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Why We Need a Renaissance

October 22nd, 2010 // 4:00 am @

The problem with revolutions is that they throw out the good with the bad.

Promoters of revolution gather support by peddling hate of the current system and those who lead and benefit from it, so when they get around to making changes they have actually discredited much of what is good in society.

Indeed, this is why some scholars have argued that the American Founding was not truly a revolution like those in France and later Russia.

Reforms, many thinkers rightly suggest, are gentler than revolution and can still result in positive improvements.

Unfortunately, reform thrives by re-empowering entrenched institutions, systems and even groups that are often more than just a little invested in doing things without change.

Reform tinkers with the edges while leaving the majority of the failing system intact.

Making reforms can certainly bring needed improvements to an organization or society, and sometimes little changes are enough.

The rule of thumb is to avoid revolution unless those things you hold most dear are under attack and clearly threatened, and to rely on reform when the issues and consequences aren’t quite so drastic.

Revolution throws out the good and bad of the past and replaces it with an all new system, while reform leaves the system mostly unchanged but alters certain procedures, institutions or personnel.

There is another option which approaches things very differently, and which can bring major change without the pain of revolution.

This option is Renaissance.

Renaissance is unlike revolution and reform in many ways, but can often deliver the positive results of both.

Renaissance operates from a very different premise than the other two, because it focuses on drastically changing people instead of things.

It changes people from the inside, and then leaves it to them to alter their lives, choices and actions in ways that reform the past and revolutionize and redirect the future.

When societies emphasize progress through revolution or reform, they focus on institutions, laws, policies, funding, credentials, resources, and other manifestations of the physical world.

In contrast, renaissance emphasizes the soul.

When people change their ideas, feelings, goals, dreams, loves, beliefs, passions, ideals, objectives, wishes, relationships and other intangibles, the future is forever impacted.

While these may seem ethereal to some, their impact on history is certainly concrete and momentous.

Two Models

In times of consistent economic growth, plentiful jobs and easy capital, the characteristics of success are often consistency, schooling, training, expertise, steadiness, reliability, obedience, compliance and longevity.

Schools in such environments teach memorization, fitting in, impressing superiors, and excelling within the guidelines, and jobs tend to reward these things.

But when the economy is struggling, jobs are difficult to get and keep, employers are laying off and reducing costs, and/or capital is scarce and minimizing risk, a different set of values dominate.

Traits like capability, skill, ability, initiative, resiliency, optimism, inventiveness, ingenuity, ability to inspire others, frugality, resourcefulness, tenacity and especially enterprise are most valued by the economy.

Schools and parents in such times need to help students increase creativity, imagination, originality, individuality, mental agility, emotional resolve, innovation, risk and entrepreneurialism.

We have been in a general growth period for nearly fifty years, and we are now in a struggling economic era, so the values are in transition from the first list to the second.

Parents and grandparents are still likely to dispense advice from the old economy, emphasizing things like test-taking, credentials and impressing superiors over the new economic realities such as initiative, individuality, originality and entrepreneurialism.

The government is stuck in the same rut, trying and failing to fix major societal challenges with trivial, albeit expensive, reforms.

Where they do attempt to make huge changes, such as in health care and financial reform, their symbolic and revolutionary-style agendas are creating more anger, frustration and deficits than actual solutions.

Tea Party responses further fuel the revolutionary rhetoric in the media and on Capitol Hill–but things remain mostly unchanged.

This lingering “business as usual” in Washington is alarming in a society with significant problems and major challenges in many fields of life.

From the obvious economic problems to unending international quagmires in Afghanistan (now the longest war in American history), Iraq and a number of other places, to a decaying infrastructure of roads and bridges, rising health care costs (unsolved and further complicated by the new health care law), decreasingly effective schools, high unemployment, unsolved levels of crime, and so on, we need real leadership and solutions that actually remedy our national problems.

Revolution is not the answer.

There is much that is good in America, and we want to surgically solve our problems without undoing the many positive things we have built into our society.

But the reform mentality isn’t working either, and the problems have been piling up for over a decade.

We need to drastically improve society, deliver solutions to overcome our most pressing problems, and simultaneously maintain the things which are already working.

Despite the attachment of both political parties and nearly all of our major public and private institutions to reform thinking, we need something much more effective.

We need change from within, a drastic alteration of attitudes and goals and thinking across our nation.

We need people to imagine a better future, to really believe in the reality of what we can do, and to take action.

We don’t need more stirring speeches from the President or any other leader so much as we need millions of individual Americans to get work–alone and in small groups–on solving our problems.

In short, we need a renaissance. And we need it soon.

The Power to Change

Fortunately, the greatest power in all of this may simply be individuals taking action and parents discussing the new values (initiative, ingenuity, tenacity, entrepreneurialism, and so forth) with their children and youth.

In fact, the American spirit of resourcefulness, optimism and enterprise is alive and well. More of us just need to take the leap.

The difficulty, of course, is that the old values were against risk.

In the old economy, the one that dominated from 1945 to 2008, risk was scary and often unrewarding.

A lot of people made small to large fortunes in entrepreneurial ventures, small businesses, network and multilevel marketing, and other non-traditional enterprises, but a lot more lost money in such attempts and ended up dependent on jobs like nearly everyone else.

