We’re victims of our own success

Saturday November 03, 2018 Written by Published in Opinion
Counting the cost…a weed-strewn Muri beach, pictured earlier this year. 18110241 Counting the cost…a weed-strewn Muri beach, pictured earlier this year. 18110241

“We are victims of our own success,” said Donald A Norman, director of The Design Lab at the University of California, San Diego.


“We have let technology lead the way pushing ever faster to newer, faster, and more powerful systems, with not a moment to rest, contemplate, and to reflect upon why, how and for whom all this energy is expended.”

Norman was talking about the growth of technology and comparing it with a bullet train, with all of us on board speeding out of control.

He asked how much this success has cost us and whether we are in fact becoming victims of this it.

Has owning a mobile device actually stopped us from talking face-to-face with people more than we used to, and actually connecting anymore? It seems we are victims of our own technological success.

The same question might be asked about ourselves here in the Cook Islands and our tourism boom. Are we also victims of our own success?

When a house cannot be found to rent for under $400 and in fact $400-plus is the going rate for a rental property in Rarotonga, are we the victims of our own success?

When I sit down as I did this week with a single mother and her children, and she tells me she has decided to leave Rarotonga because she simply cannot find or afford a place to stay for her and her children, are we victims of our own success?

When our roads are full and our lagoon is constantly challenged and bombarded by bodies and suntan lotion, diesel and people day after day, risking the very thing that gives people the reason to come here, have we been the victims of our own success?

Even as we face graduation from a developing to a developed nation and consider the limitations this will place on our country with regard to future aid and the hold on signing Pacer Plus, we consider the true cost of our success.

And we must. We must as a country consider the cost of our success because to not consider the impact 2500 extra people are having on our infrastructure, our water, our pollution, our waste and especially on our local population, then we will find our success short-lived and be faced with issues far greater than those we face today.

The steady growth of foreign labour as outlined this week by Immigration, is a consequence of our success, and this matter alone must cause us as Cook Islands Maori to wake up to the realities driving, working cycling and serving us each and every day.

I want to discuss more about foreign labour because this is a complex issue and one that deserves more thought. But it is one that we must address and that we must action, because I sense that the things we once feared have actually already come upon us. It is now not a question of what should we do if it happens, but more what should we do now.

If we do not count the cost then are we fools? Well that’s what Luke the disciple said, that if you go to build a house and don’t count the cost and end up only half completing it, you will be ridiculed. Famous military tactician Sun Tzu said, he who wishes to fight must first count the cost. And Robert H Goddard who was an American engineer, and inventor credited with creating and building the world's first liquid-fueled rocket, said the reason many people fail is not for lack of vision but for lack of resolve - and resolve is born out of counting the cost.

We must resolve as a country as Cook Islands Maori, and as residents who live here and have decided to call this place home, that we must count the cost of our prosperity and the cost of our growth. Or as Goddard said and Luke the Disciple admonished us, we will not finish what we started and in fact we will end up like the shell of the Sheraton Hotel, a ghostly reminder of what could have been.

When that young mother and her children leave the Cook Islands later next month, we will have paid a price for our success that is far greater than anything we may have gained.

Their potential, their dreams, their talents and contribution to our community, to our society, their connection to their families, their wider family leave with them, probably never to return.

For me and I know for many of us, that price is too heavy a price to pay, because our people, our communities and our families are our greatest commodity.

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