We live in extraordinary times. Having entered a period of successive and interacting crises, we are challenged to pull together as a people, to clarify our purposes for safeguarding the integrity of our nation as a democratic republic, and to determine effective means for doing so.
I have commented here that we face a range of diverse crises, all emerging into view at virtually the same time. We have reviewed a number of them very briefly on this blog, and several at greater depth.
Some, like the continuing financial crisis, have impending implications. Others, like the unrecognized instability of complexity in today’s digitized world, remain hidden, but may well provide the trigger that sends things into freefall.
(See blog posts: February 6, “Why the Bankers are Trapped”; February 13, “Insolvency and Devaluation”; February 20, “A New Kind of Crisis”; and March 13, “The Hidden Dangers of Complexity.”)
I have placed emphasis on the coming financial storm because it hangs over us now, waiting for a trigger.
The too-big-to-fail banks are now bigger than they were before they helped bring down the economy in 2008. The federal debt has risen by 83% since that time. We see an increase of low-paying service sector jobs while our economy continues to lose higher-paying jobs.
The stock market has shot upward with no foundation in economic reality, and has now reached irrational valuations not seen since just before the 1929 panic and the dotcom crash of 2000.
The Bank for International Settlements (BIS), which is the central banker to the world’s central banks, announced recently that central bankers will be out of options when the next crisis hits.
Essentially confirming my points in the February blog posts referenced above, the BIS suggests that the major central banks have mismanaged the situation to a large extent because they don’t understand it. Previously “unthinkable risks,” they said, are coming to be “perceived as the new normal.”
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) also released a report recently, stating that “key fault lines” are growing across the US financial landscape, and that “new pockets of vulnerabilities have emerged.” The largest and most interconnected banks, the IMF concludes, “dominate the system even more than before.”
As imposing as this unfolding drama appears, in my view there is a more fundamental crisis. And, it is clearly visible behind all the others.
I have written here, (as recently as June 26), of the stunning loss of personal integrity – honesty, trustworthiness, responsibility – we have witnessed in recent years. A profound collapse of moral standards has taken place on a broad, societal scale.
This is the deeper crisis, and it may ultimately be responsible for the general deterioration that is dragging civilization to its knees. I say this because trust and responsibility are the basis for the sound functioning of human affairs, and lack of them has led to crippling disorientation and disorder.
Why has this happened to such a broad extent? Certainly we have lost the ethical and intellectual foundations that have contributed to stability in the past. But, why? We are intelligent people. What happened to good judgment? Where is common sense?
Have we walked away from responsibility believing that honesty and fairness limit our freedom? Has the daily bludgeoning of mass media warped our minds and stunted our capacity to think for ourselves?
Whatever the reasons, we are now reaping the whirlwind. For a world where many young people have grown up with little effective parenting, and many of their elders have lost any meaningful grounding in values or virtues, there will be no guidance available in the chaotic upheavals that lie ahead.
Analyzing and explaining the prospective dangers we face is beyond the scope of this blog and book. Rather, I seek to gather Americans around a constructive response that is rooted in our local communities, irrespective of unpredictable events.
Tests that require us to pull ourselves together and rise to our full potential might actually be the only antidote to the toxic cocktail of partisan negativity that is poisoning the American soul.
Stability requires and integrity demands a rational and compassionate response to the downward spiral of social and economic deterioration.
Next week: Responsibility, personal and practical