Mamphela Ramphele

In her current capacity as co-chair of the Club of Rome that foresaw the present sustainability crisis in the 1970s, Dr Ramphele is working to bring thought leaders and business together to rethink economics sustainably.

Mamphela Ramphele

Co-President: Club of Rome

Both Peace and development start with each of us.  

Global peace and development are the outcomes of the peace and development work we each are called to do inside ourselves as global citizens.The linkages between the inner person, the person as a citizen agent, and the person as citizen at local, national, regional and global levels are inextricable.  

The planetary emergencies gathering pace demand attention to these interconnected and interdependent linkages.

Aurelio Peccei, the founder of the Club of Rome, concluded his contributions to the world he lived in disappointed. He was disappointed by the failure of scientific knowledge to move humanity to change behaviour to avert identified risks to their very survival as spelt out in the Report to the Club of Rome on The Limits to Growth , published in 1972.  He focussed the last years of his life championing the imperative of a human revolution which he defined in Before it is Too Late as: “… the development of the amala-consciousness level is comparable to working and fertilizing agricultural soil.  The inner revolution only bears fruit ….when it is directed outward in practical acts in actual society…. The person who has undergone a human revolution on the deepest level of his consciousness knows how to relate with Nature and with other human beings…..And since the human revolution is the key to positive action leading to the adoption of a new course, and the revival of human fortunes.” 

In this presentation I would like to explore Peace and Development as interconnected and interdependent realities – one cannot have one without the other. 

I would like to do so by touching on:- What is our understanding of Peace and our role in it?- What is our understanding of Development and how to challenge conventional wisdom about development?- How drawing on rich indigenous philosophy could illuminate the darkness of our understanding of who we are?- How Explorations of a New Anthropology of World Spheres could possibly bring us Home to the beginning?What is our Understanding of Peace?

There are different perspectives of peace across the globe.  The understanding I use in this presentation is one that goes beyond peace seen as the absence of conflict as well as peace as a social contract.  Peace in this presentation is used to denote harmony within the inner person as well as in the relationships of each person with their social, economic and political ecosystems.This understanding turns the focus of the work of establishing peace in the first instance to the inner world of all human beings.  The work of establishing inner peace in turn requires the creation of space for deep reflection on existential question such as: Who am I? What makes me whom I am? Who am I in my world? How do I relate to my world?  This deep inner reflection raises one’s consciousness to one’s beingness and the essence of being human as relational.  The conclusion of such an exploration of peace is that:  I am Because You Are.  There is no Me without We.  Humanity is interconnected and interdependent. 

Such an understanding leads us to the pursuit of peace as the work of each one of us.  There can only be peace in the world we live in if the point of departure of each of us is the contribution of the best of ourselves to the social, economic and political ecosystems in which we find ourselves at local, national, regional and global levels.

In case you think this is too idealistic, I would like to refer you to the work of the biologist Andreas Weber: The Biology of Wonder: Aliveness, Feeling and the Metamorphosis of Science .  This book invites us to behold the beauty of the mind within a sentient body that is guided by the interconnectedness and interdependence of all of life:“Only in the mirror of other life can we understand our own life. Only in the eyes of the other can we become ourselves.  We need the regard of the most unknown.  The animal’s regard…. Only it can unlock the depths in ourselves that otherwise would remain sealed.”

The sense of wonder, an attentiveness to beauty, the unexpected swelling of joy – these are indispensable guides as we work to bring our communities into alignment and reciprocity with the more-than-human commonwealth.  Andreas Weber, in the spirit of the wisdom of our common ancient ancestors, calls us to the poetics of aliveness in the commonwealth of the web of life.  

The wisdom of our ancient ancestors compel us to define Peace as Beauty.  Peace as the celebration of the full blossoming of life in abundance for all. What is our Understanding of Development in the Context of Peace as Celebration of Beauty?

An understanding of peace as celebration of the full blossoming of life in abundance for all, suggests a way of thinking about development that aligns with values implicit in this understanding. For such a way of thinking we need to turn to the source of all life – nature and learn its wisdom.  The world today is pre-occupied with Artificial Intelligence (AI) but scientists who study evolution are increasingly calling us to consciousness of a higher intelligence – Nature’s Intelligence (NI).

Biologist Leen Gorissen, in her book: Building the Future of Innovation on Nature’s Intelligence,  suggests that we return to the source of our being that provides us with wisdom derived from millions of years of field work and study. She concludes her study with a powerful call: “To move forward, we need to learn how to be indigenous again, exploring how we can become locally attuned and globally aligned, so that we can rediscover our interdependency with our environment and with the web of life, where everything is connected to everything.”

Gorissen’s conclusion about the importance of “becoming indigenous again” is inspired by teachings shared by many indigenous people she encountered in her life and studies including Bob Randall, a Yankutjatjara elder and traditional custodian of Uluru (Ayer’s Rock) in Australia.  Randall explains that the land was here long before us.  Therefore, we don’t own the land.  The land owns us. Only when we embrace this truism will we realise that: “the nature of the future and the future of nature are interdependent” p2112.

