Why are persons selected for/appointed to positions of responsibility? Why do we elect people to positions of responsibility?
In free enterprise, that is a no-brainer. We might not always like who those people are; they might not even life up to their expectations. But the reason they are chosen for the position is almost always due to demonstrated competence, experience and ability. The reason why that is so is obvious; free enterprise has an objective: getting something done, and at a profit. There are exceptions, such as favoritism and nepotism, and they are not always unsuccessful, but they often are.
How is it elsewhere? Not quite the same, and there are lessons from that that should be learned, should we be interested in learning them.
Elsewhere such decisions are often not made for the same reasons – with the same objectives. Too seldom are competence, experience and ability criteria voters use for making their selections; even the reality of what candidates stand for is even not neccesairly a common motivation for selecting them at the ballot box. But I would suggest that similar is the situation with appointed officials in government, much more often selected for such things as loyalty, ideology or favoritism. Even name recognition may be used, or fame – or popularity. And then there are such things as diversity, faororing a particular emphasis, or even trying to balance any number of things someone feels that need to be balance. There are many reasons that such selections are made; unfortunately, expected competency to get the job done efficiently and effectively is often not major among them.
Why? Pick one, reasons are virtually endless.
Free enterprise is ruthlessly competitive; that is one of the reasons it is resented; it can be unforgiving; it is also the major reason it has achieved the success – for which all of us have benefited. But how about life? Survival? Can we tolerate incompetence in governing our nation? We can, and we do, but not because we welcome incompetence, lack of experience, and dearth of ability. Then why? The most obvious is not knowing any better, but right behind that comes lack of effort to find out. There are more: indifference, propaganda, even corruption – being conned, being blinded by some kind of fantasy; and because those appointing – or voting – think they have to prove something. There are many.
But it goes without saying that we suffer from the result. Many of those selected for positions of responsibility prove incapable of demonstrating that for which they have been allegedly been selected, to our detriment. So what should be done about that? To begin with, a little more care should be taken – a lot more – and when it comes to selecting the people who administer our government, either elected or appointed, we should all be concerned.
Ours is, after all, touted to be government of the people; the people should take more interest – more responsibility. Need I expound upon that? There should be no need to. But if we choose not to, the burden is upon us; we have to live with whatever consequences come from it, and we do.
Are all of these factors; friendship, community and trust; diminishing?
There are indications that they are, but then perhaps it depends on how they are viewed.
Is friend-ing on Facebook friendship? How about families who sit around the TV (or TVs) in the evening; is this friendship? I was recently impressed by the words of a friend whose wife had recently died, looking around the neighborhood for someone to talk to, but finding nothing but blue lights flickering from the windows.
And what of the social network trend, where “friends” sit around tables and text one another (or others); can that be construed as friendship?
Trust is a tougher one. It is no wonder we are less trustful these days; it would be difficult to try and convince anyone that there is not greater cause for distrust. There are too many who seem to be willing to do whatever is necessary to to get what they want, even taking advantage when the opportunity presents itself, regardless of negatives. But trust is a critical part of our communal exchange.
Can we still trust people with which we have business transactions? How?
It is all community, is it not? The need for people to feel a part of something larger than self, even larger than family?
How is community generated? Are proliferating organizations, and joining them community?
We had a storm recently in my neighborhood, and neighbors came out to help the widowed lady who was the hardest hit; in fact her neighbor regularly cuts her grass and trims bushes. That is neighborliness, and I have seen other indications of neighborly cooperation and assistance. So it is still around, when friendship, community and trust exist and are considered to be important. How do we regenerate the feeling that once existed so extensively?
It is not an easy situation to address, partly because we have so many entertainment options that take the place of communities and personal friendships, and we are in such a hurry. But it must be addressed if we are to maintain what is most important for us to maintain, the mutually supporting relationships that make up what we call community. But it is a personal matter.
Everyone must WANT it to be. I contend that most do want it to be, but are not sure how to go about it. Take people busily walking by each other in grocery stores. Have you ever noticed what a smile can do, and the response it can generate. How about talking to someone in the check out line, or just a pleasant word to others in line or the clerk. How about talking pleasantly when doing business on the telephone. We are in such a hurry, we tend not to take the time, or we are preoccupied. Starting a deep discussion? No, just a pleasant comment, or better yet – a compliment. Isn’t it pleasant when people smile and say something nice? Not intrusive, just nice.
