When I heard about a recent Ted talk that got “thunderous applause” and a standing ovation what made it especially thrilling was that the talk was about the fact that we could give a guaranteed income to all the poor of this country for a quarter of the defense budget.
This reminded me of a quote from a previous president, General Dwight D. Eisenhauer.
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It’s spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.”
The current president’s proposed budget takes from the people who need it most to give to those who have plenty already, a blatant dismissal of the actual needs of the country’s population in favor of already bloated defense spending. This wastes the potential of so many who won’t be properly nourished and educated and thus never have an opportunity to offer contributions based on their own capabilities.
We find out who we are by finding out what we can do, what we’re capable of, what we love most, which open up abilities we didn’t know were there. To eliminate fear of poverty or being in a position where humiliation is part of the price of a paycheck, people’s own inclinations could begin to assert their presence. The idle TV and facebook time is because people are so tired. Their happiness and well-being are not built into the equation of modern success. Even if they achieve the advertised result of wealth and status, it’s no safeguard from sadness and disappointment.
The limited goals and avenues presented as the road forward often lead away from the untapped resources that all humans have within themselves. Instead of mimicking the indulgent rich, discovering a world of what they like to do develops an original person with a unique contribution. Pursuing many interests builds a brain of many circuits filled with skills and observed patterns for future analogy. The nuclear accumbens, often called the pleasure center because of its role increasing dopamine, has many inputs from the prefrontal cortex, location of our most evolved capacities, areas of imagination and problem solving, analysis and planning, putting words on the undescribable. Taking interest in something and action in relation to it stimulates more dopamine, giving greater focus and concentration. It’s a system that rewards personal development.
Who knows what problems could be solved, innovations discovered and culture advanced if we treated human beings as our greatest resource. The work of Martha Nussbaum argues that quality of life in a country is not shown by GDP but by opportunity to find “what each person can do and be” In her book “Creating Capabilities: The Human Development Approach” she presents an evolved model that focuses on respect for everyone’s ability to define themselves through their own capacities. She writes ,“The Stoics taught that every single human being, just by being human, has dignity and is worthy of reverence”.
Verbal fluency has dominated history and created a mindset that separated out things from the whole and pinned them down with labels. Visual intelligence embeds everything in context. Everyone has a perspective to offer on a big picture built from their accumulated visual experience. This is a unique set of understandings at the base of a unique visual mind that each has to offer. Economic growth without human development does not tap the potential of the majority and is an enormous waste of the resources of a country.