How do we measure progress or the health or quality of life of our nation? How do we know that people living here live flourishing and connected lives? How do we know that the paradise we sell on glossy brochures, on social media and face to face, is actually paradise for those of us that call this place home?
It is reasonable to ask how we measure success, and whether that is measured by dollars and cents and budget surpluses, or graduation from a developing country to a developed country.
What does that even mean for the guy at Oasis pumping gas who works a second job cleaning the ANZ bank, and hardly sees his children because he is too tired when he gets home late at night poring over his bills to even see his children, watching yet another TV series, and a partner neglected and alone.
Do we measure it by young men, filling our prison, where at the moment it is beyond its capacity while Facebook journalists say throw them in jail and throw away the key, put their faces online so we can shame them, or take videos of them, and shame them for the theft they have just committed.
Yes, we are enraged by the seemingly continuous posts of rentals, homes, bikes and cars broken into, but what is their crime telling us about ourselves, and the way we are becoming and whether we live flourishing lives in paradise as those glossy posters would suggest.
Or maybe we measure it by the elderly, sitting in the house all day, while siblings or relatives, collect their pension, putting it in the combined bucket of bills to be paid, as the elderly are left to look after young children they neither have the energy to care for, nor the will to, as they are caught in just not enough money, not enough people to care for them and in their final years they are burdened with being a parent again because the actual parents are either working two jobs or have gone to New Zealand or Australia.
My elderly parents were both in hospital with dengue fever, and I just wanted to thank all the hospital staff for the amazing job they do, for the work and commitment they put in to our sick and infirmed.
Sadly I saw papas, and mamas, over those two weeks, sitting in hospital day after day with few if any visitors, and one we took an extra blanket for and rubbed his feet, feeding him nu that we had taken for our parents.
Another young man with cerebral palsy day after day in hospital and no one came to see him or sit with him, besides the wonderful staff at the Creative Centre who take him into their care along with the many other clients they have each and every day.
Be it the hospital, or the prison, or even the back room of a house, we seem to approach mental illness, sickness, aged care and prisoners as out of sight and out of mind.
As long as we don’t see them they are not there, and not our problem, and as long as they don’t disturb this romanticised glossy poster of ourselves that so many of us now benefit and profit from.
But is it real? Is it really how it is for the many of our people that work to survive, not work to live, and survive on bread, kinaki and noodles? Is it real for the Mama tucked away in her home, not looked after and cared for that is left with young ones to look after while her pension is being used to keep the power on.
Because they are not out of sight, they are around us all, in clear view and in our families, in our houses, in our streets and neighbourhoods, in our villages and in our lives.
And as we lower our gaze so that we cannot see them anymore, we fool ourselves into thinking full prisons, full hospitals, and empty homes, because the parents are both working two jobs is somehow sustainable.
That somewhere the cracks will appear, that young men who seem to be disengaging early out of school with so few in leadership in our schools, are fast becoming the casualties of neglect, crime and drug abuse.
Paul wrote to his young disciple Timothy and said to him, If anyone does not take care of his own relatives, especially his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. Pretty strong words for the leaders of a family, but how much more so for us as a nation.
There are so many areas where our care, our generosity, our hospitality and love cannot be faulted, because that is who we are as a people, but as commerce has come in and money becomes a factor and profit, land, housing, and sadly people become a consequence of what Paul called the root of all evil; the love of money.
Dr Debi Futter-Puati, when addressing the launch of Te Kauono Tutara e te Mana Tiaki (Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration) and their statement of strategic intention, spoke of the need for us as a country to not only measure success by GDP growth and OECD graduation, but also by the quality of life of our citizens and their ability to flourish, to engage and to connect.
If these are the real measures of success for us as a country then I wonder what the scorecard for the Cook Islands would actually be
Something tells me we have some work to do.