We all ought to try to do it more. It doesn’t take much. Call it reaching out, but it’s even less than that; it’s just being friendly, neighborly; it is community. It is a very necessary thing that we must work to not lose. It can make a big difference. Try it.
We like our leaders or we respect our leaders? Guess which it should be. There is a duality to “democracy” that seems to have been lost in recent times, particularly since “democracy” has spread throughout the world.
What, after all, is “democracy”? There is indication that it is more of a chimera than the reality developed either in ancient Greece or in the United States. Even Hamilton and Madison warned against the tyranny of majority. Is “democracy” majority rule? Many in developing democracies across the world seem to think so, and many in our country seem to be leaning that way today too. One man, one vote, one time comes to mind. The democratic republic of The Unite States should never be confused with just “democracy”.
Thus there is a yin/yang quality to democracy; it depends upon which side one is viewing. On one side it is individuality and liberty of the common man; on the other it is a cover for the strong to coerce the unaware though propaganda. U.S. democracy: balance/the rest of the world: elite (success/money/birth) power. Another way of saying that is reality versus fantasy. And the discouraging thing is that in The United States there is indication that reality is yielding more and more to fantasy, just as it is in other aspects of our culture. Fantasy, as I have said before, is having a greater and greater influence of our culture. Entertainment, and our fixation upon it, is an obvious example, but the growth of “BIG” everything; government, business, education, even entertainment itself are other even more prescient ones.
How so? We are attracted to what is “popular,” that is, what everyone else seems to be attracted to; we are caught up in the mass popularity of it, and have to be a part of it. And in terms of business it often translates to lower cost, meaning cheaper to buy. Cheaper has two meanings, however, cheap in terms of cost, and cheap in terms of quality. I fear that the loss of quality is being largely overlooked.
Education is an example of that, in my opinion. Big education is essentially a one size fits all mass effort at forcing equality, where no equality can ever exist, considering levels of intelligence, skill and talent; levels of motivation; levels of drive; levels of dedication. One size is likely to be reflected in mediocrity that comes with common denominator averaging. But so is “product” (including service) quality, where the economic advantages of size crowds out possible advantages of individual attention to detail, as we seek ever lower prices for goods and services, wherever and however delivered. Even entertainment shows its effects; it is difficult to argue that more massive presentation of entertainment has led to better quality.
I see it in a broader sense, however: I see it as a diluting of principles, principles meaning that which really matters as opposed to our current obfuscation of what it means; “principles”, today, again in my opinion, have become whatever we want them to mean, and whatever is convenient when using the term to support what we want them to mean.
And this takes us back to the yin/yang of democratic republican government: on the one side is the glitz of what we like; on the other side is the meaning of what matters. History is replete with examples, in many ways, and at different times. But one that might be overlooked is the example of what happens with elite domination, where the principles become what an elite wants them to be for all of us; usually they are different for them – the elite – than for the rest of us, but that’s the way power goes. Imposition of “principles” is not individual freedom of choice, because it crowds out choice.
So – yin/yang of democracy; yin/yang of culture: we need to understand which side we are looking at, and what the differences are, and why. And thus be appreciative of how fortunate we are – and not forget it.
“How quaint! Today, it’s our governing elites, regardless of party, who are most apt rush us into the future. Today, only personal power exercised from the top down, on a massive scale, seems to grant access to the experience of political greatness.” From an article by James Poulos in the Daily Beast entitled “Cult of the Presidency.” I won’t try to explain the details of the article, but partially it alluded to invoking future history to prove the rightness of particular policy.
It was a good article, and I recommend reading it; but that’s not my preferred point for the day. That point is, that in my opinion, there is a tendency of people these days to take themselves too seriously. Part of that is that it seldom occurs to any of them that they could be wrong; but more, they are so sure of their position that they feel the right, no the calling, to push it…….and push it, and push it.
I received a communication (snail mail) just a little while ago discussing the situation of a medical doctor In Montana. Montana had made legal providing medication to terminal patients to help them out of their misery. But he was being sued by nosy do-gooders convinced that what he was doing was not right; what’s more they were trying to get the law overturned and to have him prosecuted, hopefully to be found guilty and serve ten years in prison – for doing something that was legal- because they disagreed with it. He was defended by Compassion and Choice for whom contributions were being solicited, and they won; leaving the law on the books.
