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Sunday, February 8, 2015 @ 06:02 AM
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A preview of the unpublished book A CIVILIZATION WITHOUT A VISION WILL PERISH: AN INDEPENDENT SEARCH FOR THE TRUTH by David Willis. CHAPTER 1: INDIFFERENCE TO POVERTY (Part 43). This blog is a continuation of the review of The End of Poverty: How We Can Make it Happen in Our Life Time, by Jeffrey Sachs, published in 2005

Chapter One: A Global Family Portrait
Malawi: The Perfect storm
As we arrive in the village, we see no able-bodied young men at all. In fact, older women and dozens of children greet us, but there is not a young man or woman of working age in sight. Where, we ask, are the workers? Out in the fields?
The aid worker who has led us to the village shakes his head sadly and says no. They are nearly all dead. The village has been devastated by AIDS, which has ravaged this part of Malawi for several years now.
There are just five men between 20 and 40 years of age left in the village. They are not there this morning because they are all attending the funeral of a fellow villager who died of AIDS the day before.
The margin of survival is extraordinarily narrow; sometimes it closes entirely. One woman we meet in front of her mud hut has 15 orphaned grandchildren.
She points to the withered crops that have died in the fields next to her hut. Her small plot, perhaps a half hectare (a little more than an acre) in all, would be too small to feed her family even if the rains had been plentiful.
The problem of small farm size and drought are compounded by yet another problem: the soil nutrients have been depleted so significantly in this part of Malawi that crop yields reach only about one ton of maize per hectare with good rains, compared with three tons per hectare that would be typical of healthy soils.
She reaches into her apron and pulls out a handful of semirotten, bug-infested millet, which will be the basis for the gruel she will prepare for the meal that evening. It will be the one meal the children have that day.
I ask her about the health of her children. She points to a child of about four and says that the small girl contracted malaria the week before. When they got to the hospital, there was no quinine, the antimalarial medicine, available that day. With the child in high fever, the grandmother and grandchild were sent home and told to return the next day.
In a small miracle, when they returned the next day after another 10-kilometer trek, the quinine had come in, and the child responded to treatment and survived.
More than one million African children, and perhaps as many as three million, succumb to malaria each year.
This horrific catastrophe occurs despite the fact that the disease is partly preventable – through the use of bed nets and other environmental controls that do not reach the impoverished villages of Malawi and most of the rest of the continent – and completely treatable.
There is simply no conceivable excuse for this disease to be taking millions of lives each year.
Our guide to Nthandire is a Christian aid worker, a dedicated and compassionate Malawian working for a local nongovernmental organization (NGO). He and his colleagues work against all odds to help villages such as this one. The NGO has almost no financing available and survives from meager contributions.
There are only poor in this village. No clinic nearby. No safe water source. No crops in the fields. And notably, no aid.
Attending school is now a hit-and-miss affair. Children are in and out of school with illness. Their attendance depends on how urgently they are needed at home to fetch water and firewood, or to care for siblings or cousins; on whether they can afford to buy supplies, a uniform, and pay local fees; and on the safety of walking several kilometers to the school itself.
We fly to the second city of the country, Blantyre, where we visit the main hospital of Malawi and experience our second shock of the day.
This hospital is the place where the government of Malawi is keen to begin a treatment program for the roughly 900,000 Malawians infected with the HIV virus and currently dying of AIDS because of lack of treatment.
The hospital has set up a walk-in clinic for people who can afford to pay the dollar a day cost of the antiretroviral combination therapy, based on Malawi’s arrangements with the Indian generic drug producer Cipla, which has pioneered the provision of low cost antiretroviral drugs to poor countries.
At the time of our visit, this treatment site is providing anti-AIDS drugs on a daily basis to about 400 people who can afford it – 400 people in a country where 900,000 are infected. For the rest, there is essentially no access to anti-AIDS medicine.
Democracy is bound to be fragile in an impoverished country where incomes are around 50 cents per person per day, or around $180 per person per year, and where the stresses of mass disease, famine, and climate shock are pervasive.
Amazingly, the Malawians have done it, while the international community has largely stood by through all of this suffering.
Malawi put together one of the earliest and best conceived strategies for bringing treatment to its dying population, and gave an enormously thoughtful response to the challenges of managing a new system of drug delivery, patient counseling and education, community outreach, and the financial flows that would accompany the process of training doctors.
Yet the international processes are cruel. The donor governments – including the United States and Europeans – told Malawi to scale back its proposal sharply because the first proposal was “too ambitious and too costly.”
After a long struggle, Malawi received funding to save just 25,000 at the end of five years – a death warrant from the international community for the people of this country.
Carol Bellamy of UNICEF has rightly described Malawi’s plight as the perfect storm, a storm that brings together climatic disaster, impoverishment, the AIDS pandemic, and the long-standing burdens of malaria, schistosomiasis, and other diseases. In the face of this horrific maelstrom, the world community has so far displayed a fair bit of hand-wringing and even some high-minded rhetoric, but precious little action.

Saturday, December 3, 2011 @ 04:12 AM
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The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United Kingdom




Chapter 5: The waves of One Sea

A – Love, Not prejudice

In the last chapter the discussion dealt with the individual finding his relationship with God, with the universe and with himself. This chapter is concerned with the individual coming to terms with his fellow creatures of the human race. Perhaps a useful way for an individual to look at his relationship with others is for him to see it from two points of view: how he should think of others, and how others may think of him.

Bahá’u’lláh said that mankind is one family. For a Bahá’í this is the guiding thought in relating to others.

“Do not be satisfied until each one with whom you are concerned is to you as a member of your family. Regard each one either as a father, or as a brother, or a sister, or as a mother, or as a child. If you can attain to this, your difficulties will vanish; you will know what to do.”

This guiding thought is given additional meaning when all men and women are thought of as spiritual beings:

“Each sees in the other the Beauty of God reflected in the soul, and finding this point of similarity, they are attracted to one another in love. This love will make all men the waves of one sea.”

In some the spiritual qualities are more developed than in others:

“The only difference between members of the human family is that of degree. Some are like children who are ignorant and must be educated until they arrive at maturity. Some are like the sick and must be treated with tenderness and care. None are bad or evil! We must not be repelled by these poor children. We must treat them with great kindness, teaching the ignorant and tenderly nursing the sick.”

To help develop the best in people, Bahá’ís are enjoined to make a point of emphasizing the positive qualities in others and to pass over those characteristics which are negative. Clearly this approach also has a very beneficial effect on the character development of those who put it into practice.

“To be silent concerning the faults of others, to pray for them, and to help them, through kindness, to correct their faults. To look always at the good and not at the bad. If a man has ten good qualities and one bad one, to look at the ten and forget the one; and if a man has ten bad qualities and one good one, to look at the one and forget the ten.”

In following this principle Bahá’ís will strive to avoid engagement in useless argument. Modeling themselves after the example of Abdu’l-Bahá, they will try to do more listening than talking and to bring out in others those ideas which are constructive. The positive approach if sincerely followed will always have its effect.

“If you desire with all your heart, friendship with every race on earth, your thought, spiritual and positive, will spread; it will become the desire of others, growing stronger and stronger, until it reaches the minds of all men.”

  • Bahá’ís are devoted to the unity of mankind but the unity sought is not one of uniformity, but one of diversity. Far from wanting all people to be the same, Bahá’ís glory in the diversity of the human race because they see in that diversity an enrichment of the culture and experience of world society as a whole.
  • The sufferings which many of the oppressed peoples of the world have undergone have deepened their potential spiritual qualities more than might be the case with others, and Bahá’í Writings indicate they will have a special contribution to make to the spiritual development of the future world society.
  • One of the main tasks of Bahá’ís is to eliminate prejudice. One example of Bahá’í action in the field of religious prejudice is the strong defence of Islám in the West where, there is still a strong bias against anything pertaining to Islám.
  • Many Jews have learned to love the figure of Jesus through Bahá’í teachings, a love which they have never acquired from Christians, who have persecuted and vilified the Jewish people for nearly two thousand years.
  • The main effort of eliminating prejudice is action not words. Bahá’ís believe that the most effective way of removing fears about people you do not know is to go out and mix with them.
  • Bahá’ís of every conceivable background meet together regularly in a loving and constructive atmosphere at local, regional, national and international conferences.
  • One of the greatest pleasures the writer has experienced occurred soon after he became a Bahá’í, when he attended a Bahá’í regional conference and saw not only blacks and whites mixing together like true brothers and sisters, not only the most educated in earnest discussion with those of little or no formal education, but some frail looking old ladies in feathered hats quite at home in consultation and fun with a group of the most formidable-looking long-haired and bearded students one could hope to meet.
  • It is one of the glories of the Bahá’í Faith that the otherwise lost and lonely can find in it a home and a shelter. The Bahá’í Faith is for all peoples, every man, woman and child.
  • Typical is the work now being done by Bahá’ís amongst poor black people of the rural South of the United States. The give and take in the cultural coming together has been truly life-giving. Bahá’ís of all backgrounds have been regularly in homes which are little more than wooden shacks, sometimes containing barely enough fuel to last the winter.
  • As a result they have understood in a deeper way than ever before Bahá’u’lláh’s teaching on detachment from material possessions: how could they ever again be concerned about fancy new cars or houses after having seen such grinding poverty in their own family – and to have witnessed nevertheless such a cheerful spirit.
  • Nor will they ever forget that such cruel poverty is allowed to exist side by side with the most blatant opulence in this, the richest and “the most democratic” country in the world.


B – The qualities of attraction

It was suggested at the beginning of this chapter that the second way of thinking of our relationship with others, is to imagine how they might see us. The Bahá’í view is that it is not sufficient to have a sense of love and respect for our fellow human beings. This love must be reflected in our own character as well as in our views. If we wish to be loved by others we should not make it difficult for them. It is our responsibility to make ourselves worthy of that love.

  • The basis for a sound relationship between two parties is trust. It should be the ambition therefore of every man who wants a new just society to make himself worthy of other’s trust.
  • The first requirement in obtaining the trust of others is truthfulness. Today the lie pervades all aspects of society. Progress cannot be made because there is no foundation on which to build.
  • Another prerequisite of trust is honesty. Present-day standards of honesty are low.

