What are you willing to sacrifice and work for?
29th September, 2013

The bubbles and cocoons of our lives that we create, protect us and keep us safe. This is good for us but, sometimes, not for others and the planet. We talk easily of the need for sustainability but how much are we willing to sacrifice and give up for a more collective ideal?

The people of Cabo Pulmo, Mexico, together, decided to shift their priorities and save the coral reefs in their area to the point that there has been a significant increase in marine life and biodiversity. There has been a personal and financial cost to this but as one resident said, with pride, “I have money to buy and there is the bay.’ (Excerpt from documentary on Cabo Pulmo, CNN, presented by Philippe Cousteau, September 14 2012).   How many of us are willing to shift our priorities to that extent? Some of us do so willingly and give a significant portion of our income, time and effort to the greater good. There is always a price to pay and sometimes there is resentment, but when you think of the impact that you are having, then the sacrifice becomes worth it.

A colleague, Anton, told me that he had been taught to look after his people and time, and much of his effort as a leader goes into caring and supporting his people and making the best use of time. He ensures that the work is also done honourably. Do we make the best use of our time and do we always look after the people we are responsible for? Not always. There is, as always, more that we can do.

Sometimes, even the greatest are not willing to sacrifice. Mahatma Gandhi had a very clear vision which most understood and he developed a strategy/policy called poorna swaraj. The Mahatma was an extremely intelligent and articulate individual who, through a stated purpose and value base, influenced a nation. His work still has an impact. He described his vision for India in ‘Hind Swaraj’ in the form of a dialogue between an Editor and Reader. He also presented to Congress a ‘Constructive Programme’ to implement his ideas, and was clearly able to articulate his purpose and intention and plan for an impact.

His programme was aimed at the construction of ‘poorna swaraj’ - independence by truthful and non-violent means. Facets included communal unity –the need to feel and respect your own identity and cultivate relationships with others who are different; the removal of untouchability of those rejected by society; and prohibition of intoxicants and narcotics. He emphasised the importance of ‘khadi’ –to focus on self-reliance in production and distribution of goods. He advocated the need for economic equality. He also discussed the need for sanitation, adult education, the role of women and language.

Here is a leader, who not only led a successful campaign for Indian independence, but also developed a coherent and workable plan to achieve his purpose. His was a multi-faceted programme that tackled economic strategy and the human condition.  However, it was not fully implemented, as Pandit Nehru considered it too ambitious. We are still waiting for Pandit Nehru’s descendants, the Gandhi family (no relation to Mahatma Gandhi) and other Indian leaders, to implement all facets of the programme.

What would India and the world be like if Mahatma Gandhi’s programme had actually been implemented? Is it too late for us to make the necessary commitments and sacrifice? I hope not, there is always time if we choose to give up and sacrifice even the smallest amount of time and human effort. What are the conditions that will lead us to being willing to sacrifice? I think it is as simple as being willing to think of the other and give up some of what you have and to let go of selfishness, jealousy and protectionism. If we do this, then we won’t need to heed the words of Stevie Wonder (Heaven help us all) ‘keep hatred from the mighty and the mighty from the small’.

What will we do?

What can we do?

As much or as little as we want

© Civitas Vera, 2013