I suggest similar actions are being taken in support of many other positions; homosexuality being one, and perhaps abortion being another. I am not an admirer or homosexuality and find its blatant pursuance uncomfortable, but I have no problems with people who choose to pursue it privately. In fact I know several couples of this persuasion and find them quite lovely people; but they do not insist in pushing it in my face, or demanding I respect their lifestyle as I would more traditional co-habitations. I understand that part of the initial motivation had to do with sharing retirement benefits, and do not argue that that might not be valid, but suggest there are better, less blatant ways of going about it.
In fact I am particularly sympathetic with more mature women who might otherwise live alone electing to live with a companion; women in particular need companionship, and mutual nurturing; so why would anyone want to refer to that in terms of sexual relations; who cares? Men are a little different, because biologically men are predators; but are we to assume that two men who are living together are having sexual relationships? Again, who cares? But more to the point, why even bring sexual relationships and insistence that the be given equal respect, into the discussion?
I call that taking self to seriously, but specifically in terms of thinking that THEY, whoever they are, think their views MUST be the way things MUST be and that we, everyone else MUST all enthusiastically agree. Abortion is different, and one might want to argue deeper principle when it comes to taking the “life” of an unborn fetus, but I would contend there is strong similarity.
Perhaps it is the black/white nature of the situation: right or wrong. There probably are such, right/wrong positions, such as murder one, although circumstance might add extenuation to any argument; that’s why we have courts of law. But what of discussion? Have we lost the ability to discuss? To a great extent, I would argue we have: my way or the highway comes to mind; you are either with me or against me.
And that brings us to compromise, a gut-level requirement for legislative politics, the basis for governing in our democratic republic. Compromise means giving up something to get something; bartering if you will: I’ll give in on this if you give in on that. But compromise is suddenly as dastardly act, surrendering principle, even. That, to my mind, is taking self too seriously. It means my ideas, whatever they are, are above discussion; they are SACRED. More often than not, of course, that’s an arguing point, as no one wants to give up anything, particularly if it has to do with power, and might be construed as showing political weakness. But, agreement on a contentious point through compromise is political weakness? Once taken, such as position is…well, anti-American; that’s not the way we have achieved what we have achieved in bringing ourselves to the point we have come.
Taking Ourselves too seriously. I see it as an almost fatal flaw. And I also believe that there are better ways to live than going to the mat on every issue. Are we seeing some of that in today’s marriages? And might that not be part of the reason for high divorce rates, broken families and, as a result, struggling children without necessary family structure?
Life is not a stand-along proposition, and there are complex and complicated relationships among many not normally associated situations, some stronger, some weaker. But I would contend that it might be beneficial if we gave more credence to the fact that we all have shortcomings and seldom is any one of us all right and the other all wrong. A little more discussion might help, even a bit of compromising; but we don’t get there easily when each side takes self SO seriously and refuses to admit theirs’ is not 100% in the right.
I might even go so far as to say that is UN-American, and if we continue along that path it is unrealistic to think that our past success will continue. In fact, I think we are about there, and the only way out will be painful. But that’s what we have done to ourselves. Can we change back? Oh yes. Will we? Stay tuned, it’s up to us,
I think I am seeing the emergence of a new maturity in our literature; literature may be an out-of-date term for it, but I use that for much of what I am reading today, including much well-presented and thoughtful essays I read on line. Because I want to, perhaps, we after all do tend to believe what we want to believe, I think I am seeing more philosophy in the mix than in the past. By philosophy I mean an attempt to see beyond regurgitation of information, and an attempt to add thought to it, something that has been a bit lacking in the recent past, due, I would contend, to overdose of entertainment styled reporting. I believe we deserve more; we desperately need more; we as a population must begin returning to thinking for ourselves.
I am reading Robert D. Kaplan’s book, Asian Caldron, rapidly realizing that Kaplan has become more philosopher than mere reporter. But I am seeing the same with Ben Domenech, The Transom, as he pulls together links from around electronic media and adds inciteful interpretations to them. Both The Transom and Stratfor (Kaplan, George Friedman and others) are blessed with astute staffs that contribute mightily, though are being shaped to do so by the thoughtful, experienced and philosophical bias of their mentors. Beyond that there are many more, an increasing number, in my view. Which leads into my subject for the day.
