Learning from other communities is what makes travel so important for me. Having the distance to reflect back on home as a far off land over the horizon, helps shape my perspective and my place in the circle of things.
It isn’t uncommon for Londoners to judge one another on job roles and money collection. An odd axis given that these things are heavily dependent on your family lineage and although it is possible to work your way up the metaphorical ladder, the probability of doing so is not evenly distributed.
One of my favourite memories from my time in Mozambique was on a small island in the north of the country in the Quirimbas archipelago, called Ibo. Its battle torn, colonial history is reflected in its architecture like nothing I have seen before. With each invading power partially destroying buildings before rebuilding on top of the remains, reforming them in their own style. Leaving a tapestry of different architectural styles weaved into the brickwork.
As intriguing as the architecture was, it was a conversation I had with a teenage boy who took me to visit some crab fishermen that really stuck with me. We got onto the topic of the value of crab on the island ($5) compared to in a restaurant in Asia ($100) where they were sold. He seemed unconcerned by the huge difference in price and the profit gained by the merchant - something I saw as grossly unfair - explaining that the crabs for the fishermen were free. The value of a fisherman was in their skill navigating the sea, their ability to provide food and how they cared for those they shared their lives with. Their interactions with nature were what mattered, not their ability to hoard. The conversation irreversibly changed me and thankfully I carry that ancient wisdom with me, even if I struggle to live by it, something I'll always be grateful for. I do still wonder about access to healthcare and education and whether the merchant selling the crab at a 20x profit should return some of their gains in a form other than money.
In fact I don't wonder, they should.
Below is a story that I found on Paulo Coelho's website. It is a wonderful expression of the rejection of the capitalist growth psyche and in my opinion helps give clarity to the views shared by the boy.
There was once a businessman who was sitting by the beach in a small village. As he sat, he saw a fisherman rowing a small boat towards the shore having caught quite a few big fish.
The businessman was impressed and asked the fisherman,
“How long does it take you to catch so many fish?”
The fisherman replied, “Oh, just a short while.”
“Then why don’t you stay longer at sea and catch even more?” The businessman was astonished.
“This is enough to feed my whole family,” the fisherman said.
The businessman then asked, “So, what do you do for the rest of the day?”
The fisherman replied, “Well, I usually wake up early in the morning, go out to sea and catch a few fish, then go back and play with my kids. In the afternoon, I take a nap with my wife, and when the evening comes, I join my buddies in the village for a drink — we play guitar, sing and dance throughout the night.”
The businessman offered a suggestion to the fisherman. “I have a PhD in business management. I could help you to become a more successful person. From now on, you should spend more time at sea and try to catch as many fish as possible. When you have saved enough money, you could buy a bigger boat and catch even more fish. Soon you will be able to afford to buy more boats, set up your own company, your own production plant for canned food and a distribution network. By then, you will have moved out of this village and to the big city, where you can set up HQ to manage your other branches.”
The fisherman continues, “And after that?”
The businessman laughs heartily, “After that, you can live like a king in your own house, and when the time is right, you can go public and float your shares in the Stock Exchange, and you will be rich.”
The fisherman asks, “And after that?”
The businessman says, “After that, you can finally retire, you can move to a house by the fishing village, wake up early in the morning, catch a few fish, then return home to play with kids, have a nice afternoon nap with your wife, and when evening comes, you can join your buddies for a drink, play the guitar, sing and dance throughout the night!”
The fisherman was puzzled, “Isn’t that what I am doing now?”