The lesson for many people was just to get a decent education, a regular job, and a secure benefits package.

Like in Defoe’s classic Robinson Crusoe, many parents shared the advice not to aim too high or too low, but just to be content with “the middle station” in life.

A decent house, two cars, cable television, a good grill and a family membership at the local rec center — these were the dreams of two generations of Americans.

Robert Kiyosaki develops this theme in various interesting dialogues in the best-selling Rich Dad, Poor Dad (affiliate link).

But in the new economy, such a course is likely to create permanent economic struggles in your life. In this economic environment, without risk few people get ahead.

Entrepreneurial thinking, originality and initiative are the new credentials.

Tenacity, ingenuity and enterprise are the new job security.

This is true even among much of the traditionally employed population. The stakes are higher now and success is more difficult across the board, and thinkers, leaders and innovators are needed.

Early Adapters

But how to get the population on board with the new values? Most of us were raised, educated and lived our careers in the old economy, and shifting to the new realities is proving troublesome.

If the Great Recession is just a blip in history and the days of easy credit and consistent growth return for a decade or more, people will justify this refusal to transition their thinking.

But if, as all indications and evidence seem to suggest, the times of high unemployment, a difficult growth environment and a sputtering economy are here to stay for a while, we are kidding ourselves and hurting our futures by refusing to adapt.

No policy, institutional plan or governmental debate is likely to shift the national mentality from employee thinking to entrepreneurial values.

A renaissance is needed. Our vision must change, and our dreams must imagine the great opportunities available in the new realities of the future economy.

We must, as a people, engage a massive migration toward the new economy.

We can lead the economies of the world, but we have to embrace the new reality and get to work. Until a mental renaissance occurs, we are stuck in a rut of old thinking.

Of course, even if the majority refuses to move forward in this new world, each of us can make these changes and get started on our own journey.

In fact, those who get started first are more likely to benefit and profit than the latecomers. This is true in any nearly any industry and endeavor. The early bird gets the worm.

And, as the early adapters get to work, it is empowering to those who are waiting for validation or credibility to justify the risk so they can get on board as well.

There are already a few who are pioneering and building in the new economy. For example, the “downshifter” trend took successful people from the coasts to small towns to build an entrepreneurial new economy starting in the late nineties.

Likewise, homeschooling and the organic foods movements addressed problems in education and health care using new economy thinking long before the 2008 economic meltdown.

Both continue to grow as the rest of the economy unsuccessfully grasps for solutions. Indeed, few whole foodists were (or are) too concerned about health care reforms–because they are, simply, healthy.

Participatory religion continues to grow, as the old-line religions dependent on Priests and Professionals watch their numbers dwindle.

Public schools and teacher unions are increasingly concerned with the growth of charter and other non-traditional educational offerings, and the rise of for-profit career colleges has the old educational bureaucracy hiring lobbyists and badmouthing these “upstart” competitors.

With just one of these schools, The University of Phoenix, quickly becoming the largest university in the world, the old system sees its monopoly fading.

There is a shortage of new economy thinking because the whole nation needs to make the shift, but there are numerous examples of leaders and groups making the transition.

Indeed, literally thousands of online “tribes” are slowly moving (and many are going more quickly) in the right direction.

A few guidelines for transition to the new economy and values include:

  • Start young, or if you are older, help the young get started
  • Don’t seek to impress the old elite, but rather go after real results
  • Get past the old value of not taking risks
  • Be experimental, not limited by old systems, methods or models
  • Don’t be limited by old obstacles like office space or business cards
  • Don’t get stuck on hierarchies, titles and power struggles
  • Think virtual, tribal and international
  • Be inclusive, open and interconnected
  • Be mindful of the way information grows

Conclusion

In the Information Age, revolution would cause as many problems as it might possibly fix, and reform has proven too feeble to really bring necessary change.

We need a massive internal renaissance of the great explorer, frontier, pioneering, and entrepreneuring values which took Pilgrims to the Mayflower, 49’rs to the plains, and led generations of Americans to build the businesses, families, schools, churches, and communities that made our nation great.

We need to accept that we live in a new economy and embrace the new values which bring success in our new environment.

Chief among these are initiative, cheerfulness, persistence, and an enterprising mentality. We need to engage the powerful flow of information in this age, and help it spread and lift the plight of peoples worldwide.

Each of us has a vital role helping the future emerge, and it is time to take the leap and get to work on those things we have always felt we should do.

Or, if we are already hard at work doing our part, it would be well to smile, laugh more often, and give our full attention to watching a sunset or contemplating a tide as it comes in.

It is time for a renaissance, and if the whole nation doesn’t lead out, each of us can embrace it anyway.

Above all, it’s time to take a deep breath, exhale any doubts, and sit down with our youth and share our vision of the new world and the renaissance ahead.

***********************************

Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

Category : Economics &Entrepreneurship &Featured &Government &History &Information Age &Leadership

Language is Destiny

October 21st, 2010 // 4:00 am @

How a New Generation is Taking the Reins of American Leadership

In the twentieth century Richard Weaver famously taught that “ideas have consequences.”

He turned this thought into a book and eventually a philosophy, one which entered the general culture as the idea that “words mean things.”

Together these two concepts informed a society dominated and run by the Baby Boomers–those born between 1946 and 1964.

