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Irie, Pura Vida & Ausgezeichnet – Cultural Immersion via Pork?

I met Johannes in Costa Rica while “Slumming It” for a few nights in a Backpackers Hostel near the beach.

Johannes was a college student from Germany and we had quite an interesting conversation on a variety of subjects.

Irie, Pura Vida & Ausgezeichnet – Cultural Immersion via Pork?

After starting off explaining to the conservative-leaning German the Real Deal (my opinion) about Rastafari, their Lifestyle and Quasi-Acceptance in Jamaica, topics ranged widely from the Financial and Political cohesive strength of the European Union to Maslow’s Heirachy of Needs in relation to Individual Societies on a whole.

One of the more interesting topics arose when I maintained that “a strength is always a weakness” during our discussion about the cultures in both of our home countries, as well the culture of Costa Rica, our shared host nation.

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Johannes had made an off handed comment to the effect that Germans were never satisfied; they always grumbled and complained.

I replied that it was the negative side of one of their most positive traits and world-renown strength in building exceptionally durable machinery – especially ones designed for precision and high-performance.

Of course they’d always see a way for things to be better than they are right now! That’s what Germans do.

When was the last time you saw a genuinely satisfied Perfectionist?

Next I shifted focus to Jamaica to fortify my “every strength is a weakness” thesis.

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After almost a minute of thought, Johannes agreed with my long-time yet unverified claim that by size (and excluding the Vatican), Jamaica is proportionally the Most Famous Country in the World.

You can always find someone pretending to be Jamaican but will never see a Jamaican acting as something else.

Besides producing Bob Marley, Usain Bolt and James Bond, only Jamaica would develop a competitive Olympic Bobsled Team on their first try without even having snow as a feature of their natural climate.

Where Germans are raised on the ideal of perfection, Jamaicans are raised on ambition and a desire to excel, especially in the face of obstacles and disadvantages; to excel especially when faced with a lack of resources.

This ambition is our strength – as the achievements and physical, personal and professional excellence of countless Jamaicans – both famous and unsung – in almost every discipline and field, while residing in almost every country on the planet have shown time and time again.

This mindset to Do More with Less, combined with a deep-seated ambition to “succeed” is also our cultural weakness in two major ways.

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In the same way that Jamaicans always number among the Best of the Best – Jamaicans also tend to show up among the Best of the Worst…

If a Hustle is being Planned, if a System is being Beaten or if a Crime is being Committed, a Jamaican is probably somehow involved – somewhere along the chain.

The same Ambition and Drive to Succeed shows up in both the extremely Positive and Negative pathways Jamaicans will take to Achieve their Goals, and results manifest across the entire range of the Moral Spectrum.

Diligence or Deviancy.

Investments in Hard Work or Hard Drugs…

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Doing more, despite“, Jamaica’s cultural orientation toward success against all odds, is simultaneously both our society’s strength as well as a national weakness.

The other weakness stemming from our dual strengths of ambition and resourcefulness is exposed and characterized by our collective drive for our children to become “Doctors or Lawyers“.

While this broader focus on education, self-application and hard work is good, everyone can’t heal the sick or become champions of justice.

The world really does needs ditch diggers too…

In my opinion, Jamaican focus on specific professional careers as the blueprint for social mobility and it’s resulting narrow definition of success, hurts both the growth and developmental progress of the country and it’s infrastructure.

The next time you see the grounds of Jamaica’s National Stadium in a rundown state or overgrown with weeds, think of the horrified reaction of Jamaican parents after being informed that their child was considering using the opportunity to go to college in the U.S., Canada or the U.K., to study “Landscaping” or “Facilities Management” or even “Public Administration“.

For example, when a Jamaican needs major plumbing repairs, their thoughts are not on finding a reputable company and passing the contractor’s credit check in order to finance the work, as is the case in the United States or other “developed” countries.

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Instead, Jamaicans turn to their friends to find a “little man” willing to make said repairs for as low & unprofitable a cost as possible – often even acting as if it’s a great favor to let the “second-class” laborer into their fancy home.

Jamaica – like the rest of the world needs ditch diggers too – not the kind that dig because they couldn’t do any better, but skilled, trained and experienced professionals that love going to work and can provide quality and dependable ditches, roads and other infrastructural and agricultural products and services for the doctors, lawyers and other Jamaicans to use and consume.

This of course should be in exchange for the respect, gratitude and income level that comes when one is a valued and respected contributor to the general well-being of a society, not the current two-tiered system of college-educated professionals and everyone else.

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Finally I touched on our host country Costa Rica, and their cultural mantra of “Pura Vida” – or “good life” in English when vaguely translated.

Sure, Jamaicans have their “Irie” and Germans have “Ausgezeichnet“, but “Pura Vida” is more than just verbalizing wishes of good intentions.

Pura Vida is printed on the Money.

Pura Vida is a National Way of Life!

Pura Vida is Costa Rica’s strength. It’s why I’m here and why I hope you (the reader) stay away.

Pura Vida is about living the good life, of stopping long enough to smell the roses of Family, Futbol and everything else in between.

Pura Vida is non-materialistic and non-competitive. It’s knowing that Having Enough is Enough.

Pura Vida is hanging out and sipping beer with friends or eating dinner and laughing with seemingly scores of family members or even in just plain hugging your kids.

Pura Vida is Costa Rica’s strength. A national strength that actually matters as Costa Ricans have consistently scored among the Top Three countries in recent annual global surveys ranking “The Happiest People in the World“.

However, to my Jamaican-raised, quantifiable success-oriented, “Where’s the Next Mountain to Climb” psyche – and perhaps many other Western World psyches – Pura Vida also has it’s negative or counterbalancing effects.

To partially paraphrase a Costa Rican friend as best as memory allows, when asked about world famous native Ticos, his reply included the phrase “we don’t really do that…

Of course we are assuming that these physical, personal and professional “successes” mean something in the greater scheme of things, but societally, Costa Rica could not care less – even if they really did matter in the long run.

For instance, as another native friend explained to me, Costa Rica tends to play futbol very “respectfully” against soccer superpower Brazil – unlike Mexico for example, that will come out onto the field intending to go down kicking and screaming against Pele’s mega-talented descendants.

On it’s bad side, Pura Vida kills the motivational and performance boosting effects of competitiveness and scarcity.

It is so non-competitive that people actually lineup to board the bus in the order that they arrived at the bus stop in – without being told or threatened to do so – the perfect example of citizenry not obsessed with getting ahead of each other!

It’s almost the opposite of the German mindset. Satisfaction in what is, instead of a focus on what could be.

Satisfaction from having enough. Enjoy life. Pura Vida.

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