We are not here to survive.

When we are gone, our legacy will not be the number of hurricanes we survived. Each of us as individuals has a purpose, whether we have paused to acknowledge it or not, and it is not to make it to the grave uninjured.

As a society, there are questions we must address if we are to leave the world better than we found it. Most of those questions are not about physical survival. They are about the creation of value, the creation of space in which the purpose each of us embraces is given wings. The questions a society must address are the big questions of fulfillment, not merely survival.

But yes, I acknowledge that to ask the questions of fulfillment we do have to first answer the questions of survival. That is why Maslow documents that the first two concerns for any human being are about physical survival.

But after that, it is all about growth and fulfillment.

In listening to the daily public conversations there is an overwhelming concern for the society to address the question of survival. That demand has engaged us for at least a half a century. In that time, we have become one of the wealthiest nations in the hemisphere, boasting almost three vehicles per household on New Providence, a highly educated populace, the most internationally mobile people in the region, with unfettered access to the latest technology. Clearly, we have solved the questions of survival many times over, but seem to be stuck with that single question on our lips.

The bigger questions, the questions of growth and fulfillment, we choose to leave to those we call “First World”, even as we watch their social and developmental short-comings on our oversized flatscreens. We step aside when the questions of economic and physical development are raised, arguing that our economic and physical survival is under attack by some current bogey-man [today it’s the Chinese], and that we must “circle the wagons” again. So we never get around to asking or answering the bigger questions.

For example, our economy is based on tourism. Instead of a concern for business opportunities that build wealth from that industry, we chase only the “security” of jobs in the hospitality sector. Our built environment, which shapes our self-image, and therefore our behavior, and will tell future generations who we were, we leave to the benevolence of outsiders, and value our own architects and planners less than plumbers and electricians. Our education is defined, not in terms of personal and societal growth, but in terms of the security of a job. Research and intellectual pursuits are considered “fluff”.

The questions of survival have been answered. Our grandparents knew how to survive hurricanes without plywood, impact windows or NEMA. They thought that sending us to school would mean that we would begin to address the bigger questions of growth and fulfillment.

They were wrong.

October 29, 2016

 

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