Breaking

When I was in the third year at the university in Venezuela I was hired for this huge survey about socio-, economic condition of people in the slum areas. It was the first time that I was exposed directly to slums and getting inside people’s houses and see how they lived and so that I would say that was probably the moment when something started going like, ok I’m privileged. We had problems in my family and what have you and we were not rich but I went to school. I went to university, I was able to travel. I had clothes. I could go to the cinema with my friends and then you see this. However it was just an awareness of being privileged without being very much aware of what I could do about it. I have to be totally honest. It was one of these reactions, ok I have it good. Becoming aware I have it good. The other component was that the more I studied chemical engineering, there was a detachment between my work and my life. It was like completely schizophrenia. You go the lab you do this experiment bla bla bla, you take a note, you do the statistics, you leave it there, switch off the light and out there you are on your own. I couldn’t find a way to bring that into my daily life or bring my daily life into that. And so I think it was then when these two things combined that I went ok. I wasn’t from the beginning into I need to do something for these people. No. I must say I was very self-centered in the sense that I wanted to something that I feel more fulfilled. If I’m going to be doing something as a career that has to somehow have an impact on how I live my life. These things have to feed into each other. That’s when I switched to anthropology. And then that’s when devil caught me. I started reading a lot of left wing literature at a time where all these French anthropologists from the 1960’s and 1970’s were coming to the Anglo Saxon World. I was studying in London. That’s where I studied social anthropology. All the literature that all these anthropologists, the former students have never read were then accessible because they were being translated. And You have Levy Strauss and all the structuralists that gave a totally different perspective to what anthropology was all about. I went to the UK in the 1975 to study and what came from France was the consequences of the May1968 when all these left-wing Marxist philosophers and writers and student movements started to come out. That changed a lot on how academia was taught. I was lucky enough to then get to the UK when all this literature and all these different ways was available. Because up to then anthropology was, they would go and study people as if they were objects. They would not interact. There was this distance all the time. And it was during the 70’s and then in early 1980’s when this big wave came, where you need to hear the voice of the people. You need to give people the space within your work. And so I think that’s what shaped the way I approach everything, even with my social life, how I relate with friends. Everything was affected by the way I was studying because I was studying social interactions, that shaped me and the point is, you cannot switch that off. So I get to the end of my career at the UN and I cannot just turn around and say ok I don’t care anymore. No that doesn’t work that way. So pursuing the project Beyond Food after retirement is driven half for me because I feel I need to do it. Whether it has an impact or not is irrelevant I have to do it I cannot not do it. I can’t sit there and go through Facebook and then see an article about I don’t know, street vendors in Paraguay I cannot not read it. I have to stop and read the thing. I need to learn from that. So that is one part and then the other half is that my experience tells me that after all these years there is still so much to do that every little bit counts. Given my situation here. I don’t think I have a lot of power to influence things so the only thing I can do is to try to put ideas out there and talk to people and try to get them to think about things slightly differently and hopefully that snowballs a little bit and eventually it get to a point were they are in a better position to do something about it. That’s what drives me. The hope that an idea that I throw out in the wind somebody grabs it. The part I have to do it I cannot stop myself is already fulfilled, I keep on doing. The other part, I know I have very little power. So if somebody can do it. Please.

 

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