‘Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.’
Robert F. Kennedy, Capetown, South Africa, June 6th, 1966
How do we measure success or failure in our lives? It seems we all too often judge each other and ourselves by what we have achieved in a material sense, not what we have achieved in a community or spiritual sense.
What is important to us? We love to measure and compare so we can say that we are – not as bad as, as sad as, as poor as, as thin as, as fat as, as lucky as … how do you measure your own success? Do you have to win to be a success?
Our government uses Gross Domestic Product as its measure.
Robert Kennedy, the late US senator from Massachusetts, put it like this in 1968 when talking to students at the University of Kansas as he described what Gross Domestic Product means and more importantly what it does not mean …
‘Too much and too long, we seem to surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross domestic product … if we should judge America by that – counts air pollution and advertising for cigarettes and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and jails for the people who break them.
It counts the destruction of our forests and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armoured cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts rifles and knives and the television programs, which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.
Yet the Gross Domestic Product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It is indifferent to the decency of our factories and the safety of our streets alike. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate nor the integrity of our public officials.
It measures neither wit nor courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country. It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.’