Democracy; I read something the other day, taken from Hamilton, I believe, from a Federalist article, about the difference between American republicanism and pure democracy. In a nutshell,it suggested that simple rule of the majority is little more than collective despotism, for many reasons. I suggest today that too few understand the difference, and if we continue will do so at our peril.
Simple rule of the majority is too often engineered by the elite through elaborate and technologically well supported (and well funded) propaganda, because too few of the rest of us either give much thought to, or have inadequate experience and knowledge to, reason to to our own independent conclusions. That speaks to ignorance, but also to laziness and complacency, as we take the path of least resistance. Independent thinking, after all, takes effort, and that effort, which leads to an informed electorate, was the assumption that underlies our American republic – and the concept of liberty which is it’s foundation.
Thus the title: democracy, republic, liberty. It deserves a great deal of serious consideration. And, back to Kaplan and Asian Cauldron, many Asian thinkers, including Lee Kuan Yew, understood that, realizing that one man, one vote and majority rule is not the end all that some think it is. Democracy, as it is currently, and naively, viewed is NOT the wonderful mirage in the sky that it is being ballyhooed to be; there must be more. Much to think about.
In The Way Forward, Congressman Paul Ryan wrote a great deal I found interesting about what has to be done to get the Republican Party doing what it needs to do, but in the process said much about what the WE need to do to return things to where they need to be. Ryan feels that politicians need to reach out more to constituents, and he had some thoughts as how that should be done. Basically, he recommended talking to constituents, to voters, and getting a feel for what they think, believe and expect. As life has lurched ahead so erratically in this country, how can that be done?
In some ways the Internet seems to have stepped in to attempt to fill the void, with comments from readers on line to articles written by writers who start the ball rolling by expressing opinions and recommendations on things they feel need to be done; readers are invited, even urged, to respond with their views. Unfortunately most of those views tend to be critiques by readers who think they know more than the writers of the articles they read, and it is so easy (and cheap) to do with emails. But letters to Congressmen are not much more than that; many are more like demands, for whatever constituents feel needs to be done, or more often, what they want. That’s not enough. How can representatives create an environment in which constituents feel they are being listened to, and are therefor part of a solution? Ryan’s comments about reaching out, specifically talking to people about what the party stands for, rang a bell, particularly in this time of high decibel and personal attack. Congressmen, after all, necessarily represent a party and therefor a position, as well as a district. Isn’t that what democratic politics is designed to do? Present that opportunity to constituents in a district and listen to their thoughts on them and make them a part of process? Do they do that enough? Or do they just give speeches and expect constituents to listen? Even brief opportunities after a speech to allow those who are brave enough to stand up and ask a question, is not enough. Nor can it be done at the Senator level, where constituencies are half the state; of course that brings up another point and that is that the constituents of a Senator used to be the state legislature, and that has changed; that however, is another subject. So reaching out today, really reaching out, can only effectively be done at the district level – but even an entire assembled distinct is too large. That’s why Congressmen go on “the stump” and try to address smaller groups of people in a more intimate environment. Such gatherings are voluntary and probably rushed, since Congressmen are busy people, with limited time for campaigning and less for seeing constituents, unless they make individual appointments to do so, and even then, unless they travel to Washington D.C. availability time is a brief window.
Giving this some thought it occurred to me that such a task might be accomplished as it is in business through delegation, even, if you will, “hiring” consultants. If feasible, that would open new possibilities, different, perhaps, but interesting. It could make it more of a team effort, one that invites constituents to be part of the team. Yes, the volunteer would have to be of the “right” type, meaning? that they would have to mesh with their congressman and be able to be a part of his team, that is, of the team. But there is more to team than just being of it, if it is to be a real team. One of the problem’s we have today is too much lecturing and not enough coaching. Many constituents need coaching – all teams need coaching, continually, and such coaching comes not just from coaches but from within the team, if it is to be a team. Perhaps if the campaigning process, which we all know is continual and goes on all the time, were designed along the line of building teamwork it would be more successful. Surely constituents would feel more a part of it, and be motivated to be more a part of it. I must note that this would be a greater challenge for some congressmen that others, as not all are inherently team players. But the ones who are are the ones we want to be our leaders, so perhaps such a recommendation would help us sort the wheat from the chaff. Too often today, voters sit back on their couches in front of wide screen TV sets and just take it all in – or don’t. They should be part of the process, part of a team, and teams are built around confidence in and respect for its leadership, and each other. Another aspect of this approach could be expanded; such teams consist of team mates (constituents working together) and as they get to know each other, really know each other, will want to work together. The thought of guards and tackles, end and linebackers, quarter back and running backs or double play combinations comes to mind, if not pitcher/catcher batteries.
