To exploit or to nurture

Having spent some time in the last one and half weeks in the very rural areas of Rwanda, observing beautiful solutions at work for rural households, I came away ever determined to be a “nurturer”. On my way back, I found this long quote from Wendell from his book, The Unsettling of America, while reading Woody Tasch’s Slow Money. It captures my heart and my way of being an entrepreneur. It makes me think it is quite okay, in fact necessary in this dispensation, to be the way I am.

“Let me outline as briefly as I can what seem to me characteristics of these opposite kinds of mind. I conceive a strip miner to be a model exploiter, and as a model nurturer I take the old-fashioned idea or ideal of a farmer.

“The exploiter is a specialist, an expert; the nurturer is not. The standard of the exploiter is efficiency; the standard of the nurturer is care. The exploiter’s goal is money, profit; the nurturer’s goal is health – his land’s health, his own, his family’s, his community’s, his country’s.

“Whereas the exploiter asks of a piece of land only how much and how quickly it can be made to produce, the nurturer asks a question that is much more complex and difficult: What is its carrying capacity? (That is: How much can be taken from it without diminishing it? What can it produce dependably for an indefinite time?)

“The exploiter wishes to earn as much as possible by as little work as possible; the nurturer expects, certainly, to have a decent living from his work, but his characteristic wish is to work as well as possible.

“The competence of the exploiter is in organization; that of the nurturer is in order – a human order, that is, that accomodates itself both to order and to mystery.

“The exploiter typically serves an institution or organization; the nurturer serves land, household, community, place. The exploiter thinks in terms of numbers, quantities, “hard facts”; the nurturer in terms of character, condition, quality, kind.”

I think we need more “nurturers” in Africa today, than “exploiters”. Both exist in two different worlds internally. But I do not think the challenges that exist in Africa and the rest of the world today can even begin to be addressed by exploitation, whether overt or covert. What we need in Africa today and the rest of the world, is nurture, which lends itself to a humility that not only makes allowance for mystery and the unknown, but makes them work in our favour.

In Africa, how do we engage, as entrepreneurs especially, not exploitatively but as nurturers, caring for people, things and places? How do we surrender ourselves to be led from the heart, by the Spirit, instead of just our heads and the demands of the markets, while generating profits, in a meta-economic sense? This is the Question.

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