Democracy at the Crossroads

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Democracy at the CrossroadsWe won’t discuss the popular versus Electoral College voting conundrum. Nor will we discuss the scary fact that so many people cast their vote for a totally unprepared President with such a lack of humility or diplomatic eloquence. No, those are all obvious questions that the worlds-and particularly we American citizens-are trying to digest. Yes, there is anger at a seemingly unresponsive government. Yes, there is controversy what our beloved country has done to provide “stability” as the world leader and yes, there are many who wonder at how we are going to not only survive a Trump presidency but also how we are going to resolve those looming problems just off in the distance such as: Artificial Intelligence replacing jobs-even white collar professionals, meaningful and measurable educational improvements, global warming and other ecological problems and, of course, finding and articulating a vision for America and Capitalism in general.

We talk glibly about freedom and the pursuit of happiness. But for a growing number of people, without a meaningful and well- paying job, how can there be any real pursuit of happiness….or freedom for that matter. And, for many who do not have the internal capacity, intellect or desire to approach the world in a more philosophical-spiritual (not necessarily religious) manner, this modern age can seem intimidating and to many-frightening. In contrast, there are many thoughtful and knowledgeable people who look at the current human condition from the viewpoint of natural selection and survival of the fittest; take hold of the “Razor of Occam” and push the reset button; let the chips fall where they may and let the victor take the spoils.

The 19th and 20th centuries were all about the contradictory social-economic concepts of the “greater good versus the sacredness of individual liberty.” Today, the current surge of anti-globalism and nationalism is a message that the greater good vs. Individual liberty conundrum are still locked in conflict.  Yes, the lack of any visionary leadership still seems to be blind to some sort of compromise or melding of both concepts. Maybe we are heading that way…..or not. Next month, I will offer up a model for potential resolution for resolving the problem-even though I am not a visionary leader. Somebody needs to start the dialogue. Small steps.

There are a myriad of economic reasons why globalization is the best potential vehicle to help provide more economic opportunities for the most people and can fuel the quest for freedom and happiness-for a certain percentage of the population. However, the ratio of those who benefit and those who don’t may only widen and a rising tide only raise only the yachts already at anchor. So, as it has done, Globalization and its potential successes may be self-defeating if there are no solutions to the imbalance in wealth distribution and quality of life for the vast majority. Indeed, the global population is still on an upward slope and is scheduled to increase another 30% by 2050.

Big Brains means big problems?

Our big brains have brought us a long way so far but perhaps our successes have brought us to a point of confusion and uncertainty on how to untie the very complexities we have created. Our big brains are now drowning in complexity, information overload and isolation from one another and a dearth of solutions to the many problems that confront us.  A simplistic and emotional reaction is to reach back to more “simple” times when we actually implemented solutions. It was Post WW ll and people were used to taking action and accepting risks. But the good ole days still had many hidden problems that required more attention to human needs and values. Much of our national energy went into trying to address those “liberal” and complex concerns. But at the same time, the rise of special interests devised a way to highjack the system through lobbying and government-industry relationships with revolving doors. They learned to flood us with legal jargon so complex that even our representative can’t understand many of the laws they were passing without expert interpretation. At that point, the average citizen was and is largely left out of the law making process.

The important fact is that to have a functional democracy we must have citizens who engage with the process. But today, the complexity of the issues, the lack of time and inclination to study the “facts” and the growing agility of political-economic agendas leave the average citizen impotent and reactive…usually after the fact. When one steps back and tries to imagine the solutions to the disconnect between those responsible for real democracy (the people) and those who attend the machinery of government, it’s hard to imagine that anything orderly and methodical can remedy the direction that democracy-and Capitalism-are taking. So, what can we do to avoid future chaos?

To “b” or not to “b”

All of us need to define our values and what is worth fighting for regardless of how that might affect our comfort zone. If we find that we can’t identify any such hallowed values we really believe in, perhaps it would be best to move to another country….while you still can. Or, be prepared to put your values ahead of any guaranteed future and take action. And, another thing: there is a growing cadre of seniors who have lived “The American dream” and no longer have much to lose. We should be at the forefront of protecting American values and not-once again-place the burden on our kids to take to the streets- if need be. They don’t have the time and they have more to lose than their parents.

Be vigilant and listen for your values out there in the cacophony of rhetoric and hysteria. If you don’t hear them, then you are probably best to consider plan b.


Additional Reading

The Missing Link in Leadership

2017: A Year of Warning for Democracy in The USA


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