As we transition to a society run by the Latch-key or X Generation, born between 1964 and 1984, a new dominating viewpoint is gaining control.

As usual, most of media, academia and government have not yet fully caught on or understood the influence of the coming shift.

A powerful way to understand the rise of a new thought-generation is the OSA, or Over-Stated Acquiescent. This occurs where a person communicates agreement with what is being said by overstating the point.

Today’s OSAs include, “I know, right?” “Oh yeah, good point,” and “uber- ” [fill-in-the-blank].

These OSAs are sarcastic and manage to communicate irony and skepticism even as they convey assent.

This is a major shift from the past two generations, whose OSAs were nearly all positive, optimistic, guileless, and straightforward: “Groovy,” “Cool,” “Far Out,” “Rad,” “Awesome,” and so on.

Note that these older-generation OSA’s expressed a positive view of the future, a general sense that the world is good and getting better, and a naïve and infectious happiness of youth.

In contrast, the rising generation’s post-9/11 OSA’s are edgy–waiting for the other shoe to drop on our society, and just trying to get by until it does.

The older OSA’s come from a generation raised by parents, a cohesive high-school community and mostly homogenous values, while the new OSA’s express a society raised by television, factionalized and competing cliques, and conflicting diversity.

The old OSA’s were popularized by older youth (16-19) who wanted to hang on to carefree adolescence into their twenties and even thirties, where the new OSA’s reflect a younger group (10-13) who grew up too fast and were sophisticated before puberty and involved in adult issues and relationships by ages 14-16.

Destiny Lost

If you doubt how much OSA’s can teach us about generational psyches and therefore the future, consider their counterpart: the Under-Stated Denial (USDs).

The new USDs are once again ironic, skeptical, grown-up-too-fast, cosmopolitan, and sarcastic: “Not so much,” “A Little Bit,” “Shut Up!” and “-ish.”

Each is nuanced, meaning that none of these actually mean what they say. In the new language, words still mean things–but not exactly.

“Shut up,” here doesn’t mean to stop talking, but rather “totally!” Likewise, “A little bit” actually means, “Yes, a lot!” The older generation would have said, “duh!” instead of “A little bit.”

And “Not so much” would be translated by older generations as, “Of course not, stupid. How ridiculous! Isn’t this obvious? Come on, use your brain. For heaven’s sakes!”

The old generation of USDs was predictable, straightforward and obvious. “No way!” “No,” “Never,” “Negative,” “Not very much,” and other USD’s left little room for doubt as to their meaning.

In fact, they were more “stated” than “understated.” In contrast, the new USD’s are ripe with non-verbal meanings. The old way was to say what you mean, and even say it more strongly than you mean it.

The new way is to say what you don’t mean in a way that means what you mean–kind of.

If this is confusing, welcome to the future.

A: “So, do you like him?”
“He’s dreamy!”

B: “So, do you like him?”
“A little bit.”

These actually mean the same thing: the responder is smitten! But only “A” says so. In fact, “B” actually seems to say the opposite.

C: “Did you have fun on your date?”
“It was cool.”

D: “Did you have fun on your date?”
“ish.”

Again, C and D mean basically the same thing: “The date was okay, nothing great, but not terrible.”

But “cool” leans positive, just like the Boomer generation as a whole, while “ish” tends negative, glass-half-empty, like Generation X.

“Cool” means “I’m glad I went and I’d go out with him again,” while “ish” communicates the opposite.

Note that it is the expressions a generation uses in its adult years, not its youth, that carry the most weight, since language mirrors (and even, to some extent, defines) internal thoughts.

It is adult generations that wield real — as opposed to symbolic — power in businesses, governments and other major societal institutions.

So, while Gen X may have used older-style OSA’s and USD’s in its youth (“cool,” “awesome,” etc.), in adulthood it is now firmly planted in the new language used by its children (“I know, right?” “not so much,” “a little bit,” etc.). Its future will most likely follow the new model.

Interesting sidebar: it is not an anomaly that some of these phrases come from the growing Latino culture.

Business, Government, & Societal Applications

The ramifications for business, relationships, career and government are numerous.

For one, a society run by Boomers is willing to keep trying the old ways while Generation Xers won’t persist on a path they don’t trust or consider faulty.

Once Xers think something won’t work, they switch to something new. And where Boomers believe in the principles of the past and hesitate to try unproven policies, Xers are quick to try new things even when the risks are high.

The old model valued clarity, optimism and idealism, and supported progress toward the ideal–whether your ideal was Woodstock or Reagan.

In contrast, the new values are multi-layered, complex, nuanced.

They resonate with a cosmopolitan mix of pragmatic and symbolic, like American Idol or Obama. Things must be real and extremely symbolic at the same time.

In this new model, Republicans and Democrats are fake and lacking in symbolic sway, while Tea Parties and Obama are reality television and big-time icons combined.

Rush Limbaugh and Joe Biden are the old–straightforward, pushy, dogmatic, proletarian–while Glenn Beck and Rachel Maddow are the new: complex, many-layered, broadly-read, cosmo, iconic. It’s George Strait and The Rolling Stones versus Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga.

The old says what it means, the new sparks the imagination.

At first blush, it may appear that the old model is fundamentally conservative–preserving values, honoring the past–while the new is wildly liberal–risking new options, and open to untried possibilities.

