I am by nature a very optimistic soul, enthusiastic about positive things to look forward to and look back upon and confident that somehow we humans will resort to reason, creativity and the better interests of all concerned as we face the challenges and crises before us. Essentially we have historically relied upon proscribed governmental structures and a sense of legal order to prevent us from unraveling under the weight of our prejudices, greed and selfishness. But the very processes we have relied upon are coming under increasing scrutiny.
Of course the way we see ourselves in this country is not necessarily the way that others see us. "Is the image I'm making the image I see when the man in the mirror is talking to me?" These lyrics were written by Graham Nash. The words hold significant meaning to me and I find myself focusing on them more frequently as I get older.
But what is particularly more troubling to me as I age is the degree to which my children ardently and rightly question the efficacy of a system of laws and rules that unmistakably profess a set of intentions that in no way, shape, form or fashion reflect the ultimate consequences their implementation renders. The levels of inequality, injustice, unintended results, hypocrisy, and brutality that our children witness on a daily basis contributes to a sense of hopelessness and fatalism that I believe is both justified and heartbreaking.
Racial profiling, mass incarceration, idiotic drug laws, differential treatment depending upon the amount of wealth and hence influence one possesses in society, suppressed mobility and opportunity, deception, deceit and untruths perpetrated by our so-called leaders, the ever-present surveillance state, and the collective ignorance of my generation to squarely face the catastrophic impacts that climate change will visit upon their generation all conspire to dampen the prospects that our children are facing.
The daily news cycles reinforce a feeling of events which are seemingly spinning out of control and threatening to unravel the fabric that has traditionally held our nation together. Take for instance the issues of the week: First, continuing warnings from the world's scientific community that we are exponentially careening towards climate catastrophe; second, legislative actions are gaining ground in states that would actually penalize people for replacing their dependence upon fossil fuels with renewable energy sources such as solar panels, thus encouraging the uncontrollable slide into disaster; third, the Supreme Court handing down rulings both bolstering the influence of money in our policy-making and electoral processes and hampering affirmative action; and fourth, conservative support for violent resistance to the government by heavily subsidized ranchers in the western United States and hence opposition to the constitution they so fervently purport to pledge allegiance to.
This is the state of affairs we are bombarded with. On their face they are so intuitively and intellectually incompatible with reason and rational thinking that one could be driven to conclude that we have collectively lost our minds. At the very least a good argument could be made that we have collectively lost our souls. The youth of the nation look at this and in a sense of desperation if not resignation shake their heads and wonder why they should trust us, that is unless they have already given up.
I still have faith that we can emerge from this dysfunctional funk by going back to basics: restoring value to public service; replacing leadership qualities with statesmanship; making special interests subservient to the public interest; replacing short-term thinking with strategic long-term thinking; returning to the notion that government can work; and removing money from our systems of decision-making. I have recently written a book titled The Evolution of a Revolution in which I make the case that these six conceptual remedies will help lead us out of the current mess we are in and maybe restore the younger generation's faith in us, the operative word here being maybe.
But just like the addictive personality, unless we acknowledge that we have a problem it is very difficult if not impossible to address it. But how in the world can any right-thinking person not recognize that we are ill? Our nation is one that has always responded with absolute and dedicated resolve to face imminent crises. Well, here is one that is slapping us in the face, yet we merely change course and head the other way. The climate crisis is intellectually challenging, the crisis in confidence in our governmental institutions is politically challenging, and the crises of inequality, racism, and lack of opportunity reflect regional differences of wounds that never seem to heal. They are difficult but they are solvable.
The image we have of ourselves is not the image we are projecting to the world, and at a time where we stand alone as the sole superpower if we do not align these images into a singular vision of who and what we are future generations will shake their heads and wonder what in the world we were thinking and how could we have so deluded ourselves to the extent that reality became illusion. We have frittered away too much time and a large chunk of credibility and we must act quickly and decisively to right the state of affairs.
If we do not I am reminded of other lyrics from my generation, "there's someone in my head and it's not me." I would much rather talk to myself.