This is not just a simple matter of crime rates, but of bribery and corruption in public administration, shoddy goods, poor services, and exorbitant prices in commerce, and the dishonest activity of much of private life. Whilst there is so much dishonesty there can be no genuine trust between men. If there is no trust there is little chance of a just society. Trust can be readily given only to a person who is upright, faithful, reliable, sincere. How frequent in present-day society are the hollow words of friendship, which are not supported by acts of friendship, or the easily made promises which are never kept.

  • A strong and fruitful relationship between two parties requires more than trust, important as this is. Needed in addition are the qualities of warmth such as kindliness, compassion, courtesy and generosity – in short, concern for the welfare and feelings of others.
  • Kindliness and gentleness are amongst the most rewarding of qualities for they bring an immediate sense of well-being and warmth to both giver and receiver.
  • Closely related to kindliness is compassion, the particular concern for those who have had misfortune.
  • Compassion should be felt not only for those who have had misfortune but also for those who may have done wrong.
  • Bahá’ís are forbidden gossip or backbiting because this is considered one of the most unkind, indeed savage, acts that one human being can inflict on another.
  • Gossip can only thrive where there is an audience. It is therefore incumbent on a Bahá’í not to listen to gossip as well as not to speak of it.
  • The strain and frustration of living in modern society has caused a decline in the regard for courtesy as a virtue. Some maintain that courtesies are old fashioned, suffocating mannerisms which must be swept away as being of no relevance. Yet courtesy is really an aspect of kindliness: small every day acts of refinement which show a concern for the feelings of others.
  • One of the most unpleasant and common manifestations of discourtesy is the habit of looking down on the views of others.
  • Another common example of discourtesy is bad language and abuse.
  • A sign of spiritual maturity is the degree to which we are attached to the well being of others rather than to our own material possessions.
  • As the most intelligent creatures on earth we have grave responsibilities to protect all living things. Animals may only be killed in self-protection or to meet our genuine needs for food and clothing, and even then these must be no cruelty.


C – Service to others

The teachings of the Bahá’í Faith concerning man’s relationship with God, himself, and his fellowmen come to ultimate fruition, not in words or attitudes, but in action. A man fulfils himself in his work, which is an act of creation. Bahá’ís view an act of creation as prayer, a means of expressing appreciation of our existence. It follows that we should take the greatest pride and care in every piece of work we do, no matter how humble. Cleaning a street is just as much an act of creation when done with care and pride as the administration of a giant industrial complex, or the designing of a beautiful building, or the writing of a poem. Work becomes a burden when no pride is taken in it and it is seen only as a way of earning our living or of acquiring property and power.

  • What gives work real meaning is when it is done in the service of others. The highest station which man can achieve is when he is serving humanity.
  • It is one of the more encouraging signs of our times that young people in the rich countries have turned against those values of their elders which place so much emphasis on personal acquisition of material riches.
  • They are looking for ways of contributing to the public good; of serving their fellowmen.
  • Bahá’í youth are more and more entering such necessary fields of service to humanity as medicine, agriculture, education and social work and those professions concerned with the preservation of our environment.
  • Such service can be made more effective the more skills a person has, and it is one of the basic principles of the Bahá’í Faith to encourage education as much as possible in those sciences which will increase the capacity for service, as well as in the moral teachings provided by religion.

Service to mankind is particularly meritorious when it involves sacrifice. In Bahá’í Writings sacrifice is shown as a beneficial act, contributing to the spiritual growth and detachment of both giver and receiver. Sacrifice is the real test of sincerity. It is the test of whether one is willing to put conscious standards, hopes and ideals before personal comfort. Too often those who talk of a brave new world are those who want others to make the sacrifices. The man who sacrifices for others is a man indeed! This is morality.

D – The standard

The most appropriate way to summarize this chapter is to quote a passage each from Bahá’u’lláh and Abdu’l-Bahá in which They describe those qualities which will make a new race of men who in turn will build a new world society.

“Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity. Be worthy of the trust of thy neighbour, and look upon him with a bright and friendly face. Be a treasure to the poor, an admonisher to the rich, an answer of the cry of the needy, a preserver of the sanctity of thy pledge. Be fair in thy judgment, and guarded in thy speech. Be unjust to no man, and show all meekness to all men. Be as a lamp unto them that walk in darkness, a joy to the sorrowful, a sea for the thirsty, a haven for the distressed, an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression. Let integrity and uprightness distinguish all thine acts. Be a home for the stranger, a balm to the suffering, a tower of strength for the fugitive. Be eyes to the blind, and a guiding light unto the feet of the erring. Be an ornament to the countenance of truth, a crown to the brow of fidelity, a pillar of the temple of righteousness, a breath of life to the body of mankind, an ensign of the hosts of justice, a luminary above the horizon of virtue, a dew to the soil of the human heart, an ark on the ocean of knowledge, a sun in the heaven of bounty, a gem on the diadem of wisdom, a shining light in the firmament of thy generation, a fruit upon the tree of humility.”

“For you I desire spiritual distinction; that is you must become eminent and distinguished in morals. In the love of God you must become distinguished from all else. You must become distinguished for loving humanity; for unity and accord; for love and justice. In brief, you must become distinguished in all the virtues of the human world; for faithfulness and sincerity; for justice and fidelity; for firmness and steadfastness; for philanthropic deeds and service to the human world; for love toward every human being; for unity and accord with all people; for removing prejudices and promoting international peace. Finally, you must become distinguished for heavenly illumination and acquiring the bestowals of God. I desire this distinction for you. This must be the point of distinction among you.”

Chapter 5: A New Family Life

A – The equality of men and women


Tuesday, August 30, 2011 @ 06:08 AM
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CHELSEA GREEN PUBLISHING COMPANY                        1985


  • At that time Bouffier was about to plant beeches at a spot some twelve kilometers from his cottage. In order to avoid traveling back and forth – for he was then seventy-five – he planned to build a stone cabin right at the plantation. The next year he did so.
  • In 1935 a whole delegation came from the Government to examine the “natural forest.” There was a great deal of ineffectual talk. It was decided that something must be done and, fortunately, nothing was done except the only helpful thing: the whole forest was placed under the protection of the State, and charcoal burning prohibited.
  • A friend of mine was among the forestry officers of the delegation. To him I explained the mystery. The following week we went to see Elzéard Bouffier. We found him hard at work, some ten kilometers from the spot where the inspection had taken place.
  • In the direction from which we had come the slopes were covered with trees twenty to twenty-five feet tall. I remembered how the land had looked in 1913: a desert …
  • Peaceful, regular toil, the vigorous mountain air, frugality and, above all, serenity of spirit had endowed this old man with an awe-inspiring health. He was one of God’s athletes. I wondered how many more acres he was going to cover with trees.
  • Before leaving my friend simply made a brief suggestion about certain species of trees that the soil here seemed particularly suited for. He did not force the point. “For the very good reason that Bouffier knows more about it than I do. He knows a lot more about it than anybody. He’s discovered a wonderful way to be happy.”
  • It was thanks to this officer that not only the forest but also the happiness of the man was protected. He delegated three rangers to the task, and so terrorized them that they remained proof against all the bottles of wine the charcoal burners could offer.
  • The only serious danger to the work occurred during the war of 1939. Cutting was started among the oaks of 1910, but the area was so far from any railroads that the enterprise turned out to be financially unsound. It was abandoned.
  • I saw Elzéard Bouffier for the last time in June of 1945. He was then eighty-seven. The bus put me down at Vergons.
  • In 1913 this hamlet of ten or twelve houses had three inhabitants. They had been savage creatures, hating one another, living by trapping game, little removed, both physically and morally, from the conditions of prehistoric man.
  • All about them nettles were feeding upon the remains of abandoned houses. Their condition had been beyond hope. For them, nothing but to await death – a situation which rarely predisposes to virtue.
  • Everything was changed. Even the air. Instead of the harsh dry winds that used to attack me, a gentle breeze was blowing, laden with scents. A sound like water came from the mountains: it was the wind in the forest.
  • Most amazing of all, I heard the actual sound of water falling into a pool. I saw that a fountain had been built, that it flowed freely and – what touched me most – that someone had planted a linden beside it, a linden that must have been four years old, already in full leaf, the incontestable symbol of resurrection.
  • Besides, Vergons bore evidence of labor at the sort of undertaking for which hope is required. Hope, then, had returned. Ruins had been cleared away, dilapidated walls torn down and five houses restored. Now there were twenty-eight inhabitants, four of them young married couples.
  • The new houses, freshly plastered, were surrounded by gardens where vegetables grew in orderly confusion, cabbages and roses, leeks and snapdragons, celery and anemones. It was now a village where one would like to live.
  • It has taken only eight years since then for the whole countryside to glow with health and prosperity. On the site of ruins I had seen in 1913 now stand neat farms, cleanly plastered, testifying to a happy and comfortable life.
  • The old streams, fed by the rains and snows that the forest conserves, are flowing again. Their waters have been channeled. On each farm, in groves of maples, fountain pools over-flow onto carpets of fresh mint.
  • People from the plains, where land is costly, have settled here, bringing youth, motion, the spirit of adventure. Counting the former population, unrecognizable now that they live in comfort, more than ten thousand people owe their happiness to Elzéard Bouffier.
  • When I reflect that one man, armed only with his own physical and moral resources, was able to cause this land of Canaan to spring from the wasteland, I am convinced that in spite of everything, humanity is admirable.
  • But when I compute the unfailing greatness of spirit and the tenacity of benevolence that it must have taken to achieve this result, I am taken with an immense respect for that old and unlearned peasant who was able to complete a work worthy of God.
  • Elzéard Bouffier died peacefully in 1947 at the hospice in Banon.



