We are a culture of discoverers. Everywhere we are discovering things and if we are not then we are wishing we were. Choose any field, there we will find our discoverers in any number of professions: we have scientists cataloging, we have travellers wandering, explorers poking about, entrepreneurs, anthropologists, investigative journalist, photographers, internet surfers, etc…
When we embark on a mission of discovery we have set up for ourselves certain goals. Even if we decide simply to drop everything and head out, we cannot leave without some kind of justification. Our justification can be any variety of things: discovering the source of the Nile, simply getting away from it all, exploring a hitherto unknown jungle for a bird of paradise, learning something new, simple entertainment or it could be researching a cure for cancer.
We understand, from the onset, any goal must be for the benefit of the individual or the group otherwise it would be pointless. This is the first prerequisite. But the second prerequisite (intrinsic anyway) is that the object of pursuit must reside in the unknown, a place or idea devoid of man’s touch… virgin territory, otherwise, obviously it would have been discovered already.
So once these two prerequisites are satisfied the voyager heads out to places hitherto unknown, in the hopes that there he will find his sought after delights.
The road is full of perils, it is very much the hero’s journey with pitfalls around every corner, but with bravery and endurance, at last, the goal is achieved (our hero can fudge it if he fails, after all he lives in a marketing, ad infested world). His discovery, however, is rendered useless, unless he promptly returns home to report his findings to his fellows.
But his compatriots are very sceptical and he must provide evidence, he must provide a photograph, a diagram of data, a carcass of the bird of paradise in question, a witness, anything to prove his exploits otherwise he risks falling into obscurity as a charlatan. If he does as required, presently he will have convinced the world of his sincerity and thereby, with luck, receive a degree of fame as reward. He proceeds to write his memoirs, canonizing himself as true and brave. He squeezes every last drop of juice out of the hype by assigning himself medals of accomplishment and accepting offerings of respect from his fellows. He is now the first human to have achieved such and such commendable height and has now established his importance.
Meanwhile, our innocent virgin ‘jungle’ discovery has been lying quietly fallow. And when the furore has died down, our compatriots guided by the laws of the state which are wisely made for good business practice, set about extracting the benefits, because in our troubled lives anything that will relieve our suffering, anything with the promise of a utopian life must be penetrated very thoroughly in order to extract all that is beneficial for the good of humans and the propagation of its species.
Our compatriots dig into the discovery’s unforeseen nooks, analyse its details, and prepare it for the plate, so to speak, before finally extracting and consuming it. This last phase is accomplished very efficiently and very soon our virgin is not a virgin anymore, but an old and wasted lifeless desert.
Though there is a vague sense of guilt (especially among sentimentalists), and those who did not reap the benefits complain bitterly of wonton exploitation and misuse, our guilt and gripes do not stop us embarking on yet further and more refined voyages of discovery.
And so we grow richer and richer from the good works of our prestigious discoverers who innocently bring us reports of wealth in far flung lands and hidden realms. Wherever our discoverers stick their noses, soon their fellows will follow, Rather us be rich, than us be poor and others rich.