Development as a Way of Life

EDITORIAL, 21 Feb 2010

#101 | Johan Galtung

The way development has been conceived of in this book(1)  goes far beyond a comparison of countries in economic achievement.  All kinds of dimensions are considered, economic, military, political, cultural, and social, seen as structural and cultural.  All spaces are there, nature, human, social, world.  And a very simple philosophy: development as unfolding of the deep culture; guided by diversity, symbiosis, equity.

And that translates into a program for development as a way of life.  There is a message worth considering: if you yourself want to develop, to unfold, then cultivate diverse potentials in yourself.  Your selves.  Do not go for only one for your whole life, go for many, but maybe not for all at the same time.  Do not see them as separate compartments in your self, but open the walls between them, let them flow through the walls, let them inspire each other.  You love nature, you love running; so run in nature.  You are a social scientist, you like writing more literary stuff; so write about the human and social as drama.  You like travel, you like history, so build your travels around historical themes.

Practice equity in your mind.  Conceive of your potentials not as competitive, but as cooperative.  Try to avoid seeing any one of them as the one, the single axis around which your life rotates, even if society has defined you that way.  Rather, praise them, see yourself as blessed with potentials even if only one or two of them earn your bread.  See your own development as potentials unfolding; as a goal, not as a means.

Do so and a richer life will come to you as a ripe fruit. Moreover, its seeds will spread to others around you.  The more you are enriched the more you can enrich others.  Compete, but with yourself, to improve yourself, not with others to beat them.  Above all cooperate.

Others you should try to enrich, and if they happen to be your partners enrichment may become reciprocal.  You will enrich each other, both will get tenfold back.  Of course your potential profiles will have similarities and differences, so find a basis for equitable symbiosis across differences, within yourself and between you and others.

Grammar is useful here.  “To develop” is in this context not transitive, but intransitive, reflexive, reciprocal.  “I develop you”, meaning I am the cause of some effect in you, is influence, power, grafting me onto you; not development as you unfolding.  “I develop” makes sense, stating the fact that unfolding is going on.  “I develop myself” is even better, with my self entering as both subject and object, meaning I work on myself, identifying my potentials, letting them unfold, dropping some, improving others.

But the best of them all is “we develop each other”, meaning mutuality, reciprocity.  “I sense some potential in you left un-unfolded; I appeal to it and will watch it unfold, blossom.  Do you see something in me?”  Well, maybe there could be more generosity, more spirituality, more attention to form not only content in language and body language.  There is mutual benefit in enriching each other as equally as possible.

Do this within your own gender, generation, race, class, nation and state and you develop friendship.  Cross the gender line and you may enter love or deepen a friendship.  Cross the generation line and you build a family.  Do all of this and you build a humanly and socially rich community.  The more equitable and the more reciprocal the more easily will enrichment resources flow between persons.  To accept being inspired by others is easier when you yourself are accepted gratefully as a source of inspiration.  Mutuality can become highly contagious and addictive.

Like human and community development, so also countries.  The same applies to their relations.  If development is practiced within oneself, and in the relations to significant others, then it may be easier to understand what works and what not.  Thus, one-way “aid” or “assistance” to “catch up” will have to yield to two-way development assistance.  All countries have deficits and potentials, all can benefit from advice and help from others. The time to start is now, two-way, equitably.

Shaping the minds of others implies willingness to be shaped by them; like letting development models–buddhist, islamic, Western liberal, Western marxist, Japanese, Chinese– flow both ways. Using other persons by relating only to one aspect–muscular power, security, money-making, menial services, sex–with no broadening of the relation is anti-development for persons.  Like preparing Third World countries for delivering resources only at ever higher quality over price, pitting them against each other in competition, rewarding them for knowing their place in the world, punishing them–by military intervention–if they do not.

Thus, the parallels are many.  The isomorphism is rich.  And the morale of the story is obvious: if you are so eager to develop something, why not start with yourself, making development your way of life?  Like learning to listen to the diverse potentials longing to blossom inside yourself, and to enrich each other.  And  from developing your own selves proceed to those around you, as a minimum not standing in the way of others wanting to do the same.  If you want to relate to others through your best insights then others might want the same, not only listening.

Six development models, not one claiming to be universal, in mutual and equitable learning, would make a more diverse, symbiotic and peaceful world. A good alternative to the present one-way model, doomed to fail.

(1) A Theory of Development, TRANSCEND University Press, 2010; forthcoming this spring.  This editorial is from the Epilogue.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 21 Feb 2010.

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