Free yourself from the illusion of saving the world

The world is getting smaller, according to some. The internet brings us in no time in contact with the other side of the world. A few more years and with the help of AI we experience that we are lying on a Brazilian beach with a cocktail in our hand, while in reality we are just sitting in our office chair.

Others claim that the world is getting bigger. What grows is the awareness of how large and complicated the world is and how tiny we actually are. The Netherlands compared to huge countries such as India and China. Or life of human beings, who have inhabited the earth for only a fraction of a second (and destroyed it in no time) in comparison to how long nature has done without us.

The illusion of control

What dominates is a sense of chaos. The worrying situation in the world is too great to be able to maintain a sense of control. The government, companies and media are constantly trying to sell us the illusion of control. The government is restricting our liberties to be able to control terrorism. Companies sell us products that promise to make us better, prettier and smarter so that we have control over our lives. The media pretends to be neutral and complete in its reporting, so that we think we know exactly what is happening in the world and therefore believe we have control over it.

But we cannot know everything at all because there are only 24 hours in a day to consume news and information. More importantly, media companies determine for us what is relevant to know and what should be held from us.

Terrorism cannot be prevented at all by strict controls on weapons and poison. Time and time again it has turned out that if someone wants to do evil, damage is being done. Maybe 9/11 will not happen again, but new ways of destruction are created every day. Think of the cars terrorists use nowadays as weapons in the streets, no blocks or constructions can ever stop people from intentionally hurting others in public to cause fear and chaos.

We know that to a large extent we will have to deal with ‘what god gave us’, no moisturiser or botox will ever change that. Control is an illusion.

​“Control is the most foolish and stupid virtue that we have created in this world,” according to the Flemish psychiatrist and philosopher Damiaan Denys. In other words, totally useless. Then why is control so important to us? It is a mechanism that makes its appearance out of fear of pain. We were once hurt as children. And because we were so small and vulnerable, we didn’t see this coming and we had no control over the situation at all. It may be the trauma of birth, it may have been being abruptly removed from the warm, safe womb. It can also be traumas acquired later in life, from large abusive traumas to recognisable traumas for everyone, such as being forgotten to be picked up by our mother from school. Traumas leave traces behind, how they reveal themselves in later life can vary considerably. For many people control issues have become a survival mechanism to a greater or lesser extent. With control we try to arm ourselves against (unexpected) pain. We act out of fear and we all know that this is not a good teacher. Our fear and need for control is constantly being cleverly played upon by those in power. It seems more than logical to tighten control measures even more during these times, because we have to intervene! But positively influencing the world does not mean that it can be controlled at all.

Future predications

The predictions are currently pitch black. According to scientists, climate change is reversible, but only if the global temperature does not rise by more than 2 degrees Celsius. If we look at how fast the earth has warmed up in the last 20 years, it means we need radical change that requires constructive cooperation between all the world’s leaders and a world population that is willing and able to take all necessary measures. And don’t forget that companies must want to change their entire business models, where profit is no longer the main goal, but a means to save the climate.

How realistic is it that this is going to happen in a world that is divided over the seriousness of the situation, is politically unstable and in which rapidly more and more polluting people are being born? You would think that it would be unfeasible and that is probably the case. But the fact is, we don’t know. These are still scenarios: if this, then that.

Predictions are made based on what happened in the past. And whether it’s elections or the weather, they are not always right. Maybe the world is deteriorating much faster and maybe it is not. It makes no sense to break your head here. How it will develop in the coming years depends on millions of facets that influence each other constantly, whether positive or negative.


The only thing you can actually do is acknowledge and accept that you cannot change the world. Does this mean that you can sit back and watch the world burn down? On the contrary. It’s about deciding for yourself what role you want to play within our great uncontrollable world. We often worry about matters that we cannot influence. More satisfying is to focus on what you can actually change. It is also more challenging, because it means you will actually have to start doing something.

Be the human that you think this world deserves. Not because you want to save the world. Do it simply because you believe it is the right thing to do.

Words by Nadine Ridder / Photo by Markus Spiske

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