A tweaking of the imagination
Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson, both billionaires, went into suborbital space, the first steps in privatising space travel — hearkening back to the days of the great adventures of the mid-century. Then, too, for those who understand history, Atlantic voyages were initially started by nations such as Portugal and Spain, France and Denmark. The English took a different tack off the back, after learning the shipping technology; just like now, private investment fuelled their adventure.
Private commercial exploration is inevitable and part of what is a natural evolution of the human’s experience within the cosmos. The simplest statement is that these steps are programmed into our DNA and, while these events are full of awe, in the grand scheme of things to come, today’s imagination is just being tweaked.
Yet, while these extraordinary ventures have captured the enthusiasm of their sponsors, on a basic human level we still have more than half the world in poverty, along with associated ignorance and illiteracy. We have those nations on the planet climbing towards the stars, while others are trying to find running water.
We need to embrace the positives, but somewhere in our reasoning must ponder how did it happen that we have populations that are educating their students to be astronauts and scientists, and others barely educating their population to fit into the labour market? Shouldn't this be part of the global tax conversation, where the economies of small jurisdictions are overridden by the larger countries?
Pure economies of scale nearly dictate that small populations and jurisdictions cannot compete with large jurisdictions. It follows only that even the aspirations of persons coming out of small jurisdictions are constricted by that reality. To escape the limitations, often the very talented or very ambitious leave their small countries to advance their lives in the larger world.
That’s OK, but there is something inherently wrong with that scenario that can be fixed only by some form of transnational co-operation that integrates populations and provides the same level of opportunity to everyone. It can only happen for a little boy or girl living on Friswell's Hill in Bermuda or St Lucy in Barbados to have the same dream and possibility as a child born in a large country such as the United States, which has a space and other scientific programmes beginning with the young, but only when the mechanisms to fulfil dreams are levelled for everyone globally.
This little episode with Bezos and Branson just exposes in real time the issues of disparity of the human family on a global level. Let’s be clear: it is great what they have done with their lives; they earned the rewards of their creativity and should be modelled after and encouraged to do more. It is the construct and social contract with success that helps to democratise the marketplace and the outflow of benefits, even education. Prudent taxation is moral, and charity is a higher form of morality.
Building a better world through better nations should be the aim of leadership. I can recall back somewhere around 1977 when Eric Williams was the keynote speaker at a regional conference held in Trinidad. He spoke for more than three hours, and I could have sat and enjoyed three more hours of his very informative speech. Aside from being the leader of Trinidad, he was an historian and a scholar whose speech was not political castigations of taunting one side or another, but rather a picture of history with an observation of things meant to be question or avoided.
His speech was full of meaning and direction; the audience were fully captivated. I have also heard of students who had graduated from universities who would say they would remember his speeches verbatim and would impress other students by reciting his words while walking the corridors.
I do not believe the entire region of island nations have since had a leader like Dr Williams. Unfortunately, I must throw my country of Bermuda among them, to say, if we are to be considered among the islands. Dr Williams’ ascendency as an example extraordinaire of a visionary leader sits over ours as well. Arguably, Bermuda is a different world by comparisons, calling for a different kind of leader. However, inspirational leaders are of particular pedigree whose first attribute is sincerity. This is not a statement aimed to denigrate, but one hoping to inspire those who would be leaders, to use an example that was before us.
Our leaders need to know where the world is heading, if not where it needs to go. They need to see their people’s places in that world and how they fit in and the roles they can play. It is with that kind of vision that we can shape our society and educate the population in a meaningful direction. It is not enough just to hold the fort or the seat of power. It is direction that sustains us, and the lack thereof that makes us poor.
Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson have set a lead. If we can recall the last such epoch, Bermuda became an instrument that facilitated the British expansion into the West. Where do we fit in this future proposition of today?