Crisis and Opportunity

I am addressing these words to Americans for two reasons. I believe we have entered a period of severe, successive and interacting crises that promises to be deep, grinding, and long-lasting.

Secondly, I am concerned about the potential consequences of the increasingly bitter antagonism and disunity current among the American people.

Many of you are aware that the present predicament has been developing gradually over time. We have seen the loss of a once vibrant civil society, deterioration of the nation’s economic base, and a profound loss of social coherence and moral responsibility.

We each have a personal decision to make. Do we wish to recover the integrity of the United States as a constitutional republic? Are we prepared to rise above our differences, to engage personally with our neighbors, to instill the American spirit in safe, dependable communities?

These are among the questions that have inspired the forthcoming book. Our circumstances are already extreme. Nothing will be easy.

The United States and the world have arrived at an unprecedented turning point. We face a formidable array of complex crises. The challenges are diverse, profound, and mutually reinforcing. Some will impose themselves suddenly, others gradually, but all will ultimately converge as they impact upon our lives.

What is most extraordinary is the number and variety of crises that are emerging into view at virtually the same time: social and economic, moral and material.

An abbreviated review is offered here to demonstrate this diversity.

1) Increasing social instability characterized by a dramatic loss of civility, and by unrestrained anti-social behaviors that include accelerating incidences of brutality and mass murder.

2) A banking and monetary system that favors the financial elite rather than the American people, and which has become dominated by self-serving individuals who appear incapable of recognizing that their risk-taking behavior threatens the well-being of everyone, including themselves.

3) Massive government indebtedness, which constricts the economy and threatens Americans (and many others) with a dramatic devaluation of our dollar.

4) Ancient and deteriorating infrastructure that we depend on every day: bridges, municipal water and sewage systems, and the electrical grid. These will be almost impossible to upgrade or replace by governments already hobbled by indebtedness and shrinking revenues.

5) An exponentially increasing global population. With this comes rapidly increasing risk of global epidemics, as well as inevitable food shortages caused by falling water tables and a continual loss of arable farmland.

6) The rapid development of advanced technologies without a commensurate advancement of moral maturity or conscious sense of responsibility.

7) Degradation of the natural environmental systems that provide us with clean air and water, the consequence of population pressures and the long-term aggregate build-up of toxic substances derived from motor vehicles, household products, and industrial pollution.

8) A failure of parenting, and the emergence of a generation of youth untethered from reality and having little sense of moral, personal, or social responsibility.

9) Last, but not least, a profound loss of moral compass, balance, and integrity on a societal scale. This dramatic deterioration is overwhelming the values and norms of the past, and it is a crisis that impacts on all others.

There is more.

During the past century we have seen the emergence of integrated and digitized global systems that include transport, communication, and surveillance technologies, and a unified global monetary system. Consequently, no crisis can take place in any context without impacting on the whole.

A profound structural transition is taking place in human affairs that many have yet to recognize or understand.

How can such dire circumstances be called an opportunity?

For Americans the opportunity lies in the disruption of our lives – a disruption so profound that it cannot fail to alter our perspective, our thinking, and our willingness to cooperate with one another for the sake of local safety and security – whatever our politics or religion or the color of our skin.

And, if we can build viable local communities we can also begin the dialog to identify the practical extent of our shared values, and to develop a sense of shared vision and purpose that we can respect.

We must resist being dragged down, demoralized. We cannot react out of fear. We will stand firmly together, rising to the promise of our humanity with honor, dignity, and resourcefulness.

The identity of the nation is at stake.


Next week: A Confluence of Crises