But that’s the view from the “words mean things” side of the fence.

On a deeper level, where things (all things, not just words mean things, the new OSA’s and USD’s signal a breath of life into the stagnant and unproductive war of words between the two major political parties and, more importantly, the two warring economic classes in our society.

We are increasingly a class society, split between uber-haves and the rest of us.

While the new “say what you don’t mean” generation may not appear to accept any of the wisdom of past generations, the opposite is actually true.

The older generations emphasized saying what you mean, and in doing so split into two rigid camps roughly understood as conservative and liberal.

These two camps then set out to beat each other in every walk of life, from the pulpit to the campus and from the big screen to the White House.

One major casualty in this battle was many of the best principles and ideas from the past. Indeed, both sides promoted their own version of what the greatest thinkers of history said, so that by the 2000’s both Democrats and Republicans could claim to be promoting Jeffersonian principles of American freedom.

Ultra-conservatives and liberal extremists carry around quotes from Plato, Jefferson, the Federalist, Tocqueville, Lincoln, Churchill and others–many taken largely out of context, each supporting some current pet viewpoint.

Both sides de-emphasized the need to go read Plato, Jefferson, the Federalist or others in depth and in total.

As a result, the great freedom principles and ideals of the past were forgotten, touted by all, and followed by none. This is the actual legacy of much that calls itself conservatism or progressivism.

Do our modern traditions preserve the best principles of the past? Not so much. (Translation for Boomers: “Not at all. And that really stinks!”)

Do they simultaneously claim the authority of the great ideas and patently fail to understand them? A little bit. (Translation for Boomers: “Totally. How ridiculous!”)

Is conservatism even conservative any more, and is progressivism even progressive? -ish. (Translation for Boomers: “A little, but not really. What’s wrong with these people, anyway?”)

Destiny Reconsidered

That said, there is much to be learned from the new destiny of language caused by the rise of Gen X.

While the obvious change is an openness to the new, even if it is untried and risky, there is a simultaneous return to the wisdom of the past.

More and more people, whatever their political or religious views, are returning to the old classics. And they are reading them in full, in depth. They are talking about them, blogging about them, and thinking about them.

As a result, they are getting a dose of quality thinking in a modern setting.

Something very interesting is coming out of this return to the great books and ideas. Conservatives are learning real conservatism and progressives are understanding real liberalism.

The potential of this renaissance is staggering. It turns out the problem of the great ideological divide was less conservatism vs. liberalism and more a reliance on superficiality.

Conservative and also progressive societies can both be greatly free, but shallow-thinking and poorly-educated societies cannot. They always deteriorate into less-than-free countries.

Indeed, when one actually reads Washington or Adams or Jefferson or the Federalist, it becomes clear that the American founders and framers were truly uber-conservative and uber-progressive.

They didn’t pick either side, but rather pulled the best conservative and also the best progressive principles and applied them all.

For example, when I first attended major home school conventions in the early 1990s there was a generally accepted viewpoint–shared by liberal hippies and right-wing evangelicals and seemingly everyone in between–that the American founders were against government-funded public schools and for privatized, parent-run schools.

In my youth, I had been taught a different view: That the founders established government-run public schools as the bastion of American strength.

When I read the collected writings of Jefferson, all twenty volumes, for the first time, I was shocked to read what he actually said about schools.

The first time I read the collected works of Washington and Adams, my surprise deepened and my views changed.

It turns out that both modern perspectives were shallow.

What the founders actually wanted was a flourishing educational environment with numerous public and private options all offering the deepest quality of education.

The founders described mentoring, the vital role of the greatest books and other works of mankind, and numerous educational ideals.

Their grasp of principles was broad, and their suggested innovations numerous. They believed in promoting the best conservative successes of the past and initiating progressive innovations to continually improve learning.

I had a similar experience as I read the original writings of the greats on numerous topics, from the Constitution to international relations to economics, and so on.

Depth always trumps shallow, and indeed many current debates between shallow conservatism and shallow liberalism are simply a problem caused by shallow understanding–when depth is added, many of these debates disappear altogether, and the rest have some actual chance of productive discourse that leads to improvement and change.

Shallow isn’t Education

The job-training focus of schooling since 1941 has, despite its admitted positives, had the negative effect of promoting shallow leadership and citizenship education.

The internet age has continued this downward trend to the extent that people have turned from books to e-surfing as a replacement for deep, quality education.

This applies to both formal youth schooling and informal, on-going adult learning.

A nation of free citizens is always a nation of adults continually learning at a deep level and thinking about new ideas in a continual national debate about the truly important things.

When only a small percentage of the adult population is engaged in this debate, freedom quickly declines, as the views and desires of the dependent masses are at odds with the principles of freedom.

In our day, the spread of the internet has significantly increased the number and percentage of the population that is actively involved in the national dialogue.

What is less obvious, but even more profound, is that we are also witnessing a growth in the number of people reading, studying and thinking about the great classics–not just limited quotes in textbooks, but in the original and complete form.

While the internet age has caused the death of the newspaper and, currently, the looming demise of many book publishers, it has coincided with a resurrection in reading the great classics.

This is a huge victory for freedom, though the consequences won’t likely be fully understood for many decades.

E: “Did Generation X get trained for jobs?
“A little bit.”

