The optimist in me didn't want to write this blog post. But as these ideas have solidified in my mind through conversations over the past weeks, I’ve decided they're worth sharing. For this reason, and because the alternative is to write about my feet, I'm going to share my thoughts on the nature of the work we're doing here.
A theme I've noticed embedded throughout the various lectures and conversations we've had in the past 8 weeks, is that these problems we are facing all start inside a person. A person feels, consciously or not, they are more important, more entitled, or more valuable than another in some way, and choose to act at the expense of the other. Immediately the scales of power are shifted, opening the door for the same process to repeat itself. I'm not just talking about corporate scum bags, power hungry politicians, and Pharisees. I'm talking about all of us. Every time my ego gets in the way of understanding another person's perspective, and every time I choose me over you, I tilt the scales and invite further injustice into the world. I think we’ve all heard the saying that hurt people hurt people. In my opinion, this is the original and only problem humanity has ever faced: selfishness. It’s there at the root of all tribalism, nationalism, greed, anger, jealousy, exploitation, homophobia, etc. I could go on.
As I see it, these are what lie at the root of the grand challenges we face. I can't help but feel we are trying to provide external solutions for internal problems. For every innovative solution that makes the world a better place, someone somewhere has found a new way to elevate themselves or their tribe at the expense of another. And the cycle continues.
Consider how difficult it is to confidently bring even an ounce of goodness into the world (as we've all been trying to do here) through these external fixes, and at the same time how easy it is to create and perpetuate injustice, that even a group of students who fly across the world to do good will also inevitably do some harm, too. I’m not saying we will have a net negative effect here, but to think our presence here is purely beneficial is unrealistic, in my opinion.
So what then of this mismatch between the nature of our problems and solutions? Will I ditch my engineering career and become a yogi? A personal counselor? A priest? No, those approaches come with ample problems of their own. I don’t have an answer of what to make of this yet. I do feel, however, that introspection and careful consideration of what each individual brings into the world is a vital part of the solution, especially for us as people of power.
To end on a cheery note, I believe it is absolutely possible that a GCIL project will have some positive effect in the world, even if it is not my own. However, my solace lies in the idea that regardless of what comes of my GCIL project, the realizations I’ve attempted to describe here alone make this program an incredibly worthwhile experience.