I will be away for a few days to visit friends. In any case, I need a few days just to get out of the bad mood I am in. I have not been able to think about sustainability when I need how to figure out how to get from today to tomorrow, and I am certain that I am not alone in these straits. I know that all will pass but I wonder if the world will have undergone one of those flips I so often write about: a change into a new regime from which we cannot return to the present world, presuming that is where we want to be.
New worlds are important to most of the planet’s population because their present worlds are not wonderful in terms of flourishing. I would add hundred millions of new entrants to this vast group–those whose livelihoods have disappeared amid the chaos of the financial woes we continue to experience. The promised pursuit of happiness that is always evoked as a cornerstone of the American dream and exceptionalism seems an increasingly futile race. It may be that the prosperity I have grown up with cannot be sustained. The conditions that have produced it for millions have also depleted the resources needed to maintain it for the future.
Looking realistically at our society through the lens of complexity, especially in view of the unstabilizing events of the recent past, the appearance of so much brittleness is no surprise. The more brittle a system is, the more care and caution is necessary in keeping it running smoothly. Sledgehammers are not what is called for, and that is exactly what the ideological battles represent whether liberal, conservative, or libertarian.
President Obama is being castigated for not taking a stronger position in these matters, but I believe this spleen is misguided. He is making a strong effort to find pragmatic levers that might ease us out of our peril, but in the one-dimensional context of the press and punditry, he is painted as a sort of wimp. There has been a lot of talk recently about the nature of political rhetoric, much of it misguided. Cries for the left to adopt the strategies of the right, that is talk in simplistic, emotion-laden sound bites, is exactly what the world does not need. This strategy may indeed win elections, but to what end if the Republic is left in tatters. Even if sustainability seems further away than ever, the ways to create it are still extremely relevant to easing the present turmoil. But first, our leaders must stop playing simplistic games and change the tenor of political talk to focus first on the complexity of the situation and on the need to focus on solutions to the problems facing us, not on “winning” the next election. Winning is in quotes because for most Americans the future looks worse than the present.