  • I mustered enough courage to call upon Jean Giono in Manosque, Provence, at 11.00 am, August 15, 1970. His older daughter, Aline Giono, down from Paris for a few days, ushered me into the garden of their hillside home.
  • Then dying from heart disease, Giono sat at a table, unable to walk any more, he told me at once.
  • I could not believe his cultured voice, for I knew he was self-taught. I have never recovered from the site of him. He was positively stunning: slender, silver-haired, elegant, with delicate features, rosy cheeks, hooded blue eyes, casually dressed in slacks and mauve shirt.
  • He begged me to stay and made me promise to return. I left that first day loaded down with gifts of his unpublished and privately published works, which I sent immediately to Butler Library, Columbia University.
  • Less than two months later, Jean Giono died, midway through his seventy-fifth year.
  • Giono lived virtually his entire life in the little city of Manosque. His elderly father was a cobbler and his mother, he tells us in his early novel Jean le Bleu (Blue Boy), ran a hand laundry.
  • This family of three resided in the poorest of tenements where the child had only a blue view down into the well, or courtyard. At age sixteen, becoming sole support of the family, Giono left school and went to clerk in a bank.
  • Eighteen years later, in 1929, he published his first two novels, Colline (Hill of Destiny) and Un de Baumugnes (Lovers Are Never Losers), both rave successes, in part thanks to instant sponsorship of André Gide.
  • Years afterward Giono recalled the turning point in his life, that moment in the afternoon of December 20, 1911, when he could spare enough pennies to purchase the cheapest book he could find.
  • It turned out to be a copy of Virgil’s poems. He never forgot that first flush of his own creative energy: “My heart soared.”
  • Giono ran into difficulties with the American editors who in 1953 asked him to write a few pages about an unforgettable character. When what he wrote met with the objection that no “Bouffier” had died in the shelter at Banon, Giono donated his pages to all and sundry. It was accepted by Vogue and published in March 1954 as “The Man Who Planted Hope and Grew Happiness.”
  • Within a few years the story of Elzéard Bouffier swept around the world and was translated into at least a dozen languages. It has long since inspired reforestation efforts, worldwide.
  • We see from the opening sentence of the story how Giono interpreted the word “character,” an individuality unforgettable if unselfish, generous beyond measure, leaving on earth its mark without thought of reward.
  • Giono believed he left his mark on earth when he wrote Elzéard Bouffier’s story because he gave it away for the good of others, heedless of payment: “It is one of my stories of which I am the proudest. It does not bring me in one single penny and that is why it has accomplished what it was written for.”
Monday, August 29, 2011 @ 05:08 AM
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CHELSEA GREEN PUBLISHING COMPANY                        1985


For a human character to reveal truly exceptional qualities, one must have the good fortune to be able to observe its performance over many years. If this performance is devoid of all egoism, if its guiding motive is unparalleled generosity, if it is absolutely certain that there is no thought of recompense and that, in addition, it has left its visible mark upon the earth, then there can be no mistake.

About forty years ago I was taking a long trip on foot over mountain heights quite unknown to tourists, in that ancient region where the Alps thrust down into Provence. All this, at the time I embarked upon my long walk through these deserted regions, was barren and colorless land. Nothing grew there but wild lavender.

  • After five hours’ walking I had still not found water and there was nothing to give me any hope of finding any. All about me was the same dryness, the same coarse grasses. I thought I glimpsed in the distance a small black silhouette, upright, and took it for the trunk of a solitary tree.
  • In any case I started toward it. It was a shepherd. Thirty sheep were lying about him on the baking earth.
  • He gave me a drink from his water-gourd and, a little later, took me to his cottage in a fold of the plain. He drew his water – excellent water – from a very deep natural well above which he had constructed a primitive winch.
  • He lived, not in a cabin, but in a real house built of stone that bore plain evidence of how his own efforts had reclaimed the ruin he had found there on his arrival. His roof was strong and sound. The wind on its tiles made the sound of the sea upon its shore.
  • The place was in order, the dishes washed, the floor swept, his rifle oiled; his soup was boiling over the fire. I noticed then that he was cleanly shaved, that all his buttons were firmly sewed on, that his clothing had been mended with the meticulous care that makes the mending invisible. He shared his soup with me and afterwards, when I offered my tobacco pouch, he told me that he did not smoke. His dog, as silent as himself, was friendly without being servile.
  • It was understood from the first that I should spend the night there; the nearest village was still more than a day and a half away. 
  • I was familiar with the nature of the rare villages in that region. There were four or five of them scattered well apart from each other on these mountain slopes, among white oak thickets, at the extreme end of the wagon roads.
  • They were inhabited by charcoalburners, and the living was bad. Families, crowded together in a climate that is excessively harsh both in winter and in summer, found no escape from the unceasing conflict of personalities.
  • Irrational ambitions reached inordinate proportions in the continual desire for escape. The soundest characters broke under the perpetual grind. The women nursed their grievances. There was a rivalry in everything, over the price of charcoal as over a pew in the church, over warring virtues as over warring vices as well as over the ceaseless combat between virtue and vice.
  • And over all there was the wind, also ceaseless, to rasp upon the nerves. There were epidemics of suicide and frequent cases of insanity, usually homicidal.
  • The shepherd went to fetch a small sack and poured out a heap of acorns on the table. He began to inspect them, one by one, with great concentration, separating the good from the bad.
  • When he had thus selected one hundred perfect acorns he stopped and went to bed. There was peace being with this man. The next day I asked if I might rest here for a day. He found it quite natural – or, to be more exact, he gave me the impression that nothing could startle him.
  • He opened the pen and led his flock to pasture. Before leaving, he plunged his sack of carefully selected and counted acorns into a pail of water.
  • I noticed that he carried for a stick an iron rod as thick as my thumb and about a yard and a half long. He left the dog in charge of the little flock and climbed to where I stood.
  • He invited me to go along if I had nothing better to do. He climbed to the top of the ridge, about a hundred yards away. There he began thrusting his iron rod into the earth, making a hole in which he planted an acorn; then he refilled the hole. He was planting oak trees.
  • I asked him if the land belonged to him. He answered no. Did he know whose it was? He did not. He supposed it was community property, or perhaps belonged to people who cared nothing about it. He was not interested in finding out whose it was. He planted his hundred acorns with the greatest care.
  • For three years he had been planting trees in this wilderness. He had planted one hundred thousand. Of the hundred thousand twenty thousand had sprouted. Of the twenty thousand he still expected to lose about half, to rodents or the unpredictable designs of Providence. There remained ten thousand oak trees to grow where nothing had grown before.
  • That was when I began to wonder about the age of this man. He was obviously over fifty. Fifty-five, he told me. His name was Elzéard Bouffier. He had once had a farm in the lowlands. There he had had his life. He had lost his only son, then his wife. He had withdrawn into this solitude where his pleasure was to live leisurely with his lambs and his dog.
  • It was his opinion that this land was dying for want of trees. Having no very pressing business of his own, he had resolved to remedy this state of affairs.
  • I told him that in thirty years his ten thousand oaks would be magnificent. He answered quite simply that if God granted him life, in thirty years he would have planted so many more that these ten thousand would be like a drop of water in the ocean.
  • He was studying the reproduction of beech trees and had a nursery of seedlings grown from beechnuts near his cottage. He was also considering birches for the valleys where, he told me, there was a certain amount of moisture a few yards below the surface of the soil.
  • The next day we parted. The following year came the War of 1914, in which I was involved for the next five years. An infantryman hardly had time for reflecting upon trees.
  • The war over, I found myself possessed of a tiny demobilization bonus and a huge desire to breathe fresh air for a while. It was with no other objective that I again took the road to the barren lands.
  • I had seen too many men die during those five years not to imagine easily that Elzéard Bouffier was dead, especially since, at twenty, one regards men of fifty as old men with nothing left to do but die.
  • He was not dead. As a matter of fact, he was extremely spry. He had changed jobs. Now he had only four sheep but, instead, a hundred beehives. He had got rid of the sheep because they threatened his young trees.
  • The war had disturbed him not at all. He had imperturbably continued to plant.
  • The oaks of 1910 were then ten years old and taller than either of us. It was an impressive spectacle. I was literally speechless and, as he did not talk, we spent the whole day walking in silence through his forest.
  • In three sections, it measured eleven kilometers in length and three kilometers at its greatest width. When you remembered that all this had sprung from the hands and the soul of this one man, without technical resources, you understood that men could be as effectual as God in other realms than that of destruction.
  • He had pursued his plan, and beech trees as high as my shoulder, spreading out as far as the eye could reach, confirmed it. He showed me handsome clumps of birch planted five years before – that is, in 1915, when I had been fighting at Verdun. He had set them out in all the valleys where he had guessed – and rightly – that there was moisture almost at the surface of the ground.
  • Creation seemed to come about in a sort of chain reaction. He did not worry about it; he was determinedly pursuing his task in all its simplicity; but as we went back toward the village I saw water flowing in brooks that had been dry since the memory of man.
  • This was the most impressive result of chain reaction that I had seen. These dry streams had once, long ago, run with water. Some of the dreary villages had been built on the sites of ancient Roman settlements where archæologists had found fishhooks.
  • The wind, too, scattered seeds. As the water reappeared, so there reappeared willows, rushes, meadows, gardens, flowers, and a certain purpose in being alive.
  • But the transformation took place so gradually that it became part of the pattern without causing any astonishment. Hunters, in pursuit of hares or wild boar, had of course noticed the sudden growth of little trees, but had attributed it to some natural caprice of the earth.
  • That is why no one meddled with Elzéard Bouffier’s work. If he had been detected he would have had opposition. He was indetectable. Who in the villages or in the administration could have dreamed of such perseverance in a magnificent generosity?
  • To have anything like a precise idea of this exceptional character one must not forget that he worked in total solitude: so total that, toward the end of his life, he lost the habit of speech. Or perhaps it was that he saw no need for it.
  • In 1933 he received a visit from a forest ranger who notified him of an order against lighting fires out of doors for fear of endangering the growth of this natural forest. It was the first time, the man told him naively, that he had ever heard of a forest growing of its own accord.



Thursday, July 28, 2011 @ 04:07 AM
posted by admin




WESTVIEW PRESS                       1986


Chapter 6: Organizing the Organizers

  • How can development workers be trained to help others organize their work?
  • Is organization too Western a concept to be accepted in a peasant society?
  • How can the untapped potential of leadership among women be incorporated in community organization?


Hodja story #7

One day two small boys decided to play a trick on Hodja. With a tiny bird cupped in their hands they would ask him whether it was alive or dead. If he said it was alive they would crush it to show him he was wrong. If he said it was dead they would let it fly away and still fool him. When they found the old man they said, “Hodja, that which we are holding, is it alive or dead?” Hodja thought for a moment and replied, “Ah, my young friends, that is in your hands.”


In rural development, organizing involves coordinating the factors of production – labor, fields, equipment, supplies, savings, or credit – to assist the peasant in the management process. For development workers and peasants to understand the rudiments of organization, they must first learn to recognize what is “in their hands” and be trained how to use it. In response to a question about what makes a farmer or village businessman successful a shrewd stonemason replied, “It depends on the person’s capacity to organize.” This response applies equally to those who manage development programs in rural areas.


