Learning how to see: More humanity and less self interest


If you want to make something new, start with understanding. Understanding what is already present, and understanding the opportunities in what is not. Most of all, understanding how it all fits together.

Today’s technology would allow someone to make a short film with very little effort. But could you? The making of the movie is not the hard part, in fact. The hard part is the seeing.

Spike Lee’s Boys in the Hood, Tebogo Mahlatsi’s Yizo Yizo, saw. They saw images and stories that were available to anyone who chose to see them, but others averted their eyes, grabbed for the easy or the quick or the work that would satisfy the boss in closest proximity.

When everyone has the same Mac and the same internet, the difference between unoriginal graphic design and extraordinary graphic design is just one thing, the ability to see.

Seeing, despite the name, is not merely visual.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie saw, Walter Sisulu saw, Imtiaz Sooliman of Gift of the Givers saw, Bessie Head of Maru saw, Robert Sobukwe saw, Wangari Maathai saw, Sojourner Truth saw. These and other people saw beyond just what normal society saw. The saw a different world, a different view.

The people who built the internet, the one you are using right now, saw how circuits and simple computer code could be connected to build something new and bigger.

Others had the same tools, but not the same vision.

And all around us, we are surrounded by limits, by disasters (natural and otherwise) and by pessimism. Some people see in this opportunity and a chance to draw (with any sort of metaphorical pen) something. Others see in it a chance to hide, to settle and to sigh.

The same confidence and hubris that Lee and Mahlatse brought to their productions is available to anyone who decides to give more than they ‘should’ to a charity that has the audacity to change things. While others believe they can (and must) merely settle.

Over and above seeing opportunities that are plenty around us, I hope that we will see each other as human beings and not as markets to exploit.

Given the atrocities, terrorism, kidnappings, refugees, bombings, intolerance etc, I’m convinced that the world has stopped seeing each other as humans. Instead of seeing people, we see a market to exploit, a country to invade, girls to kidnap, people to use, cheat and abuse, we have forgotten to see each other as humanity.

In our best possible future together, I hope we will do a better job of learning to see one another. 

We need to see more humans and less tanks and cannons. More humanity and less self-interest. More contributing and less consuming.

Being human is the only way to win. It’s time to see.

Some people see a struggling person and turn away. Others see a human being and work to open a door or lend a hand. There are possibilities all around us. Not just the clicks of recycling a tired cliche, but the opportunity to be brave.

If we only had the guts.

Ps: All the best to my friends running the Comrades Marathon


3 thoughts on “Learning how to see: More humanity and less self interest

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