Pebbles and Perspectives

In the middle of the last century, the people of the Congo, wished to govern themselves. They had been made slaves of by white men for several hundred years, so this was understandable. The white men, determined to 'civilise' the Congolese, setting up a voting system which mirrored their own.

But the Congolese didn't get it: they grappled with the concept of an election.

The Europeans thought the Congolese were stupid.

The Congolese thought the Europeans were stupid.


Well, in Congolese culture, when such a decision had to be made, the chief would gather the elders of the tribe together and all options were discussed in full. The discussion would continue until the chief and every single elder was in agreement. When each and every elder had found unity in a decision, he would return to his village where the process was repeated. He would gather together the villagers - explain the decision, talk it through, thrash it out, until each villager was in agreement too. In this way the tribe's people were completely unified.

So the Congolese, scratched their heads at our voting system. Why stack people up against each other? Why divide by voting for this man or that? It seemed a ludicrous system which created only disharmony. But the white men had no concept of this previous unity and thought there was only one way that was the right way - their way, so the Congolese were taught to vote.

Largely illiterate, it was decided that each man and woman would vote with a pebble. Bowls were set out, one for each candidate and the people put their pebble in the bowl for the person they wished to elect. The African's obliged this odd system, though some hurled their pebbles into the jungle, refusing to take part in this culturally alien system of selection.

The two cultures had such different perspectives on how to lead and how to be led. And with the language barrier such as it was, there was no hope of understanding. The pebble became the hard stone at the core of division.

Gone were the peaceful times of discussion and agreement, the unified tribe.

Humanity has divided itself. Sliced through land masses with invisible borders. We have divided ourselves through a lack of cultural understanding, a rejection of differentness. The chaos we find ourselves in globally is testament to the fact that the systems of division have failed us.

We need to focus on our common ground, what unifies us as human beings? We all bleed when cut, we all sweat, we all shit. We love our children. We need to be loved. We all want to belong. We are all bonded in this human experience. By embracing the diversity contained within our many cultures and appreciating there are many ways to reach the same destination, we lead richer, fuller lives. We can celebrate the whole that we become when we are connected and unified in our human-ness.

So I ask you, where do you place your pebble today? Is it nestled in the palm of your hand? Or tucked in your breast pocket, close to your heart? That smooth little lump of ancient stone; solid, dense, millions of years old, smelted from earth's core.

Don't put it in a bowl of division, don't feed a belief you don't believe in. Keep your pebble with you as a reminder: you are a human being, so be the best being you can be.

Co-create unity, celebrate diversity, for we are one.

Have a good week...

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