Chapter 7: The Languages of Leadership

  • How is peasant leadership related to management training?
  • Is there a special language that leaders must use?
  • Can leadership be learned by peasants?
  • What are the qualities they must develop?


Hodja story #8

For many years there has been a bronze casting at the Farm School of Hodja riding on a donkey. It relates to a time when he was seen in the village riding his beloved donkey backwards. When a neighbor asked him why he was facing that way Hodja said, “My friend here wanted to go one way and I wanted to go the other, so we are compromising.”

Chapter 8: Maintaining Control

  • How does control relate to managing a farm or a development program?
  • Can peasants learn to apply control in a village situation?
  • What is the role of the budget in ensuring control?


Hodja story #9

One day Hodja borrowed a large copper pot that he shortly returned to his neighbor with a smaller pot inside. When Hodja told him that the pot had given birth the neighbor did not really believe him but was delighted with the unexpected gift. Later when Hodja again asked to borrow the pot the neighbor responded with alacrity. After several weeks the neighbor asked what had happened to his pot. Slightly embarrassed, Hodja reported that the pot had died. “Whoever heard of such a silly thing as pots which die?” said the incensed neighbor. “Well,” said Hodja, “if there are pots which can give birth, they can certainly die.”

Control is the process of determining whether every part of an organization is adhering to an established plan and progressing toward clearly defined objectives. Using Hodja’s logic, control is making sure that neither a neighbor, an employee, nor a competitor can have “pots which die” or others “which can give birth.”


Chapter 9: Adjusting for Flexibility

  • When should the process of adjusting be implemented and how?
  • What relationship does it have to the rest of management?
  • Can the mechanism of adjusting be taught to a peasant?


Hodja story #10

Hodja decided to teach his donkey to eat less during a year of drought. Each day he reduced the amount of feed until one morning he found the donkey dead. When Hodja started lamenting, his neighbor asked him what was the matter. “I had just taught my donkey to get along without any food,” said Hodja, “and he died.”

Adjustments are necessary in any approach to ensure flexibility in the implementation of the POLKA. Adjusting is the process by which corrective action is taken, based on observations when controls are applied, to ensure that the original objectives are attained or that they are modified to changing conditions. Hodja’s idea of reducing the amount of food consumed by his donkey reflected intelligent management, but he failed to make a corrective adjustment.




The classic approach to education in developing societies emphasizes factual knowledge. A well-balanced training program, however, should equip the progressive peasant with adequate agricultural knowledge, skilled, calloused hands able to undertake a variety of tasks, and an attitude open to outside suggestions. The Greek concept of an open-hearted person is one who relates well to others and is receptive even to unfamiliar ideas. Although training centers teach management skills and problem solving, essential attributes for peasants striving to become master farmers, they also must build self-esteem – the pride a peasant takes in knowing who he is and what he wants from life.

The importance of these elements in training master farmers and observations on the best methods by which to teach them are examined in the following chapters. They are based on the perceptions of individuals in various cultures and institutional settings who have devoted many years to helping peasants cultivate their heads, their hands, and their hearts, as well as their gardens and fields.

 Chapter 10: The Role of Knowledge

  • How much technical knowledge does a master farmer require?
  • Who should decide what the master farmer needs to learn?
  • What is meant by teaching knowledge?


Hodja story #11

One day the village teacher told Hodja that he had decided to travel across the land to seek additional knowledge. When the young man asked him what kind of people he should look for, Hodja recalled some wise words he had once heard in the bazaar:

He who knows not and knows not that he knows is a fool. Shun him.

He who knows not and knows that he knows not is a child. Teach him.

He who knows and knows not that he knows is asleep. Awaken him.

He who knows and knows that he knows is wise. Follow him.

Hodja paused for a moment and then continued, “But you know how difficult it is, my son, to be sure that the one who knows and knows that he knows really knows.”

Dr. Francis C. Byrnes introduced the Farm School staff to the concept of the squares of knowledge, which is not unlike Hodja’s evaluation of individuals. The four squares correspond roughly to four categories of people: those who know and know that they know, who are wise; those who know and do not know that they know, who are humble; those who do not know and know that they do not know, who understand their limitations. “But the people you have to be aware of,” said Dr. Byrnes, “are those who do not know and do not know that they do not know.”

Chapter 11: Teaching Competencies

Thursday, July 21, 2011 @ 05:07 AM
posted by admin





This talk addresses the Millennium Development Goals; the failure of the rich countries to live up to their promises; the unnecessary loss of life, especially in Africa; the poor farming practices in much of Africa; the looming prospect of the entire continent of Africa being unable to feed itself; Bruce’s belief that the Farm School model is what is needed in developing countries today; and the wisdom that Bruce would want you to take home with you from your Greek Summer experience.



The Millennium Development Goals

In his book The End of Poverty: How We Can Make it Happen in Our Life Time, Jeffey Sachs, Director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University and director of the UN Millennium Project, tells us that

‘For the first time in history, our generation has the opportunity to end extreme poverty in the world’s most desperate nations. We can make a real difference for the one-fifth of humanity who still live in extreme poverty. We can end poverty by 2025 and change the world for ever. We can help the 15,000 people daily dying needlessly from preventable, treatable diseases – AIDS, TB, and malaria – for lack of drugs that we take for granted; we can help the 8 million people who die each year because they are too poor to stay alive; we can close the yawning gap between what the rich world claims to be doing to help the poor and what it is actually doing; and we can forge a common bond of humanity, security, and shared purpose across cultures and religions.’

An uncomfortable truth

Bono, the rock star who is helping Jeffrey Sachs get the message of compassion across to the rich, has opened the eyes of millions of fans and citizens to the shared struggle for global equality and justice. He states:

‘These statistics make a fool of the idea many of us hold on to very tightly: the idea of equality. What is happening in Africa mocks our pieties, doubts our concern, and questions our commitment to that whole concept. If we are honest, there’s no way we could conclude that such mass death day after day would ever be allowed to happen anywhere else. Deep down, if we really accept that their lives – African lives – are equal to ours, we would all be doing more to put the fire out. It’s an uncomfortable truth.’

Poverty is our greatest long-term challenge

In his March 6, 2002 Millennium speech the President of the World Bank, James D. Wolfensohn said:

‘We will not create that better and safer world with bombs or brigades alone. We will not win the peace until we have the foresight, the courage, and the political will to redefine the war. We must recognize that – while there is social injustice on a global scale, both between states and within them; while the fight against poverty is barely begun in too many parts of the world; while the link between progress in development and progress toward peace is not recognized – we may win a battle against terror but we will not conclude a war that will yield enduring peace. Poverty is our greatest long-term challenge. Grueling, mind-numbing poverty – which snatches hope and opportunity away from young hearts and dreams just when they should take flight and soar. Poverty – which takes the promise of a whole life ahead and stunts it into a struggle for day-to-day survival. Poverty – which together with its handmaiden, hopelessness, can lead to exclusion, anger, and even conflict. Poverty – which does not itself necessarily lead to violence but which can provide a breeding ground for the ideas of those who promote conflict and terror.’

Woodrow Wilson’s speech of 1918

Wolfensohn also said:

‘Eighty-four years ago in this city, Woodrow Wilson spoke of war and peace to a joint session of Congress. “What we demand” he said, “is that the world be made safe for every peace-loving nation which, like our own, wishes to live its own life, determine its own institutions, be assured of justice, and fair dealing by the other peoples of the world. All peoples are partners in this interest, and for our own part we see very clearly that unless justice be done to others it will not be done to us.”

‘Let me end, as I began, with the words of Woodrow Wilson – words that reach out across cultural and national divides: “You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget that errand.”’

Millennium Development Goals

Regarding the Millennium Development Goals, Wolfensohn said:

‘Last year, at a summit held at the United Nations, more than 140 world leaders agreed to launch a campaign to attack poverty on a number of fronts. Together, we agreed to support the Millennium Development Goals. By 2015, we said, we will: Halve the proportion of people living on less than one dollar a day; Ensure that boys and girls alike complete primary schooling; Eliminate gender disparity at all levels of education; Reduce child mortality by two-thirds; Reduce maternal mortality by three-quarters; Roll-back HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases; Halve the proportion of people without access to safe water; And develop a global partnership for development.

How could anyone take issue with these goals? How could anyone refuse to stand up and say that for my children and my children’s children, I want that better world?’

Can we afford the Millennium Development Goals?

‘And yet, there are those who legitimately ask: Can we win a war against poverty? And if we can’t be sure, should we wager our resources? To these people I would ask: Can we afford to lose? How much are we prepared to commit to preserve our children’s future? What is the price we are willing to pay to make progress in our life time toward a better world?’

‘We estimate that it will take on the order of an additional $40 to $60 billion a year to reach the Millennium Development Goals – roughly a doubling of current aid flows – to roughly 0.5% of GNP, still well below the 0.7% target agreed to by global leaders years ago.’

‘Contrast that with the fact that today the world’s leading industrial nations provide nearly 90% of the multibillion dollar arms trade – arms that are contributing to the very conflicts that all of us profess to deplore, and that we must spend additional monies to suppress.’

‘Let me repeat: We should do it because it is ethically right; We should do it because it will make a better, more understanding, more dynamic, and indeed more prosperous world for our children and our children’s children; We should do it because it will increase the security of all of us, rich and poor; We know that disease, the environment, financial crises, and even terror do not recognize national boundaries; We know that imaginary walls will not protect us.

If we want to build long-term peace, if we want stability for our economies, if we want to build that better and safer world, fighting poverty must be part of national and international security.’

Educating our children to be global citizens with global responsibilities

‘But we must go further. We must change the mindsets that build walls. Across the world, we must educate our children to be global citizens with global responsibilities. We must celebrate diversity, not fear it. We must build curricula around understanding, not suspicion; around inclusion, not hate. We must tell our children to dare to be different – international, intercultural, interactive, global. We must do better with the next generation than we have done with our own.’

Progress towards the Millennium goals

In the International Herald Tribune of September 25, 2008 there was an article on the fast-fading world of good intentions in which we were reminded that world leaders pledged, at the turn of the Millennium, to cutting extreme global poverty in half with a 2005 pledge of assistance of $130 billion by the year 2010. “Aid from the world’s developed countries fell by almost 13% between 2005 and 2007 – to under $104 billion, after inflation. The aggregate aid budget of the most developed nations amounts to 0.28% of their gross national income, woefully below the target of 0.7% agreed by world leaders in 2002. The United States, shamefully, is at the bottom of the list, spending 0.16% of its income on development assistance.”


