I founded Caribbean Institute because I wanted an organization that would be capable of translating an integral theory of development into practices that would foster the transition from the organization of poverty to the organization of sustainable prosperity in the region. The core ideas of Caribbean Institute were developed over the past 15 years, and were first published in a book titled Underdevelopment is a Choice. Integral Theory is at the center of both these ideas and the model for sustainable community development that Caribbean Institute is promoting.
The Institute currently has three major programs to achieve its goals. The first is a research and publications program that further develops and spreads these ideas. The second is an integral leadership program that teaches the inner and outer paths of leadership to people from the worlds of NGOs, the media, government, business, and education. The third program is Ananta, an integral community development program that models a particular combination of knowing, doing, and feeling, a combination that will organize sustainable prosperity.
Ananta is Sanskrit for “Infinity” and symbolizes the infinite potentials of Caribbean people. Ananta is Integral Theory in action in the particular context of post-colonial societies. It is a whole systems methodology for social change, based on the conviction that only simultaneous and integral interventions in politics, economics, psychology, and culture will result in the systemic changes needed to take the region out of poverty. The ultimate goal of Caribbean Institute is to create sustainable countries and a sustainable region: economically (natural capitalism), politically (participatory democracy and self-organization), and psycho-culturally (a culture of self-responsibility and inclusive identities).
I believe that, although we cannot change our history of slavery and colonial domination, we can surely take charge of creating a different future for ourselves. Increasing self-awareness is a tremendously powerful tool in changing our identities from that of victims to that of agents. The vision of a humanity that does not experience separation from each other, from nature or from God, and thus is without fear, is my driving force. Only when human beings are without fear will love be fully manifested in the world.
After graduating from UCLA in 1997, I didn’t want to settle for a nice academic career in the United States because the Caribbean is where I get the most powerful triggers to develop my mind, my philosophy of life, and my integral theory of underdevelopment. I feel a tremendous connection with the region where I come from, a fierce love for its people that I cannot express in words. Out of this love comes a enormous respect for our resiliency and that of colonized people in general. I see our incredible potential as we are trying to climb out of the darkness of colonialism (Suriname became independent in 1975, other Caribbean countries from 1965 onwards). We are still not able to talk about our history and what it has done to our sense of self. We are thus still prisoners of the past in many ways. And I believe that my experiences of climbing out of that prison can be of value for others who want to do the same, so that they don’t have to go through the same excruciating pain and madness.
I hope I can help by providing some of the tools to make that journey safe and often pleasant by doing what I do best: teach. My teaching is about showing a way out of the darkness of the historical effects of domination on our souls. It is about showing that, even though it is not easy, it is possible. I often use the following image when I try to explain who I am. I am standing on the bank of a river, and people are standing on the other side. They want to cross the river but they are afraid. There are crocodiles and strong currents and other people telling them that they don’t need to cross. Why go through so much difficulty? And I keep on repeating, without shouting, almost silently: “No, there is more on this side. Don’t be afraid of the river, you will get wet, yes, but it will feel good. And look, so much space on this side, we don’t have to fight anymore.” Because our tragedy is that we inflict upon each other what has been done to us, a similar dynamic as with intergenerational abuse.
I would like to make a contribution to stop that trend and to introduce experiences that gradually will take away the fear of crossing the river. There are different ways to do it. I can become a preacher and create a following. I can become a politician, or an academic who writes complex theories. Maybe even get a Nobel Prize.
But I have chosen to teach... by creating opportunities for new kinds of experiences, and learning from these together with others, so that we can become more joyful and manifest what we are supposed to embody as Caribbean people: a multicultural, multilingual, and multiethnic space on this planet that is creating evolving freedom every day again, on our own terms. Joy and love.
That is why I have chosen to do the unglamorous work of walking in the mud with farmers, teaching about a new way of farming that is organic and yet globally competitive, or train NGOs in the Ananta model so that they, too, can contribute to integral solutions to poverty. There is no Nobel Prize for that. I want to create economic, political, psychological, and cultural opportunities for a different experience of self in the hope that when this is experienced together with others in a community, people will slowly begin to change the way they look at themselves, the way they feel about themselves and about others. From dependency to autonomy, from victimhood to agency. And all of this from an explicitly integral and developmental perspective.
I don’t know how the process will evolve. Although the direction is clear (in terms of what I can contribute), how it will actually unfold … no idea. That is very exciting. The people in the Caribbean creating a new reality together....
(If you would like more information about The Caribbean Institute, and especially if you would like to support it in any way, please contact Maureen, a founding member of I-I, at the above email address.)