(Translation for Boomers: “Absolutely! If anything, it got more than enough. And, at the same time, other types of quality education suffered greatly.”)

F: “Did Generation X get a truly quality education for life and leadership?”
“Not so much.”

(Translation for Boomers: “Not at all. What a tragedy!”)

G: “Is Generation X prepared for the mantle of leadership now falling on its shoulders?”
“-ish.”

(Translation for Boomers: “Not really. But it’s coming anyway, so we’ll do our best. But it sucks that we weren’t educated for leadership in the first place!”)

H: “Look, Gen X isn’t any better than the Boomers and will have just as many problems.”
“I know, right?”

(Translation for Boomers: “Of course it will. In the meantime, let’s smile and make the best of it. In fact, let’s be happy about it. We might as well. Life stinks sometimes, but there is a lot of good too. Stop taking everything so seriously or you’ll die of ulcers.”)

I: “If Gen X doesn’t grow up and get serious, things will get a lot worse.”
“Oh yeah, good point.”

(Translation for Boomers: “No they won’t! Relax. I mean, yes, technically you are right. Real problems require real solutions. But stop over-stating it. Of course we’ll have to get serious. Of course we have to grow up. But in all your serious, grown-up leadership, you still managed to mess up the world a lot. Yes, you did some good things too. Thank you for those. Really, thank you. But our biggest problem with you is that you did everything with a frown on your face. We’ll deal with the real world in serious and grown-up ways, but don’t expect us to scowl our way through life. We prefer to smile, to laugh, to enjoy the journey–however difficult it may be.”)

A Boomer/Gen X Dialogue

I recently had a talk with a Boomer-age mentor who helped me a lot in my youth.

He commented on my latest book, and while he agreed with the conclusions two things baffled him.

First, why did I say, “God, or the Universe, whichever is most comfortable for you…” instead of just “God”?

Second, why did I say, “Whatever your politics, conservative or liberal or moderate or whatever, if you support freedom then we are on the same side…”?

I found myself as baffled as he was. Why wouldn’t I be inclusive instead of divisive?

I asked if my words made it sound like I don’t believe in God.

“Not at all,” he said. “But, it’s…squishy.”

“Squishy?” I asked. “I believe in God. I made that clear in the book, right?”

“Yes.”

“So, do you want me to go a step further and say that everyone who doesn’t believe in God is wrong and shouldn’t work with me on promoting freedom? Do you actually believe that?”

“Well, no,” he said. “But you should just say it like it is.”

“Okay,” I said, “here is how it is. If those who believe in God and freedom keep fighting against those who believe in freedom but not God, then will freedom win or lose?”

He just looked at me

“Or if conservatives, liberals, libertarians, environmentalists, moderates and independents who believe in freedom keep fighting against each other, does freedom gain or lose?”

He was shaking his head, so I tried a different tact.

“Is freedom losing so much ground because we’ve failed to show the evils of the other side or because we’ve failed to get more people to stand up for freedom? Which is more important?”

“Getting more to stand for freedom. That’s the whole point,” he said.

“Does freedom need more allies or less?” I asked.

“More. A lot more.”

“Do your allies have to agree with you on everything, or just on supporting freedom?”

“Well, I guess just on supporting freedom.”

“So why do you want me to argue with them on everything else? I mean, if freedom wins, we can all argue for the rest of our lives about everything from religion to politics to the Lakers. But if freedom loses, none of us will be able to stand for what we believe. I am proud of my friends who stand up for their beliefs that are different than mine. I want my grandchildren to live in a nation where all religions and political views and ideas can still believe what they want and express it openly and argue with each other. Don’t you?”

“Yes,” he said, “But it is possible to be so open-minded that your brains fall out.”

“True. It is also possible to be so closed that you make enemies of real friends.”

He pondered that, and began nodding his head.

“I can see that,” he agreed.

“Let me ask you a question,” I paused. “Is the need to attack different views actually part of your religion? Or part of your political ideals?”

“Actually,” he said after a few seconds, “my religion teaches just the opposite. For that matter, so do my political principles.”

He thought for a minute and I remained quiet. “It’s just that politics has been this way for so long, so much argument, cutting down the other side, getting them before they get you.”

I responded, “I know, right? But I have so many friends, really close friends, people I love and deeply respect, who disagree with me on religion or politics. But I’ve yet to meet someone who doesn’t really care about freedom. I just want all those who stand for freedom to at least try to work together.”

I later had an almost identical conversation (though the labels were different) with a woman who, by her account, had been raised a socialist in Brooklyn in the 1950s.

She spoke fondly of socialist summer camps as a youth and of being called a “pinko” when she went to college.

In the end, as I listened to her for over an hour, she was no socialist at all. She believed in the principles of freedom, despised government over-reach, and saw Washington D.C.’s excesses, regulations, high taxes and interventions in the economy as the great evil.

Her name for all this big-government domination was “capitalism.”

While many may disagree about the labels, she believed in freedom and deeply yearned to see the end of big-government growth.

I’m so glad I really listened to her instead of jumping to conclusions when she first called herself a “socialist.”

Once I understood what really mattered to her, I really enjoyed sharing what I thought about the current battle for freedom.

After she listened to me for a long time, she agreed that her labels were faulty and that we had a lot more in common than in disagreement.

