We tell them we know better

Brushing your teeth with a twig in Kenya

Check out this video showing the children of an African village going up the trees as soon as they get up in the morning to make their own toothbrushes by pulling branches of the trees.

You will see how they make the toothbrush and clean their teeth. You will also hear the benefits of using the stick (there are studies done which state the same benefits).

I noticed how at some point the presenter introduces plastic toothbrushes and toothpaste to three children and an adult and ask them which method they prefer: the chew stick or the more western alternative.

I found it very interesting as a clear example of what we are doing to others that think differently to us. We tell them: here is a better option, the most civilised option. We tell them we know better. We are tampering with a perfectly balanced system, adapted to its environment that creates no waste.

Of course, the crunch of the matter is that the people in this village, and probably many other villages, do not pay for their toothbrushes and toothpaste. They are NOT CONSUMERS.

Why try to turn them into consumers? We live in a society driven by profit but if we want to live in harmony with nature we need to be sustainable and take into account factors other than profit.

Here it’s a thought: instead of giving toothbrushes and toothpaste away to cultures who don’t need them why don’t we incorporate their way of cleaning teeth into our culture?

The beauty of their use of the chew stick is that it works in more ways than one, in a beautifully simple and balanced way.

For example not only they don’t create waste, they also are creating healthy children both physically and mentally.

As you can see in the video the children get up in the morning, go up the trees, flexible and agile, having fun. How many children do you know that do that?

They are responsible for making the toothbrushes for the whole family so they are thinking in terms of community and the needs of others. They are making something so they not only are getting self-esteem but also the knowledge of what trees to use and how to make them.  Do you know how to make one? I certainly don’t. They are learning about their health and how to keep healthy without dependence on a dentist  to whiten their teeth or any other procedures.

I think the western world could learn a lot from different cultures about how to live in harmony with Nature, particularly from cultures still connected to the  land.

It looks to me like those cultures are progressively abandoning their ideas and embracing the plastic culture in the name of civilisation and progress. To them I say, hold onto to those ideas and traditions in your culture that work for you and supports you. The people in the video know better, their way is better. Yet, one of the smaller girls liked it. There lays the danger.

Sometimes we are creating products supposedly sustainable without looking first if there is a solution to that particular problem somewhere in the world. It feels like reinventing the wheel, a lot of effort and energy wasted that could be put to better use.

We need a different kind of mentality that does not look at making money out of products but instead considers the bigger picture. You cannot make really money out of a stick from trees that could be growing in our parks and gardens.

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