by Bud Moeller
I’ve stayed out of the political commentary world so far but would like to add my perspective to the mix. It’s one man’s view. Take it or leave it. This is long–just read the bullet points or skim if you’d like.
I think there are 4 factors that have contributed to the mess we’re in and we’re all the guilty parties.
1. We’ve become selfish. Every appeal made by a political candidate appeals to our individual selfishness. I like it when I hear that MY taxes will go down, that MY special interests will be supported, that MY money won’t go to fund certain areas, that MY beliefs will be driven through the system. Who wouldn’t want to pay fewer dollars in taxes? Yeah, but the issue then becomes about who will fund the things we need? Easy–I’ll ensure that you’re taxed more! Totally selfish. I want to see us focus on “us” instead of “me.”
2. We’ve lost the big picture. Candidates who narrow-cast issues that appeal to small groups give the impression of priority for those issues. When I hear an issue that’s important to me (see #1 again), I expect the candidate will make that an important priority. But I don’t see anyone stepping back to try to balance what we need for the collective good. It’s not about “either/or.” It’s about “both/and.” Do we need defense or healthcare? Do we need jobs or support payments? Do we need consumers to be protected or business to run free? The answer is nearly always “both.” The debate should be around how to make both work rather than debating the either/or answer. I don’t see anyone standing up to try to integrate across the things we’d all agree on. Instead, they all fight to position themselves around the things we disagree on. I want to see a total solution that makes us equally uncomfortable. Then it’s probably about right. The common good will always be not right for someone–but no solution will please everyone.
3. We have lost trust. Do we trust Washington? Do we trust big business? Do we trust the police? Do we trust the Church? Do we trust hospitals? Do we trust our employers to take care of us? Do we trust our neighbors to help us if we get into a bind? The answer is almost always “No!” We have, rightly or wrongly, lost faith in nearly every institution because of some scandal or personal disappointment. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. Every institution, every individual, every place you turn is going to disappoint you at some point. Often it’s because of an “oops” or an unforeseen situation. Or it’s because of a few bad eggs. But should we totally reject the entire system or category because of that? That’s what the media tells us–and reinforces it every day with the bad news we hear. Maybe I’m too trusting but I get more benefit than damage by taking that position.
4. We’ve built a culture of fear. Fear is different than mistrust. Mistrust says that I don’t believe you have my best interests at heart. Fear says I am worried you’re going to do something really bad to harm me or someone I love. We train our kids from a very young age not to trust anyone. Fear predominates campaigns (“Those guys are going to do bad things to you and we need to stop them!”). Now we fear everyone–Muslims, two black men walking towards us in the parking lot, a lone guy at the playground, anyone with a nuclear bomb, neighbors’ candy during trick or treat, online friends, and on and on. We’ve become a nation of wimps–paralyzed by fear. Even the whole “politically correct” way of speaking is out of fear that we’ll hurt someone’s feelings. Recent scandals over personal comments in the media would have been laughed at years ago but now become national news. As a racecar driver, I can’t afford any fear. This is an attitude I just don’t understand.
My solutions? It’s easy to say that you should adopt the reverse of the attitudes above–and maybe that’s a good start. But we need to go further than that to stimulate a serious change.
1. Vote for people who will commit to rising above special interests and your narrow interests. Yes, the election is over. So we’ve got two years to send a message to the next crowd or we should vote them all out. The Democrats took a narrow agenda that alienated a large part of the country, as evidenced by the vote this week. The Republicans will be equally guilty, feeling they owe their voters some payback in Washington. And the Tea Party candidates are even narrower in their focus. We need to send a message that we want big solutions to the problems that affect all of us–and we need to find a way to do it all, in a balanced way. If we stripped out 50% of the special interest stuff, we could probably fund all the rest and have money left over.
2. Reject the media and most of what you read on the internet. The media is all about bad news, stirring controversy, playing to fears, and overinflating things. The old term “no news is good news” has today been rewritten “good news is no news.” We can stop reading, watching, buying, and funding their BS and maybe they’ll get the message. Yes, some of this is like watching a train wreck–we’re all voyeurs and love seeing the drama. But that’s our fault. We’re getting what we ask for. Let’s stop asking. And all the internet sites that are extreme in their views and advocacy–quit clicking them, unless you want to continue the divisiveness and perpetuate the false claims. Anyone can build a website and people will believe it’s truth–just because it looks pretty. Let’s not be fooled any more. Let’s not let division and fear dominate what we take in every day.
3. Gather some trusted advisors and find some real solutions. There’s an international group, The World Economic Forum, that most of you have never heard of. If I say “The Davos Meeting,” some of you will recognize them. It’s an annual gathering of CEOs/COOs, Presidents/Prime Ministers, leading academics and intellectuals from around the world. It’s the A-list gathering, by invitation only. They gather annually to tackle the world’s biggest issues (clean water, poverty, pollution, employment, trade, etc.). After noble beginnings, they fell into a comfort zone of a “good old boys club” (yes, they were mostly men) until they approached their 30th anniversary at the turn of the last decade. That’s when they became my client–to help them craft a strategy and positioning for the next 30 years. I kicked them into being more relevant and serious about doing something rather than just talking about it. Still slow progress, of course, but now they’re working around the year with smaller task forces to promote solutions. Couldn’t we gather the U.S. equivalents and put some trust in them, maybe some empowerment, and have them come up with solutions for the country? The politicians alone can’t do it. Business alone can’t do it. Academics often have interesting theories or ideas but no way to drive things through the country. We should take these best minds and use them for the collective good, rather than their own agendas.
4. Let’s keep everything in perspective. Most of us are unhappy. We hate our job, we hate our income (who’s not overworked and underpaid??), we hate paying taxes, we hate living in fear, we hate the lack of progress, we hate the state of disrepair of our infrastructure, we hate our country’s role in the world, we hate seeing people starve . . . but let’s think outside our boundaries and be thankful for what we have. 90% of us have jobs and jobs are available for the rest (but often people don’t want to take them). 90% of us have healthcare coverage, even under the old system, and often there are free or discounted services available. Nearly everyone has access to clean drinking water and shelter and clothing. Nearly everyone has access to transportation of some type. We all have freedom (unless we’re locked up for committing a crime). We can pretty much say and believe what we want. We live in relative peace and security. When we look at what we have compared to nearly every other nation, we have much to be thankful for. Perspective. Our situation may not be ideal but it’s way better than billions of others are facing. If we spent less energy complaining and more of that energy helping someone else, there would certainly be enough to improve everyone’s lot in life. Something that may be small and easy for you to do may dramatically change someone else’s life. Look for those opportunities.
If you made it this far, thanks for indulging me. I hope this gives you some ideas and some hope. Again, just one man’s opinion.