Destiny Reborn

In the end, part of the Boomer generation’s way of doing things was to divide, label and battle. This system picked a side, gave positive names to its own side and negative labels to the other side, and went to war.

In this model, few people ever crossed the aisle or admitted good in the other side (or bad from its own side).

It put people in one camp or the other. “If you aren’t with us, you’re against us” was the operating motto.

There were many positives in this system, and perhaps coming as it did after the Hitler era it was necessary.

But this generation still runs Washington and much of the media and academia.

A new model is rising, however, with a different language and a different destiny. As the Xers increase their influence, the debate will likely be more sarcastic, ironic and complex.

This may turn off those who want politics and societal debates to be loving and kindly.

Others may be frustrated by the impact of Reality TV-style politics, and its ironic blend of reality with symbolism.

Put simply, presidential politics will likely be more and more like high school elections–too often all about appearance and popularity.

But the dialogues of the future will inject more humor and a relaxed attitude. They won’t take the political parties or candidates so seriously.

Freedom will be the serious issue, and policy, but not so much the candidates and parties.

They’ll elect Presidents like High School Prom Queens, but they’ll watch everyday government policy like Madison or Franklin.

They’ll care less about who is in the office and a lot more about what the officeholders actually do.

In a significant way, that’s a step in the right direction. And more importantly, Gen X politics is increasingly more participative–meaning that more citizens are closely involved in elections and also in everyday governance.

This is a huge step forward. Above all, the citizenry itself is slowly and consistently increasing its depth.

More regular people are reading the old classics in detail, thinking about the greatest ideas of mankind and comparing them to our modern institutions and leaders.

The old model was run by fewer, straightforwardly-involved but shallowly-engaged citizens. The future model appears to be developing toward more citizens involved and also more who are deeply engaged in the classics and great ideas.

The biggest criticism of the Xers–their skepticism–turns to a positive when applied to citizenship. Because they are skeptical they keep a closer eye on politics, stay more involved, and are less swayed by the next politician promising a grand program.

They are still second-in-command to the “Big Program” Boomers, but their day is coming.

If you want a citizenry that simply votes and then leaves everything else to Washington, you will be disappointed. The generation of “Awesome!” is being slowly replaced by a generation of uber-citizens.

If the trend continues, future Americans will be more like the American founding generation than any citizenry in nearly two centuries.

If this continues, the future of freedom is significantly brighter.

Or, to put it succinctly: “America’s future?”

“I know, right?”

***********************************

Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

Category : Culture &Generations &Government &Liberty &Politics

Robin Hood, or Prince John: Overcoming a Problem Worse than Socialism

October 20th, 2010 // 4:00 am @

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When the government takes middle-class tax money and bails out big bankers, automobile manufacturers and other big businesses paying out huge multi-million dollar bonuses, that’s not socialism.

Socialism, like Robin Hood, proposes to take money from the middle and upper classes and redistribute it to the poor.

But during the Great Recession, the lower and lower-middle classes found it much harder to make ends meet. Many lost their jobs, and even their homes.

Where is Robin Hood when they need him? Where is their socialist bailout?

Whether or not you subscribe to the socialist ideal (and I decidedly do not), a careful consideration of the social and economic climate of the U.S. is warranted.

What is really happening? Talk radio and conservative television hosts have railed about the “rise of socialism,” but in reality something else is going on here.

When socialistic programs are introduced, the lower classes benefit and the upper-middle and upper classes pay the bill.

But in our time, precisely the opposite has happened.

In addition to increasing woes for the lower and lower-middle classes, the upper classes actually benefited from the economic downturn.

The number of millionaires grew 16 percent during the Great Recession; and those with a net worth over $5 million grew 17 percent.

So why are conservatives and Tea Partyists bantying about the s-word so much?

And after all is said and done, what difference does it make what we call it?

While the “socialism” furor may be linked to the Health Care debate and other left-of-center proposals of the Obama Administration, a deeper look shows that socialism is not the real culprit.

It is critical to understand that this distinction is not just a talking point for politicians and pundits to discuss on Sunday morning talk shows, or for academics and intellectuals to publish in scholarly journals.

By misdiagnosing the problem, we are also applying the wrong remedies and can never hope for improvement.

We are all the day vigilant against the small-time con of Robin Hood, and Prince John plunders us while we sleep.

What is Socialism?

The technical definition of socialism is government ownership of the major means of production in a society.

American Liberalism, in contrast, believes that there should be both a private and a government sector, and that the government should highly tax and regulate the private sector.

While both of these are anti-conservative, they are not one and the same, and the difference is critical.

American Liberalism does believe in limits, checks and balances; it believes in a separate private sector.

Socialism believes in none of these; it believes that the government should run the entire economy.

Obama Administration involvement in bailing out banks and auto companies certainly had liberal and even socialist overtones, but the top banks quickly paid back government loans and went back to private ownership.

In this sense, to label this as socialistic is not accurate.

Again: this is not question of semantics, but speaks to the very heart of the issue and how we should respond. (More on this later.)

In the wake of the economic meltdown, the government drastically increased regulations on large and small businesses. This regulatory activity is a basic value and tool of liberalism.

While liberalism seeks to ever increase regulation on private businesses, socialism seeks to own most and eventually all the companies in a nation.

Polls showed the Obama Administration to be left of the American populace in regard to fiscal and other types of regulations, but all within liberal rather than socialistic definitions.

