19/04/07, restday in Lusaka

Living in Vietnam for 14 months and spending the past three months in Africa have made me realize that we live in a funny world. A puzzle world.

A puzzle is a marvelous thing. A piece of a puzzle may look similar to its neighbouring piece, but it will be different. And it may be completely different from a piece on the opposite side of the puzzle. Every piece is unique. Yet all pieces are interconnected and all pieces are necessary to complete the whole puzzle. Imagine just knowing one piece of the puzzle, without knowing the other colors and shapes than the colors and shapes on that one piece of the puzzle that you know. And not knowing the bigger colorfull picture that all pieces of the puzzle form when combined.

In our western world we like talking about poverty and development. Pieces of a puzzle are poor and undeveloped when they do not have the same color and the same shapes as that one piece of the puzzle that we already know. So to develop the other pieces of the puzzle, we try to paint them the color that we know. And we make people believe that our colors and shapes are the right colors and shape, often much to our own economic advantage. People need to talk like we do, need to behave like we do, need to dress like we do, need to live like we do, need to eat like we do, need to consume like we do, need to know what we know, and so on…

Just try imagining what this does to the puzzle as a whole. All interesting shapes disappear and it becomes a very dull and monohromatic thing. Furhermore it requires a lot of energy and resources to repaint all pieces of the puzzle. Valuable resources that might not be available. Yet while before we told the piece on the other side of the puzzle that it had the wrong color and wrong shape, it was doing just fine on its own. In its own way in contributed to the bigger picture. And it provided uniqe and beautifull characteristics.

Today we had a restday in Lusaka. Our camp is located a little bit outside of the city center, so TDA staff had arranged for the possibility of a shuttle bus to take us to the nearby mall to get food, entertainment and supplies. It is a mall like you would find in any civilised and developed western (or nowadays also eastern) country. And this mall with all its conveniences and amenties symbolizes the standard that we westerners envision for everybody on our planet. Yet while being here it just feels perverse, especially because one hundred kilometers back, people were still living in thatched roofed huts as they have always done. Doing well in their own way, although nowadays they might be frustrated that they are not able to paint themselves our color. 

Living in Vietnam and spending time here in Africa have made me realize that modern day concepts that we take for granted back home, like our political conceptions, globalism, capitalism and consumerism are outdated, long past their due date and in need of revision. Because if we keep spreading and propagating our western standard as the benchmark, at some point we will run out of energy and resources, because there is not enough to repaint all pieces of the puzzle… And more important, there is no need to. Other pieces of the puzzle are doing just fine on their own… Let’s just preserve our collorfull puzzle as it is and understand that other pieces are contributing to that in the way that they are. There is no need to be like us…


… versus this. Just a 100k appart.

Energy and resources vs our hunger for entertainment. Of course it’s the same as riding a bike through Africa. Is there any point to it?

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