Getting away from politics, however, there is broader need for reaching out. A tendency in our new electronic culture seems to be loss of the capability to effectively reach out; doing it via cell phones or on Facebook is just not the same. So how do we get back to reaching out? It is similar; reaching out is just a way to build teamwork in life. If one looks around it is easy to see where lack if such effort is part of the problem we are confronting: not enough teamwork. So how do we regain that old team spirit? Empathy is part of it; we think more about others and where they are coming from, and why they think and act as they do. That can begin to alter perspective, not through sympathy, but through understanding; it helps, a lot. It also leads to such things as respect and even building of character, something we even seem to have difficulty in appreciating any more; something which OUGHT to be what we are looking for in both leaders and our team members.
Reaching out? Family, community – everywhere; that is what has made our United States what it has been. Are we beginning to lose that? If so, it’s time to regain it: team USA. And to be a team everyone must want to BE a part of it, and contribute to it. If only we can get back to that approach – teamwork – will we get back on the path. It’s not race, color, ethnicity, religion, economic status or ideology that matters; it is wanting to be a part of the team,for the good of the team – and the team wanting to reach out and be inclusive – through effective coaching, from leaders and within the team.
That’s what reaching out is, and that’s what we need to be working toward. As always, I beg you to think about it: “read, think, disagree with everything, if you like – but expand the mind outward.” And “there is no end to what we can accomplish, if we work together;” So “let me be a little kinder, let me be a little blinder to the faults of those around me, let me praise a little more.”
Reaching out; teamwork; caring; motivation! That is OUR team!!
First we must understand the problem – the objective. Reading and thinking about it are useful, but reading widely and putting it all together is more useful yet. Which doesn’t mean we’ll get it all right, but that’s the challenge.
Reading several articles linked from The Transom started me to thinking. One was about a pair of friends who embarked on building a little league, doing it successfully, until it turned out that one of the partners, the one who kept the books, succumbed to high living temptation, and embezzled over $200,000 to support it. Another was about why many successful large companies, that pay well above minimum wage, support the push for establishing a higher minimum wage: in short forcing competitors to pay minimum wage improves THEIR (the Bigs) competitive picture.
The other two thoughts came from Robert D. Kaplan’s excellent book, Asia’s Cauldron. What are we facing in the challenge of the 21st century? one has to do with the United States Navy and it’s ability to maintain order on the high seas. One of the things that is beginning to seriously impact the United States Navy, which is, like it or not, the key to free flow of world trade, is cost over-runs impacting ship building. And why cost over-runs? Many reasons; but unreasonable specifications and bigger-and-better without demonstrated need to pursue them, may be two that Kaplan did not specifically suggest. Finally, something Kaplan did write, regarding the geopolitical challenge in Asia. I’ll quote: “There are no philosphical reasons to ponder in this new and somewhat sterile landscape of the twenty first century. It is all about power; the balance of power.”
I would suggest that quote can apply to more than just the geopolitical situation in Asia, and here I’ll reach back to my second paragraph, and step way out on a limb. It seems to me we’re seeing it everywhere, with electronic communications and their vast potential, leading the way. Why did the little league partner succumb to embezzlement? because he could; why do the Bigs go along with minimum wage? because it’s in their interest to do so. Why do Big Media talk show hosts and “news” broadcasters say some of the things they say? because they think people want to hear them and it will generate viewership and revenue (advertising of course, but also personal popularity for the hosts and broadcasters). What’s going on here? In a word: self-interest. People believe what they want to belief; companies do what they think will help them, if they think they can get away with it; and people and companies are primarily concerned with their own self interests. Human nature, yes, but reasonably, when one stops to think about it; what else would one expect? This is the world we live in, and as new developments proliferate is it any surprise new opportunities pop up, and some will figure out how to manipulate them for their own benefit? But that is what opportunity is all about, isn’t it? Yes, it is; but I would contend that the vast scope of that opportunity is obscuring what is and what is not moral to pursue. And that is why we have government and laws! So we just need more government and laws? That is what some believe; but government is made up of human beings, and therefor human nature, and governments have their own objectives, and agendas, that often reflect the lust for power and desire for balance of power that drives man – toward their own self interests, balancing power in their direction: lust for those that can hope to achieve it and desire for the rest of us. What are we to do?
