Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Great Correction :: Renovatio

The American Dream

The Great Correction, as in the inverse of the Great Depression, as in "course correction", as in "paradigm shift". I'm still on the subject of the Vanity Fair (April 2009) article "Rethinking the American Dream", written by David Kamp.

I've finished reading the article, and I cannot express how important I think this piece is. Every man and woman and young adult aged 16 and over should read this article and begin talking about it on a daily basis.

It is only through acknowledging that a problem exists - a very large scale problem in the way we Americans think - and then talking about potential solutions to the problem, can we begin to solve it.

Here is another excerpt from the article that is a verbatim account of what I have been telling my closest friends (and ex-wives) for thirty years now - that the American Dream is flawed in its view that in each successive year, life should be better. Better job; or same job only better; more money; better car; better house; or better the current house; better vacations; better toys; better kitchen faucet; better, fancier, more provincial door mat. Better, more, faster. Each quarter, each fiscal or calendar year, each generation, we kids and our kids and their kids. More is never enough.

It is our current and trending catastrophic reality that we live in a finite world with finite resources. We are currently banging up against the inevitable ceiling of those limitations in the basic building blocks of life - water, food, shelter. The basic premises of the problem are that we are simultaneously over-populated and under-resourced. In a word, unsustainable. Our current way of life is not sustainable in the long term.

I repeat, our current way of life is not sustainable in the long term.

We all know this to be true.

Most of us are deluding ourselves that in a year or two, things will be back to "normal", and that we can go on in our individual pursuits of the American Dream - building wealth, gaining assets or at least equity. I believe that the old, resource hogging, unsustainable way of life is gone forever. I may be offering this on the leading edge of this new wave, this paradigm shift, five or ten or fifteen years too early, but the change is coming. The time to change, or at least to begin the process of change, is now. The time to acknowledge that there is a problem is now. We can no longer afford to keep our heads in the proverbial sand.

Many of us are thinking it. We have been feeling it for five or ten or fifteen years or longer. People are (or were) more successful, but are more stressed out and less happy. But everyone is afraid to talk about it. There is a fear of being branded un-American or un-patriotic or downright crazy. Let's get it out in the open and start dealing with it in a positive, proactive, forward thinking way.

Let's reinvent the wheel. Think outside the box? B.S. There is no box anymore. Think, and so shall ye be. Supposedly Jesus said that. We all need to think about how it can be. How it wants to be. How it should be. Not just re-think, but completely reinvent the American Dream. The New American Dream. A new way of life for the new century, starting with us, but for the entire planet. We need to manifest a new reality.

We put men on the moon and sent exploratory vehicles to Mars and beyond. We uncovered the secret of the atom and the quark. Decoding DNA, cellular biology and cures for diseases, and on and on. We are capable of great things. Obviously, in the past we have screwed the pooch in many, many ways. I would offer that when it is in the pursuit of profit and self-interest (or national interest), it always backfires on us. I would offer that when it is motivated by love and the common good and what is right, it can never fail. We can do this.

It should not be based on profit. It should be based on love, compassion and understanding. It should be based on the common good. It should be based on (from the article) the "freedom from want, not the freedom to want". It should be based on sustainability. It should be based on technological innovation and good science. It should be based on social responsibility to our fellow man and to our planet both. I am confident we can reinvent our civilization. It may take one hundred years, or more, but I am confident and hopeful that intelligence and love can triumph over ignorance and ignoring the problem because it is the comfortable thing to do. I am confident. I am full of hope. We don't have a choice. This has to be done. Starting now.

It's interesting that this all gelled for me on this day of renewal and rebirth - Easter Sunday 2009. I have to admit I wasn't paying attention during Easter services at St. Mark's today. (I go to church once or twice a year...) I was daydreaming, looking up at the flying buttresses and delicate arches and fine millwork, hand-hewn from walnut timber by German craftsmen in 1870 or so. I was gazing at the intricacies and vibrant color of the stained glass windows and contemplating the beauty of what man can accomplish in this world. When I awoke from my tampiquen~a and cheese enchilada induced two-hour Sunday afternoon nap, my sweetie and I threw the rubber stick to the dog. I finished reading the article, and then started this post - it is probably the fastest I have ever written a post of any merit. I had to get this out. Forgive me in advance if it's dis-jointed or generally funky prose. It flew off my fingertips as it spilled from my heart and mind - largely unedited but for a few typos.

Renovatio - Latin for "rebirth". "Renovatio", or "The New American Dream"? I'm trying to think of a name for a new blog. "The Great Correction"? Suggestions are welcome.

Oh, here is that excerpt:

"And what about the outmoded proposition that each successive generation in the United States must live better than the one that preceded it? While this idea is still crucial to families struggling in poverty and to immigrants who've arrived here in search of a better life than that they left behind, it's no longer applicable to an American middle class that lives more comfortably than any version that came before it. (Was this not one of the cautionary messages of the most thoughtful movie of 2008, WALL-E?) I'm no champion of downward mobility, but the time has come to consider the idea of simple continuity: the perpetuation of a contented, sustainable middle-class way of life, where the standard of living remains happily constant from one generation to the next."

Stealing Ghandi's words, we must BE the change we wish to see in the world. We must BE the example for all humanity. We must walk the talk. We must. We must.

Here is the link to the article again: Please read it. Please forward it to everyone you know and ask them to forward it to everyone they know. This really needs to become the new national dialog. Please, please purty please.

Lastly, credit where credit is due. "The Great Correction" came from Eliza Gilkyson's song of the same name. But the real credit goes to my cool, hip, girlfriend who immediately told me about the song when I was struggling with the words for what to call this post. She is my inspiration and my muse.

Lyrics here:

down on the corner of ruin and grace
I’m growin weary of the human race
hold my lamp up in everyone’s face
lookin for an honest man
everyone tied to the turnin wheel
everyone hidin from the things they feel
well the truth’s so hard it just don’t seem real
the shadow across this land
people round here don’t know what it means
to suffer at the hands of our american dreams
they turn their backs on the grisly scenes
traced to the privileged sons
they got their god they got their guns
got their armies and the chosen ones
but we’ll all be burnin in the same big sun
when the great correction comes
down through the ages lovers of the mystery
been sayin people let your love light shine
poets and sages all throughout history
say the light burns brightest in the darkest times
it’s the bitter end we’ve come down to
the eye of the needle that we gotta get through
but the end could be the start of something new
when the great correction comes
down through the ages….
down to the wire runnin out of time
still got hope in this heart of mine
but the future waits on the horizon line
for our daughters and our sons
I don’t know where this train’s bound
whole lotta people tryin to turn it around
gonna shout til the walls come tumblin down
and the great correction comes
don’t let me down
when the great correction comes

Video here:

1 comment:

Liz Hensley said...

Of course, there is an answer. Let’s use our buccaneering American spirit to become the champions of real growth in our connection to others, our refusal to acceptance injustice, our determination to secure a healthful way of life for everyone who lives with us inside our borders. Let’s tell the world that we have set our economic growth target at 1% a year, we’re taking the working week to four days and we’re not going to study war no more. When that’s done, we can think about helping those who live next to our borders get the same things we will have secured for ourselves – clean food, clean water, a chance to be at home with our families, an orderly, moral legal system, and just enough to have something left over for the person who’s having a run of hard luck. You’re right, Alex. We CAN do this. In the meantime, walk in time to the music and don’t lead boleos. Thanks for a great post!