And then what? A Flower in the Desert


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Since I first watch the movie Desert Flower, I have been trapped in one simple line from the film.  The film is the story of Waris Dirie, a Somalian model who was circumcised as a child.  As a teenager, Waris fleed Somalia and ended up in London.  Eventually, Waris became famous as a spokesperson, a model and as an author; she was and is an advocate for ending female circumcision; besides being beautiful and talented, she is very thoughtful and self-aware.  In one scene in the movie her friend and roommate gives her the telephone number of a young man who had caught Waris’ eye in a night club.  The friend suggested that she call him and Waris replied “and then what?”

That simple question contained all of pain and agony of her life, but it also showed Waris as a person aware that something always follows every act, consequence if you would.  That awareness is not common in our race and certainly has not been a regular part of my life.  However, for a while I intent to us the phrase to help me think through issues, both personal and public.

It is a fascinating exercise and one I would recommend to anyone.  In the exercise, the question is asked over and over again as one gets deeper into the subject and the possible ramifications of the action that lead to the initial asking of the “and then what?” It is a particularly interesting exercise to apply to public issues.

Today, I am not going into any depth with one subject, I only wanted to introduce the concept and give a brief example.  Lets say for discussion purposes we, you and I, are sitting in a board room with the board of directors and management of Genting International at some hideaway in Malaysia.  The chairman says, “I have an idea – lets buy some land in Miami Beach – it would be a great place to build a resort.”  As a responsible board member, you then ask innocently – “and then what?” Well, he says then we suggest to the city we will build a $4 billion resort, with a casino, of course. – “and then what?”  Well we put together some great drawings and plans and do a presentation that knocks them off their feet – “and then what?”  They are over joyed and give us the keys to the city – “what if they don’t – then what?”  Well, he is starting to get a little annoyed, but what the hell.  ” Well, then, we convince them with a media campaign, you know television ads and of course lots of campaign donations.  “don’t they have to pass a law first – what then?” They will, of course, they want our money – “but if they don’t, then what?’

But you get the point, we should work our way through lobbying and lawmaking, identifying the opposition and confronting it, identifying the competition, because by then we will have realized as soon as we make the first public statement about our intent there will be others who want to steal our idea.  Subsequent to the legislation there will be regulations, taxation, biding, financing and a hundred other issues to confront.  If we do our job right, before we ever leave our cozy little retreat, we have developed a plan that will see us through the months and even years this battle will take – hopefully without too many big suprises.

Did Genting do that?  I don’t think so, I think it bought the land and floated the proposal with no thought to anything but putting money in the bank.  Genting is not alone, I think most people and corporations approach life just as Genting did, on a wing and a prayer, but no real thinking.  They should all hire Waris to help them. I haven’t sent her a check, but she has earned one from me.

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