Friday, October 10, 2008

Large Doses of Realism

"May you live in interesting times.' - An old Chinese proverb

Interesting doesn't always mean fun, does it?
But, changes are a'coming, whether they will prove to be positive ones or the other kind.
I do hope this Presidential Election has already experienced most of its 'October Surprise', compliments of our economy's excesses.
Just sorting out that mess will require some considerable effort, including prudent discipline, over time.
Then, it may be time to re-learn some of the same lessons again!

One of the themes of these elections has been to look forward to the future, not backward to the past.
How can that be done responsibly?
Don't we need to reexamine the causes and effects we have already seen to avoid stumbling into the same pitfalls again?
Surely, we don't need to reinvent the wheel every time!

Recently, I've read two books which attempt to put our past into context, then suggest better ways to manage our national affairs going forward.
Since all politics are local, perhaps there are lessons imbedded which we can begin to implement better at home.
Anyway, here are the books:

"Hot, Flat and Crowded' by Thomas L. Friedman [412 pages]
subtitle: Why we need a Green Revolution - and how it can renew America

"The Limits of Power" by Andrew J Bacevich [182 pages]
subtitle: The End of American Exceptionalism

Both books are fascinating and quite readable, with Friedman [a liberal Democrat] focusing on the convergence of three undeniable trends; global warming, globalization and global population explosion.
He identifies some bad habits that will need to recognized and changed, as well as some good habits we will have to learn and put into practice -and soon.

Bacevich [a conservative Republican] writes in a unique style and from the perspective of a high-minded knowledge of history. He -like Friedman- concludes that our 'empire of consumption contains the seeds of its own destruction'.
This is further exacerbated by our foreign policy establishment in Washington, DC, which is totally incapable of coming to grips with reality -despite who becomes President.

Despite their clear-eyed analyses of endemic problems, both books contain glimpses of how we can do better.
Interestingly, both authors conclude that America's continued dependence on fossil fuels and foreign sources are at the root of our dilemma.
Friedman's conclusions seem ambitious, but achievable.
Bacevich is less so, quoting from Reinhold Niebuhr's axiom of willful self-destruction; for states and social orders that fail to accept that the same rules which apply to others also applies to them.
What a concept!