Fourth Response: Grassroots and Charity/Development Work (optimistic phase)
Learning the whole system is against change, I still believed there was the potential for change, and for it to be peaceful. This led me to the grassroots alternatives – by the people, for the people. Politicians are good managers. They keep things organized and keep things the way they’ve been going. But they’re certainly not leaders. For the most part, change is not in their DNA. Why risk your cushy job and getting public scrutiny? You can just coast instead. I digress. Back to change.
If politicians aren’t the answer. We need something else. I started getting involved in the grassroots – volunteering, protesting, educating, evangelizing – you know, the hippie stuff. But I kept getting education and worked so people would actually respect my opinion. And yes, I did enjoy not wearing shoes or socks outside many times (and still do).
So grassroots, this is change by mobilizing people. Something like Occupy Wall-Street. But like I said, the revolutionaries tend to get all bogged down in problems. You need smaller change on a smaller scale. This allows movements to gain momentum. Change is through inertia and you have to start small. So I got involved with development organizations and even did some international development work myself.
I embarked on a life-changing journey to the Philippines for 6 months as a volunteer intern. I learned a lot to say the least. First, it was nothing like I expected. Second, it was REALLY not anything like I expected. I started out some optimistic kid trying to change people. But Filipinos are really some of the nicest people in the world. They’re kind, sweet, friendly, understanding, and they really focus on family and their personal relationships. But I’ll admit, they’re kind of lazy. I remember reading this in books before I went abroad. I thought, “These racist pigs calling all people around the equator lazy!” Buuuut, it’s kind of true. Think about it, you don’t have to work so hard. Fruit and delicious foods grow everywhere, year-round. This was a thing I was unfamiliar with in Canada, a desolate wasteland 8 months per year (okay, it’s not so bad). Sorry, I digressed again.
The people here didn’t want to be changed. They’re happy. I’d have to say they’re far happier than many people I knew back home. My mind started changing again and I realized there’s actually a lot that developed countries can learn from those not so affluent.
This is an analogy I thought of after a while. Imagine a billionaire comes up to you and says, “Oh my God! You live so terribly! You don’t have a maid, nannies for your kids, or a Lamborghini?! How can you live like this, you poor soul! I know, I’ll show you how to be just like me. I want you to work harder, work that overtime you’ve been avoiding, neglect your family a bit more and spend more time investing and finding ways to make money and grow a business. You can get really big, you can be just like me!”
Well, I’d probably say something explicit to the person, or in PG terms, “Screw you! I don’t need to be like you. Who do you think you are, trying to make me like you? You don’t think I live good enough? I think I do alright. Thanks, but no thanks.” So, are we just ethnocentrist, thinking our way is better for some reason?
As for development work, I realized it’s just a drop in the bucket. There are still the systemic problems plaguing the world. The zero-sum nature of the world makes it impossible to make everyone wealthy. My optimism faded. My help-the-world attitude started to die. I lost hope.