In preparing ourselves for the future I have proposed two priorities for your consideration. The first, as you know, is to get ourselves onto the same page. This means rising above our differences to identify some degree of shared values and to unite around a common vision.
The second priority, which depends upon the first, will be to think strategically – together as a nation – to envision and build a future we can believe in. This will require that we adjust our thinking both to the broader realities of structural change and to the immediate challenges confronting us locally.
It will also require setting aside partisan politics to get on with practical solutions to local problems. And so it is that reaching general agreement on shared vision and purpose will be necessary if we are to move forward.
I believe we face a long, grinding crisis. If we are to organize our local communities to secure the safety of our families and neighbors, we have no choice but to rise above our differences and to find common ground on which to live and work.
In Part 3 of the book, I will offer practical tools that you may find useful if you choose to undertake this difficult task. We will consider the processes by which we can consult with one another effectively, deal with differences, make decisions, and address local needs.
However, as most of you know, the purpose of this project involves more than a concern with survival. I have asked that we approach the future constructively, building on the foundation of trustworthy relationships, safe communities and well-organized networks of communities.
In the coming weeks I will focus on the second of the priorities mentioned above, the task of envisioning the future and rebuilding the foundations of the American republic.
Planning for the future when we are fighting for survival might not seem realistic. To secure the necessities of life it will be difficult to think about anything other than the immediate needs at hand. But, in truth, surviving with dignity will require that we learn to live with one another. And safety will require that we can depend on one another.
So, let’s be clear: The way we manage relationships and resolve problems will be the first stage in our process of preparing for the future. A right attitude for dealing with an immediate crisis will probably be the right attitude for working with one another in addressing the future.
We would do well to recognize that our first priority will be to manage ourselves.
There are some questions we can only ask of ourselves. How can we act in a way that will lead to the desired results? What approach will best facilitate community-building among diverse and sometimes anxious or frightened neighbors? What personal strengths can we develop in ourselves to inspire trust and a positive response from others?
Beyond the personal challenges of mastering the self, there are a number of concerns for the future that beg attention.
For many the first that leaps to mind is learning to accept fiscal responsibility, to manage money and resources responsibly. This problem has led the way into the current debacle at every level of society.
Another is the problem of “bigness”, and the heavy cost Americans are paying for this. I think many things have grown far too big, from government and banks to big business and big-box stores. As I wrote in response to a reader comment on Facebook last week, the American character needs both government and business to function on a human scale.
Perhaps the most difficult and thorny questions relate to the rapid deterioration of the quality of life for middle class and poorer Americans. If we approve of the policies of Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton that ended or greatly restricted social programs, as I expect many of you do, then we need to think constructively about the painful consequences that now confront us – and craft solutions that work.
A renewed America will require new and creative ideas. In the coming weeks, we will consider some of the strategic questions we will face in reconstructing the future.
Next week: A Pattern of Change
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