received with a standing ovation induced by Daniela, who presented it. It was made as a voice for our generation of environmentalists. It starts with “we are a collective”. That means that we´re a community, a network of young brothers and sisters, dispersed all over the world. It believe it is true: indeed we are a collective, indeed, we act for nature, but more importantly: this is only a start for collective action. Or it can be.

One of the main questions heard at such congresses is: “what do you do?” It is perhaps because of the way they are set up, the way they are funded and the contemporary imperative of presenting yourself in a pitch. People get paid to praise themselves. It has been like this for the young people as well. It has weakened us. A better question to ask would be: “what shall we do?”

Some of the things that the young people currently seem to do well are: getting other young people outside with a no walls campaign, stimulating the outreach of a rapper on nature and educating children on the importance of nature. They are important initiatives, but the world needs more than that. We need strong, well enforced laws that answer nature´s cry for help, we need massive divestment from fossil fuels into sustainable energies. We need well-being, not money, to be central in our decision-making. We simply need massive global reforms.

After some good talks with Tom on the road, I´d like to propose something to all young ‘changemakers’ who attended the World Parks Congress in Sydney last week. Those who identify with the term ´leaders of the future´. We´ve all been involved in empowering communities. We know the tricks to helping them have a voice. Yet where we failed so far, is where we forgot to apply this expertise to ourselves as a group. The real collective may have been presented to the congress, but it is not yet there.

We are probably the only group of young people who are this close to the big conservationist decisions ahead. Probably among the young ones with the biggest potential to make the big changes. We know each other, and we have each others trust. We have support from our elders. We have well-established networks, though we lack the overview. Let´s change the nature of our presence at these congresses, and indeed ´lead by example´. Let´s shift the motivation of our visit to co-creating something that has impact. Raise funds for that. The next time we visit a congress, perhaps Hawaii, let´s take time to represent not ourselves to each other, but our community to the world. Let´s work towards coherence and infect the crowd with it. Use our joint presence to create something we think is important.

To reach this, I think it´s crucial that we all stay in close touch on the longer term. Build a closed digital platform, meet up. Share our expertise to build a collective CV. Let´s listen to each others opinions, gain insight in our common strengths and weaknesses. Dreams and worries. Discover our real potential. Without drifting away. We commit to this, remember?

The first question is easy: what can I contribute and how much time do I want to spend on it? The rest will follow. We could map our networks, find out what we lack. Look for leverage for change. Together we can create something that really is bigger than us. Acting local has been great, but let´s bring this to a bigger level. Let´s become the collective and act globally.

Tree peace, bee peace

The presence of big mammals shows that an ecosystem is healthy. Thus, if we ensure existence of mammals, we protect the environment. This idea underlies many of the nature conservation programs and fuels most of the conservation debate in the Netherlands and the rest of the world.

If you hear news about Dutch nature, it is focussed on a single wolf, a single whale, or in a good case a single bee species. Why? I think because of the limits of the human mind. We cannot cope with complex information. We do not feel in control of things we do not understand. We can’t make plans for them. It is the mental illness of our time.

In the past century, the Dutch biodiversity has decreased at a steady rate. At the same time people were trying to do good by making plans to preserve their favourite plants and animals. Species they didn’t notice vanished under their reign. Very surprising.

A Dutch guy recently coined the term topnatuur, meaning top quality nature containing large mammals. He framed it as a way to draw tourists. Nature as a way to make money. All we have to do, is to prove that it’s good enough. Because let’s face it: our nature is better than yours. A respectable ecologist who made an incredible fool out of himself and got away with it.

If we focus on a few target species for conservation, what we truly do is speak the language of the very forces that threaten these ecosystems. It means that we are entering a debate, that we are starting a war, by attempting to impose new ideals. What we really need is peace.

Without our help natural systems work in far more complex and harmonious ways than the human mind can imagine. On the long run, our obsession to save the aspects we selected is probably more harmful than beneficial. All we can do to preserve our global ecosystem, is to let it be. Not harm it.

We should admit that the comfortable material wealth we long for fuels the hugest threats to our own base. We are the big mammals that can survive only in a healthy ecosystem. We need to admit that our dreams to excel make us murder ourselves.

I believe that to survive, we don’t need to learn to understand and control nature, but we need to learn to trust it and surrender.