In a recent phone conversation with my Father, the issue of connectivity in a social context arose when he said “you are disconnected right now”. I have been ruminating over this interesting concept of connectivity and have come to some conclusions. Connectivity is a totally relative, subjective experience. If he meant that I am disconnected from the American political scene, or sports, or the mass media propaganda engines of the western world, then yes I am very disconnected. If disconnected means I don’t get my emails on my cell phone or have advertisements constantly thrust into my face then yes I am disconnected. I have no awareness or fear that comes from constantly being connected to a “news” source, reporting about the latest economic power game antics. On the negative, I am disconnected from important information that could possibly improve my life, information about living techniques, scientific information, social networking and entertainment that could bring me a sense of community and pleasure.
I can imagine people rising to the edge of their seats in protest that the political, social and scientific events of the modern world are very important and one must be informed etc… Things are important only because we give them importance, nothing has intrinsic importance unto itself. Importance is determined and dictated by the mechanisms of personal and cultural conditioning that we all are a part of. The western mindset of being “connected and informed” doesn’t have a monopoly on importance. For example, here in Mozambique rain is the most important topic right now. When the rains don’t come, or the quantity is not enough people suffer. Rain is very important in the U.S. as well, but the awareness of this importance among the general consuming populace is very low (I have images burned into my head of people in FL watering their lush green lawns during extreme drought conditions). Other things are deemed important instead; the latest sporting event, the latest political gossip, scientific reports etc. Importance is a consensus, connectivity is relative, the world is still a conundrum.
What scares me about this “disconnection” is that with our current state of development of the world, we are radically changing the face of the planet. Climate change, water shortages, pollution etc, are all very real threats. It will be the uninformed, uneducated masses who will suffer because of actions being perpetrated half way around the world. At this point I dont know what the solution is, but it is scary to think that the effects of millions of SUV’s driving around the U.S. is going to alter the world here in Manjacaze. But this could be the reality.
To return to connectivity however, what I am more connected to right now is my daily existence and procuring the necessities in a much smaller community context. I am much more connected to my food, my water, my neighbors, the Earth and her climatic cycles (primarily speaking of rain to grow food) and my body and its capacity to stay healthy and capable. In asking some Mozambicans if they felt disconnected from the rest of the world, they mostly laughed and shrugged. To be honest I don’t think they understood the question. You cannot feel disconnected from something that you have no real awareness of its existence! Life is much different here, much simpler, this is obvious. But the events of this world are no less important to the inhabitants of this world, than the “important” events of the developed world. Life goes on just the same whether the gossip is about global politics, the newest scientific theory or whose pigs got loose in the neighborhood and munched on everyone’s gardens.
Yesterday we held our cooking class with “Chaya”, which was a great success in my opinion. We had 38 people come to learn about this wonderful plant. The women showed up and everyone immediately began helping to cook; grating the coconut, cutting vegetables, pounding peanuts etc. In the meantime we talked about the plant, nutrition in general and joked around a lot. It was a really great atmosphere and people were very interested to learn about Chaya and other plants that we will offer in the future. We all ate together the finished product (which was delicious) and everyone agreed that Chaya has excellent flavor. We distributed the plants and sent everyone on their way to sow their plants and spread the word. The best part about this is that my Mozambican counterparts at MOZaic and Tchavelela really took charge and ran the show. I basically just came up with the idea to organize the event, publicized it and I said a few words about the technical agricultural aspects of the plant. The rest was done by Mozambicans for their community members. It was not some white guy standing at the front of a room preaching. It was a joint effort that I hope will have a small impact on the nutritional status of the community and I know that we will replicate this model of education. (as soon as all the Chaya leaves we harvested grow back.)
Pictures are from the event: Me showing off my skills grating coconut (have I mentioned that nobody believes I can cook?), part of the group lounging in the shade, giving a few words, serving out the gruel, satisfied consumers and people with their plants.
Next week ill be traveling to rural communities to investigate small business opportunities with cashew production, marula oil (a cosmetic or edible oil) and start up loans for opening small commodity stores in communities where there are no markets.