Success & Self-Determination


Mazin Qumsiyeh | Popular Resistance – TRANSCEND Media Service

1 Jun 2018 – What distinguishes a healthy successful human being (or animal for that matter) from apathetic pathetic creatures who make excuses for their failures in life? At our Palestine Institute for Biodiversity and Sustainability we take care of many animals (rehabilitation of wild animals and a few domestic ones). On weekends and holidays I spend more time observing them and also observing human activities in the streets of Bethlehem and globally. I can’t help but compare and contrast and notice variation.

For example, we have two lizards of the same species, one is rather shy and freaks out in presence of humans the other is calm and collected. Our hamsters shape their own environment and place their waste in one corner, their food in another, and their babies and sleeping quarters yet in another.

This got me thinking about human success: those who succeed are precisely those who have self-confidence to decide to work hard to change their circumstances and not take things for granted. I think that is the essence of self-determination: it has to do with self-confidence and not accepting your surroundings as given but shaping it to the maximum possible (which in the case of humans in the interconnected 21st century world is limitless). We need to get rid of mental colonization first.

As said before: “Free your mind and your ass will follow” –African-American saying. “The best weapon in the hands of the occupiers is the mind of the occupied” –Steven Biko.

Come to think of it what makes a “hero”? The stereotypical stories is that heroes win against difficult odds but the key element is the decision to take on these odds, not the winning part. Indeed, does a person who tries and “loses” become less of a hero than one who wins? How many indeed are martyr heroes! Here in Palestine we have utmost respect for those who resist (who fight injustice) because it is natural. We disdain those collaborators and those who watch their own narrow selfish interests. Real losers are not who work to change circumstances (even if they are jailed or killed) but only those who stay in their comfort zones. The latter are those who make all sorts of excuses (US is powerful, “Saudi Arabia” has too much leverage to challenge, “Israel” controls the US). What they fail to realize is that, the biggest fear of repressive powers as these, is people developing self confidence that they can change their own circumstances.

Apathy empowers tyranny, resistance undermines it. I tell students, staff and volunteers: what you change in your mind you can then change your world. No God or others will save you. Be the change you want to see right now. Power is available to those seek it. Your choice is to be that fish that swims even against the stream or the dead fish that flows with the stream. This seems elementary but it is remarkable that we see more resilience (self-confidence and ability to push positively forward) among animals and plants than among fellow human beings.

Even self-declared “leaders” suffer from the lack of self-confidence to RESIST and simply go with the flow. That is why politicians are corrupt and greedy. We have utmost respect to those who are active and work hard positively for the sake of others (society, the environment). They are truly alive because they resist. For the others: for your own sakes please liberate your minds and you can then liberate your bodies from bondage. You can do anything you put your mind to do.

I ended my earlier messages with “stay human” but perhaps we should wish to “go wild animal” – reclaim freedom in our mind… resist. To resist is to truly exist! It is the essence of happiness to be determining your own future not to let others do it for you.

Our motto at the museum and institute is RESPECT: for ourselves, for others, for nature. It works.

Now those of us who never take vacations go back to reading, respecting, recycling, reducing (waste), reaching out to fellow living things, and resisting. If you are in the area of Bethlehem–where a guy named Jesus also resisted 2000 years ago–and want to share success, then stop by for a cup of coffee or tea. We are located here:

In self-confidence and utmost respect,

And in an animal spirit!


Mazin Qumsiyeh, associate professor of genetics and director of cytogenetic services at Yale University School of Medicine, is founder and president of the Holy Land Conservation Foundation and ex-president of the Middle East Genetics Association. He won the Raymond Jallow Activism Award from the national Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee in 1998. He is co-founder and national treasurer of Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, and has written extensively about the Middle East. Qumsiyeh is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, author of Sharing the Land of Canaan and Popular Resistance in Palestine, a professor at Bethlehem University and director of the Palestine Museum of Natural History in Bethlehem.

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