Focusing on What Really Matters…

Photo Collage of opposing views & divisiveness

There’s been a lot of ink spilled, recently, over the seemingly endless litany of problems confronting us as U.S. citizens. And no, it’s not all in your head. In 2024 CE, all eyes seem to be turned on the U.S. elections, the Russo-Ukraine war and the dust up in Gaza. All important, to be sure. And solving them are necessary but insufficient steps on the way to something like sustainable survival.

That said, let’s be clear about the real problems we have, today. We can bicker ‘til the hot place freezes about whether Trump or Biden makes more sense right now. It’s not a trivial question and how you answer that question says a lot about you. Nor will I minimize the importance of that decision. It’s pivotal.

In my opinion, if you claim to be a thoughtful citizen interested in the rule of law for all, you can’t very well embrace Mr. Trump. He’s a documented liar and self-revealed authoritarian…and intellectually and ethically moribund to boot. That said, is Mr. Biden that much better? While not perfect, yes, I think he is, with all his “warts.” We can be certain he will leave office when his time is up. And whatever you think of his border policies, his administration won’t be separating children from their parents as a deterrent to extra-legal immigration. Do I agree with him on his unbalanced support of Israel, for example? Emphatically, no. I’ll still take him over Mr. Trump.

But in the broader global perspective, am I the only one who thinks the foregoing is tantamount to chasing the butterflies and letting the elephants get away? We have much bigger issues with which to deal and no one paying attention and with three braincells to rub together is unaware of them.

The Rise of Right-Wing Authoritarianism

Yes, this is a question here in the U.S. but not only in the U.S. Nationalistic ethnocentrism, nativism (much of it racially and ethnically motivated) threatens the post WW II peace. An admittedly uneasy peace, but none of us should want a return to the gassy rhetoric of the likes of Hitler, Mussolini or (for that matter) their latter-day imitators, in which I include Mr. Trump.

Have we forgotten the lessons our historical experience should have drummed into our skulls? We know (or should) that a modern, pluralistic representative democracy rests on a three-legged stool. It needs:

  • an educated, attentive electorate. One that is conversant with the issues and interested in refining the rights on which our nation is founded, relying on a fact-based evaluation of where we are now.
  • an electorate with an appreciation of the roles and responsibilities of citizenship and willing to take those responsibilities seriously.
  • a representative governing body with a complementary appreciation of their duties and responsibilities as stewards of the public trust. Men and women willing to place the good of all above re-election, if necessary.

Ecological Issues Affecting Us All

Water color photo of Earth in Space
This is it. There is not planet B.

I don’t feel the need to say much about this. Climate change is real and (at least in part) human caused. Answering the threat modern society poses to long-term ecological sustainability demands we all be part of the solution rather than part of the problem, even if our contributions are small. And we must keep the pressure on our elected representatives to do the parts we can’t do ourselves. Will that be attended by sacrifice? Definitely. We must, nevertheless, do it. The alternatives are not rosy and if you care at all about the next generation, our duty is calling…and far too many of us are late showing up.

End-Stage Capitalism and Technology Generally

No one who knows me well would confuse me with a luddite. I’m not a technolophile but neither am I knee-jerk opposed to advancements in it. At the same time, thoughtful humans must recognize that virtually every solution we dream up tends to be accompanied by its own set of problems. Technology is no exception.

The most recent kerfuffle over technology is Artificial Intelligence (AI). Setting aside doomsday scenarios involving self-aware technology exterminating humankind, we must recognize that AI is likely to demolish the already teetering capitalistic model.

There will be “winners” (a vanishingly small few) and “losers” (far too many) in that collapse. There always are, when the economic center of gravity shifts. But the smart money is already betting it can be stopped. Responsible citizens must demand our elected representatives buckle down and actually do their jobs. That means working together to come up with thoughtful, balanced ways to deal with it.

Note I said our elected representatives must do this. That doesn’t mean outsourcing legislation to lobbyists or the self-appointed thought leaders. We cannot entrust this to interested parties who craft legislation to advantage themselves at the expense of citizens generally—as has been done so many times in the past. If we leave to those with an agenda that does not pivot on the best interests of citizens writ large, we are unlikely to like the outcome.

A Demise of Meaning?

Woman in the desert looking for something
How do I get out of here? Where do I fit in?

I’m not a fan of organized religion as a source of purpose or meaning—says the guy who grew up in church. There are far too many examples of religion (in all forms) being recruited for subjugation economically, politically and socially. And far too many wars have been justified in religion’s name, to mask political ends. That said, at its best, organized religion has often supplied purpose and meaning—a sense of order—that science itself does not. And in this age of multiple, interdependent paradigm shifts, grounding in some form seems necessary for something like purpose.

But does religion in the end deliver something that science balanced by philosophy and humanism cannot? I doubt it. That said, there does remain a looming vacuum of meaning as the fusion of AI, and relentlessly advancing technology more generally continues to erode purpose as we have been inclined to define it.

What will happen to us as a society when work—as we’re accustomed to structure it—is further co-opted by technology? I think that depends on our focus. Can we not find meaning in each other, in life itself and in the preservation of it? Not just our own kind, but all the life forms with which we share this ecosystem.

One does not need to be a particularly deep thinker to recognize infinite, unbridled growth isn’t possible in a finite ecosystem. What then shall we do? Isn’t it time (and past time) to start working on that? Not by some corporate drone looking for a new way to plus up another half-percent to margins or some politician looking for another way to leverage his/her office to take another inch of self-determination away from citizens.

This should be an all of society discussion. And the time to start is now. Actually, we’re late to the discussion already, but the next best time to start considering these matters is now. Andrew Yang during his run for the presidential nomination was proposing a universal basic income. Personally, that feels counter-instinctual to me, but I have just enough open mind left to recognize I could be wrong—and that going forward, the less off the table, perhaps, the better.

What do you think? Drop a comment below, if you have thoughts. Looking forward to hearing from you.


Dirk's path to authorship wasn't quite accidental, but almost. Through two previous careers, first as a retired Marine officer and later as a corporate trainer, he started more stories than he finished. But in the backwash of the 2008 financial meltdown, Dirk's employer filed for Chapter 11 protection. Cordially invited to leave and not return, he found himself out of work and excuses. Since then Dirk has finished six titles and has two works in progress. He currently lives in Laguna Niguel with his wife, two pschotic cats and a fourteen year old Ball Python named Corona.

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