The Christian religion has effective principles and other religions do as well, but they are often not followed when self-interest gets in the way. Our government has the same principles, the Constitution, but they can be bypassed as easily, even altered, if politicians are allowed to do so. Such can be seen throughout history. What are we to do?
Our only hope, and, in my opinion, the only hope of the world, lies in balanced and checked government, which our Founders tried to provide us (yes, there I go again), and few have been able to emulate, even as ours begins to succumb to those same engines of self interest that drive everything else. The key, of course, is competition among voters to balance self interest; but that’s tricky to do, as self-interest can be influenced, and is, and Big Media and related communications developments have proven to be the vehicle by which it is done. Why do we allow it to happen? Ahhh, now we get down to the nub of it.
Most of us don’t really understand what is entailed in the broad process of governing, thus do not see beyond self-interest (that our form of government is intended to balance) and in the longer-term perspective don’t even know what that self interest is, what with our inability to discern unintended consequences, even when fairly obvious. And how could they be fairly obvious?
I’m getting there, if in a rather circuitous way: outside the box. Myrer: “Read, think, disagree with everything, if you like – but force the mind outward;” while keeping that mind open to the influence of others, respected others, and being prepared to attempt to compromise. Oh my. Tough demands, unreasonable demands; how…………….? Yes, how? It has worked; not always, but it has worked; but usually not for long. So there is the challenge; everyone will not step up to it; it would be unreasonable to believe that everyone would, or even could. But as more and more do, chances of success improve, so it is incumbent upon all, or all who can, to do their utmost to be part of the solution. and not the problem.
That’s what outside the box is. We, of course, will never be able to really be outside the box, but can we not expand the dimensions of the box? We can, with effort; and effort means we have to want to. Many do, but do not know where to take it; many don’t and need to be inspired to try. And among the many who do, or think they do, there are differences; so it is incumbent upon the rest of us to think about those differences with the help of the influence of respected others, and come to our own conclusions, thinking outside the box. Who are those who can be respected? THAT is the challenge for the rest of us, thinking outside the box – listening to them, and electing them to be our leaders.
We have not done so well lately, in that, for the same reasons as suggested above: ease and proliferation of communications (propaganda; a profusion of partial information); an explosion of supported and organized “self-interest” (much of which is special interests, well funded and aggressively communicated), amid an immersion of self-imposed, pleasure driven ignorance. When seen in that light, the solution is fairly obvious, but not simple; we see the solution, but continue to wrestle with the means to achieving it. The solution is us, and for those of us not able to lead, we must at least learn to be effective followers; leading and thinking entails different levels of capability, but similar levels of motivation. Do we have it; can we generate it? We CAN, but will we? It is, after all, up to us.
The more effective we are, the better will be the results; The more poorly we do the more likely we will continue to go through the kinds of tribulations history tells us have been our lot. The choice is ours, but it is a collective choice, and that means we have to do it together. Harry S. Truman: “there is no end to what we can accomplish if we work together.”
And Glen Campbell: “Let me be a little kinder, let me be a little blinder to the faults of those around me, let me praise a little more.”
Maybe Campbell’s is the first step to Truman’s, which leads to Myrer’s. We won’t get there until we start – and begin to do better; and it’s not a simple path, certainly more difficult for some than others, but that’s where the togetherness comes in. And after that comes motivation. With our basic principles it is achievable, not quickly, not easily, nor without set-backs, but IT IS ACHIEVABLE!
