Monday, January 4, 2010

The Uh-Oh Decade

This week's newspaper column - read it in the Hattiesburg American:

Out with the old; in with the new!

After stumbling through a decade that started with a millennial bang and ended with a whimper, the calendrical odometer benevolently flips over to give us – at least metaphorically – a new start.

It may be telling that we never really knew what to call this unsettling era. Naming every decade in living memory has been obvious with references to the 50’s, the 60’s, and even the more recent 90’s rolling off the tongue with poetic ease. Give us a little more time, and the past ten years may put oldies stations out of business for lack of a tag line.

Most disappointing may be the economics of the uh-oh’s. You may remember that the United States entered the decade with a fiscal surplus. But by late 2008 we found ourselves in an economic situation that most economists referred to as “freefall.” Though the national economy has stabilized and has even started to grow a bit in the past few months, unemployment is still rampant and a record number of people are on food stamps.

What happened?

Well, sustainably speaking, we lost our balance.

Years of hearing bloviating pundits and so-called political leaders telling us that “greed is good” and “taxes are bad” gave momentum to an ethic hostile to the good of the whole. In the uh-oh’s, we as a society failed in our responsibility to promote our common interests. We starved our schools, we neglected our infrastructure, and we told the weakest and least fortunate members of our citizenry to get lost.

Yes, a strong sense of individuality and personal responsibility is essential to maintain a functional society, but so too is healthy investment and carful nurturing of the common good. When the good of the individual is out of balance with the good of the whole, sooner or later society reaches a tipping point, and the economic system comes crashing down.

The truth is, no single individual is completely self-made. Everyone, to some extent, depends upon the hard work and good will of others for their success. So when those nameless faceless “others” suffer, so in turn does the famous self-made man.

Creating and maintaining sustainable systems - whether in community planning, building design, or economic blueprint - requires a strong focus on community responsibility in addition to personal responsibility. That means stepping up as a society and paying to fix the things that are broken. It also means investing in what’s important for the betterment of us all, like education, community infrastructure, and healthcare.

What good is another wide-screen TV when the world is crumbling around you?

Why not change our “me-first” attitude and make the twenty-tens a “we-first” decade? With 2020 vision, we have the opportunity to fashion a decade where all prosper.

1 comment:

Rose Marie Raccioppi said...

I am certainly with you on this one, all the way! We can and do make it all happen. I am on the road with you - right intention, focus, action, balance, prosperity, peace...

Much love, Rose Marie

and in the spirit...APOGEE Poet: Our Will As ONE: