Americans face a formidable array of current and emerging crises. I believe this to be a defining moment that requires us to dig deep into the American traditions of loyalty and overriding unity. The only alternative is to accept disaster and disintegration.
The challenges ahead will be diverse, profound, and mutually reinforcing. Some will appear suddenly, others gradually, but all will ultimately converge as they impact our lives in the coming years.
Most Americans are currently focused on the politicized concerns that attract media coverage. Attention is easily diverted from the most important problems, including degraded economic conditions and growing civil disorder.
Blame is directed at politicians, while the real causes behind deteriorating conditions are ignored or avoided – the pervading loss of ethical responsibility and trustworthiness, the failure of economic foresight, and the profound menace of impenetrable complexity.
Yet, it is just such underlying conditions that most threaten our future security and well-being.
I offered a short list of emerging dangers and dilemmas in the last blog post. These threaten a wide range of consequences: social and economic, moral and material.
Whatever the details of a confluence of crises, emerging complexity appears to be most dangerous. The nature of extreme complexity is impossible to comprehend. It is silent, multidimensional and unpredictable.
Of particular concern, we have never before been subject to the interactive complexity of digital systems. This is new to the human experience.
The fabric of civil and economic order is shaken when stability fails. Systems and structures can come unraveled in a self-perpetuating chain reaction.
Given the interrelated dynamics of social, economic, and political pressures pushed to extremes, we are stumbling into a systemic crisis capable of triggering a cascading collapse.
We must be prepared to respond rationally, without panic and with our principles intact.
The integrity of the whole is a dynamic reality, physical, mental, and spiritual. And here is the crux of the matter. Behind the material problems there is a rarely perceived but underlying crisis: It is about the way we see and the way we think.
This is a crisis of a different kind, and it is the reason why the present turning point is so significant. I speak here of the loss of moral compass, the need for which is critical in the management of complex crises.
The absence of moral responsibility and personal accountability is of devastating consequence.
The foundations of civil order depend on rational problem-solving. Yet, contrary to the popular imagination, the efficacy of reason is neutralized in a moral vacuum.
This is the most dangerous challenge before us because it limits our ability to respond effectively to every other crisis.
Indeed, it undermines the integral order of 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 patient determination to cooperate with others.
Our ability to engage constructively with our neighbors is 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 communication that allows cooperative problem-solving.
A special kind of leadership is needed. We must encourage one another to believe in ourselves, to be patient, trustworthy, dependable, and steadfast.
Such leaders will be ordinary Americans like yourselves, working to meet local needs and resolve local problems – regardless of our differences.
Dangers will persist. As Americans pass through a chaotic transition, some will turn to the rigidities of inflexible ideology or violent rhetoric.
Make no mistake! Extremist demagoguery can subvert the future of the United States as a constitutional republic. The wreckage of sedition, whatever its sources, will threaten everything we believe in.
Leadership that is true to its American roots will stand firmly against such mental weakening.
The future depends on ordinary citizens like yourself, dear reader. Your leadership must be quiet, compassionate, steadfast.
It is you who will carry America through the storm and out the other side.
Note to readers: Please look for the next post on or about November 12. A project description, an introduction to the forthcoming book, and several chapter drafts are linked at the top of this page.