I’m in Nicaragua right now, surrounded by astounding beauty:
I can see why this is an up and coming tourist spot. But I am unable to truly immerse myself in the beauty, because of the obvious contrast I see.
I see buses packed with children, and I wonder how long do they have to travel to attend school. I wonder what do they learn, how much can they learn, how much they will have to do in order to get even a decent chance at a better life. I think of the life I have had growing up back in Singapore, and no matter how much grouse I may carry with the political system, ultimately I admit my luck of having being born in a country where at the very least I could still weld some freedom of choice in what I want to learn and who I want to be.
I learned that Nicaragua was once occupied by the United States and they fought hard for their independence. I ask myself what is true freedom and independence, and at what cost does it come? I think about what Singapore had to do to fight for her independence, and I think about the tradeoffs she had to make, and I ask myself constantly if the price was worth paying.
I spent hours talking to my good friend Spencer, about the role of governments, on countries where the governments provide so much that the people no longer seem to desire progress and innovation. We talked about basic income, on what is that balance we have to find in order to ensure our fellow human beings are well taken care of and yet foster the environment for creativity and ambition.
I don’t think we have found the answer but we have to keep on finding. Yet in my heart I struggle, because it is hard to think about creativity and ambition, when so much of the world is still left behind. I am sad, because I know the little girl I see on the street of Nicaragua will barely experience any sort of life I have had. I feel so much like a hypocrite, because I think about this so much and yet I feel so helpless.
It is so very paralyzing.
But as I’ve asked myself and written a thousand times before – I can choose to feel all this guilt of having a much better life than the children I see growing up in sheer poverty just by the virtue of my birth, or strive to maximize my privilege in the way I know how.
It is better to think of solving the problems I can solve in my immediate capacity, than to live in a life of paralysis and denial – knowing that millions of children are out there denied a basic human right of water, much less education. I may not be able to do much about it, even if I spent the rest of this life trying to, but they very least I can do is to keep the awareness of this injustice, at the core of my mind and heart with every step of the way I move forward.
I am sad, but I need to experience this over and over again, so I may never forget what many of my fellow humankind have to go through, simply because they drew a bad hand in what we call the ovarian lottery.
The people who insist that luck do not exist in this world, and claim that everything is based on the merit of sheer hard work, have probably never experienced much out of their own privileged worlds.