The global community is awakening from her slumber and discovering that the public troughs are empty. They are not just empty – they cannot be replenished without significant sacrifices. From The USA to Europe, austerity is the rule of the day. How we arrived at this point is well-known. All political parties and public officials, along with a variety of interest groups, from banks to unions, have created pathways and policies that now collide and place us on the edge of chaos. A fundamental lack of self-regulation created the conditions for over-regulation by government. All this manifests in bloated bureaucracies and outdated systems.
When people cease self-regulating, anarchy ensues, creating the conditions for hard or soft totalitarianism. In the USA we are at a tipping point of public dependence on public funds. In the midst of the Occupy Wall Street’s shrill cries for fairness, we can forget that wealth must be created through (ethical) enterprise and that “government money” is actually our money that is poorly administrated.
Our crisis is much more than economic. The fact that so many people even give a thought to the sham marriage of a narcissistic celebrity while millions suffer privation and our public institutions of ethical cohesion implode is a sure sign that we must find a new way forward. We are in a moment of moral turpitude, spiritual vacuousness and social fragmentation. We know more about social network friends than our neighbors and we mistake soundbites for information and Internet rumors for insight.
What is our way forward? Are we doomed to further decline into nihilism followed by religious or secular totalitarianism? How can we push a “reset” button that will bring change that helps the global community as well as our nation? I offer these thoughts as a place to start.
First, let’s decide that it is unacceptable for billions to live in abject poverty. The answer to global poverty is not more UN aid programs. The answer is unleashing the creative powers of entrepreneurship, establishing democratic processes, fostering religious freedom and extending generosity. From fair trade efforts to development initiatives that provide water, health care and education, we can see fundamental change. An Imam from Silicon Valley admitted that there was enough money in the global Muslim community for every member to be cared for, with much left over to show kindness to others! Americans of all faiths or none are a generous lot, but an increase of just five percent in resources for service to developing nations will transform the daily lives of millions. We can unite around a better future for the next generation.
Second, let’s live up to our highest ideals instead of making excuses for immoral and unethical decisions. Personal integrity and caring more about the good of others will nurture our souls far more than private ecstasy or other forms of self-indulgence. This Christmas, let’s make another family happy as well as our own. I am not suggesting we should deprive ourselves of fun; in fact, when we think of others, life is more delightful as we devise ways to work more efficiently, serve more effectively and play more inclusively.
Thirdly, let’s demand that our elected officials privatize their pensions, live within their means, operate more efficiently and demonstrate accountability instead of accommodation to lobbyists. From our President down to City Hall, we can expect better…and we need to wake up and recognize that we voted for these folks! Democrats and Republicans, Greens and Libertarians all need to consider the long-term consequences of their actions.
Finally (at least for this essay), let’s stop deceiving ourselves about the real situations we face. Radical Islam is a real threat to liberty and the enemies of Israel are also aiming for the USA. We cannot be a warfare and welfare state. Teachers cannot teach students who come to school poorly parented and unready to learn. If we are going to have children, we have to care for them. We must also end our current pathologies of abortion on demand and consider adoption if fertility issues arise. We need borders that are real and immigration laws that are fair. We need to end the current IRS and create a truly fair tax system. Even with religious tensions, it is still better to have complete freedom of conscience and faith and argue with civility than to erase public religious influence or impose a theocracy. We do want the highest values of faith to influence how people live. We must also defend the right of others to disagree and declare their opinions without fear.
We can forge a better future as we live out our faith, unleash creativity and local economies, refuse to give in to intolerance and choose hope instead of fear.