As a potential spy, a woman of international mystery and contradiction, I exist in two different worlds. I recognize and enjoy the privileges of being a citizen of a first world nation, but I hold a certain amount of contempt for the squandering of these liberties by these citizens at large. I despise our careless handling of the endless amount of choices we have and our general apathy and failure to work towards betterment. It is hard for me to see the sense of romanticism that other nationalities attribute to our privileges until I’ve traveled far from here and experience a fraction of another reality.
Most of my friends hold varying degrees of discontent, if not outright dislike, for the U.S. and would much rather be anywhere but here. The citizens of elsewhere are all dying to get here and have our first world problems, but the educated, intelligent and interested members of the first world are wanting to leave. Those who manage to become corporate runaways leave for a simpler life, while those who remain tweet about our #firstworldproblems with equal parts irony, sarcasm and apathy.
This makes me wonder if what we need is a new social contract. A new American Dream that is dreamt for the 21st century to keep the interested and passionate members of this first world engaged in working towards betterment instead of escape.
Have our institutions failed to give us a compass bearing that is worth following? Does our collective disenchantment come from this failure?
Both Hugh MacLeod and Umair Haque have gotten me thinking about purpose these past couple of months. I believe we all share the feeling that America has lost its sense of purpose; it has come to value industrial output more than human outcome. Haque argues that “philosophy isn’t a luxury but a necessity…A political philosophy defines the highest good that a society elevates and pursues; it anchors a society’s preferences and expectations. So what’s ours? I say it’s missing. We don’t have a vision of the highest good that matters, resonates, and means much in human — let alone social — terms.” He urges that we need to be “pioneering fundamentally better ways of living, working and playing; an economy that elevates human potential to a higher apex.”
That sounds idealistic and daunting doesn’t it? I bet you are a little overwhelmed with the task of “elevating the human potential” the to its apex in this dysfunctional, potentially failing nation. So maybe it is just easier to go back and tweet about our #firstworldproblems.
What we are overlooking here is that purpose is not just a necessity for a nation. Purpose is at the core of all business. I am even going to go out on a limb and say that is it the central thesis to our existence. Purpose, “the WHY of what you do” and it drives not just the company culture but the culture of the individual as well. Perhaps how we can find our way to an updated, relevant, new American Dream is for us to start with defining the purpose of our businesses to be more than just profit (whether it is a company of one or thousands) and redefine the purpose of our lives to be more than just consumption and a dulling of our senses. If we start there, in the realms where we have control and can influence measurable change, maybe dreaming a new collective dream won’t seem as daunting and impossible.
You can read the new updated purpose for my art gallery Baang and Burne Contemporary here.