Answering questions about what has gone wrong is never comfortable. Some truths are not pretty. And sometimes the rush to find answers leads deeper into a quagmire, and is even less pretty. We are impatient. We want quick answers. And this often means finding someone to blame.
Impatience, anger, and a readiness to accept untested information are never helpful. Truth cannot be fabricated. It belongs to no one. Truth can be explored, investigated, questioned by means of honest, unbiased inquiry. But it is rarely simple, and never found where there is partisan certainty.
Why do we react to problems with preconceived assumptions? Without investigation we can never know the history, the perceptions and nuanced thinking that went into what appears to be bad judgment.
If we wish to engage meaningfully, to keep our balance and influence outcomes, surely we need to understand the whole picture.
I suppose you think I’m talking about partisan politics.
But this concern rears its head throughout our lives—in every kind of relationship and in every arena where differences of perception and perspective persist. Families, businesses, and serious working relationships are all vulnerable to someone who tries to dominate—to act without asking questions, without listening, without respectful dialog.
This is not the only challenge we face today. We face the complexity of massive structural change, the consequence of historic forces that are now impacting us on every side. A confluence of crises is emerging over the horizon. Our vulnerability to the internet and a vast digital infrastructure is just one example.
Unprecedented levels of national, state, and corporate debt are hobbling the economy. We face the consequences of an antiquated national grid and municipal water systems, an historic drought accompanied by extreme weather, the loss of sufficient farmland, unforgiving poverty, recurring financial crises, and a fragile monetary system plagued by deteriorating trust.
Needless to say, no one fully understands this complexity—how we came to be here or what the future holds.
Blame is perhaps due for greed, lack of foresight, and many other things. But, if Americans seek to revitalize our core values and to restore a once vibrant civic spirit, we will need to recognize the reality of structural change which is no one’s fault.
Constructive dialog is the first step toward understanding and wisdom. And a diversity of experience, knowledge, and skills are a necessity. Our future will depend on it.
The current difficulties in the United States have a history. A gradual and longstanding loss of trust has accompanied a deterioration of civic vibrancy and economic resilience. This trend has been observed by polling organizations and commentators for more than half a century.
Distrust has left a trail of destruction and decimated the fabric of community relationships. It has left Americans without a shared sense of purpose. Reason and foresight have been eclipsed by a fixation on quick answers and immediate gratification. We have embraced false appearances as though nothing else exists.
The moral bankruptcy and distortions of logic embedded in this posture have influenced almost every aspect of our national life. The loss of a grounding in meaning and authenticity has led to disorientation and extremism.
In this context, an insistence on freedom from institutional and political constraints is inevitably confused and fraught with contradictions. Where is there moral responsibility and responsiveness to local needs?
Without careful investigation of context as the basis for problem-solving, and a genuine respect for negotiated solutions, the stability of the future will be unattainable.
If we are to recover our balance, we will need to get acquainted with one another, to engage meaningfully, and to walk away from the alienation and incivility that brought us here.
Let’s get down to the real work of liberty: forging dependable working relationships and rebuilding local community wherever we find ourselves on the map.
There is no other way to restore trust. It won’t be easy. But with patience, determination, and a constructive attitude we will learn.
It will never be too late to start anew—to dig deep within ourselves and step forward with dignity and purpose.
You may watch for the next post on or about February 28. I will be posting less often for now; I need to focus on completing the book.
Note to new readers: A project description, introduction to the forthcoming book, and several sample chapters are available in draft–linked at the top of the homepage.