The Worst Thing We Ever Built

The greatest thing that I made with own two hands (apart from my children, but I was really a bystander in all of that) was a table that I built in Woodwork when I was 15. It wasn’t a masterpiece and I think I accidentally stole part of it from another student, but it was mine (mostly) and it maintained its structural integrity when I put something on it. It was amazing, because I made it.

We often feel that way about something that we create, but sometimes what we create isn’t amazing, and can even cause significant damage to people. That’s a little difficult to talk about though.

One of the man-made creations which has torn our world apart is poverty. We have created it, and we maintain it, and it holds hundreds of millions of people captive every single day, taking the lives of millions each year. The ‘we’ that I refer to are the wealthy in our world. If you are reading this, then that is you.

You see, poverty has not been created by people living in poverty – Muhammad Yunos would say that poverty was created‘…by an economic system in which all the resources tend to keep surging up towards the top, creating and ever expanding mushroom head of wealth belonging to only 1 percent of people.’ An economic system created and cultivated by those whom it serves. Those with wealth. You and me.

It is not a natural disaster, it does not happen at random and it is not a necessary evil. It is a vile beast that we created, and we must kill. Because it is holding us as a human race back, and we are missing out on the beauty, creativity and intelligence of the majority of people who live on the planet.

Ending poverty is a lofty goal – but we are doing it, one small loan at a time.

The Government Can’t Help You Anymore

One of the toughest speaking gigs I have ever had was at a facility working with kids who had dropped out of a government high school in a lower socio-economic area of Adelaide. I was talking about global poverty and some of the difficulties that we face in this world and these students were convinced that whatever was happening was the Australian government’s fault. It didn’t seem to matter what I said or how many times I suggested there was something that we, as individuals, could do, their opinion didn’t change.

It’s safe to say that they were using the government as a scapegoat, as a cop out so that they didn’t have to contemplate the reality that they could take some responsibility for our world. This is not uncommon with disengaged students, but they are not the only people who have ever done that, I have discovered. To be honest, it is probably something that we have all done from time to time – asked the question, ‘Why doesn’t the government do something about it?’

But perhaps the time for us to ask that question is over. We have lived in a world where governments have held most of the power – some elected, some not, and this power seemed so far from our own reach that it can make us feel like we have no control over what happens. That may have never been totally true, but it certainly is not true anymore.

Out of the top 100 richest entities in our world, 69 of them are corporations, not governments. Not elected, but also not answerable to a nationality. Corporations who have the ability to impact our world simply by the way that they work and how they provide their products or services. Corporations filled with people, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, daughters and sons. People we know and people we have met. People like you and me. Individuals who have direct influence over the culture of their organisation and can steer things in such a way that if they wanted to fund some development work in a developing country, they could do it. If they wanted to provide free services to empower people living in poverty, they could do that. If they wanted to come up with a solution for homelessness, they could do that. If they wanted to hire newly arrived refugees, or the disabled, or the elderly, they could do that. People could insist on making a positive change in our world and by the sheer size of these corporations, these actions would echo throughout the entire world.

So, the government can’t help you anymore. But corporations can, and they might be a bit easier to influence to help create a better world, because they are filled with people who don’t need to seek re-election.

How to Deal with Stupid People

I come across them regularly, on the road, in the supermarket, walking on the footpath. People who behave in such a way that I can only assume that they are stupid. Sometimes I call them ‘jokers’, other times I have more colourful names for them, but in my mind they are categorised as ‘stupid people’.

I am sure you would know some people like this. People who don’t seem to understand your priorities or seem to care about your sense of urgency. They could be just about anyone, and as it turns out they are usually anyone who is not me.

I think my eldest son was about 7 or 8 when I first heard him call someone a ‘joker’ from the back seat of the car. I am so glad that he didn’t use something more colourful. This was a rude shock – when you hear your own judgement parroted back to you it can be startling. And how long until that word gets used to describe me? Are other people using that word to describe me? Am I someone else’s ‘stupid person’?

It is the easiest thing in the world to judge people, to create a story in our mind about how they are just stupid for not seeing the world as I see it and behave in a way that I would behave. It is the easiest thing in the world to be completely self-centred.

What I have discovered is that everything that everyone does makes sense to them, even if it is just at a subconscious level. They may not even be able to articulate why they do something but at some level their behaviour aligns with their values, or their world view.

If you don’t understand why someone does something then your path to understanding is through curiosity, asking more questions and making less judgements. That is generosity in relationships.

If you have stupid people in your life, then perhaps you’re not asking the right questions.