Re-imagining development in this values framework, opens up completely new opportunities to reframe the language of development that is different to what has  become the standard lexicon globally.  To be fully developed then entails becoming deliberate in identifying with nature - the source of life and learning its lessons.  This requires us to become indigenous again – reclaim and embrace our beingness as part of the web of life, and becoming more attuned locally and aligned globally.  For those of us who grew up in communities that still pride themselves as indigenous, governed by the value system of Ubuntu - interconnectedness and interdependence – we feel at home with the idea that the nature of the future and the future of nature as interdependent. This natural intelligence guides us to return to the principles of reciprocity and collaboration rather than competition; abundance and sharing rather than scarcity and exclusion; and celebrating diversity as enriching the building of resilience and wellbeing for all, and for our ecosystems.

The new lexicon of development as “becoming indigenous again” turns our current language of “developed and less developed” on its head.  Which countries, regions and continents are more developed than others in the context of being more indigenous as the measure of development?  How would we measure progress in this re-imagined development framework to reflect the journey towards conscious indigeneity? Surely GDP, FDI, and other such conventional measures, would be rendered inadequate and inappropriate to the task!

I would like to suggest that rather than dwelling on specific quantitative measures we should focus our efforts on principles derived from the above values framework: That there can be no Me without We.  Wellbeing for all or none. Regenerative development building on nature’s intelligence would be the outcome of each of us contributing our best efforts to enable all to thrive and blossom. 

Explorations of a New Anthropology and Philosophy of World Spheres? 

What are the implications of the above approaches to peace and development for the explorations of a New Anthropology?  Anthropology as a field of study has been tainted by its entanglements with the colonial enterprise globally.  Many anthropologists acted in ways that legitimised the “othering” of indigenous communities they encountered, thereby laying the ground for dispossession and exclusion of millions of people from the resources of the countries of their birth.  Some physical anthropologists even tried to legitimise racism by using pseudo-science to justify white supremacy.  They suggested that indigenous people have smaller brains than pale skinned people of European origin – famously challenged by Harvard University scholar, Stephen Jay Gould in his book: The Mismeasure of Man.    What then would explorations of a new anthropology look like?  

Genetic studies have now established beyond doubt that “race” is a social construct.  The human race, despite superficial physical differences, shares 99.9% of DNA with each other.  The salience of “race” continues despite this scientific knowledge. Racism persists because powerful forces in local, national and global affairs, find it a convenient prop to justify inequity generated by systematic dispossession and disregard of the rights and dignity of the “other” based on colour coding.

Africa has suffered the most from this “othering” process.  Powerful forces in the so-called Western world, have yet to acknowledge Africa not only as the cradle of humanity, but also of human civilization.  This ‘othering” has led to the continuation of the hiving off of north Africa into what is ridiculously called “Middle East and North Africa – the MENA Region.” The hiving off of the norther region of the African continent that is home to most of the enduring monuments to the first human civilization, together with the capturing of invaluable ancient cultural treasures, has been characterised by the African American scholar, George James as long ago as 1954, as The Stolen Legacy.   The entire network of Great Lakes and Nile River civilizations from Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt, demonstrate a sophisticated culture that emerged from our ancient ancestors’ learning from Nature’s Intelligence: cosmology, mathematics, agronomy, architecture, and other sciences.

The most devastating legacy of colonial conquest across the world is not the material dispossession of indigenous people, but the alienation of people from their rich cultural heritages and value systems, as well as their indigenous knowledge systems. This alienation disabled indigenous people’s sense-making capacity with devastating impacts on their identity, self-image, and self-confidence. In a cruel twist of irony, conquerors then turned around and depicted Africans as primitive and ignorant to justify their continued dispossession and inhumane treatment.  

History across the globe attests to the importance of mental and spiritual liberation from these imposed notions of inferiority of indigenous people, as a pre-requisite to true political and socio-economic liberation.  To the extent that much of Africa has yet to deliberately focus on liberating itself from mental and spiritual slavery, to that extent will Africa remain unable to leverage its huge resource base of a youthful population, abundant natural and mineral wealth and its ancient wisdom steeped in NI, to promote prosperity and wellbeing for all. Africa in particular, needs to discard foreign notions of democratic governance based on colonial models. 

 We need to reimagine new democratic governance systems building on indigenous wisdom of inclusive bottom-up participation at community, local, regional and national levels, free from the trappings of colonial elitist party-political systems that have failed dismally.  Indigenous wisdom derived from nature’s intelligence teaches us that people bring their best contributions to a system in which they feel valued, respected and their views included in deliberations so they can take ownership of the results.  Citizenship only has meaning in systems where people see and feel included in ownership of the commonwealth at local, national, regional, and global levels.

A new anthropology has to focus on re-learning from natural intelligence and embracing difference in physical and other attributes within a single human race that is interconnected and interdependent, as a rich source of resilience.  This requires a process of self-liberation from our current materialistic divisive competitive world views to become indigenous again and embrace being part of the web of life. 

A philosophy of an interconnected interdependent single human race would be one anchored on Ubuntu values – I am because You Are. We would then heed the calls of indigenous leaders all over the world for us to find our way back home where we can in the words of Leen Gorissen, “renature human nature and rewild our innovation DNA.”  

Mamphela Ramphele 

Co-President of the Club of Rome

Co-Founder of ReimagineSA