It may be well argued that this distinction is simply a question of degrees.

But even in that paradigm the differences demand a greater understanding of and tailored responses to the liberal and socialist encroachments on freedom and prosperity.

If It Quacks Like A Duck…

Another reason many called Great Recession policies “socialist” is that government actions caused private businesses to shed employees at the same time that the government was hiring.

When the media shared the numbers showing that average private salaries are less than the average government employees make, the “socialism” name-calling was a natural angry response.

The Economist predicted growing political battles between taxpayers and government employees in nearly all nations.

We need to get serious about incentivizing small and mid-size businesses.

For example, a recent version of the health care bill would have required businesses with twenty employees and a $1 million/year budget would have to add $300,000 to its annual costs or pay $40,000 in fines.

Result: at least two employees would be let go and twenty people would still not have health insurance.

To say nothing of the fact that these individual employees will still have to buy their own insurance or pay additional fines.

It’s anybody’s guess how it will all shake out as the health care law undergoes endless tinkering over the next who-knows-how-long, but it’s worth asking the question: How, exactly, does this help unemployment?

In fact, it dis-incentivizes entrepreneurship and hiring, and encourages people to go on government programs. This certainly feels like socialism.

And big business is facing similar challenges. For example, Intel’s chief executive Paul Otellini said that the U.S. is driving away businesses and employers:

The things that are not conducive to investments here are taxes and capital investment credits. A new semiconductor factory at world scale built from scratch is about $4.5 billion–in the United States. If I build that factory in almost any other country in the world, where they have significant incentive programs, I could save $1 billion.”

How many jobs are we sending to other countries because of our high taxes?

This was clearly not a hypothetical situation; Intel built its latest factory in China. Said Otellini:

And it wasn’t because of the labor costs either. Yeah, the construction costs were a little bit lower, but the cost of operating when you look at it after tax was substantially lower…”

What does it mean when China’s communist business environment is more inviting to U.S. companies, more conducive to their growth, than the United States?

When did regulations and taxes in the U.S. make doing business in China attractive?

The U.S. now ranks #40 out of forty industrialized nations in appeal to business.

It’s almost as if the U.S. government doesn’t want business to succeed or grow, and only thinks that government spending and government jobs are the solutions to economic challenges.

This is easy prey for conspiracy hunters, but I don’t think Washington is capable either of such ubiquitous cleverness or cooperation.

I think it is much more likely when it comes to preserving freedom, they are simply not minding the store.

Other pressing needs have our leaders distracted, and the expedient responses they recur to also happen to militate against our future freedom and prosperity–and specifically, against free enterprise.

No wonder so many people are angry at recent presidential administrations. No wonder so many are crying “socialism.”

How can we defend against the allegation that our government purposely wants private businesses to fail or flee the U.S.?

Instead of promoting incentives that bring more business and jobs, the government is promoting higher taxes and regulations like health care that make business success more difficult.

More government regulation, increased government hiring and increased government social programs demanding ever higher taxes: these are features not only of liberal policies, but of a growing aristocracy.

Socialism Versus Aristocracy

Predictably, most Americans today who actually have an opinion on the matter readily conjure the twentieth-century enemy of free enterprise, socialism, rather than the older, forgotten eighteenth- and nineteenth-century evil of aristocratic rule.

But the fact that lower classes are struggling more than ever while the upper classes are increasing their wealth during economic downturns is a clear sign that aristocracy is the issue.

Consider this: in socialist cultures celebrity and fame are denigrated; in aristocratic societies they are esteemed and celebrated.

We clearly love celebrity at levels far beyond socialistic, conservative or even liberal societies.

Aristocracies and monarchies are the domain of such infatuation with fame, get-rich-quick schemes and the lottery mentality.

Like Shakespeare’s Antonio, we just know our ship is about to come in.

Conservatives traditionally invest in building businesses and like-minded community, liberals in educational degrees, professional excellence and credibility, and socialists in government positions.

Like characters in an Austen novel, in aristocracies like our modern America those in the lower classes fantasize about some punctuated leap in their “prospects”–from marrying rich to the modern equivalent of winning on Survivor, American Idol, The Amazing Race, The Bachelor or some other concocted scenario where the fate of the aspirants largely lies with those in power.

Note that in pyramid schemes there are a few winners at the top but thousands of hopeful and willing enablers the rest of the way down.

Why the Difference Matters

The debate between socialism and aristocracy is more than just semantical.

The technically inaccurate label of socialism allows the educated media and the elite establishment to patronize and condescend to the “uneducated” who push for change.

It allows government officials to dismiss the “uncouth dissenters” while maintaining their conviction that “they” (the “educated,” the most “talented,” most “intelligent” ones) know what the nation needs and those whose opinion really matters (the “educated,” the most “talented,” most “intelligent” ones) are completely in favor of their proposals.

Unfortunately, those citizens who put aside apathy and stand up to make a difference find themselves always frustrated because they fight the wrong battle.

If socialism is our problem, the perpetrator is the political leaders promoting socialist policies, and the philosophical left is to blame.

But if aristocracy is the challenge, then the two parties are both culprits in the promotion of a privileged class.

