Thursday, October 29, 2009

Change we can believe in

16 year old Jasmine from China BlueI asked Professor Rouse if he believed things could get better.

We had just watched a documentary (China Blue) on child labour and exploitation of manpower in China, at a factory that produced pants. We had been talking about the difficulties of implementing regulation and minimum standards for how the companies treat their employees, and how widespread such problems are – they are not only present in the clothing business, but also in markets of food, diamonds, toys and electronics. As a teacher of courses in globalisation, Rouse pointed towards the new shape of capitalism that has evolved in the last thirty years as a cause for such conditions’ continuous deterioration. (I don’t know what exactly type of capitalism Rouse is aiming at, but I still think it sounds perfectly reasonable. To me, practices of the European Union such as open borders and same currency comes to mind, and also a high pressure on developing countries to open their markets)

Did Professor Rouse believe things could get better? Yes, he did. He knew from his own experience and his own life, things could indeed get better. Before the late 1970’s, things were getting better. What hinder us from improving again? Rouse believed in change, so it was worth the effort for him to come and talk to us students about this in his spare time. Professor Rouse’ heart and effort made him a beautiful person; his faith – his confidence in what he hoped for – was allowing him to be so.

Al Gore was asked the exact same question concerning his campaign to stop global warming. “Do you believe the world can change?” And Al Gore did believe. His belief that things can change allows him to be beautiful in fighting for that very change. Just as Nelson Mandela, Dalai Lama, Henrik Wergeland and Martin Luther King Jr also were warriors of beauty when they fought for changes that they believed in. Now, none of these I have mentioned took the change for granted. None of them were certain change would actually happen – the only thing they knew for certain was that it was possible for change to happen if a sufficient number of citizens would decide to join their faith, be beautiful and “get the finger out” (an anglified expression from my gorgeous home country right there:-).

Let us consider for a moment what it means to have faith in Al Gore. Then you obviously also have faith in Al Gore’s project, and believe that it is actually possible to stop global warming. However, this belief alone does not automatically make you beautiful; in fact, if you believe that Al Gore is going to save the world single-handedly, or by the help of all those other people, is that not hypocrisy? To be beautiful, and “follow” Al Gore if you will, you need to actually make an effort yourself. You actually need to sort the garbage – because you are confident it can make a difference.

I also consider to put Jesus on that list. May give the phrase “believe in Jesus” a new flavour.

Learn more:
Teddy Bears Film: China Blue
TED: Al Gore's new thinking on the climate crisis


  1. Some wisdom there. I know some people I'd really like to help change....from very bad behaviour...but I don't believe they will, no matter how much love I'd pour out on them. That makes me angry, not beautiful. I'm ready to do any- and everything for them, but it just won't help....I then can I still can we know that something is too late to care about?

  2. I can definitely relate to that, even though I didn't think of such an application when I wrote the post. As you point out, effort without faith does not make you beautiful. You need both, it seem.

    Unfortunately, I don't have any simple recipe for faith. I know for my own sake that faith grows as I listen to or interact with believers. For instance, I never considered becoming anything close to a vegetarian until I met Gwendolyn, who is passionate about stuff like sustainability in the food ecosystem. After meditating on this for a few weeks after our second conversation about the topic, I vaguely committed to reduce my meat consumption by half; I now ask for "half meat" on all food with meat I order during weekdays. (This does of course complicates things, so I find myself more often than before seeking out the vegetarian alternatives on the menu.)