In Praise of Dreams

Postcard from Solomon Islands

We are sitting in a circle on white plastic moulded chairs on the sand. I am in Honiara with a group of Solomon Islanders, they are speaking of high youth unemployment, few jobs and little money, of feelings of alienation about the past, about the current power structures which tend to shut young adults out of decision making, of no real sense of a better future and of cheap plentiful alcohol.

In Praise of Dreams

There is an elderly woman in the group, sitting in a pink chair, her lips and teeth are stained with beetle nut, she doesn’t speak English and she is wearing a tee-shirt that says, Social Hazard – Will Not Conform, and on her in this moment it looks right for her and it looks right for us.

We are here to talk about what to do. I don’t have the answer and they don’t either but that we are talking about it as thought the discussion and the answers matter, is a start. No different from anywhere in the world, who am I and what will I do? Who are we and what will we do?

Next day I decide to find out what some children in this community think. And at my request we go to a school where some colleagues know the teachers. Here are village children, whose families are not wealthy but they have enough to provide their kids with the basic uniforms and books. There are about 25 village boys and girls; I guess the average age is around ten years old. They stare at me wide eyed. I greet them and ask some questions and they respond in whispers like wind in grass and I can’t make sense of what they are saying. The staff is looking at me as if to say, “this is going well…….not”. So I collect all the adults and divide the kids into small group with an adult to shepherd and ask them two questions. What would they like to do when they leave school, what are likely challenges they think they will face? The answers that emerge are probably the answers that one would expect from kids in any school in the West. Three of these kids want to be doctors, two want to be airline pilots, two want to be lawyers, one an architect , two policemen, several want to be nurses, a couple teachers, one wants to be a carpenter and another a farmer. The challenges they express are whether their parents will have money, whether there will be peace in their homes, whether there will be less violence, less stealing, less drinking. In our culture we celebrate dreams, there is apparently an American dream somewhere in the DNA of 360 million Americans – God Bless America and the American people. And I am thinking that the chances of most of these little ones finishing form four is small, and the chances of them attending a university or college are infinitesimally small. And so what of these youthful dreams? Should these children be discouraged from having them? Will they be wounded by them? Does it make sense to even have such dreams?

American author Dave Pollard[1] writes, “When things are hopeless – Give up hope, embrace hopelessness, it makes sense.” A Tibetan yogi once said of dreams; “ like the birds that gather in the treetops at night, and scatter in all directions at the coming of the dawn”[2].

The late American author Joe Bageant said in one of his Blogs “Hope is for little kids and tooth fairies” and living in a Mexican village he spoke often about the satisfaction that people there had with their world and how in his view the western idea of hope and aspirations added nothing to their lives.

“…. in the morning the roosters crow, and wood smoke stirs in the air, and this village wakes up, and does all those ancient things decent people do in so much of the rest of the world. Old women sweep the street in front of their doorways, men uncomplainingly go in search of a day’s labour, and young mothers nurse babies in the courtyards, full knowing that what they see around them is all there will ever be for them, and that the Virgin of Guadeloupe blesses each morning. Just as their mothers and grandmothers knew it. Already they are tired for the world. But not joyless……… Hope is for little kids and tooth fairies. The world we awaken to each morning is the only real thing there is. And if we are spiritually, morally and philosophically intact, and humble enough to feel it and love it each day, we don’t need to hope some unseen force or bunch of politicos, or an “economy” or so-called leaders are gonna make it better for us. The orchids outside my doorway are blooming and my wife still loves me after all these years.”

Call me naive, but I thought saying “hope springs eternal in the human breast” was from the Bible, God telling us something about how we were made. But that is not right, it comes from the poem “An Essay on Man” written in 1734 by the poet Alexander Pope. I don’t know anything about Pope except that he is not God and I am thinking that he probably didn’t know much more about the qualities of hope in poor communities than I do, and that is not much.

[1] Author. 2007 author Finding the Sweet Spot: A Natural Entrepreneur’s Guide to Responsible, Sustainable, Joyful Work (2007) Blog: How to Save the World, [2] Shabkar Tsodruk Rangdrol Tibetan Yogi (1781-1851)

About jocknoble

I have worked in thirty countries with most time spent in India, Kenya, Indonesia, USA , Australia and Armenia. My current role with World Vision International is as a Livelihoods Advisory based in Manila. Before this I spent 4 years based in Armenia leading an economic development learning hub for 10 countries across the Middle East and Eastern Europe. I spent 8 years with World Vision Australia where I founded and lead the Social Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Unit (SEED), a team of economic development specialists,to establish and support innovative initiatives in poor communities from Africa to the Asia Pacific, Senegal to Timor Leste.. I believe the reason people are poor is that they do not have enough money and our challenge is to help instill hope and a genuine sense of self-belief, starting with those of us who somehow work in development. I was the founder and CEO of Diversity@work Australia Inc, a social enterprise developing innovative models, strategies and educational programs to strengthen companies through diversity and inclusion. I hold a Master of Entrepreneurship and Innovation and a Masters of Strategic Foresight from Swinburne University in Melbourne, post-graduate studies in Not for Profit Management at Georgetown University and Negotiation and Conflict Management at Latrobe University Melbourne. I was the Carey Medal winner for 2007 for exceptional and outstanding service to the community. So it goes Published Books: 'Postcards - What am I doing here' (2016) which is a collection of my blogs along with selected photographs, and Stores from the Road - Ten stories for workers in international development (2016)
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