I had a social media tiff the other day with someone quite famous. Someone I’ll leave you wondering about. This person posted about the recent global climate strike and how we should save nature, take responsibility for nature and not mess up ‘nature’.
Which is all well and good, don’t get me wrong (I recycle and all that). But hidden in that statement, just under surface, is the very core of the problem.
We should take care of nature. My question is, are we separate from nature? Is nature like a sick aunt that we need to take care of?
This thinking is the core of the problem for me, that we view ourselves as ‘other’ to nature, that it’s state doesn’t really affect us. After all, who could blame us, apart from the odd hot day, using less water for a year or two, we are largely unaffected by it. We live in our beautiful homes, get into our air-conditioned cars and drive to our air-conditioned offices hardly aware of what is going on.
The word diablo, which we translate as devil or evil, literally means ‘to throw clods of mud’ and is better translated as ‘to accuse’. One way to understand the word is to think about it as separation. When you are throwing clods at someone, you see yourself as separate from them, opposite to them. They are the accused and you the accuser.
To think about yourself as separate is, dare I say it, evil.
Everything that is wrong in the world has happened because of separation; us versus them, us and nature. It is the very act of separating that causes harm.
What has this to do with business, I hear you ask.
Often when I speak with organisations, one of the major problems is silo thinking, separation. And not only silo thinking within a business, but business separating themselves from one another, even from the country they exist in. ‘As long as our share prices are going up, we are fine,’ they’ll say or ‘As long as we are making a profit, who cares what happens to the other business down the street, or what happens to the people in the townships, or the planet.’
The uncomfortable truth is, we are all connected. We do not live in a disconnected system; we live in a hyper connected, complex system where a small change on one end can have massive effects on the other end. It is the awareness of this interconnection that is missing and causing harm.
More than just causing harm to yourself and those around you by thinking of yourself as separate, only caring about your own industry is not very good for innovation or creativity. As a creative, a designer, and a quasi-artist I can tell you that the best innovation, the most creative designs come from mashups when industries are combined when lines are blurred. After all, when an innovation happens in one industry, say the App Store, then it opens what is called ‘the adjacent possible’ - things that are now possible in your industry that weren’t possible before. However, if you are running with blinders on, you’ll miss it.
We are not born individuals, that is a lie. We all carry a scar right on our stomachs that tell us we were once connected, physically, to someone else. Your bellybutton is a reminder that you are part of a family, a culture, a nation, and at the very least (or most) humanity itself.
We need to re-member who we are, we need to put back together the severed members. We need to take note of what is happening around us, and we need to erase the line between us and them. I leave you with a quote from Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the famous critic of the Soviet Union’s Gulag Labour camps, who wrote:
“The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either - but right through every human heart - and through all human hearts.”
It would do us well to re-member that.
About the author: Pierre du Plessis
Pierre du Plessis is a business consultant, creative director, writer and world-class public speaker. In a chaotic world Pierre helps people build meaningful lives, and businesses do work that matters. Pierre du Plessis speaks on how to build conscious businesses in chaotic times.
Pierre is currently the CEO of his passion project, HumanWrites, an organisation that gets storybooks to kids who need them. Pierre is also an educator at DUKE CE University and has spoken at BMW, KFC, Adcock Ingram, FNB, Nedbank, and has been featured on TEDx stages numerous times. He has worked in fashion, advertising, trend analyses and branding. Pierre leads a contemplative community of faith in the heart of Cape Town, is a published author and has received the Desmond Tutu Gerrit Brand literature prize
He believes he is the love child of Gertrude Stein and Jason Bourne.
He lives in Cape Town with his wife, two kids, and his iPhone. For more information, visit www.thisispierreduplessis.com.