Or…Where We Stand Is Where We Sit….
I’m reading an excellent book called The Price of Civilization: Reawakening American Virtue and Prosperity, by Jeffrey D. Sachs. He is a world-renowned economist in Clinical Economics, an operating principle which means “…that the economy is intimately interconnected with a much broader drama that includes politics, social psychology, and the natural environment.” He believes that “without restoring an ethos of social responsibility, there can be no meaningful and sustained economic recovery.”
Mr. Sachs reveals his studies of the American people and the current state of affairs. He surveyed hundreds of thousands of Americans and concluded that “Americans are very different from the ways the elites and the media pundits want us to see ourselves.” He states that the American people are generally broad-minded, moderate, and generous. These are not the images of Americans we see on television or the adjectives that come to mind when we think of America’s rich and powerful elite.”
However, Mr. Sachs also states that our political institutions have broken down. Unfortunately, the broad public no longer holds the ‘elites’ accountable. He further states that “American society is too deeply distracted by our media-drenched consumerism to maintain the habits of effective citizenship.”
That statement hit home. When people get comfortable, they no longer worry about their neighbors. They are no longer a part of a ‘mindful’ society. We have chased that American dream for so long, we have forgotten to take the ‘middle path’. I believe in his statement that Americans need to “reconceive the idea of a good society…and to find a creative path toward it.” When are we willing to pay the price of civilization? When are we willing to complete multiple acts of good citizenship? The answer is not comfortable so many of us don’t want to face it. I agree with Mr. Sachs’ comments about becoming more involved in trying to fix the problem. He believes that “…compassion is the glue that holds society together.”
I also understand his thoughts that we all have to be willing to pay our fair share of taxes, become educated about society’s needs, become compassionate of others, and act as stewards for future generations.
People have asked me about this book, and when I talk about it they say, “Isn’t it depressing?” My comment is that it’s not depressing to educate ourselves about what has swayed us for the past 30 years. It’s not depressing to find solutions for the problem. There are so many people out there that are pessimistic and cynical, yet they don’t get involved. They chalk it up the ‘government’ being the problem, when in fact it’s all of us that are the problem. All people have the right to vote, yet we don’t bother to vote, or we let the ‘machine’ push us into choices that aren’t for the average person. The ‘machine’ is big money pushing their candidates. When we look behind the scenes, deregulation has continued to be the bane of society. We need a mixture of government and free market enterprise to get back on track.
My generation learned to save, and to give to others, even when things were tight. Apparently, we have forgotten to pass this lesson on to our children. And, with unemployment being high for the next generation, we better hope that we have saved enough for our retirement as well as our children’s extended stay at home and their education expenses.
The majority of Americans believe that the government’s responsibility is to take care of the people who can’t take care of themselves, and this has been an enduring value in American society.
We as individuals have to be willing to get out of our comfort zones, expect the wealthy to contribute, contribute ourselves, educate ourselves and hold our elected officials accountable. We can start locally and think globally. We have to understand that the ultimate purpose of economic policy is the “life satisfaction of the population” as Mr. Sachs put it. We as a society have to revive the personal excellence and community value ethos instead of accumulating wealth and possessions. We have to be given a chance to once again value education and pride in work.
There are lots of people like me who care, who are uber-organizers, are available and willing to help. All you need to do is be willing to seek us out and take some advice to heart. Who knows what kind of friends you’ll make, and what you can accomplish together. So, get involved in your inalienable right to pursue your happiness!