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Our big test

My 10-year-old is learning about the US Government and Constitution. Last night, I helped him review the three branches of government, the roles of each, and so on. For a young boy, it’s about a system that leads and protects us. As far as he knows, the right people are there, doing the right things. I spared him my cynicism about Government. Why cause nightmares!

But do we really have the leadership we need? We are facing a big test, right now. We are in danger of coming up short, focusing too narrowly, and solving only the superficial problems, rather than addressing big needs and the rot in the system.

Someone wrote last week that the US Congress’ bailout plan was “government by Dow”. That too is a danger. It’s easy to share and easy to grasp the Dow Jones Industrial Average as a measure of what’s happening in the economy, but it isn’t a good measure. It often reflects panic: a stampede in or out of securities. We won’t do the right things if we look at the wrong indicators.

Also, by bad coincidence, we in the US are going through an election cycle right now. Old conventional wisdom is still holding sway, and our congresspeople are not inclined to step up and be statesmen. They are afraid of a misstep. And, because of what they think is an essential schedule to keep, they literally don’t have time to save the world right now, they’re trying to get re-elected. So they’ve gone home to campaign, instead of being on hand to address the needs of the national and global economic systems.

So we are facing a big test nationally and globally, and our proclivities are not in our favor in passing that test. Our thinking is in danger of being near-term and narrow, not broad and future-oriented.

At least in our personal and professional lives we can have better control over the debate, the strategy making, and the actions we will take. We can’t let ourselves fall in the same trap as our leaders. We need to give some of our mental energy to new ideas, even as we fret about the broken system. Let’s look beyond what’s broken or failing at what can be done in new ways, what can be started now, what we can do, not what we can’t. We can pass the test we face if we advance toward, rather than retreat from the challenges. That starts with our own visions and plans, and we can hope our political leaders wake up to it too. We need foresight now more than ever.

Image: rpongsaj via Flickr

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