For the last 15 years I have been living in Lausanne, Switzerland, where the International Olympic Committee has its HQ, and where the writer (most famously for A Many-Splendoured Thing) and controversial “provocatrice” Han Suyin lived before she passed away on 2 November this year, among other things. It is also where the world famous business school IMD is located where I have been working. I love this world, and when one is in love with the world Lausanne is not a bad place to be.
It is by the lake Léman, surrounded by snow-capped mountains, with most of the time blue skies, no pollution, and riotous colours of nature in the city as well as around. My flat is about 15 minutes’ walk to IMD. I am often away and travel perhaps 75% of my time. But when I am here, I invariably walk to work and in so doing pass by gardens, hear birds, see squirrels, sometimes, if it’s especially early, a fox or two, all depending on the season of course, but always splendid. I get to my office and hum Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World!
I see trees of green…….. red roses too
I see them bloom….. for me and for you
And I think to myself…. what a wonderful world.
I see skies of blue….. clouds of white
Bright blessed days….dark sacred nights
And I think to myself …..what a wonderful world.
As far as I can remember, I have always loved the world. But not just the flowers, lakes, trees and hills, nor just the birds, squirrels, and deer, but also the men and the women – or at least many of them, the tremendous variety of languages, cultures, histories, literature, painting, music, topographies, architecture, food and drink, and so on. Of course there is a lot of evil in this world, there is misery, which needs to be combated; there are lots of jerks; but in aggregate, what a wonderful world indeed.
Danger to the wonderful world
But the world is in grave danger of losing its splendour, its identity and its diversity. On the last, diversity, I refer not only to biodiversity, but also to cultural diversity and indeed cultural identity. The world has never been so inter-connected and so open. Yet, as an educator, I am constantly struck by how little people actually know or learn about not only other countries, but often even their own!
An illustration: A few days ago I took a flight from Dhaka to Istanbul. Just before departure an announcement came on that the audio/visual system was not functioning, hence there would be no “entertainment”. The business class was full. With very, very few exceptions (I was one), the passengers, when not sleeping, spent the nine hours flight staring into emptiness. They had no books with them, nothing to read, nothing from which to learn, nothing to challenge their minds. They are travelling physically, but not intellectually.
In his brilliant book Collapse author Jared Diamond has shown how societies can commit ecocide and indeed have committed ecocide. That is a major threat this wonderful world faces. Another major threat is the destruction of civilisation due to excessive materialism and absence of curiosity.
My entries in the Sage Vita website will seek to stimulate curiosity and aim to make my small contribution to saving civilisation.