Give a man a fish…

I’m sure most people are familiar with the saying, ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Show him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.’

I often wonder why they stopped there. I suppose they think that is enough; he’s not starving anymore, job done.

I’m also sure a lot of people are familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – we need to secure our food and shelter requirements before we can consider less urgent matters. But once we achieve a certain level of security and our basic needs are met we discover a human being is more than just the basic survival requirements. We have intelligence, curiosity and creativity which, if they are not occupied by the challenges of mere survival, need other challenges to replace them, hence culture, art and civilisation.

So to show a man how to fish is not enough. Where is he supposed to get his fishing line from, his hook, his bait? Let’s take the principle to its logical conclusion, teach the man the philosophy behind fishing; why it works, why there are fish in that particular place, how fishing was invented by observing nature and extrapolating from it. Then teach him perhaps the most important lesson of all; fish are a finite resource.

Do this and not only does the man eat regularly but he can also work out how to build a shelter, create sustainable communities, produce art and develop wisdom.

Let’s not be miserly in our gift of knowledge. Let’s offer the complete set of tools for total empowerment.

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