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Mothers, soldiers and other entrepreneurs

  • 04 May 2011

Trapped in an endless meeting the other day, one of those meetings where you lose track of what the meeting was originally about (hermeneutics? badgers?) and start trying to remember all the girls you ever had a crush on, or former Geelong Cats, or both (Bernie Smith! Theresa O'Connell!), I got to pondering the word entrepreneurship, which is, let's admit it, a rhinoceros of a word, with more vowels than seems decent in polite society.

Unternehmen in German, 'a'a in Hawaiian, hyrwyddwr in the Welsh, all meaning he or she who undertakes, attempts, essays, begins ... and my mind spins away completely, chewing on the way that a word which means vast and amazing things has become so commonplace and thin.

To attempt, to begin, is really to dream, to envision, to speculate, and then to work like a burro to implement, to create, to make real. So mothers are entrepreneurs, aren't they?

And Christ, too, and especially Saint Paul, the greatest public relations agent ever; did he not envision that which might come to pass, and then work the market with unthinkable energy and creativity, until what he envisioned came to pass, and passeth still even in our time?

Or a novelist — does she not undertake to make a dream real, and sell many units of the created dream, so as to pawn the movie rights off to a hapless studio, and maketh enough money to buy Samoa? Or a cop — isn't he an entrepreneur, really, envisioning a world that might be, and working furiously and brilliantly to bring it to birth?

And soldiers — in the final analysis are they not wholly invested in a world beyond violence, where no child weeps in terror, and guns are all in hushed museums, and when people hear the word war they burst out laughing as at the most excellent and silly joke, which maybe someday war will be?

And colleges and universities — are they not the most entertaining entrepreneurial adventures, really, selling a remarkably ephemeral product, insisting eloquently on their primacy in a culture that often sneers at wisdom, and continually undertaking the riveting and visionary project of shaping raw and selfish teenagers into generous and subtle agents of hope and courage?

And some countries — are they not fascinatingly difficult entrepreneurial ideas at their hearts?

Australia, for example, dreamed into being by boat people many thousands of years ago, and by brave