In the same issue of the International Herald Tribune, there were also articles on the $700 billion bailout plan for the financial system and the bitter struggle over outsize pay. $700 billion given without batting an eyelid to the financial failures, but no petty cash to honor the pledge to fighting the war on poverty. Plenty of money for the super-rich to enjoy outrageous salaries, but not a dime to spare for those on a dollar a day.


The rich get richer while the poor get poorer

The UN’s Food Development Report has produced evidence that the world’s richest 358 billionaires have a wealth equivalent to the combined income of 45% of humanity or 2.3 billion people. In 1960, the richest one-fifth had 70% of global wealth. By 1990, their share had grown to 80%. The poorest one-fifth saw their wealth drop from 2.5% to 1.4% over the same period. The wealthy and the privileged few, indifferent to or unconcerned with economic and social injustice, remain intent on protecting their privileges, consolidating their power, and isolating themselves from the suffering and deprivation that is to be seen everywhere.




Dust storms in China

The Washington Post called Lester R. Brown, President of the Earth Policy Institute, ‘one of the world’s most influential thinkers.’ In his book Outgrowing the Earth: The Food Security Challenge in an Age of Falling Water Tables and Rising Temperatures, he tells us that:

‘On April 18, 2001, the western United States was blanketed with dust. The dirt came from a huge dust storm that originated in northwestern China and Mongolia on April 5. Measuring 1,800 kilometers across when it left China, the storm carried up to 100 million tons of topsoil, a vital resource that would take centuries to replace through natural processes.’

‘Almost exactly one year later, on April 12, 2002, South Korea was engulfed by a huge dust storm from China. These two dust storms, among some 20 or more major dust storms in China during 2001 and 2002, are one of the externally visible indicators of the ecological catastrophe unfolding in northern and western China. Overgrazing and overplowing are converting productive land to desert on an unprecedented scale.’

Dust storms in Africa

‘Africa, too, is suffering from heavy losses of topsoil as a result of wind erosion. Andrew Goudie, Professor of Geography at Oxford University, reports that dust storms originating over the Sahara – once so rare – are now commonplace. He estimates they have increased tenfold during the last half-century. Among the countries most affected by topsoil loss via dust storms are Niger, Chad, northern Nigeria, and Burkino Faso. In Mauritania, in Africa’s far west, the number of dust storms jumped from 2 a year in the early 1960s to 80 a year today.’

‘The Bodélé Depression in Chad is the source of an estimated 1.3 billion tons of dust a year, up tenfold from 1947, when measurements began.’

‘The 2 – 3 billion tons of fine soil particles that leave Africa each year in dust storms are slowly draining the continent of its fertility and, hence, its biological productivity.’

The population explosion and loss of agricultural land

‘The addition of more than 70 million people each year requires land for living and working – driving the continuous construction of houses, apartment buildings, factories, and office buildings. Worldwide, for every 1 million people added, an estimated 40,000 hectares of land are needed for basic living space.’

‘These threats to the world’s cropland, whether advancing deserts, expanding automobile fleets, or housing developments, are gaining momentum, challenging some of the basic premises on which current population, transportation, and land use policies rest.’

The bottom line: Probable starvation in Africa

Brown continues:

‘With the advent of agriculture, the acceleration of soil erosion on mismanaged land has increased to the point where soil loss often exceeds new soil formation. Once this threshold is crossed, the inherent fertility of the land begins to fall. Each year the world’s farmers are challenged to feed another 70 million or more people but with less topsoil than the year before.’

‘The bottom line is that the accelerating loss of topsoil from wind and water erosion is slowly but surely reducing the earth’s inherent biological productivity. Unless governments, farmers, and herders can mobilize to reverse this trend, feeding 70 million more people each year will become progressively more difficult.’

At the Technological Museum of Thessaloniki there is a caption that by the year 2025 the continent of Africa will be able to feed only 25% of its population.




The story of postwar Greece

In 1986 Bruce Lansdale wrote the book Master Farmer: Teaching Small Farmers Management. He believed that the story of postwar Greece holds invaluable lessons for many developing countries today. In 1947 Greece had just emerged from a decade of war and strife; its villagers were demoralized and fleeing rural life for the cities; and its farms were unable to produce adequate crops to feed its people. In less than forty years Greece became a major exporter of foodstuffs, most villages had made the transition from underdeveloped to developing, and rural people were no longer yearning to move to the cities.

The Farm School’s philosophy

Central to the Farm School’s philosophy is faith in the capacity of peasants to solve their own problems and to accelerate the development process in agriculture. The school has concentrated on teaching both rural people and development workers the essential elements of management – planning, organization, leading, controlling, and adjusting. Master Farmer: Teaching Small Farmers Management offers valuable insights into nonformal education, organizing short-course centers, managing secondary agricultural schools, operating student projects, and the problems of technology transfer.

The American Farm School: Mission, Service, Leadership

The second director of the American Farm School, Charlie House, explained to Bruce and Tad on their arrival that John Henry House, the missionary who founded the school, “didn’t just preach an ideology, he lived it. And, he expected everyone else to. This is what the American Farm School was and is all about. Mission. Service. Leadership.”

It was Mission, Service and Leadership that produced such amazing results on land so barren and unproductive that it was called snake land. The founder was able to say:

‘A little over twenty three years have passed, and that barren spot is now a beautiful village, with orchards and vineyards, vegetable and flower gardens, and grainfields, barns, workshops, electric and water plant, with pure blooded cattle, pigs and fowl. There are dormitories, residences with equipped infirmary, a fine hall with library, natural history museum, and laboratory.”

The uncomfortable truth

The rich nations, even before the current financial crisis had shown that they were not interested in fulfilling their promises to implement the Millennium Development Goals. Yet we still face the fact that 15,000 people are daily dying needlessly from preventable, treatable diseases; that 8 million people die each year because they are too poor to stay alive; that there are 70 million additional mouths to feed each year; that the planet is losing its fertile top soil at a frightening rate because of poor farming practices; and that, unless people of good will take action, within our lifetime people on the continent of Africa will be starving to death in even greater numbers than today.



Global citizens, global responsibilities

What Wolfensohn said about educating our children to be global citizens with global responsibilities is exactly what Bruce had in mind when he started the Greek Summer program. Wolfensohn said:

‘We must educate our children to be global citizens with global responsibilities. Our children must celebrate diversity, not fear it. Our children must be international, intercultural, interactive, global.’

And this is what you are learning through your stay here in Greece.

Mission, Service, Leadership today

As government and big money is unable/unwilling to do the job of making a difference for the one-fifth of humanity who still live in extreme poverty, it is now up to individuals of good will. Individuals like John Henry House, Charlie House, and Bruce Lansdale who between them devoted 86 years of their lives to this cause in Greece. People like Albert Schweitzer who devoted his life from the age of thirty to this cause in Africa.


Albert Schweitzer: Mission, Service and Leadership in Africa

In Albert Schweitzer: The Man and His Mind George Seaver says:

‘Albert Schweitzer is probably the most gifted genius of our age, as well as its most prophetic thinker. A doctor four times over – in philosophy, in theology, in music, and in medicine, he foresaw the collapse of western civilization.’

Albert Schweitzer wrote:

 ‘While at the university and enjoying the happiness of being able to study and even to produce some results in science and art, I could not help thinking continually of others who were denied that happiness by their material circumstances or their health. Then one brilliant summer morning there came to me, as I awoke, the thought that I must not accept this happiness as a matter of course, but give something in return for it. I settled with myself before I got up, that I would consider myself justified in living till I was thirty for science and art, in order to devote myself from that time forward to the direct service of humanity. One evening my eye caught the title of an article “The needs of the Congo Mission”. I resolved to realize my plan of direct human service in Equatorial Africa.’

Shortly after his arrival in Lambaréné he wrote:

‘I had during the very first weeks full opportunity for establishing the fact that physical misery among the natives is not less but even greater than I had supposed. How glad I was that in defiance of all objections I had carried out my plan of going out there as a doctor.’

Schweitzer established his mission at Lambaréné and spent the rest of his life there, returning to Europe to use his great talents, especially as an organist, to raise money for his hospital. Tad quotes Albert Schweitzer in My Metamorphosis:

‘I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know. The only ones among you who will be truly happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.’


Bruce is with you in spirit during Greek Summer

Over the past 40 years some participants have found the Greek Summer program life-transforming or at least a different way of looking at the world. I know that Bruce is with you in spirit during your stay in Greece. If Bruce could talk he would have so much that he would like to share with you. But his work is done and it is the responsibility of lesser mortals to make sure that his wisdom is not lost to the world. I believe that he would be happy if you were to leave Greece at the end of your Greek Summer program having memorized three words: Mission. Service. Leadership. And your mission is to become global citizens with global responsibilities.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011 @ 04:07 AM
posted by admin






I was engaged by Bruce Lansdale in 1978 to be his Associate Director for Administration and worked with him till he retired in 1990. Christine and I were married in 1988 and becoming a family member gave me additional insights into a man who has had a very deep impact on my life. Bruce died 2½ years ago but his spirit is still felt here at Metamorphosis, at the Farm School, among the graduates, retired staff and long-term supporters of the school.

Last year we celebrated Greek Summer’s 40th anniversary in New York when the honor and appreciation given to Tad showed that Bruce’s spirit is still felt by participants of Greek Summer.

Because Bruce has become my role model for a ‘life well lived’ or ‘a successful life’ I welcome this opportunity to say a few words about why he had such an impact on so many people and what he had in mind when he started the Greek summer program.

Giving: The importance of role models

Bruce learned early on that you get most out of life by giving because he had two very fine role models. His father, Herbert Lansdale, had been sent by the YMCA of America to establish the YMCA in Thessaloniki. The ethos of the YMCA has always been community service, service to your fellow man, and treating your neighbor as you would like to be treated yourself.

As a child Bruce made visits to the American Farm School because his father was good friends with Charlie House, the second director of the American Farm School. After his retirement as a missionary, John Henry House, Charlie’s father, founded the Farm School in 1904 when northern Greece was Turkish territory. Charlie House was an engineer just like Bruce but endowed with a missionary spirit. Bruce took over as head of the school while still in his twenties and Charlie House became Bruce’s second role model.

