07 October 2012

Crossroads (re-post)

Wrote this in December 2011.  And I keep re-posting it.  Sorry.  And I know it's just my dopy opinion.  But the thrust of it underneath the opinion at least is, in my view, so terribly important to ponder, as we approach a Presidential election that perhaps now more than ever represents such a crossroad...

... Our representative democracy here in the US will now come to face an existential question. Can a representative democracy do the right thing when there are no longer any good options? Can we make the tough choices necessary to sustain the prosperity of the people, when it might come at some cost to the prosperity of the individual?

Despite its obvious imperfections along the way regarding equality for race, creed or gender, it seems to have worked reasonably well on the way up. When America has no foreign competition, because all those that would be, have literally been destroyed by fighting World War II on their own soil. When the standard of living as a result increases by leaps and bounds, year after year. When opportunity awaits the motivated, persistent, hard-working and talented who reach out for it. When all of that creates so much wealth, our politicians can promise everything to everyone – purchasing our votes with our own wealth, and as if to suggest our successes actually had anything to do with them.

But what about when that upward arc begins to flatten out? When we have real global competition for the first time? When that bleeds away our standard of living into other quarters of the world, no matter who we vote for? When there’s no more fat for politicians to carve off and sell back to us? When we now must make adjustments, sometimes hard choices; real decisions?

Suddenly it’s not so fun anymore – not necessarily being the undisputed “number one”. Suddenly it starts to feel and look a lot more like yet another aging empire. That’s when people’s true character starts to come out. When it comes down to survival, it’s suddenly every one for themselves once more; so characteristic of all heretofore societies in their last days that collapsed under their own weight.

And then the radical ideas don’t seem so radical anymore. And then the people might actually be willing to deal with the devil that they don’t know. And then revolution is in the air once more. Dangerous words – the spark of so much war, so much blood, so much suffering in the past century. So dangerous, because they speak of something so real and, from time to time, so present.

In a representative democracy, if the political leader is unwilling to give us the spinach we need instead of the ice cream we want if you will, it is because the electorate is unwilling to eat spinach – no different than a spoiled child. After all, how can even the well-intentioned politician do good, if he can’t get reelected? And what is to become of that representative democracy, when its governance must rely on the consent of the spoiled?

It prevails as every child, once spoiled, ultimately must – through discipline. There simply is no other way. Yes, we have become spoiled. I can say it, because I’m not running for public office. But whether I was or not, I would also remind us of the following…

We are a great society – I believe the greatest that can be found in the history books. But we are at a crossroads. If we want to continue to flourish with many more days to look forward to, it is up to us individually and collectively. If we want serious politicians to make the serious decisions required for further prosperity, then we the people must get serious, be disciplined, grow up.

Because, right now, we don’t have any politicians acting serious – that’s for sure. Even the ones that want to. And that is nothing more than a reflection of those who would vote for them. We are going to have to try something new now. We the people are going to have to vote for the politicians that tell us what we don't want to hear. They do exist. They're just hiding right now, because they want to keep their jobs.

Being serious means we must ask for less right now. Not because it is ignoble to strive for that great society on the hill, but because the latest generation has misspent our treasure, allegedly trying to get us there, and we have to be the responsible ones now and pay for their folly. With taking less, we will also have to give more. That is if we claim to care a lick about everything we have built, and the children who we would pass it on to.

We must remember to rely on ourselves, and ourselves alone, while at the same time be mindful to care for our sister and brother when they’re down. The sanctity of the individual – of individual achievement, expression, success, dominion – must be preserved at all costs. And part of preserving that means we must be charitable and remember to safeguard the individual sanctity of our neighbor.

Never have we been better situated to succeed in that endeavor. Because we stand at a moment in history – as the richest and most powerful nation to have ever existed on Earth – where we can learn from the lessons of all others that have tried and failed.

The only thing left we need is a little resolve and discipline. And the smallest reminder that this great nation was built by great people – was built by us – I believe is all it takes to evoke that which is already within us.

For if we don’t rise to the occasion, all we ever will have been in the annals of history, is someone else’s lesson of what not to do.

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