Mitdenken - "Thinking Along"
Just on my way home from a meeting in Berlin at a Strandbar (beach bar). Someone sitting behind me lost or forgot their car key under their seat. A good samaritan found the key, and then told people sitting in the vicinity (including us) that they were going to hand in the key at the bar. More than half an hour later we overheard someone talking to a next door table and gesticulating. I checked and the fellow said he was looking for his car key - which he could go pick up at the bar without further ado. Patrick Paulisch - a local entrepreneur I was having a drink with at the bar - said that this was the perfect example of "Mitdenken" (Friends of Facebook should check out Wooga's
brain game ). The good samaritan had helped doubly by not only handing in the key, but imagining what would happen when the person looking for the key came by (they might never think of asking at the bar).
It is awesome to be on the road in Europe again. The people have a different way of thinking and acting here - people are used to being your peers and they see you as their peer. This is not possible in an unequal society, it takes effort on both parts in an unequal society: the ones at the bottom of the pyramid have to try to bootstrap themselves up in their imagination and then basically pretend - something that causes stress - further the ones higher up in the pyramid have to suspend a whole range of prejudice and impatient thought patterns, which also ultimately causes stress. Societies develop laborious traditions to ease such stresses, such as the caste system, which introduces easy to follow rules about how to behave to preserve the status quo. I suppose that is why it is so difficult to do development work - no matter how user-driven you want to be, ultimately you want to promote change which challenges traditions. That is an immensely difficult point which can only be solved with time, understanding and patience.
These stresses can only really be understood when you go into the field and talk to people who have nothing and who cannot imagine your life.
August 2nd 2009 12:00