Sunday, October 24, 2010

New Challenges Require a New Understanding

Great changes and great conflicts are taking place throughout the world. Much dialogue surrounds topics such as changes predicted for the year 2012. To me such dialogue symbolizes a shared inner sense of a growing need for quantum change, rather than incremental changes.

In the United States and in Europe we see basic ideologies being stressed and challenged. The cradle to grave social supports of most Europe countries are becoming unaffordable just as the United States has made a somewhat belated and overdue effort to create a healthcare safety net in the midst of the largest financial crises since the Great Depression.

Hardly a year has past since the sweeping victory of Barack Obama promised great changes only to find his proposed changes largely thwarted and still-born. In the United States, the self-image of individual self-sufficiency linked to distrust of government swelled in opposition to the spectre of growing governmental influence. Somewhat anachronistic "tea parties" have been growing like mushrooms after a rain decrying big government and more deficit spending while largely suggesting nothing practical or positive beyond business as usual and life as we've always known it.

These are, indeed, challenging times. The problems this nation and much of the world faces require bold leadership and new solutions right in the face of bankruptcy and political paralysis.

Our age is and continues to evolve in the direction of being an age of individuality, individual liberties, and personal initiative. At the same time, large institutions of all types (political, business, educational, scientific, medical, and religious) still hold the reins of power, wealth, and prestige. Nor is this likely to change anytime soon.

The paralysis in national and global solutions that we face will not be broken until great hardship and suffering has occured which is to say, by sheer and dire necessity, probably handled (and badly) by such large institutions. But long-term solutions will, whether in advance or after the fact, come from individuals and small groups of individuals.

It is my feeling that karmically the United States finds itself needing to have a cohesive and strong central government in order to help initiate the lifestyle and attitude changes needed even as that government is broke, is lacking in leadership, and even as our citizens reject and distrust it.

The good news is that this deadlock will invite the kinds of solutions that will serve all us the best because in greater harmony with the needs of our age. Thus individual states, cities, and counties (and their residents) will be forced to look for solutions and not depend upon the central government. Where those solutions suggest or demand a national concensus or at least involvement, that participation will be both voluntary and cooperative, rather than imposed from above.

In fact, with both the central government and the states becoming increasingly impotent because bankrupt, cooperation among institutions and citizens will be required even if, sadly, most likely forced upon us by circumstances for the fact of our not facing realities sooner.

We need to encourage a variety of experiments or alternatives around the country in areas of health care, for example, or in welfare, in reduction of carbon emissions just to name a few obvious areas. People love choices and de-centralized alternatives will encourage the necessary fermentation to find viable solutions.

Perhaps the role of a central government therefore is (at least in these critical areas where change is badly needed) to set very general goals, directions, and guidelines for sub-entities and individuals to experiment with. Other examples include health and safety in food handling, nutrition and diet, alternative energy, energy conservation, balanced immigration policies, responsible savings habits, legitimate investments, and a balanced long-term housing strategy (vis-a-vis mortgage, tax, and other housing policies).

One subject remains perhaps too big to handle but too big to ignore: military spending and its relationship to our strategic and legitimate global interests. How many "Vietnams" must we so ignorantly initiate before we face the fact that we are not capable or worthy of being the world's self-appointed policeman of justice and democracy?

Here, too, and perhaps here especially, we must face the fact that unilateral military action is (generally) inappropriate and unfeasible. Cooperative international action with nations who share our interests and ideals is the only and obvious way to soften the rough edges of national pride, misuse of power, and naked, but ignorant, self-interest.

Military spending alone, if not common sense, past experience, or wisdom, should demolish forever this nation's (out of date) cowboy-cavalry self-image.

One last subject equally large and difficult to address is a moral one. What nation can retain its vitality and creative vigor when dissipation of its natural resources, its financial wealth past zero into debt, or its citizen's morality through self-indulgence, selfishness, or violence becomes the norm?

I believe and endorse the concept of separation of religion from political life. But we have thrown out the baby with the bath water. We don't want nor would our culture tolerate censorship but affirmation, training, and encouragement of universal values of good citizenship, healthy living, and ethics - the development of national virtue, in other words -- should be at the center of what individuals and institutions champion in ways large and small. Funding for wholesome entertainment would be a refreshing change as would public-figure examples of modesty, civility and integrity. Demonstrating and championing the practical benefits of hard work, self-respect, healthy living, education, creativity, and self-iniative would do more than money or legislation to uplift and change for the better our nation and our world.

Blessings to all, Hriman