The Role of Individual in the Development Process, Part 6

Exploring the framework for a “Balanced Development” model


Ramses Rashidi

©2008 Center for Balanced Development (


In the last few articles we have talked about the implications of the various roles we play in a social setting. Here, we’re going to take a further look at the different roles that individuals play in society and its impact on the development process.


The Visionary

Relatively few people have a vision of what they want to accomplish in life. The current popular models of education and social conditions do not foster a visionary mindset. Actually, most people go about their life looking for opportunities and settle into whatever comes their way. So it takes a strong character to pass up what seems to be available and pursue a vision. The visionary is a very unique individual. He/she normally sees something that most people fail to see or don’t believe that it’s possible. The visionary often single-handedly takes a seemingly impossible dream and brings it into reality. Here the word “belief” plays an important role. The visionary must absolutely believe in the vision to the point of acting as if though it has already happened. In this process the word “impossible” cannot enter the mind of the visionary as it can be fatal to the realization of the dream. In essence, the visionary must become imbued with the vision in order for it to manifest. This could mean putting everything on the line including one’s life.


The focus of the visionary could be about science, technology, environment, economy, politics, arts, philosophy or social conditions. The visionary sees a picture, keeps it in mind and tries to bring it closer to realization. Most visionaries focus on a single concept in a specific discipline or industry. The vision of making a gadget, finding a cure, building a car-free city, establishing a system of governance, depicting a picture of the future and presenting a philosophy are all examples of a very specific vision within a discipline. However, here the visionary being focused on his/her vision often becomes oblivious of its impact on other disciplines and within the big picture. Being highly specialized in a field and based on demand, it’s very difficult for the visionary to make universal connections and research the implications of the vision. So it becomes an isolated vision that addresses a local condition and could possibly cause major side-effects. The degradation of our environment and the social breakdown are good examples of the impact of the application of isolated vision.


Politicians are also good examples of the isolated visionary type. They campaign on local issues from a patriotic platform and try to get elected in order to achieve their vision. It’s not unusual for a politician to achieve their vision through force, power-play and even fighting.  In the latter case of armed resistance the visionary becomes the revolutionary – a role that leads to agitation, further fragmentation, destruction and mass killings on the way to the vision.


Today, the scientific or technological visionary is extremely popular. Most people associate the vision of the future only through gadgets, inventions and technological breakthroughs. The dream of new technology or machine that would become part of every household drives the frenzy that millions of people willingly dedicate their life to reach it. Here, the successful visionary is a social role model and the hero character that enjoys great financial rewards.

By contrast, the artistic visionary is not as popular – at least not in his/her lifetime. The idea of creating an image, music or literary art that inspires and transports the audience to higher dimensions is indeed a wonderful service to humanity. However, the work of the visionaries of the modern arts are mostly about the state of affairs and pictures of gloom and doom.


The philosophical visionary tries to define life, knowledge, truth, justice, beauty and other aspects of existence through reasoning and theories. Whether we are talking about ancient philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle and Confucius or modern ones such as Adam Smith and Karl Marx, the philosophical visionaries have had profound impact on the course of the development of civilization. Most often, the philosophical vision becomes part of the culture and a way of thinking until the change in social conditions calls for a departure and need for renewal. There are, however, spiritual truth in the philosophy that are timeless.


Talking about truth, the spiritual visionary is in a totally different class altogether. Here, the visionary talks about a different way of life. It’s a vision that is all-embracing and at all levels of existence. The visionary with authority and eloquence, clearly describes the goal and shows the path towards its achievement. The spiritual vision, in essence, is about relationships. It talks about relations with our unknowable essence, relation with family, friends and greater community. It emphasizes the importance of reverence and respect for mother earth. It’s a holistic way of looking at life and those who subscribe to the vision rise to promote the new standards of the advancement of civilization.


The life of the spiritual visionary is about leading by example and unending sacrifice to achieve the high ideals and to give birth to a new life. While building of the foundation of peace, harmony and unity in diversity, the  visionary inspires the individual to reach higher levels of mindfulness, intelligence, well-being and happiness. Furthermore, the vision is non-confrontational and based on grass-roots movement as it emerges into the mainstream of society. The growth of the community, following the model set by the visionary, also requires much sacrifice to establish the new model and to set in motion the needed change from the old ways of doing things. The vision like the rising sun reaches a high point and then starts descending as it ends its cycle. All the major religions of the world have followed this progressive path. They grow and cause development and social change until they reach a point when there is need for a new vision – a new sun.


The Pioneer

It’s great accomplishment to be the “first” to do something. The pioneer blazes the trail and opens a new chapter in the history of civilization. The achievement could be in exploring a new territory in the far corner of the planet or it could be about discovering something in the heart of the New York city. The pioneer is also a visionary that is willingness to takes steps to reach the vision. Whatever the nature of being the “first”, the pioneer dares to start something new. Throughout history, there have been numerous pioneers who have set the trend for the rest to follow. The likes of Christopher Columbus and the American Pioneers are probably the most well-known of this type of endeavor - pioneering. Landing on the shores of America, a small group of people embarked on an initiative that lead to the formation of the United States of America – the most profound human experiment in collective management of resources in the recent history.   


The pioneer brings a fresh spirit and a different perspective to a new place or to a group of people. The initiative and the movement itself create energy and enthusiasm. Often times we talk about the pioneer spirit and how contagious it is. In that sense, integration exceeds destruction and truth prevails over falsehood. As far as the pioneer is concerned; process is just as important as the end result and consultation leads the way. The pioneer is the starting point of development.


In the next article, we will continue to examine the role of community in the development process. 



Ramses Rashidi ( is the founder and director of Center for Balanced Development.

The center is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing resources and services to foster global balance in social, personal, ecological and economic development.


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