Needs, wants and desires


David Mullings

Sunday, September 09, 2012    

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THE most important thing that stuck with me after four years of university was from my Asian Religions class (I minored in religion at the University of Miami). It was when we got to Buddhism and the Four Noble Truths.

The idea that all life is suffering and that this was caused by wants and desires interested me. I could understand how wants and desires could lead to suffering. Not being content with what you already have is a recipe for unhappiness if you do not appreciate what you have. But I also could not grasp this idea of being content with what you have if you barely have enough to survive or to achieve your goals.

That led me to the idea of recognising and separating needs from wants and desires. There are many things we tell ourselves that we need when in fact we just want or desire them.

In the case of a country, Jamaica literally needs to reduce corruption and government waste, reduce crime and improve educational outcomes. Many Jamaicans want the country to be better but some are getting by just fine and do not need that.

We all certainly desire to see Jamaica mentioned alongside Singapore in international articles other than being touted as a failure by comparison.

Even though most of us seem to know what Jamaica needs, including our politicians in both parties, little action seems to ever be taken to actually address the issue. There is consistent talk about police corruption, but few seem to acknowledge that it takes two to tango; someone has to be giving the police the money instead of reporting them for extortion.

We complain about government waste, but someone has to accept the bogus contracts and pay the kickbacks. We complain about crime, but criminals have to sleep somewhere and share the spoils with someone.

It is easy to be selfish and focus on whether or not your personal needs are being met. Some people do not care if the money they get today to help feed them and their children came from a robbery in which the gunman killed a doctor.

They will only care when they carry the same hungry child to the hospital and there are not enough doctors on staff to treat the child because many left the country for better places.

Some people will not care about the gunman down the street until a gunman kills their mother and no witnesses come forward. The police officers who ask for a "smalls" or accept a bribe think only about their immediate needs and not the stereotype about the force created by their behaviour. As long as your needs are met, it is easy to overlook the needs of the country.

It is simply not true that accepting that government contract and not doing the work does not hurt anyone. It hurts the country, which means it hurts you as well. If the country continues on a fiscally dangerous path, then there will soon be no contracts left to get because it will be bankrupt and then you will no longer want to live there.

We help create the environment we live in by the way we vote, the way we organise, the way we live and the values we pass on to our children and family members.

It is not just a want or a desire to see a better Jamaica. It is very much a need.

David Mullings is chairman and CEO of Keystone Augusta and was the first Future Leaders representative for the USA on the Jamaica Diaspora Advisory Board. He can be found on Twitter at and Facebook at





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