Liberating myself from the myth of development

Sorting out some old memos, I discovered those notes below and reading it, it was like traveling some old suburban streets of India. One text led me to other text, and after all those stepping stones, I reached to one conclusion of what Mother Teresa wrote on his bedroom wall in Calcutta: It is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

So, here comes the first stepping stone:

”[…] In my own village in Rajasthan, people were very busy in the spring and autumn with sowing and harvest, but in the winter and summer they were not so active. They would spend a lot of time just sitting and talking. This is not because they were lazy. It was because they valued rest and what we call leisure. They didn’t call it leisure. In Hindu philosophy it would be called inaction or meditation, or just silence, and it plays a very important part in Hindu life- the opportunity to understand. So they sat and gazed at the world – at the sun, the stars, the moon, or the trees and flowers- or they talked to each other. They thought, ”If I have a piece of bread and clean water and a loin cloth round my waist, what more do I need? Why should I work, work, work and produce, produce, produce, when I have no time to ponder and talk and go inside myself?”


In the past forty or fifty years the influence of economic growth, government and Western media have fostered a new philosophy. It says that if you don’t have enough you are backward. You need development, and development means having more goods. Indians used to think that once you have the basic necessities of food and simple clothing and simple housing, your other needs would be social and spiritual. That was your wealth. Wealth was the well-being of the family, the community and the temple. But nowadays we are interested in materialism, which means that you are judged by what you have rather than what your are. In the Indian vision the poorer you were and fewer possessions you had, the higher your status. Brahmin is the highest caste, but Brahmins were the poorest. They had no trade, no land, no business or industry-they lived on gifts. 


In traditional Hindu thinking material possessions were a sign of regress, but in the modern world they are a sign of progress. When people are deprived of care, friendship and culture they try to find happiness through having more and more material possessions. When other people have something, you want it too, and this is encouraged by Western advertising and consumerism, which creates the illusion of need where none actually exists.”

This text gave me an insight that I am on a period of winter, or to say on a period of meditation and inaction. I really do those things, cooking and relaxing with friends on the terrace just doing nothing but gazing at eyes and at memories. And if the idea of development always accompanies with the idea of possession, I wouldn’t declare from now on that I study development on graduate school. I’d rather say that I study human welfare or government intervention. Maybe in a broader sense, I’m studying human rights in that all those intervention are for protecting and enhancing the basic human conditions: Happiness being one of them.

Then I encountered a poem that is to known by Mother Teresa. It is said that this poem is written on her bedroom wall in Calcutta. The poem is beautiful and inspirational, but I tracked the original version of that poem which Mother Teresa edited to make a poetic form with a spiritual touch. The original text is written by Kent Keith, and the text goes as below:

The Paradoxical Commandments

1. People are illogical, unreasonable and self-centred. Love them anyway.

2. If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway.

3. If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.

4. The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.

5. Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.

6. The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds. Think big anyway.

7. People favour underdogs but follow only top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

8. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway. 

9. People really need help but may attack you if you do help them. Help people anyway.

10. Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

Those commandments came to me with a story of a couple who arrived to Bolivia and tried to build a local library for an distanced little town called Troja Pampa. The couple got attacked and criticised by people around and by other close towns, but eventually against all odds they finished the construction and left. Now the library contains more than 200 books to share. It surely is good that this little town now has a library since 2016, but my thoughts came after: can they even read? Will their children have time to go to library instead of helping their parents? Will that library be just another example of white elephant?

But I admired the 10th commandment that mentioned above. They gave what they could to the world anyway, and just with them they are deserved to be heard. For me among those commandments the one inspired me the most was the fifth: honesty and frankness make me vulnerable, but be honest anyway. I’ve thought that I don’t want to be vulnerable before some people I do care, of which reason I keep myself into silence rather than talking it out loud. It is a new resolution for this year, I decided, to be more frank despite of the fear of vulnerability.

This short trip to India and then to Bolivia made me to try to come out from the cage, and I’m now facing another big cage surrounding the small cage I was in.

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