Most of us today have short horizons, meaning we see not very far into the future. I have had several encounters recently that dealt with such. One was my son, who is contemplating retirement, but had not thought much about it, with justification, as his plate is still full. So we talked – a lot. The problem most have, being mired in the challenges of today, is that the outlook is today, and now, meaning a vision field that is limited due to lack of time and incentive to think much beyond the here and now. The other was a close friend, who has two years to go before retirement as a teacher, and is worried about her job will still be there when retirement is possible. We are in difficult times, and there are many unknowns.
The time to give consideration to the future is far enough out to be able to have worked through available options. When in the middle of the battle, many do not present themselves, nor do we have time to try and analyze them. One must make that effort. In talking to my son it turns out that he has built many strengths and capabilities, of which he is aware, but had not thought much about in terms of future opportunities. He must do that, think about them in a broad sense, and bounce them against what is possible; that’s not what is available, but what is possible. Starting soon enough provides time to explore, ask around and check. It also gives time to develop contacts, not so much do-you-have-a-job for me contacts, but what do you think about this, and do you have any recommendations I might think about that would better prepare me?
With the school teacher friend, she is a worrier, and tends to pessimism. She is very talented, well educated and has much potential, but tends not to think enough about that. It takes opening the mind up to possibilities, exploring them in terms of desirability and potential; but also checking around to see what opportunities might be available. Sure, opportunities can be, and often are of a transient nature, but the broader application of opportunity doesn’t just go away; it needs to be researched in terms of what and how as a broad field of what’s out there and what is required, as well as how one can position self to address them. Again, connections are helpful not only for what, but how. There are many helpful folks out there that would be honored to be asked and eager to help; one just has to find them. People can be very helpful, and would like to be, when approached sincerely, and with a bit of humility.
Look around; there are many such examples. People tend to leave it to explore until the decision is upon them; that’s too late.
The point is that one must think ahead, explore, research and ask questions, and even ask for help and advice. There is much of both out there and it is more responsive than many might think. But it takes time – and effort. And it takes a great deal of insight into self: what do I want? of what do I think I am capable? what am I good at? and how might I fit in? In taking this approach, most will be surprised. There is more out there than there might initially seems, and it affords much more flexibility than one might think. But it takes effort, thinking about it and time. One must begin far enough ahead to allow that to happen so as not to be under undo pressure.
And besides that, it’s kind of fun.
I make many notes about things I think I would like to think/write about, and often they coalesce; that’s a good thing, and I strive to look for coalescence, because it means pulling disparate thoughts together in what becomes a broader perspective. In that interest I frequently attempt to discuss the broader picture I am seeing, with a degree of frustrating discouragement because few want to expand their view to include a broader horizon. Something I hear frequently is, well, we can’t solve all the problems of the world here today, can we; that is usually a close out that means don’t take up my time; I’m not interested. Another approach is to say, I don’t want to think about it, it just upsets me.
Thus the subject of my attempt today: complacency. We often hear the term in the context of politics, particularly as applying to voters, but just as accurately as applying to citizens who are not as concerned as some of us think they should be. I contend that is a serious problem with a government such as ours, that requires active participation of citizens in the process; but then I have been belaboring that.
Today I’d like to explore a wider phenomenon of complacency; to wit, I am suggesting it has become a national disease. We have become broadly complacent.
Now that is a broad accusation; what do I mean by it? Well, take for example our family situation; is that not somewhat complacent these days? By that I mean in terms of bringing up children, but then it probably goes beyond that; we are complacent about much of what has always been traditional family mores. We read so much today about helicopter moms who zero in on getting good grades and adding important activities to resume accumulation required these days to get into the “best” colleges; what about things such as discipline, deportment, attitudes and the principles we use to see as important for growing and maturing?
For that matter are we not becoming complacent about families in general? how much effort is even being made these days to try to “make it work?” Or even thinking about the need to get along within the family? Or even the importance of family in general, beyond the immediate family, responsibility? These used to be important, and be recognized as important; is that the case any more, or has our complacency made that less so? Where is the dividing line between complacency and indifference? What is the peril if we don’t even consider family, and keeping families together, and bringing up children to be good citizens, good people, to be important? I recently read an article by Theodore Dalyrimple (pen name) writing from England. Dalyrimple is a doctor in London, and was appalled by the situation he found in “families” that were more collections of women and children with transient men, who couldn’t even identify which belong to whom. Is that not a form of complacency?
