A group of people traveled to a small village to visit homes and meet with community members. During their time in the village, the visitors were struck that the community members had no bathrooms. This deeply troubled them, so they traveled back to their home country, raised money through their local church, and built small outhouses for each family. When the visitors returned to the village three years later, they quickly realized that the bathrooms they built had been turned into storage centers. What the visitors failed to recognize was that the community members had no place to store their food. While bathrooms were useful, it was not the village’s main priority.  Although the visitors had good intentions, they were blinded by their own rationality.They failed to recognize the rational needs of the community members, a cool safe place to store their food. 

Development can be done with the best intentions. However, if the needs and rationalities of the community are not addressed and their voices are not part of the decision-making processes, true development is not achieved. In his lecture Dr. Basu discussed the importance of understanding human behavior when working in development. He argued that it is something we rarely talk about because we take it for granted; however, non-rational or cultural behavior is a major component in creating sustainable development. 

Analyzing and understanding our human behavior and rationality requires us to step out of our world and into a different one. Dr. Basu reminds us that being in your own reality blinds you from your irrationalities because we share them with those around us. While not everyone may have the luxury to travel to another country, even getting out of your local community and visiting other neighborhoods or towns can provide a greater understanding of oneself and human behavior. Interacting with the unknown provides a mirroring effect as we see others, study their culture, and analyze human behaviors, and helps us better understand ourselves. Dr. Basu states that only when you interact with others do you realize your own irrationality. Individuals around us often reinforce our ways of thinking and behaving. Stepping out of our comfort zone and interacting with others offers the possibility of understanding and compassion.

Catholic social teaching, like Basu, continually calls us into community and solidarity with others. In order to achieve true solidarity there must be a willingness to let go of our arrogance and some of our deemed rational thoughts. We must be open to listen to the stories of others, see how history may have shaped the ways in which their society runs, and be humble enough to admit our own irrationalities.  

Opens in a new window