The American Farm School: Mission, Service, Leadership

This passage is taken from Tad’s book My Metamorphosis:

‘One evening soon after we arrived in 1949, we sat before a blazing fire in the Houses’ living room. Charlie wanted to tell us something of his father, something of his courage and of his leadership. “He didn’t just preach an ideology,” Charlie said, “he lived it. And, he expected everyone else to. This is what the American Farm School was and is all about. Mission. Service. Leadership. When a fellow missionary, Miss Ellen Stone, along with her companion, Mrs. Eleni Tsilka, were kidnapped in 1901 by Bulgarian brigands, it fell to father, as leader of their small Protestant community, to mediate for their ransom in a situation garnering international attention. The kidnappers demanded $65,000 in gold bullion for the return of Miss Stone, an amount equal to her weight in gold. Even President Roosevelt became involved as a widespread campaign to raise money spread across America. It was an enormous amount of money in those days.’


Expressed in every day terms Mission, Service and Leadership is working continually to improve the civilization around you. Each day, though your actions may seem as just a grain of sand on the sea shore, you attract like-minded people to the cause and a great institution like the Farm School results. Bruce wrote the book Cultivating Inspired Leaders: Making Participatory Management Work in which he described inspired and inspiring leader-managers in these words:

‘Those who have themselves been inspired by others in their lives. Inspired leader-managers have a sense of dedication to their organization, to their associates, and a commitment to a spirit within themselves. These individuals may, however, lack the self-confidence or the ability to inspire others. It is the inspiring leader-managers who are eager to share their inspiration with associates and customers of their organization.’

Mission at the American Farm School

John Henry House clearly stated his goals in the school’s Charter of Incorporation:

‘providing agricultural and industrial training under Christian supervision for youth in order that they may be trained to appreciate the dignity of manual labor and be helped to lives of self-respect, thrift and industry.”

The results of that mission

After just 23 years John Henry House was able to say:

‘The land we had purchased was a desert-looking waste with no water upon it and a doubtful possibility of finding any. A school like this in a land where work with the hands was considered degrading by the educated, might well have been considered a desperate experiment even under the most favourable conditions, when there was well-watered and fertile land, with a kindly climate, but under the desert conditions in which we were placed, some of our friends felt sure we were doomed to failure. But we were working with faith in a great Master who had said, “All things are possible to him that believeth.” It was indeed a small beginning but it was a work of faith and love. A little over twenty three years have passed, and that barren spot is now a beautiful village, with orchards and vineyards, vegetable and flower gardens, and grainfields, barns, workshops, electric and water plant, with pure blooded cattle, pigs and fowl. There are dormitories, residences with equipped infirmary, a fine hall with library, natural history museum, and laboratory.”

Service at the American Farm School

A life of service is out of fashion today when success is measured by the size of your greed and how well you manipulate the financial system to your personal benefit. From the beginning the Farm School was based on service. When John Henry House founded the school in 1904, Thessaloniki was under Turkish rule, but after years of bloodshed the Greeks were in charge in 1912. The first students were orphans and the first teachers worked without pay in exchange for learning English. Then in 1922 northern Greece was flooded with 1.5 million refugees due to the exchange of populations with Turkey and once again the school was serving orphans and families with no possessions.

Service in the Farm School’s early days was providing the poorest of the poor with an education to feed themselves and the wider community and the skills such as plumbing and carpentry required to create a model village. These were the first steps to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger in northern Greece. It was a philosophy of educating the head, the heart and the hands. It was a philosophy of Mission, Service, Leadership.

Greek Summer: Mission, service, leadership

Bruce created Greek Summer, nursed it through its challenging early years and believed that it was a good way to introduce American youth to the Farm School’s philosophy of Mission, Service, and Leadership. You will serve by working on a village improvement project. You will be working within a culture that is strange to you. You might not be used to work that requires hard physical labor under the Greek sun. It is during these times when the going is tough that you will have opportunities to develop your leadership skills.

Bruce also wanted you to be exposed to the wisdom of the ancient Greeks about whom you will learn much on your tour of the ancient sites. In our society that has lost its way, more and more people are realizing that the ancient Greeks organized themselves much better than we have organized our present-day society.

Bruce also wanted you to get a feel for what he referred to as generosity of spirit, through the overwhelming hospitality of the Greek villagers that you will experience during your village stay.

Bruce also wanted you to have fun, and as you will find, the Greeks are wonderful fun-loving people, even in these days of financial crisis.

But perhaps most of all he wanted you to be challenged and stretched beyond the limits of what you previously thought possible. He was fond of quoting Nikos Kazantzakis expressed in the opening lines of his Report to Greco:

I am a bow in your hands, Lord,

Stretch me lest I rot.

Don’t stretch me too hard, Lord,

Lest I break.

Go ahead and stretch me, Lord,

Even if I break.

May your Greek Summer be enriching, enjoyable and life-transforming.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011 @ 06:06 AM
posted by admin




WESTVIEW PRESS                       1986


Chapter 4: Dynamic Training Centers

  • What leads to excellence in an institution?
  • What attributes should schools try to develop?
  • Can the staff of institutions be both compassionate and businesslike?


Hodja story #5

One of Hodja’s neighbors complained bitterly to him about having too many children and a very small house. Hodja promised to help him solve his problem if he would agree to follow his instructions religiously for a week. Utterly despondent about his situation, the neighbor accepted the terms. Each day during the week that followed the wretched neighbor was told to move a different animal into his already cramped house – the first day his cow, followed by a goat, a donkey, a pig, two sheep, and the mule – until he felt he could stand it no longer. On the last day Hodja told him to remove all the animals and come to see him the following morning. “Glory be to Allah,” said the neighbor to Hodja when he returned, “what a delightful house I have.”

It is so easy to find fault with almost any training institution. Staff members, trainees, and visitors tend to complain about the facilities, the program, the instructors, the food, or some other actual or imaginary shortcomings. As with Hodja’s neighbor, they find the family too big or the house too small. A study by the author in more than 20 countries, however, revealed that outstanding institutions share certain intangible qualities that have a lasting impact on the trainees and visitors, as well as on the staff itself. Invariably, discussions with the staff of these organizations center on the fundamental question of why certain institutions and development programs are conspicuously successful.

These helpful comments and suggestions pinpoint four common attributes of exceptional schools: a clear direction, standards of excellence, a sense of community, and an atmosphere of compassion. These characteristics are particularly relevant to training centers but are equally valid for village-level community development programs. In the following sections, institutions that illustrate these characteristics are described.


The home of one who does not praise it will cave in and crush him.

Greek peasant saying


Top administrators of any training center must be convinced that its work is vital and that its mission has a sense of greatness about it; only because of these convictions, can the administrators pass their enthusiasm on to others. These convictions permeate the thinking of the administrative staff of the Instituto Superior de Agricultura (ISA) at Santiago in the Dominican Republic. ISA is an agricultural college operated in cooperation with the Catholic University in Santiago. It is directed by Dr. Norberto A. Quezada and a group of young associates – an inspired team with single-minded fervor. Demonstrating the best qualities of dynamic salesmen to fellow staff, students, and supporters, they convey their firm belief in the substantial contribution that ISA is making to their country. Their unwavering ambition for its programs and their impatience with mediocrity are fully shared by the faculty. An extended group of loyal supporters shares this belief in ISA and is inspired by a staff that has attempted to make their dreams of greatness a reality.

Another factor that gives a clear sense of direction to an institution is a well-defined statement of the mission. Lack of agreement among the members of the teaching staff and administration on the goals of an institution often leads to many hours of fruitless discussion, which might more usefully be devoted to program development. Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson use the term “one minute goals” to emphasize the importance of precise objectives. They are convinced that goals should be expressed in fewer than 250 words, so that they can be read and understood by anyone in less that a minute. The need for a concise mission statement was discernible in a short-course center attached to an agricultural school in East Africa. There the staff disagreed so much about the mission of the newly built center that their discussions left them little time to implement programs. Once they decided on a mission, they were able to focus on creative training activities.

An organization with a clear definition of mission is CIAT (Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical), outside Cali, Columbia. This autonomous, nonprofit institution is dedicated to international agricultural research and training: one of a group of similar centers located around the world that have contributed so greatly to the Green Revolution.

The mission of CIAT is to generate and deliver, in collaboration with national institutions, improved technology which will contribute to increased production, productivity and quality of specific basic food commodities in the tropics – principally in Latin America and Caribbean countries – thereby enabling producers and consumers, especially those with limited resources, to increase their purchasing power and improve their nutrition.

CIAT is seeking to develop new varieties and improve production practices of four crops basic to Latin America – beans, cassava, rice, and pastures – by assembling information, making laboratory tests, and operating experimental plots.

If the objectives and deadlines for each program are not specified in a mission statement, the direction of an institution can be ambiguous. CIAT is an outstanding example of an organization that has defined its objectives clearly and that has established specific time frames that are constantly reviewed by the staff and the board. Programs that have failed to meet approved schedules are subject to reappraisal and may be abandoned. This makes the staff members feel a constant sense of urgency often lacking in other organizations.

Homer Lackey, a former steel mill manager, insisted on developing similar well-defined objectives when he was engaged to help the Farm School. At that time there was confusion about the direction of the school and many departments were being run inefficiently. He treated each production section as if it were a steel mill, analyzing its goals and productivity in comparable terms. He then helped the staff reorganize the education departments. By the time he left, each department of the school had clear objectives and agreed about how and when they could be accomplished.

A deep commitment to an underlying ideal – a force behind the program’s existence more fundamental than the institution’s objectives or structure – also contributes to a clear sense of direction. Such a commitment had a dynamic impact on the Indian Meridian Vocational Technical School in Oklahoma. The assistant superintendent, Leroy Bailiff, had a deep sense of dedication and knew exactly where the school was going and why. The administration had a detailed time schedule for the coming years, which was worked out with the faculty to ensure their full cooperation in achieving the school’s goals.

Students of all ages were enrolled in this impressive high school complex. The faculty observed that the older students, who knew what their own goals were could serve as a major motivating force for the younger ones. Students took their basic course work in local high schools and then attended the technical school for three hours each day. The school offered 287 evening courses for which instructors were hired from industry. In accordance with the underlying philosophy of the school, the courses were organized to tie in with skills demanded by local industry. Each department had an advisory committee that helped define its goals. Visitors were impressed by the school’s strong sense of commitment to outstanding education, apparent in the order and organization, in the involvement of the teachers and administrators, and in everyone’s conviction that it was a very special school.



