Last week I was in a meeting with a high-ranking official of the Georgian government. We talked about local economic development (LED). The meeting was productive, even though there was quite a bit of scepticism from the official’s side about our approach to LED, which is different to how LED has been understood in Georgia so far. As we are getting towards the end of the meeting, the official suddenly stopped and said something along the lines of, “and we talk here about these things while not far away children are dying.” This statement was followed by a rather long silence as it came quite out of the blue. Nobody was sure how to respond and yet we all knew she was right.
Georgia was scarred by a similar conflict with Russia in 2008 that luckily ended more quickly. As a reaction to skirmishes in the Russian backed separatist region of South Ossetia between local separatist forces and the Georgian army, Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Georgia on 8 August 2008, capturing not only two separatist regions but also occupying non-disputed territory, including four cities. On 12 August, a ceasefire agreement between Georgia and Russia was negotiated by the then French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Yesterday, our interpreter told us her story of the time of the Russian invasion. She is a resident of Gori, one of the cities in Georgia that was occupied by Russian troops. While the attacks by the Russian army were not nearly as brutal as what is currently going on in Ukraine, the time was no less traumatic for the people of Georgia. For many, fearful memories are relived these days.
I am also in touch with some friends in Moldova, who tell me about the refugee crisis as it is unfolding in the small country, whose population suddenly increased by more than 10% within days due to the influx of Ukrainian refugees. They are telling me about unprecedented solidarity by the local population with the refugees, but also that the official response has been slow and most support for the refugees is still coming from the Moldovan population.
And despite all of that, life is going on for me. There was a lot of back and forth before we decided to actually come to Georgia for our project. Why should we not keep going with the work we are doing? While of course supporting Ukraine in our own ways, either by donating money or by hosting refugees – the family of my colleague who was here with me just received two Ukrainian families into their family home in Germany while we were here.
I also want to acknowledge that there are many other wars going on and have been going on in brutal ways for many years. They are farther away from us and it is easy to forget about them. They are no less brutal or tragic and there is no question that these wars need to stop. And then of course this opens up all sorts of questions of how our way of life can be directly linked to many of these wars and other crises (see “More for you to enjoy” below).
Much more can and should be said but I am going to stop for now. A post this time that is not about complexity or systems or our way of being, and yet it is about nothing else.
A few people asked me what the idea of the Paper Museum was. I described it in an earlier post.
This week I can share the full quote of William Bateson I was writing about last week. William Bateson – who coined the word genetics – wrote this in a letter to his sister, Anna. Thanks, Tim, for sharing!
My brain boils with Evolution. It is becoming a perfect nightmare to me. I believe now it is an axiomatic truth that no variation, however small, can occur in any part without other variation occurring in correlation to it in all other parts; or, rather, that no system, in which a variation of one part had occurred without such correlated variation in all other parts could continue to be a system. This follows from what one knows of the nature of an “individual,” whatever that may be. If then, it is true that no variation could occur if it were not arranged that other variations should occur, in correlation with it, in all parts, all these correlated variations are dictated by the initial correlation acting as an environmental change. Therefore the occurrence of any variation in a system is a proof that all parts have the power of changing with environmental change and must of necessity do so.
(Highlight added) Why did I add this to my Paper Museum? Besides the reason that I wanted to quote him last week already, I think it is such an important insight for systems thinkers and systems change practitioners these days, and as my friend Tim, who shared the quote with me, said: “The world still isn’t ready to take heart the implications of his thinking of 133 years ago.” I agree.
A friend sent me a paper recently on how the north is draining the south through unequal exchange. The lecture might not be enjoyable, but it links to my statement above on how our (read: people in the so-called industrialised world) way of life is causing global crises and suffering. The authors write that “Unequal exchange is a major driver of underdevelopment and global inequality.”