You Are Brilliant, and the Earth is Hiring

Ankur Naik
Posted June 3, 2009 from United States
"Millions of people are working on behalf of strangers, even if the evening news is usually about the death of strangers. This kindness of strangers has religious, even mythic origins, and very specific eighteenth-century roots. Abolitionists were the first people to create a national and global movement to defend the rights of those they did not know. Until that time, no group had filed a grievance except on behalf of itself. The founders of this movement were largely unknown - Granville Clark, Thomas Clarkson, Josiah Wedgwood - and their goal was ridiculous on the face of it: at that time three out of four people in the world were enslaved. Enslaving each other was what human beings had done for ages. And the abolitionist movement was greeted with incredulity. Conservative spokesmen ridiculed the abolitionists as liberals, progressives, do-gooders, meddlers, and activists. They were told they would ruin the economy and drive England into poverty. But for the first time in history a group of people organized themselves to help people they would never know, from whom they would never receive direct or indirect benefit. And today tens of millions of people do this every day. It is called the world of non-profits, civil society, schools, social entrepreneurship, and non-governmental organizations, of companies who place social and environmental justice at the top of their strategic goals. The scope and scale of this effort is unparalleled in history."

From Paul Hawken's commencement address to the University of Portland: "You Are Brilliant, and the Earth is Hiring"

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  • LauraB
    Jun 03, 2009
    Jun 03, 2009


    Sometimes it amazes me that with so many working for the good of our planet, that we continue with the intense struggles around the world. I remember reading Paul Hawken's words a while back and talking to a friend about how we have more people actively engaged in working toward a better world. I try to remember this. Thanks for the reminder.



  • Kizzie
    Jun 03, 2009
    Jun 03, 2009

    Thanks for this nice talk! The title of it is very catchy! I participate in Earth Hour in April, I know it's not much, but you have to start somewhere! We also need to start fast, I expect to see more conflicts due to environmental degradation.

  • Maria de Chirikof
    Jun 03, 2009
    Jun 03, 2009

    While I get that this is meant to inspire but it really fills me with outrage. There are so many things I take issue with in this article!

    This planet came with a set of operating instructions, but we seem to have misplaced them. No, actually what occurred was the "Western Mindset" people went around the world stealing the resources of the rest of the peoples who actually lived in harmony with Nature and the Earth. It really bugs me when they tried to gloss over this fact. It is real, it happened, it was wrong, period. They ignored the way these same people treated the Earth because they wanted those resources.

    It is made up of teachers, children, peasants, businesspeople, rappers, organic farmers, nuns, artists, government workers, fisherfolk, engineers, students, incorrigible writers, weeping Muslims, concerned mothers, poets, doctors without borders, grieving Christians, street musicians, the President of the United States of America, and as the writer David James Duncan would say, the Creator, the One who loves us all in such a huge way. While inspiring it is extremely annoying and ironic that no mention of the American Indigenous Peoples is made especially when this is given to a university in America, I believe. This willful blindness and ignoring and silencing the Indigenous Peoples is a very shameful thing to come from one who supposedly believes in equality and such. And it goes on:

    This kindness of strangers has religious, even mythic origins, and very specific eighteenth-century roots. Ummm, hello, 18th century 'western mindset" people? How does it happen that even with someone who thinks of these things stops at the 'western mindset' view of the world? When trying to find examples of Greatness they do not look to the indigenous peoples?

    The scope and scale of this effort is unparalleled in history. Well, I believe it is called the "malignant hero syndrome" where you first destroy or harm a group or person then "save" them. Just another perspective on this, don't mind me, I will go back to quietly weaving baskets now...

    One is called restoration and the other exploitation. And whenever we exploit the earth we exploit people and cause untold suffering. Working for the earth is not a way to get rich, it is a way to be rich. Applause, applause, beautiful idea. Did you know this idea is a natural viewpoint of indigenous peoples so does not need to be written down and explained? Living in harmony with Nature is a way of life for many non-western-mindset peoples, please seek their wisdom and let them guide you onto the right path.

    This extraordinary time when we are globally aware of each other and the multiple dangers that threaten civilization has never happened, not in a thousand years, not in ten thousand years. Ummm, well, by "globally aware" you mean instead that the "western mindset" peoples are finally realizing what other peoples have known for ages and only now can it said to be 'global'. Just keeping it real....

    Hopefulness only makes sense when it doesn't make sense to be hopeful. This is your century. Take it and run as if your life depends on it. The concept of "personal ownership" that the 'western mindset' people adore is kind of against the very ideas it is striving for. There is a better way, a natural way, the indigenous way of life.

