I’ve been reading a lot in the press recently about how things in the US are now really starting to fly again economically after years of hardship.
Look, let me be clear that I’m genuinely real happy that a few more people have jobs. That’s great for them and their families. I’m also very pleased that about a doze or so people across the nation have actually managed to sell their homes in the past 4 months and that they’ve only taken modest losses on the deal.
But is this the great recovery that we truly aspired for as a nation.
Why? Am I suddenly losing my optimism?
No, it’s exactly the opposite in fact.
You see, I’m old-fashioned and I don’t want my country to live in a fool’s paradise created by headlines and used by vested interest as a distraction. I want us to celebrate real achievement – not that a graph on a share dealer’s screen in NYC has suddenly moved up 0.647 of one per-cent or that a Hollywood blockbuster has been so successful that an already obscenely rich star is now even richer.
What do I see when I look around?
What I see, when travelling around what used to be some of the world’s greatest industrial areas, is devastation. No jobs, no homes, derelict houses, no money and worst of all, no hope. So, please forgive me if I don’t join in behind the marching bands just yet.
What I see is a massive decline in the quality of education. Teenagers who struggle to place their own State on a map and who sometimes can’t even find the USA on the world globe. Kids who think that Russia rules Europe, the US had the first man in Space, Martin Luther King was the first African-American President and that Abraham Lincoln wrote the Declaration of Independence.
What I see are older teenagers who can’t do the basic math that would have been taken as norm for kids of 8 not that long ago. Teenagers who also have no hobby whatsoever other than to spend their entire lives locked away in dark bedrooms engaged in one sort of net-based fantasy world or another. Those are the same kids who can’t actually ride a bike or run more than 20 yards without collapsing exhausted.
What I see is an entire generation that now struggles to put two cohesive sentences together in writing or verbally. They can though, manage to make 75% of every sentence consist of the word “like”. That same generation now considers human communication to be restricted to exchanging garbage texts on trivia between vast numbers of strangers, hoping to get a rather sad and pathetic “LOL” in response.
That’s now called ‘social interaction’.
What I see is an entire generation that now takes pride in its own ignorance of what’s going on in the world around them. A generation that thinks education and participation in society comes from the smartphone in their hand and keeping up with the latest gaming gossip. A society that thinks our education system is working.
What I see around our country are vast areas that are simply no-go zones for ordinary folk in terms of crime – localities where law and order has largely given up. Yet what I see on the TV are news reports talking about how bad crime is in some other countries.
What I see is a society locked into permanent election campaigning of one sort or another. Where required action can’t be taken, as the system has gridlocked and politicians, irrespective of their political inclinations in any direction, are too afraid of making tough choices because of what it might mean to their or their party’s election prospects. Tough and honest talking is now out – pandering and short-term populism is now the order of the day.
What I see is a country where xenophobia is on the rise. Where anyone in the world who disagrees with the US is now quickly branded as a potential enemy. Even our friends in the world, of whom there are many; regard us as being increasingly bankrupt in terms of progressive moral ideas for solutions to international problems.
Yes, much of the world still fears our military might but is saddened by the realization that these days we substitute the threat of it for dialogue and ideas-inspired partnership. This is a world which regrets that we’ve forgotten that “the pen is mightier than the sword”.
What I see is, even within the country itself, dissent and plain-speaking being increasingly despised – a place where whole genres of debate now are censored under the excuse of ‘political correctness’.
What I see is a loss of moral fiber and the growth of moral ambiguity. Something that results in society ignoring the people who internationally snoop illegally on our closest allies and best friends in our name, privately ridiculing and insulting their leaders in the process, whilst at the same pursuing ruthlessly and relentlessly those who objected to these practices and who brought them to the public’s attention.
What I see and lament is the rise of the “it’s not fair”’ tendency and blaming foreigners’ dirty tricks for everything that goes wrong in industry. In the old days if we lost a big international order, we’d have gritted out teeth and decided next time to win by doing it better or maybe doing something different – in other words, improving.
Now we cry ‘foul’ and threaten trade sanctions in retaliation.
What I see is a society that still encourages the rich to view their poor, sick, elderly and plain unlucky fellow-Americans with contempt. A place that still fondly recalls the old movie line of “Greed is Good”.
However, what I also see is a country and people who have vast potential, with an inherent ability to correct course.
I see a people who are fundamentally good and who are capable again of becoming an inspiration to the world. I see a country with vast natural and human resources – if only it chooses to use them wisely.
I see people who are desperate for a vision of the future to be worked towards. Who want their pride in their nation to be proudly displayed through social, economic and moral progress in a national and international framework.
Above all, I see a people genuinely seeking change in all aspects of life and change that will lead them to self-esteem, self-pride and self-empowerment. I see a people who want to be as proud of their business and political leaders as they are of themselves – even if they happen to disagree with them.
There’s a lot to do and getting hysterically jingoistic because the economy’s added some extra jobs after five years of economic chaos and stagnation, isn’t part of that story.
I will celebrate, I hope soon – when we at least re-gain out lost position in the world.