The reverse missionary

The Reverend Atahualpa Nahuel Velazquez Kovács, Deacon of the Social Technology Centre of Bivalyhernád, sat back, took a sip of his favourite Bruichladdich whisky, and lit his last organic cheroot of the day. Simple luxury was his by-word. Or his two by-words. Simple luxury was the trick for survival.

“Tell me about when you came to Hungary, Grandpa,” said his grandson, Cusi, dipping his finger into the whisky, as Velazquez Kovács stoked the fire (it was the first cold winter for many years). Velazquez Kovács picked up the young whippersnapper, and put him on his lap.

“A long time ago,” he began, “there was something called CDM. It was thought of as a very good thing. It was to do with transferring technology from rich countries to poor countries. It meant that we got electricity and clean water. It meant that the factories stopped polluting our rivers. It meant that we could travel by bus to the market without choking on the fumes. It meant many good things.

“But it brought a lot of changes to our village. Some people became very rich very quickly. They built a big hotel to house all the people who came to do CDM projects in the hills and valleys around us. And once the big hotel was there, more people came to visit us, so the road had to be widened. And even more people came along that road. So many came that we had to build an airport. And around the airport they built warehouses. And the airport was so big and the houses for all the new people took up so much space, that we had to walk many miles each day to our fields. And before we knew where we were, we had replaced the trees and rivers and fields around us with a huge concrete jungle. And no-one remembered how to grow plants anymore or how to sing songs, and everyone was unhappy.”

“But then one day I was in Washington, which is a city in America, telling people that we had managed to become as unhappy as they were. There I met Mr Eb[1], who is now a Minister. And he told me that in Hungary they needed some help.

Hungary wanted to be more like we used to be. The people wanted to learn how to be happy again, because they were among the saddest people in all of Europe. They needed to learn how to live more simply and how to grow things again in their gardens.

“That was when we invented LSM. The Living Simply Mechanism was also about technology transfer. It was about the transfer of social technologies from the jungles of Borneo, the forests of Peru (where your great grandparents came from) and Ecuador, from tiny communities in Argentina and Papua New Guinea. And bit by bit, we learned from these people whom we had been on the brink of wiping out. And because the LSM became so popular …” he paused to wipe a tear from his eye, “And because business is business, after all, we re-exported LSM, at a profit, to the developing world which meant that the pressure on the forest people finally abated.

And when I finished with LSM, I came to Bivalyhernád and I planted these fruit trees and dug this vegetable garden and … this created obligations … and so I simply stayed.”

[1] See The Bustard 30th April 2007 and others

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