Why Bother: An Essay for the Future
Sometimes I wonder if I make a difference. In the enormity of humanity, the vast ether of 5,000 years of civilization and the millennia to come, what ripples can I really send out? In my quest to find my place in a world that will go on regardless of what I (or all of us together) do, why bother?
And then someone contacts me randomly, to tell me that some thing that I don’t remember saying continues to profoundly impact the quality of their life, their projects, or their relationships. And I am reminded of why bother. I exist to be of service to my fellow human beings. I am a humble contribution. My life didn’t come with a manual that said: Age 35, married, three kinds, $75k annual salary. Living in Hoboken. Hobbies: Golf, trivia league. Favorite food: Meatloaf. I have all the say in who I am and what my life is for, regardless of how that turns out.
After we are all gone from this planet, even the little babies of today, there may be people on the earth: Our Posterity. The actions we take today will determine the world we leave that posterity, the people we will never meet due to chronological distance. There is an opportunity for the human race to become very engaged in what we leave posterity. To build a legacy, just as previous generations left us the wheel, the power grid, schools, and transportation.
And when we look back at today from the legacy we leave our posterity, economies and pollution and education and science and freedom all work themselves out. Those people aren’t here yet. It’s our social responsibility to leave them a great world. This technological utopia we have created is new and fragile. Only if we choose to be responsible for our actions as a group will we leave all this as our legacy. And with great responsibility comes great power.
There’s a many-versioned adage that it takes a community to raise, grow, or cause anything. We are the community of global individuals who will create the world tomorrow’s people live in. I want leaders with real vision. Leaders I can count on to ensure that three generations from now, the world is a great place. For delivering great leadership, you deserve to be treated like a royal. When athletes consistently fail to deliver, they are cut from the team. It’s appropriate and responsible for people to choose qualified candidates to lead them. I want a construction foreman who can manage a timeline and many people. I want leaders with vision. It’s their job.
I expect my leaders to deliver prosperity for all, not just perceived constituents. Otherwise they’re just another intellectually lazy misanthrope in expensive attire. Entitlement takes many forms. Being unwilling to take responsibility for one’s station in life is an expression of entitlement. Wealth usually only lasts 3 or 4 generations, and none of us can ensure where our lineage will be three generations down the line.
Here in the Silicon Age, the unforgiving codes of Draco and Hammurabi are inappropriate models for justice. We have evolved beyond the need to be neanderthal and intellectually lazy in how we govern our society. Now is a time for great political philosophy, vision, and contribution.
This is a time for bold leadership. For courage in the face of the fundamental human fear of change. To quote the Declaration of Independence, one of the cornerstones of modern political philosophy, “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. ” We’ll tolerate this as long as we tolerate it. Then we’ll do what every civilization has done before us. When our cities, burn, flood, or the very firmament below us moves, who cares about our arguments for moral positioning? What matters is the legacy we are leaving to the future.
We’re all in communication. We see what’s happening in real time. We have public access to endless data. The next great revolution of freedom from tyranny will not be a war of weapons, it will be communication. And the time has come to transform the very nature of what it is to live in a free society. Energy needs for today and tomorrow are essential to maintain our modern world, and so is ensuring a sustainable future for our posterity. I may not live to see Atlanta be a beach city, and I’d prefer that whatever the planet looks like in 75 years, we set that generation up with technology and resources to figure out their problems, just we are trying to solve ours built on what was left for us.
We exist to secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity.
Without that, why bother?