If our nation is to be changed for the better, ordinary citizens will have to intervene aggressively in their own fate. The tremendous power in the hands of the moneyed interests will not be relinquished voluntarily. Bob Herbert in Losing Our Way
I just read Herbert’s painful book about the reality of life in America and her decline. This readable book examines crumbling infrastructure, the willful destruction of the middle class, the corporatization of public education, failed wars in which America met evil with evil and shamed our nation, and the disastrous national and political leadership of incompetence and malfeasance by those trusted to lead our nation. The system has become rigged against everyone but the wealthy.
The stories of real people told in raw detail hurt emotionally and demand that we examine our souls; the factual presentation asks us to think and turn our backs on ignorance.
The two sentences I quoted above tell us what citizens must do if we want to renew our nation and our democracy and restore our values and the American Dream for future generations. If we cannot find the energy to intervene in our own destinies, then we will continue the slow and painful decline and will lose our democracy to those who care only about power and money.
The power of the masses lies in demonstration and voting. As people create a movement for equality leaders will emerge. For leaders, we need heart-felt populists like Elizabeth Warren. People who care about everyday people and the involvement and engagement of all in our collective lives.
These leaders can imagine and can articulate a positive and value-driven vision for the future (not just oppose what is wrong) and have the courage to fight for their vision because those who profit from the status-quo will fight without mercy and they will fight dirty to keep what they have even against national interest.
The economic game is rigged against everyday people. Leaders who want to compromise with extremists (always a lose/win negotiation) and avoid conflict, no matter how decent and well-intentioned they are, are not the right people to lead an economic war. Our leaders need to be spiritual warriors who lead from their hearts and values and can also hold people accountable and balance a budget.
Transformative leaders strive to shape the future and mold our collective destiny in a symbiotic relationship with followers. They do not fight to return to a romanticized past that never really existed.
Robert Greenleaf author of Servant Leadership wrote that the problems in the world are not the evil, immature, neurotic, and the irresponsible. They have always been with us and always will be. The problem, Greenleaf wrote, is not them but the good people—people like you and me—who have fallen asleep.
Anthropologist Margaret Mead wrote: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Historian Howard Zinn: “If there is going to be change, real change, it will have to work its way from the bottom up, from the people themselves. That’s how change happens.”
We are responsible. God will not save us.
4 thoughts on “Losing Our Way”
Wow! This is powerful stuff! Thanks!
I agree with Richard: Powerful stuff. And well said too! Thanks, Tom.
Sadly, the readily observable decline is in full swing…has been for awhile. The “clues” hardly are hardly clues at all they are just observable facts. After all what can one expect from a government heavily populated by self serving hacks? America has the best government that money can buy!
Am I naïve in thinking some of us thought/hoped we would accomplish some of this with the election of Barack Obama in 2008?
Did not properly estimate the power of the moneyed and the hateful and the self-serving, but also think these past 6 years have revealed the importance of every small and large district that comprises the United States of America.
I think it will not be enough to have a few leaders at the top, even though they may come from a populist ground up. It will also take a similar passion in many unnoticed corners of the country.
I now live in Canada, and a friend and I were musing the other day about the very content of your article, Tom.
We wondered if things are better here, regarding government and middle class, and such. We think they are in some ways, and for reasons that may come out of having a different form of government and being viewed as “nice people”, but the potential is here, too, for abuse of power that leads to the theme of the article.
The abuse can be seen (in part) in the ideas of needing to express passionately to remedy the continued appalling conditions in country-wide First Nations communities and to prevent mid-level (territorial/provincial) governments from “selling off” the land for resource extraction and exploration while dishonoring consultation/treaty agreements.
And we seem willing to engage in such passions, and there will be an important election in Canada in 2015…
In loving spirit, Eleanor