Monday, June 27, 2011 @ 04:06 AM
posted by admin




WESTVIEW PRESS                       1986



Chapter 3: The Farm School Model (Cont)

  • Are there dimensions to agricultural schools other than training programs?
  • Is there a place for adult education in secondary agricultural schools?
  • What are the most useful methods in management training?



Charles House had graduated in engineering from Princeton University and was especially interested in the student’s technical training. When he succeeded his father as director in 1929, he reduced the training program from five to four years and changed the language of instruction from English to Greek. Only applicants who owned land were accepted. Half the students spent each morning in the classrooms, whereas the others were divided equally between the agricultural and industrial departments. In the afternoon they changed places. He felt, as his father had before him, that the boys would learn from example. One of the school’s favorite stories is about the official who came looking for Charles House and was directed to the shops. When he arrived he saw a pair of legs sticking out from under a car and said, “Can you tell me where the Director is?” The person under the car replied, “What do you want him for?” The visitor told him that it was none of his business. At this point Charles stuck his head out from under the car and said, “I am the Director. What can I do for you?”

Each department of the school was organized as a separate accounting unit and was required to pay its own way as well as to contribute to the school’s income. Charles House believed that it was important for the students to learn not only the practical skills in the departments but the management details. He felt that the only way to learn to manage a profitable enterprise was to work in one.

In his advanced years Dr. House had contended that if he had to do it again he would have trained girls rather than boys. “If you train a boy,” he said, you train an individual. If you train a girl, you train a whole family.” In the postwar years Charles House and the British Quakers fulfilled his dream by starting a school for village girls near the Farm School.

In 1946 short courses for adults were started in cooperation with the Greek Ministry of Agriculture. A farm machinery shop and a canning center were established in a unit that housed forty trainees. This represented a new approach to training master farmers as well as village women. These activities were integrated with the Ministry of Agriculture’s new home economics program.

One of the primary concerns throughout the school’s early years was to find and train staff members who possessed both practical skills and theoretical knowledge. Programs were developed to send young people, mainly graduates of the Farm School, both for short-term training and for full university courses. Because trainees who studied abroad for extended periods suffered cultural shock when they returned, it became school policy to limit the training to two years.

During Charles Houses’s tenure the physical plant of the Farm School was considerably enlarged. A separate dormitory building was constructed in which to house and feed students. Agricultural demonstration units in poultry, dairy, and hog farming and in horticulture were introduced. An industrial quadrangle was added that contained shops for training students in electricity, machine shop work, carpentry, plumbing, and painting. New staff housing and additional athletic areas for the students were completed. From a small school with limited facilities the Farm School was developed into a comprehensive educational institution.


From 1955 until the present, the school has expanded its program in a number of areas. Although it is difficult to separate one aspect of the program from another, each plays a separate role in the development of the master farmer. When Charles House retired, the Board of Trustees undertook a comprehensive survey of the school and the work of its graduates in order to assess the impact of the school on Greek agriculture. The survey included a summary of the graduates’ occupations in 1955:

On the basis of a 10% sample of all graduates since 1927, it appears that 41% of the graduates go into farming in Greece; another 28% have gone into various agricultural services. This makes a total of 69% in farming or related services. The rest are either on scholarship in the United States, have emigrated, are unknown, or are in non-farm occupations.

The most recent graduate survey in the late 1970s indicates that 58% of the graduates are employed in agriculture and related services, reflecting changes in the country as a whole. Between 1950 and 1980 the farm population has decreased from 60% to 26% of the total population. The opportunities for further study open to farm school graduates and the appeal of urban positions have also played significant roles. The proportion of graduates in occupations related to agriculture has increased relative to that for graduates operating their own farms.

The need for equivalency

A major complaint of the graduates in 1955 was that their graduation certificate was not equivalent to the diploma issued by the Ministry of Education.

  • Finally, in 1978 the school was recognised by the Ministry of Education as a fully equivalent vocational lyceum.


The new approach

Management training became a focal point in the revised program. Some of the staff who had met members of the Future Farmers of America (FFA) were very impressed by their self-confidence, their public-speaking ability, and the assurance with which they managed their home farms. The staff felt challenged to develop comparable young men and women who held their heads high and were proud to be farmers.

  • Members of the FFA gain practical experience by managing agricultural enterprises on their own farms to supplement their classroom instruction.
  • The school became an agricultural bank and extended credit to groups of students who raised such produce as pigs, chickens, cows, vegetables, and field crops.
  • Students were required to prepare budgets, keep records, and manage their enterprises effectively.
  • With their profits they were able to take field trips at the end of their senior year.

The small farm enterprises, known as student projects, became the backbone of the school’s management training program. Students were involved in the production departments, in which they were paid as laborers. By the time they reached their senior year those who had acquired the necessary skills were made responsible for the management of whole departments on weekends. The schools’ staff is still trying to improve the management training. Ideally, students working as members of a small team should have a few projects for which they must assume sole responsibility at school or in the village.

The school has designed a number of one-person units – the optimum enterprise that can be run by a farmer and his family. These units serve as demonstrations for the short courses and training areas for the regular students. In each of these, careful records are kept that are the basis for management instruction.

Running short courses for adults over the past 35 years has confirmed that they should be a basic part of any agricultural institute. They benefit not only the trainees but the staff members who come into contact with the trainees. Teachers become involved in the concerns and problems of the farmers, which ensures more stimulating instruction for the regular students and avoids the danger of stagnation. Short-course trainees continually challenge the school to keep its programs up to date and relevant to the actual needs of the villages.

Another focal point of the school’s curriculum has been innovative technology. The school has taken the lead in introducing agricultural technology in a number of fields. This does not mean importing the latest US or European equipment but rather adapting the technology developed abroad to Greek conditions (see Appendix A).

  • The school has developed 70 such innovations.
  • The incorporation of this technology in training programs has stimulated staff and students to seek new solutions to old problems and innovative approaches to current concerns.

People visiting the school become aware of an intangible dimension beyond the structure and function of the various departments. It is referred to by staff as the “spirit of Dr. House” – the quality of the school. In some institutions this quality can be sensed in the personal involvement and dedication of the teachers for the students, the warmth among the students themselves, and a spirit that at the Farm School expresses the founder’s inspiration.

Influences outside the school

Integrating the program more closely with the Greek government through the Ministries of Agriculture and Education has been one of the major objectives of the school in recent years. Experience in European and developing countries indicates that agricultural schools supervised by the Ministry of Education tend to use a theoretical approach and to be removed from the practical problems of farmers. On the other hand, agricultural schools under the Ministry of Agriculture lack the much-prized formal equivalency. For the Farm School this difficulty has been over come by establishing a joint Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Education committee, which is responsible for supervising the training program. The Ministry of Agriculture also provides substantial support for the student’s training, which leads it to become more involved. A new short-course center completed at the school was financed by funds from the World Bank and the Ministry of Agriculture.

  • The school has been less successful in organizing joint courses for men and women in continuing education programs. A future challenge will be to integrate this instruction.

The increasing number of trainees from Third World countries who come to study development in Greece has prompted the school to seek ways of sharing the Farm School experience with others. The fact that Greece has progressed so remarkably since World War II makes it a far more suitable training ground than the more advanced Western countries. Although the total concept of the Farm School cannot be transferred, many principles and specific practices could effectively be applied elsewhere.


Many of the Farm School’s accomplishments during the last 80 years have been outlined, but the school has also experienced shortcomings and failures. As a private institution, the school has difficulty attracting permanent staff because it must compete with the greater financial security that the Greek Government offers to agriculturists and others. At the same time, however, it is fortunate to have had a highly qualified and dedicated nucleus of staff members that, despite personnel turnover in a number of areas, enables the school to continue to operate effectively. It is vital for any such institution to train staff constantly, recognizing that though many members may stay only a few years they often make significant contributions in government service later – applying what they learned at the Farm School in their new jobs.

Another sphere in which more could have been accomplished is in developing initiative in the student projects. Too many students work on each project, and they do not learn proper planning and record keeping. They are eager to earn money but not sufficiently motivated to follow the proper management techniques. Because the concept of projects is still new to Greece, it takes a long time for staff members to learn to supervise them effectively. The turnover in the staff members responsible for student projects disrupts their continuity.

Too much time is given to lecturing and not enough to allowing the students to take the initiative in discussions and in practical work. Despite constant pressure on the instructors to speak less and to encourage the students to work more, they still tend to revert to the traditional Greek classroom pattern.

The school should have more long-range planning. Although a ten-year plan has been prepared, it requires constant reassessment, particularly as changes in the national government policies affect education and agriculture throughout the country. Both as a private and as a foreign institution in Greece the school has always been slightly suspect among those who have not had close personal contact with it. It is vital that the planning of the school be closely identified with the program of the government in office.

Consistency in management has often been a weakness. Although clearly defined objectives have been required from each department, some staff members have been delinquent in preparing them or ambiguous in describing them. Some departments have also failed to follow through on the objectives, particularly in relation to time schedules. In this area staff turnover has again been a major factor. Following up on the implementation of objectives is a constant challenge in institutions such as the Farm School.

Although continuing education has played a very useful role in relating the school to village problems, the courses for adults have often failed to meet trainee needs. In courses in which teaching staff and administrators rather than the villagers dictate content, attendance has been poor and interest only perfunctory. By interviewing and having discussions with the villagers during the planning process, the staff can overcome the tendency to ignore the villagers and include their input in teaching packages. The lack of recognition of the peasant’s understanding of village life and needs is a common problem in training centers throughout the world.

  • Even though the school has made progress in some areas of technology, it is behind in others.
  • Because so many innovations have been made in so many fields, it is difficult to keep pace with the changing technology.
  • For many years the school operated an effective graduate follow-up program in which a full-time staff member worked with the graduates in their villages.
  • This position is probably the most difficult to fill, for it requires someone with broad technical skills willing to spend many hours travelling to the villages.
  • Few people, even in the surrounding community of Thessaloniki, have any detailed understanding of the school’s program or its objectives and accomplishments.
  • The school requires a more effective public relations program to make known the variety of educational and technical programs that it operates.
  • The hands-on training of the students deserves further study. Although members of the teaching staff have prepared a list of the basic skills that the students need to learn, they have not yet defined the specific activities through which the students develop these skills.
  • One or more faculty members should be specifically engaged in preparing teaching packages and audiovisual aids, as well as translating available material from other languages.