    Sorry, I know I can never seem to stop bringing this up but raising awareness and pointing it out when it is willfully ignored such as in this article/speech is one thing I am working very hard to change. When the basic system is "rotten" then it is best to get a new one. No need to "reinvent the wheel" is the point I wanted to make here. I let my daughters read it, as I usually do before posting and they said maybe I should "tone it down a bit" so again sorry for feeling very strongly and passionately about this issue and I know this speech was meant to inspire so please be inspired...


  • Ankur Naik
    Jun 04, 2009
    Jun 04, 2009

    Thank you, Maria, for your thoughtful comment pointing out areas where this talk missed important facts and skipped discussion of indigenous peoples. As a commencement address, I think its goal is to sound inspiring rather than be a serious thesis, but that isn't really an excuse to exclude information.

    One thought I have regarding his intention is that he was specifically trying to speak to those who were raised and currently exist in a "Western Mindset", as you refer to it. In other words, I think he is speaking in the context of the culture and society that has contributed significantly to the issues you mentioned (though it would have been good if he acknowledged more of it in his talk), and he is trying to inspire those who are currently in that mindset to begin to step outside it and transform it into a more global, sustainable, and solutions-oriented one.

    I respectfully disagree with one item you mentioned:

    by "globally aware" you mean instead that the "western mindset" peoples are finally realizing what other peoples have known for ages and only now can it said to be 'global'.

    I believe that he is speaking about global awareness in the sense of people around the world knowing of each other at a level that has never existed before, thanks to communication technology such as the internet. I don't think he was questioning awareness in terms of the wisdom of people around the world, which is what you are referring to. (I apologize if I have misunderstood your statement.)

    And of course it isn't just western society that has committed atrocities; war, rape, slavery, genocide, etc are a part of global human history, including that of some indigenous peoples. The difference, however, is that the larger, power-oriented civilizations have such a greater capacity to cause suffering and destruction than smaller groups, and they are also the ones most likely (especially at an institutional level) to lose touch with natural wisdom like that of indigenous peoples. I think that is what he is referring to when he speaks of "the multiple dangers" that have never happened before — nuclear holocaust, environmental pollution, mass oppression of women, and other threats that can affect everyone at a scale unlike ever before.

    I realize I may be giving the talk too much benefit of a doubt, and I certainly don't agree with all of it myself. However, I think it is more forgivable and makes more sense if it's treated as a speech that: was given to a small group of relatively privileged people who have been in a somewhat isolated college environment for several years; is meant to inspire them to at least begin to open their awareness to the bigger issues facing the world; and will push them to continue their education outside of the classroom and be open to all potential sources of wisdom, including indigenous peoples.

    Thank you for your great comment, Maria!

  • Maria de Chirikof
    Jun 04, 2009
    Jun 04, 2009

    About global awareness, I think it was this part here

    "This extraordinary time when we are globally aware of each other and the multiple dangers that threaten civilization has never happened, not in a thousand years, not in ten thousand years."Each of us is as complex and beautiful as all the stars in the universe. We have done great things and we have gone way off course in terms of honoring creation. You are graduating to the most amazing, challenging, stupefying challenge ever bequested to any generation. The generations before you failed. They didn't stay up all night. They got distracted and lost sight of the fact that life is a miracle every moment of your existence. Nature beckons you to be on her side.

    that made me think he was talking more of wisdom then communication. Sorry if I misunderstood that part. I wanted to point out that many generations honored Creation and do so still, though they are not of this 'western mindset'.

    It is true that there is much violence, war, etc. that can be found in any culture even indigenous ones. What I felt was so outrageous was he was not encouraging them to begin in a real way but within the narrow confines of the "western mindset". If you look at all his examples you will see this is true, or seems to be true. I believe they should understand their basic value system is faulty and trying to build anything upon that does not make as much sense as looking at systems that have a stronger foundation to be built upon. Ones where they, as a Peoples as opposed to any one person in that group, have never "misplaced the operating instructions" for treating Earth and Nature with respect.

    And I do understand it was meant for a college graduating ceremony so do want them reading it to feel the inspiration he meant. It is very important to teach our youth ethics, values, integrity and responsibility and to inspire them to achieve great things, even if that is raising a family. It is why we are all here, I just felt strongly someone needed to point some things out about it.

    I enjoyed reading your points and do agree the benefit of the doubt should be given but reading it left me cold. I look forward to more posts by you,


    as a ps) my twins just graduated and their speech was given by some white lady who talked of "how there was NOTING here before the whites came" that makes me look at them in ill-favor, so sorry!

  • Jensine Larsen
    Jun 03, 2009
    Jun 03, 2009

    Let's Hear you Roar! Thanks for keepin' it real Maria. It is awesome to experience your insight- and flipping myopic perspectives inside out. On the surface it sounds good, but it is a gloss-over, ignoring vast cultures of humanity that have always known this wisdom. Jensine