Our Beacon Forum

Success & Self-determination
By:Prof. Mazin Qumsiyeh, Occupied Palestine
Date: Saturday, 1 June 2019, 8:19 pm

Success & Self-determination
Also posted at

What distinguishes a healthy successful human being (or animal for that
matter) from apathetic pathetic creatures who make excuses for their
failures in life? At our Palestine Institute for Biodiversity and
Sustainability we take care of many animals (rehabilitation of wild animals
and a few domestic ones). On weekends and holidays I spend more time
observing them and also observing human activities in the streets of
Bethlehem and globally. I can’t help but compare and contrast and notice
variation. For example we have two lizards of the same species, one is
rather shy and freaks out in presence of humans the other is calm and
collected. Our hamsters shape their own environment and place their waste
in one corner, their food in another, and their babies and sleeping
quarters yet in another. This got me thinking about human success: those
who succeed are precisely those who have self-confidence to decide to work
hard to change their circumstances and not take things for granted. I think
that is the essence of self-determination: it has to do with
self-confidence and not accepting your surroundings as given but shaping it
to the maximum possible (which in the case of humans in the interconnected
21st century world is limitless). We need to get rid of mental colonization
first. As said before: “free your mind and your ass will
follow”-African-American saying, the best weapon in the hands of the
occupiers is the mind of the occupied”-Steven Biko.

Come to think of it what makes a “hero”? The stereotypical stories is that
heroes win against difficult odds but the key element ius decision to take
on these odds not the winning part. Indeed does a person who tries and
“loses” become less of a hero than one who wins? How many indeed are martyr
heroes. Here in Palestine we have utmost respect for those who resist (who
fight injustice) because it is natural. We disdain those collaborators and
those who watch their own narrow selfish interests. Real losers are not who
work to change circumstances (even if they are jailed or killed) but only
those who stay in their comfort zones. The latter are those who make all
sorts of excuses (US is powerful, “Saudi Arabia” has to much leverage to
challenge, “Israel” controls the US). What they fail to realize is that the
biggest fear of repressive powers like those is that the people develop
self confidence that they can change their own circumstances. Apathy
empowers tyranny, resistance undermines it. I tell students, staff and
volunteers: what you change in your mind you can then change your world. No
God or others will save you. Be the change you want to see right now. Power
is available to those seek it. Your choice is to be that fish that swims
even against the stream or the dead fish that flows with the stream. This
seems elementary but it is remarkable that we see more resilience
(self-confidence and ability to push positively forward) among animals and
plants than among fellow human beings. Even self-declared “leaders” suffer
from the lack of self-confidence to RESIST and simply go with the flow.
That is why politicians are corrupt and greedy. We have utmost respect to
those who are active and work hard positively for the sake of others
(society, the enviromnment). They are truly alive because they resist. For
the others: for your own sake please liberate your mind and you can then
liberate your body from bondage. You can do anything you put your mind to
do. I ended my earlier messages with “stay human” but perhaps we should
wish to “go wild animal” – reclaim freedom in our mind… resist. To resist
is to truly exist! It is the essence of happiness to be determining your
own future not to let others do it for you.

Our motto at the museum and institute is RESPECT: for ourselves, for
others, for nature. It works.

Now those of us who never take vacations go back to reading, respecting,
recycling, reducing (waste), reaching out to fellow living things, and
resisting. If you are in the area of Bethlehem, where a guy named Jesus
also resisted 2000 years ago, and want to share success then stop by for
cup of coffee or tea. We are located here: palestinenature.org/visit

In self-confidence and utmost respect
And in an animal spirit!

Mazin Qumsiyeh
A bedouin in cyberspace, a villager at home
Professor, Founder, and (volunteer) Director
Palestine Museum of Natural History
Palestine Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability
Bethlehem University
Occupied Palestine
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