People just don’t care anymore; no, I disagree with that, they do care and they care intensely, but about what? A great deal: self; pleasure; success; luxury; money; various activities, sports, video games, entertainment – the list goes on. But what matters? do people even realize what matters any more? but then, what does matter? That depends on individuals; “success” is important to many, but that’s a broad area too, and includes many different things to different people. But in the longer term, the future, the changes in culture that appear to be occurring? What about them? Complacency? I think most would argue if we termed it indifference; but complacency?
What is the ultimate cost of wide-spread – and deep – complacency? define it as you will.
Think about it; I find it very concerning – even frightening.
I am just finishing Paul Ryan’s book, The Way Forward. I have also read Barack Obama’s book several years ago. The differences are startling, and instructive.
Part of that instructive has to do with who we are and who we want to be, collectively as a nation. Yes, that is a broad consideration, often difficult to make when concentration is on self and personal success, which is not intended to disparage concentration on personal success; we should and we must. But often personal success and our success are related, and often we are unable to see that relationship; unintended consequences often get in the way. So who are we as a nation, as a culture, as a people? History has made that clear, but current progressive thinking is challenging that.
The progressive approach, and I shall quote directly from Ryan’s book, not because I am parroting him, but I believe it:
“Woodrow Wilson arguing in his 1912 stump speech (said) that: ‘Living political constitutions must be Darwinian in structure and in practice. Society is a living organism and must obey the laws of life, not of mechanics; it must develop. All that Progressives ask or desire is permission – in an era when ‘development,’ or ‘evolution,’ is the scientific word – to interpret the Constitution according to the Darwinian principle; all they ask is recognition of the fact that a nation is a living thing and not a machine.’
This approach treated the Constitution as an evolving, living document and prepared the way for the development of a different approach to governing, which the Progressives called ‘administration.”
Ryan adds: “Not only does this make government arbitrary and subject to the whims of the current executive, but important decisions about national questions are made without debate and legislative consent.”
So who are we as a nation, as a culture, as a people? I cannot agree with Ryan more, and I have discussed it previously as that the Constitution is based on principles; I’ll not elaborate more on that here.
That frames the basic difference between the principles our Constitution and where Progressives wish to take it “to develop”, in my opinion. To me it is the difference between republican (that is concept, not party) principles and elite dictums. The traditional approach, again in my opinion, deals with reality, the Progressive approach with fantasy. Reality is people, human nature and disagreement. Fantasy is belief that “we” can continually improve things by continually interfering.
We have historical – long historical – evidence of where continual interference leads: it is aristocracy, or worse, dictatorship; it is elite “administration.” The elite KNOW how it should be and don’t want to put up with disagreement of that position; it is quite understandable, disagreement is messy and time consuming, and gets in the way. We have also seen where despotism leads. I suggest progressivism is fantasy, but perhaps it would be better to describe is as fantasy of elites, often well meant, but realistic? The reality of the Constitution is acceptance of human nature and disagreement; we call it democracy, but it is more accurately republicanism, American style.
American republicanism is still termed an experiment; can it succeed? Progressives seem to be saying, only if we can lead it through Darwinian evolution, which, I would contend, is something different from the process Charles Darwin described, which was natural progression. The Progressives’ evolution has already disclosed serious problems, both in Europe and more recently in this country: the problem is how to pay for the well intended evolution they envisage. Democracy has also demonstrated problems, as can be seen all over the world; but is American republicanism a problem too? It may be; it is still an experiment and if Progressive evolution is to be allowed, perhaps it will fail as well. What then is the alternative? I suggest living under the principles of the Constitution, essentially as intended, is the preferable choice with the best chance of success.
So what part does propaganda play? Propaganda will determine which way we go. The Founders knew the selfish weakness of man – it has not changed – and attempted to build a governing structure to deal with it. Propaganda will determine how the people, citizens of our nation, see it; that propaganda is being broadcast continually and in loud volume; propaganda, I need remind is partial information, not necessarily lies; and virtually all information produced by human utterance is partial, as truth is fragile and even contestable; it is so being contested.
So which will it be? Reversion to some form of elitist despotism or difficult republicanism, that is still experimental? My choice is made, and I shall stand by it, but ultimately the decision will be made by the people; one way or another. It may be cowardly, but I am glad I will not be around to see the outcome. I do worry – a lot!