The United States and the world have arrived at an historic 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 our lives during the coming years.
Most Americans are aware today of certain dangers and other highly politicized concerns, which appear against the backdrop of deteriorating economic conditions and growing civil disorder. I do not question the importance of these issues. Rather, I draw your attention to additional significant, but perhaps less obvious threats that we should all be aware of.
I have posted a list of many of the dangers and dilemmas we face, (see June 26 blog: “Crisis and Opportunity”), which are emerging into view at virtually the same time: social and economic, moral and material. Some are specific to the United States, but most involve global socio-economic, financial, geopolitical, and environmental systems, which are essentially ungovernable and beyond our control.
Perhaps some might once have been governable – in theory. But, it is too late now.
Many are material in nature. One sobering example is the vulnerability of structural systems in the United States to cyber-attack or, in certain cases, power failure.
Such a crisis could easily cut off all telecommunications, broadcast media, the internet, air-traffic control, emergency services and hospital functions – without warning. It could disrupt distribution systems, leaving supermarket shelves bare. Damage to the national grid could be so severe that it would take days or weeks to repair.
In this confluence of crises, the fabric of civil society and economic order will be challenged. Systems and structures could come unraveled in a self-perpetuating chain of events.
The interrelated complexity of the world is the function of what is known as a “whole system”. We are experiencing a multi-dimensional crisis of the whole, possibly leading to a cascading collapse.
Our response must, of necessity, be rational, principled. Our salvation will be in our comprehension of the ultimate integrity of the whole, a reality both physical and spiritual. And here is the crux of the matter. Behind the material problems is a silent, central and transcendent crisis that is of ultimate significance.
This is a crisis of a different kind, and it will determine the eventual outcome.
I speak here of the loss of moral compass, the absence of ethical and spiritual grounding that precludes personal responsibility and accountability, and an abdication of reason that threatens the very foundations of civil order.
This is the most profound crisis – and the most dangerous — because it represents a subversion of the integral order of human culture and civilization.
Whatever our particular religious tradition or philosophical grounding, the difficult years ahead will demand a steadfast commitment to the highest ethical standards, to consistent moral responsibility and a compassionate readiness to cooperate with others.
Our ability to engage constructively with our neighbors will be essential. While there is much we will not agree on, we must learn to work together, to listen respectfully, and to translate our differences into language that can be understood and respected by everyone.
We will be dependent on our local communities to be safe and trustworthy.
A few days ago I posted an important quotation from John Adams. Scroll down and take a look at it. This is the bridge that must be crossed. When things get bad enough, this will happen again.
A quiet but courageous and visionary leadership will be called upon to facilitate this transit – to gather Americans together, to learn what needs to be learned, to meet local needs and resolve local problems.
We face a dangerous passage through a chaotic transition. Many will turn to violent rhetoric and extremist philosophies out of failure to recognize the integral order.
An American leadership that is true to its roots will stand firmly against such mental weakening, because the violence of sedition, whether it comes from above or below, will threaten the loss of everything this nation has meant to the American people.
The quiet American leadership I speak of is you, dear reader. We have no one to depend on but ourselves. If we prepare ourselves mentally and morally, the rest can be sorted out.
Next week: New dangers, intelligent responses