In this chapter a summary of both the positive aspects and the weaknesses of the Farm School programs has been presented. It indicates how imperative periodic evaluation and review are to an institutions. Organizations, like human beings, suffer from a gap between their objectives and the discipline needed to make realities of their dreams. The school has gained much from its own experiences and the success of others.

Chapter 4: Dynamic Training Centers

  • What leads to excellence in an institution?
  • What attributes should schools try to develop?
  • Can the staff of institutions be both compassionate and businesslike?


Thursday, June 23, 2011 @ 05:06 AM
posted by admin




WESTVIEW PRESS                       1986



Chapter 2: A Society in Transition

  • Why is the Greek village significant as a model for development?
  • Are there similarities between the attitudes of rural people in Greece and those in Third World countries?
  • How do peasant attitudes relate to development?


Hodja story #3

A neighbor borrowed Hodja’s donkey so often that one day he decided to put a stop to it by telling him the donkey was dead. He locked it in the barn and sat on his front steps to await the neighbor. As he approached, Hodja burst into crocodile tears over the death of their beloved animal. When the neighbor heard the news he sat down next to Hodja, lamenting the loss of the donkey and remembering how useful it had been. They were both surprised when at that moment the donkey began to bray. Infuriated, the neighbor turned to Hodja and accused him of being a liar. “What,” said Hodja, “you believe my donkey and you don’t believe me!”

Most expatriates who have lived in rural Greece for years find it difficult to be objective when speaking about their peasant friends because of their personal affection, admiration, and close identification with the people. They particularly appreciate the stamina that the villagers have shown for centuries under adverse circumstances, their simple and genuine hospitality, their delightful sense of humor, and the joy they find in so many basic things. Newcomers are often amused by the apparently biased enthusiasm of “old Greek hands” and, like Hodja’s neighbor, never quite believe what they hear.

The attitudes of the more sympathetic city people and foreigners toward the Greek peasant after World War II expressed the paradox of development. They urged him to progress and at the same time expected him to be changeless. They cherished their leisure with him but encouraged him to be more active and organized. They enjoyed the primitiveness of his village but were forever telling him to build a better house and dairy barn and keep his cows cleaner. They wanted to sing and dance with him, yet insisted that he should make better use of his time.

A chorus of criticism by less understanding urban Greeks and expatriates during the first half of the century is typical of comments heard in the Third World today. “Why are they so lazy?” “I find them pigheaded.” “Their resistance to change is so frustrating.” “What makes them so suspicious?” “They will always be the same.” “They are incapable of managing their own lives.” “The only way to deal with them is with strong authority.”

It is helpful to trace the transition of the Greek village during this century and to try to identify elements in the process that might be useful for understanding problems of development in the Third World. The most obvious changes have been in external manifestations – homes and public buildings, personal appearance and clothing, health and sanitation, mechanization in agriculture, and the impact or rural electrification. But the more subtle differences in the way people think, their attitudes about themselves and others, and their ability to deal with complex problems indicate the fundamental changes that have taken place.


It may be difficult to appreciate that parts of Greece – which has a tradition and philosophy that goes back 2,500 years – were occupied within the lifetime of its recent president, Constantine Karamanlis. At the time of his birth just after the turn of the century, his village and all of Northern Greece had been under Turkish occupation for 400 years: four centuries of stagnation and decline. Most major public buildings throughout Greece date from either the classical or Byzantine periods before the Turks overran the country or the 19th or 20th centuries; very few buildings of architectural significance were constructed between these times.

One way to help those unfamiliar with Greece understand what the country was like 75 years ago is to describe the area around Karamanlis’ village of Proti in Northern Greece. At that time the village was known by the Turkish name, Kiupkioi – town of the pots.

In villages a few miles to the west, the Strymon River, source of both hope and fear for the people, overflowed its banks every few years, leaving destruction and poverty in its wake. Malaria, typhoid fever, and tuberculosis were rampant. The life expectancy of the local people was less than 40 years. Most families had six to eight children, hoping that at least half might survive. The birthrate was more that 25 per thousand as compared with 15 today, and the deathrate was more than 15 per thousand as compared to fewer than 9 today. Lice and fleas were commonplace so that most children had their heads shaved. Visitors returning from distant villages were sent to the laundry to bathe before entering any respectable home. The per capita income is estimated to have been less than $100 per year.

Farm power came from donkeys, oxen pulling wooden plows that had changed little in 2000 years, and human labor, especially that of women, who had to wield mattocks to hoe their fields. It required 126 worker hours to produce a hundred kilograms of wheat compared to 1¼ worker hours in Greece today and far less in the United States.

In some villages people lived in simple, whitewashed, two-roomed stone or mud-brick houses with thatched or mud-tiled roofs. Families slept on straw mats on the earthen floor, which they covered with special mud every month to keep down the dust. In tobacco villages like Proti, families lived on the second floor of two-story houses and used the lower floor to house animals and store crops. Their diet was primarily bread, cheese, olives, and vegetables in season, with garlic to ward off disease. Milk was for sick people and babies. Meat was eaten on feast days, and chicken was considered a great luxury. This was not Ethiopia, Tanzania, or one of the poorer countries of Central America, but a Greek village at the beginning of the 20th century.

The middle of the 20th century following World War II and the Greek Civil War was the turning point in Greek village life; it changed from simple rural existence based predominantly on subsistence farming to an agricultural society in transition. Who were the peasants at that time? What were they like? How did they think? Foreigners found them a fascinating, paradoxical people, difficult to understand and even harder to describe. Some impressions written more than 30 years ago based on the author’s observations are helpful in understanding the complexity of peasant character at that time.

Greek villagers in the mid-twentieth century

The peasants are extremely honest and yet they distrust one another. They are truly humble but intensely proud. They are devotedly loyal to their employer but can be devastatingly critical. Most Greeks are convinced that they could do as well as the Prime Minister in running the country if only they had the chance.

The villagers are deeply religious yet they castigate their church. When a priest walks by, peasants can occasionally be seen tying a knot in their handkerchief. They will tell you that the priest carries the evil eye because the devil walks three feet behind him, and how else could they protect themselves but by tying a knot in their handkerchief?

They are the essence of conservatism, yet they do not hesitate to try the radical. The men are devoted to their family, yet they believe freely in a double standard and never seem to miss an opportunity. This privilege has always been accorded to men but never to women, who are expected to be loyal to their husbands. The men play the dominant role, yet the women run them.

Villagers are tremendously hospitable, yet they are often suspicious of a stranger. They are completely united in time of war and just as completely divided in peacetime. They are dedicated to their past yet are pragmatic about their present. They spend hours criticizing their politicians yet they immediately seek help from their member of parliament whenever they have a problem.


  • Two characteristics of Greek peasants, which baffled foreigners, are described by the words philotimo – an amalgam of pride, ambition, ego, face, honor, and dignity – and philoxenia – love for a stranger.
  • Philoxenia, unstinting hospitality to the stranger, is a tradition that dates back to ancient Greece, a time when a person was never certain whether a visitor was a god in disguise.
  • Development workers found it difficult to understand some of the subtle personality traits of the villagers that might hinder development.

When a peasant said, “It doesn’t matter” or “Who cares?” he would shrug his shoulders and stick out his hands, palms upward, with an unconcerned look on his face, indicating that he was indifferent to seemingly irrelevant detail. Villagers occasionally took this attitude about changing the oil in their tractors when farm machinery was first introduced in Greece. Their response was often, “It doesn’t matter,” until they discovered a burned-out bearing. At that point they blamed the man who sold the tractor, the manufacturer, or the tractor itself for the damage. Or they used the phrase, “that dishonest thing” – blaming the tractor for having broken down.

  • If the peasant nodded his head in a positive manner and used the phrase “I understand” when an agriculturist was trying to explain something new to him, he really meant “Don’t bother to tell me. I understand what you are saying before you open your mouth.”





What brought about such a dramatic change in such a brief period? Professor William Hardy McNeil of the University of Chicago, who lived in Greece immediately following World War II and studied changes in six Greek villages in consecutive decades from 1946 to 1976, gives an excellent analysis of the various factors accelerating development. This book, however, deals primarily with the contribution that management training can make in changing peasant attitudes and helping them develop self-confidence and does not allow for a detailed analysis of the economic and historical factors that accelerated development.

The peasants who have moved to the city since World War II speak about the joys of village life, but few would have stayed under the conditions prevailing when they left. It is difficult to condemn them for wanting to leave when they did. Development workers in Third World countries should identify the changes in Greece during the past quarter century that have made life in the villages sufficiently attractive for peasants to prefer to stay. Clearly factors such as better roads, improved communications, more effective marketing systems, rural electrification, and rural industries have played a significant role as have the congestion and stress of city life. Rather than migrate to the pigeon-house apartments of the industrial centers many farm families prefer to remain in the rural areas and are optimistic about their future there.

The background of the Greek peasant, as well as his proximity to more advanced countries, made him uniquely receptive to rapid development in a number of ways. First, a thread of continuity was kept alive by an evolving culture, strong ties to Greek Orthodoxy, and distinctive elements in the Greek language that made him conscious of his heritage – what he refers to as “the glory that was Greece.” McNeil emphasizes a second factor, the market economy in the villages during the 400 years of Turkish occupation, that helped provide a training ground for managers in succeeding generations. Some villagers also acquired an adventurous spirit prompted by dire poverty that led them to leave their mountain villages to seek their fortunes in nearby districts and faraway lands. The more enterprising young people from island and coastal villages often risked their lives on unknown seas, hoping for better prospects. But the fact remains that at the turn of the century and even at the beginning of World War II more than two-thirds of the population lived in the villages that had changed little over several generations.

Training too has played a role in rural development throughout the postwar period. A corps of progressive farmers were given useful advice by extension agents and home economists or attended short-course centers located throughout Greece. Graduates of vocational agricultural schools profited from institutional instruction that accelerated the learning process and inspired confidence and a feeling of optimism. The American Farm School has been one of a number of institutions training master farmers from various parts of the country. Although it is virtually impossible to transfer programs from one country to another, many of the activities outlined in this book should prove helpful to others attempting to organize agricultural development programs in countries of the Third World.

Chapter 3: The Farm School Model