7 February 2010
Berliners watching a C-54 land at Berlin Tempe...
Image via Wikipedia

I caught the tail end of an interview with an author of a book about the Berlin Airlift on Bob Edwards Weekend this morning. He mentioned that because of the Airlift, Berliners thought of the American soldiers as “angels in uniform”. It struck me as a stark contrast with what’s going on today. It seemed a reaction to a governmental philosophy that reflects a better way to be, to live, to operate.

I’m not saying it’s not complicated. Along with keeping civilians in Berlin alive, we also bombed the hell out of their city (and of course, the German government was doing unspeakable things and dragging many of its people into it). The Airlift had a big propaganda component, too. But it also was the most ambitious humanitarian relief campaign in history, as far as I know.

Despite my undivided attention to Ken Burns’ The War, I don’t even know very much about it all. Indeed, I’m pretty sadly ignorant of the details of political history between about 1900 and 1980, though I have been learning.

I’m not sure anyone, especially not us everyday people, really knows much about what’s really going on with our present day government and its wars. Or undeclared wars. I don’t say this in a conspiracy-theorist kind of way, or even to be especially accusatory of non-transparency from the reigning administration. It’s just complicated, and much is kept under wraps for strategic reasons, and I don’t read a lot about international policy. I know we do provide humanitarian assistance to the war zones we’ve created of late (as well as to war/disaster areas that aren’t even our fault). But I don’t hear tell of Afghans or Iraqis or Pakistanis calling our military “angels”.

I should probably read the book Bob Edwards was talking about, and not speak out of my impressions of history and politics alone. But, it seems to me, that the Berlin Airlift was a big old going-beyond-the-call, giving to and helping of people because it is the right thing to do kind of event.

Not to belittle the horrors of war and the complicated nature of humanitarian aid campaigns, but I do think this has parallels with the smaller things. The decisions we make in day-to-day living. In fact, look at what Mr. Godin wrote today. It’s a little snarky, and he’s talking about business/marketing. But same thing.

I see it more and more, this realization that Giving (without expectations) is the way to be, the way to live. I’ve always been prone to act this way, but now, seeing it codified so much more often, it seems more and more important as a code of conduct. Not a gimmick, a lifestyle. And good things come of it — the universe is abundant, you know that. Don’t worry about the “getting” part. Don’t worry about reciprocation part. It will all work out. And way better than if you’d worried about it.

I think it’s really interesting that this has been infiltrating the world of business and marketing more and more. Interesting and good. A positive development. A lot of people (or corporations… or are corporations people?) don’t get it. But they’ll be forced to, eventually, or will become obsolete. At least that’s my hope. The fact that so many of my fellow entrepreneurs, designers, marketing gurus, business thinkers, activists, etc., do get it warms the cockles of my heart. Really. Makes me feel part of something positive and progressive and good. A movement. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood or the Bauhaus. Idealists, yes, but I love idealism.

There are even books that try to explain this idea to more conventional (business) thinkers. Tim Sanders’ Love is the Killer App is written rather cloyingly, and can get slightly smarmy, but it makes a lot of good points — and importantly, “normal” people seem to understand it and get inspired by it. Michael Port’s Think Big Manifesto also has some of these qualities (though it’s a painfully repetitive read).

All of you out there who write blog or publish a zine or make art because you want to improve the world and give people cool, interesting thoughts and images — all of you designers, like me, who refuse to put more crap into the world, only pointful stuff — all of you who will sit and talk to someone over coffee for a couple hours and help them figure something out, and enjoy doing it — all of you who act out of compassion not expectation of returns — thanks! Let’s keep doing it. Let’s make this the movement. Let’s make this how we change the world and what we’re known for in history. I’m down with that.

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