I know this will be stating the obvious, as well as repeating myself, but it stills bears restating: We don't have a shared vision any more.
That's not to say, however, that there aren't what might be thought of as various competing contenders; A righteously pious theocracy, rigorously defending the word of god and the way of life that holds that line; A vigorously competitive meritocracy, letting unfettered liberty, as well as free markets, determine what the individual is able to achieve; a rational, thought and inquiry based society where exploration on all fronts of science is what we were given minds for in the first place; or a holistically oriented population of organic naturalists, looking to minimize materialistic aggrandizement to seek connection with each other, as well as the physical world.
That list is certainly arbitrary, and subject to other viewpoints as to what is missing, or included. There is also the fact that a lot of us tend to order up various combinations of all of the above. Be that as it may, though, it still gives us a reasonable starting point for a discussion.
What are we to do now. We are splintering even as we shatter ever more bonds of commonality. All the while the world grows more chaotic, desperate and violent. And in this only one product grows truly more abundant: Fear.
What we are left with as a response to all of this are various combinations of a numbing intimidation, cynical indifference, blind outrage, aggressive hording for control, and hatred for any type of “other” which might be perceived as threatening, or calling into question, of our notion of what ought to be the correct vision.
The oddity, as well as possible naivety, in all of this is that I still have hope, as well as faith, in the idea that there is a way for us to accept all of these divergent visions; a means to tolerate them by focusing on the common ground we still share; difficult to see thought that might be.
I would think that most of us want humanity to continue. That most of us want the idea of being an American, with the amazing set of ideals that go with it, to continue. That we want our children to have loving and nurturing communities to grow up in, allowing for confident and informed adults able to make good choices, so as to provide for their children in kind, to continue. That we want there to be some sense of spirit and faith, as well as curiosity and a need to keep asking questions, to continue. And finally, most of us want there to be personal liberty, even as they recognize that there is a responsibility owed to the needs of the community as a whole, that has to go along with that liberty.
How are we to do this? Knowing that some of us don't want one or more of the above? Knowing that some of us have very specific requirements to both procedures and outcomes?
What we have to realize, I think, is that most of us are not going have what we want to continue if we continue with business as usual. Even the privileged, who may, or may not, have become self perpetuating, will be forced to realize that, even in the best case scenario of “there will be blood,” they will remain in control of only the power to quicken a grotesque end. This is so because every system, whether physical or social, has its limits; especially if you work whatever system to your own ends without limit.
For those who might actually have it in their interests to see it all end I would only ask this: If you truly believe it will end, in whatever way, for what ever reason, and nothing human arrogance might imagine to do to prevent it will keep it from happening, why do you work so hard, and often to such extreme degrees, to hasten that end? Why not live and let live according to your own lights, and then bask in the glory of your reward, even as you gloat, ever so minutely of course, over the anguish that befalls the rest of us. Do you really lust so much for Holy War? Do you truly think your god desires rivers of blood to bring forth a righteous end? Even knowing that various faiths have tried this before throughout history, with the world only ending up a lot sadder, and the sediment of those floods cementing layers of hate into the very ground we try to rebuild on?
What we need to do, on all levels of regional and national government; and on the various forums of the economic, intellectual, and creative, elites, is to start talking about what an alternative to the way we have been doing business might look like. I have spent several decades, from the perspective of a systems analyst, trying to come up with a reasonable place to start that dialogue. I would hope that, precisely because it has become clear to everyone that what worked before no longer does so, we will all see it in our own self interest to do so.
The bottom line, from my perspective, is that there is a way to put into place an organizational formula that gives most of us a good portion of all of the things I listed as most of us wanting to preserve in the first place. Enough of all of those things, in balance with each other, to allow us to put up with whatever “other” vision we might be cooperating within a more loosely defined republic. And the one extra that we could all hold together in our different visions is the knowledge that a new cooperative model would give us a chance to rediscover our birthright as Americans: Becoming of and about living for the new frontier that awaits us out amongst the stars.
I have said it before, and I will keep on saying it: Americans with a shared vision are a force of nature. Even as we argue, passionately disagree, and sometimes come to fists in the face over; Americans find a way to “adapt, improvise, and overcome.” It has always been the god awfullest combination of the practical, the heart felt, the imaginative and the spiritual, that has kept it going. Please don't let it stop now.