18 August 2010

To Build A Bigger Pie

Here, let Me bring together My Idol, Roberto Clemente (today would have been his 76th birthday), along with Albert Einstein and Adolph Hitler to make My next point:

Albert Einstein: "No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it."

Adolph Hitler: "It is lebensraum that will determine whether We survive and grow or diminish and die as a people."

Roberto Clemente: "Any time you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don't, then you are wasting your time on Earth.''

Of course I tossed in Hitler for the shock value, but his point about lebensraum--living space--is at the crux of My upcoming point. Whereas Hitler, the descendant of Jewish grandparents, was thinking in terms of military conquest of lands and resources, I am thinking of "living space" in terms of the socioeconomic resources and opportunities We need for Puerto Rico to grow as a nation. We need to create more lebensraum for Ourselves. It's a process long overdue.

(Some of you will now equate Me with Hitler. Join the club.)

Advocating more lebensraum for Us brings Us to the Einstein quote, a very familiar one for many folks. It places the responsibility--and ability--to overcome any created situation upon the people who wittingly or unwittingly created it. In short: We can overcome Our problems...if We choose to.

Quoting Albert again: "Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them." (He didn't capitalize "we" and neither shall I. This time.) But what Albert left out was what Clemente added: We have to make the difference because the alternative is a waste of time.

Take a glance or three over at Dondequiera, where Don Dees returns after a short break to encourage Us to "make more pie," i.e., overcome the sheer idiocy of seeing Our entire society as a "zero-sum game." Mr. Dees and I have spoken at length about this topic, he from the point of view of an American who cares about the present and future he and his family have here and Me from the POV of a boricua who's tired of seeing his Island consistently come up short when it comes to achieving real progress (and concerned about his family's present and future as well.)

Now for those of you who may not know what the term means, a "zero-sum game" is one where My victory is your loss. Think "chess" or "football." One winner, one or some losers and victory cannot happen without an equal (or greater) loss. Political campaigns are another example of a zero-sum game, with one winner and one or more losers. To see everything as a zero-sum game--as We so frequently do in Puerto Rico--leads to zero-sum mentality, where every gain is viewed as punishing the losers, every loss is viewed as an unfair gain by others and the idea of cooperating to build something bigger is thwarted over and over again by the "What's in for Me?" mentality that places "gains" well before "results."

Therein lies the problem. A zero-sum mentality in a corporation leads to political in-fighting that leaves the company weak and incapable of competing. A zero-sum mentality in a marriage leads to a stubborn refusal to even try to seek common ground, forge a compromise or better yet, grow with and beyond the conflict itself. When a society is dominated by zero-sum mentality--like Germany in the 1920s and 30s or Us since the 1970s--the results are either catastrophic self-destruction or soul-sucking stagnation that can lead to self-destruction. Guess which one We are in.

A society has zero-sum elements, such as the political campaign and sports examples noted above. But what a society can create and achieve is never--repeat: never--a zero-sum game because every individual has the capacity to create more than he or she can ever consume or control. What that means is that each and every one of Us can, if We choose, drastically change Our world by simply creating opportunities and results that forge new lebensraum for Ourselves and others. My victory doesn't necessarily come with your loss and in fact, My victory can often become yours as well. Just ask the dozens of millionaires created by Bill Gates. 

But this capacity for creation applies to both the good--profits, jobs, art, lessons--as well as the bad, as exemplified by Hitler and countless other harbingers of death and destruction. What makes the difference is built upon two basic elements: wanting to make a positive difference and conscience.

Wanting to make a positive difference means going beyond current limits and breaking new ground, using a higher level of intelligence to find and forge a new path that leads to a greater good. The easiest way to do this--as has been demonstrated throughout history--is to cooperate with like-minded individuals. Gates didn't build his company alone, nor did Michelangelo produce his art in strict isolation. Even Einstein's "solitary theorizing" relied on the work of dozens of other scientists to prove their worth.

The people that come together to create more lebensraum for Us have to believe that the world is not a zero-sum game: if only one of them believes the idiocy, the rate and potential for progress are hampered until that person goes away. Or if the group is dominated by that zero-sum mentality, then whatever they gain is at the expense of force, fraud, fear and/or folly, which like castles on sand, must be constantly watched and shored to last. That isn't progress: that is conflict, ranging from deadly to petty. For an example, see the embattled excuse We have for a legislature, a latrine of zero-sum crap flung by syphillis-crazed monkeys.

Where does that leave Us, mired as We are in Our society-wide zero-sum asylum? It leaves Us exactly where We are and have been for decades: forced to choose. Our choice has always been the same: continue to act like fearful whiners or step up and face Our future with the confidence that tomorrow can be a better day because We choose to make it so. To make a bigger pie, not because We'll get a bigger piece but because making a bigger pie is infinitely more rewarding that being a perennial crybaby.

And because, to quote Albert one more time: "All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the individual." It starts with the individual, with his or her choice as to what kind of society he or she wants to have. We deserve the best We can be...only too few Us actually believe and act upon that simple Truth.

Let's build a bigger pie.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

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