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There is a taoist story, about an old man who lived between two villages.

One day he was out, tending his vegetables, when a traveller came past. The traveller was in a very good mood and stopped to chat. “What a lovely area”, he said. “I really liked the people in that last village — they were so friendly and helpful. What are the people in the next village like?”

The old man thought for a moment and then replied, “Oh, I think you’ll find they’re pretty much the same.”

The traveller waved cheerily as he set off along his journey.

A little while later another traveller passed by, heading in the same direction. He was in a very bad mood and crossly called the old man over to come and talk to him. “I can see why you live outside that village,” he said. “The people there are so angry and grumpy all the time. I had a terrible time trying to get served at the inn. What are the people in the next village like?”

The old man thought for a moment and replied, “Oh, I think you’ll find they’re pretty much the same.”

The point of the story is that the people in the village were not intrinsically ‘friendly’ or ‘unfriendly’ — they behaved according to the way each traveller treated them. And their responses then reinforced each traveller’s friendliness or grumpiness.

Studies made by Gregory Bateson led him to understand that if you treat a person as a schizophrenic, they will start to behave as a schizophrenic. It is not the individual that contains ‘schizophrenia’, but the system of two people operating together.

Perhaps something similar is happening with our monetary, business ,and natural systems.

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