I have addressed my concerns to Americans for two primary reasons. I believe we have entered a period of severe, successive and interacting crises that promises to be deep, grinding, and long-lasting. And, I am concerned that the bitter divisiveness and disunity current among us will limit our ability to respond effectively to the danger we face.
Many of you know that the present disorder has been gradually escalating for decades. We now find ourselves with a pervasive loss of respect for civility and moral responsibility, (both public and private), a frightening loss of social coherence and stability, and a broad deterioration of economic well-being for ordinary Americans.
We now stand at an extraordinary turning point. Do we want the United States to be preserved as a constitutional republic? Are we personally prepared to rise above our differences to make this possible?
There are pragmatic solutions to these questions, but they will be extremely difficult. I have never said it would be easy. I have said I do not think we have a choice.
With closed minds and hardened attitudes our circumstances are becoming increasingly extreme.
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 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 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, corporate, and private indebtedness, which constricts the economy and threatens to precipitate a significant devaluation of the US dollar.
4) Old and deteriorating infrastructure, which we depend on every day: bridges, municipal water and sewage systems, and the electrical grid. These cannot be upgraded or replaced by national, state, and municipal governments that are hobbled by indebtedness and shrinking revenues.
5) An exponentially increasing global population. With this comes rapidly increasing risk of war and global epidemics, as well as food shortages caused by falling water tables and the ongoing loss of arable farmland.
6) The rapid development of advanced technologies without a commensurate advancement of ethical maturity or a commitment to moral 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) Last, but not least, the loss of ethical integrity and moral responsibility on a massive societal scale. This deterioration is overwhelming the values and norms upon which social stability depends. It is a crisis weakens our ability to respond to all other crises.
During the past 100 years we have seen the emergence of integrated global systems that include transport, communication, and surveillance technologies, and an interactive global monetary system. No crisis can take place anywhere without disrupting the whole interrelated system.
However dark the immediate future, we will always be presented with opportunities. The most important opportunity for us lies in a disruption so broad and profound that it alters our perspective and challenges our assumptions.
We will find ourselves thinking differently to survive: How well do we actually know our neighbors? What are our priorities? How important to our future is the idea and vision of America?
Local problem-solving will once again become paramount. Safety and food security will depend on a diversity of local knowledge, skills and experience – regardless of our politics or religion or the color of our skin.
Discovering safety and strength in diversity will change us.
If we can build dependable communities we can also begin to talk – to identify shared needs and shared values, and to re-imagine a shared vision of the future that we can respect and believe in.
Please look for the next post on or about 8 September: “A Confluence of Crises”