If aristocracy is the challenge, the citizen is his own worst enemy as he does not pay the price to rise above the mediocre education of our schools or to see beyond a complicit, dumbed-down media designed more for entertainment than positive impact on freedom and prosperity.

If we think socialism is the enemy, we will put our effort into electing different leaders, only to discover that Washington’s problems continue and increase no matter whom we elect.

By misdiagnosing the problem, we are using the wrong treatments and failing to get better.

No matter how active and engaged voters are, from the left or the right or the middle, if we continue to think that socialism or capitalism is our problem then all our efforts will continue to be impotent.

Very little will change in Washington and our problems will continue to grow.

Virile & Viral

If we realize, in contrast, that aristocracy is the real problem and that electing an upper class from either party will only worsen the problem, we can shift focus and consider what is really needed.

And the answer, the real solution, will become clear: As long as we live in a society of upper and lower classes, our freedoms and prosperity will continue to decline.

The solution is not to just elect a different leader, but for all American citizens to once again obtain the kind of education that allowed regular farmers and shopkeepers to study the federalist papers and listen to and consider eight-hour debates during the Lincoln-Douglass era.

If we think the problem is socialism, we will consider great education benign and ineffectual.

But if we know the real problem–that people in both parties and in all social strata are enabling a growing aristocratic power over our society–then we will realize that simply electing a better senator or president is not nearly enough of a solution.

True: Socialism and aristocracy share many symptoms, so electing the best leaders is still vitally important to stem big government.

But the real, unseen, issue is aristocracy. And until the American people realize this and more of us get the same quality of education as the CEOs, judges and presidents, the problems will continue to grow.

Above all, it is education that determines class levels.

Entrepreneurship is another path to leadership. This doesn’t mean that we need all enroll in the Ivy League.

In truth, the greatest classics of history are still the true library of freedom, wealth and leadership.

Virtually every town library has the great texts of liberty and success available.

The question is, do Americans value our freedom enough to end the rise of aristocratic rule by becoming greatly educated ourselves?

Will we step up to our responsibilities as citizens and qualify ourselves for our role as the overseers of government by learning about freedom, leadership, economics, human nature and the other great ideas of mankind?

As our society is on track for disaster from numerous threats (to our food supply, availability of fuel, decaying infrastructure, dependency on programs that have poor prospects for future funding, terrorism, failing economy) we all know that somebody needs to “Do something!”

We have been caught in the binary trap of either expecting someone else to “fix it” or expecting that we can make a difference just by making our voices heard.

But our moral authority and our ability to impact our society’s direction will come not from complaining about the ideas or performance of those who have stepped up to lead, but from actually having the answers to society’s ills.

We can’t just protest that the world simply must turn back the clock two hundred years.

New leadership is needed by today’s American citizens.

If we truly revere the American founders and idealize their accomplishments, we must move beyond hero worship and actually do as the founders did: We must apply a profound understanding of sound principles to the establishment of policies and forms that directly apply to our complex and critical situation today.

This we can do, just as the American founders did in their day.

As I have said elsewhere: Getting a world-class education and running successful businesses is “doing something.”

That is precisely the “something” that is called for today, and that any other solution which does not include a better educated populace has a different outcome than liberty and justice for all.

It is time for an entrepreneurial approach to getting an individualized, superb, great, innovative leadership education in the classics.

Each of us can do it, and the future of our freedoms depends upon it.

If the current growth of American aristocracy is allowed to continue, our future is destined to be less free and more harshly lacking in opportunity than any socialistic society.

The criticism of “socialism” is certainly negative; but unless we change course, the aristocracy that our grandchildren and their children inherit will be something far worse.

Click Here to Download a Printable Version of This Article

***********************************

Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

Category : Aristocracy &Economics &Education &Entrepreneurship &Featured &Government &Liberty

Reclaiming Adult Society: The 4 Cultures Corrupting America & What Must Replace Them

October 19th, 2010 // 4:00 am @

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Every child looks forward to the freedoms and responsibilities of being an adult.

Liberty is a blessing of maturity, and a free society is only maintained by a culture of adults.

This may be obvious, but it has become a challenge in our day.

The term “adult” has come to be commonly defined as anyone above a certain age–and has largely lost its qualitative nuance; but of course not all people older than twenty-one are free.

True adulthood requires more than maintaining a heartbeat for two or more decades.

To achieve and perpetuate freedom, societies need a culture which accepts and exhibits the responsibilities and leadership of adulthood.

This is more difficult to achieve than first meets the eye.

When the general culture isn’t up to freedom standards, it is easy for people to go along with the norm.

Indeed, one reason freedom is historically so rare is the difficulty of changing cultural norms.

Let’s consider four cultures that have widespread influence today.

Elementary Culture

The culture of grade schools has huge impact beyond the schoolyard.

Elementary Culture values the following:

  • Staying in the good graces of those above you, especially the authorities
  • Reliance on experts
  • Dependence on basic needs and remedies being provided
  • Playing
  • Having good toys
  • Learning and following the rules
  • Getting rewards from the authorities by meeting their expectations

As good as these things may be for classroom and playground management, they are less enchanting as cultural underpinnings for adult neighborhoods, towns, cities, and nations.

Free citizens are not exactly marked by their desire to please government authorities or being dependent on state programs.

Nor is liberty positively promoted when the citizens focus mostly on play, getting the best toys (from cars to computers to vacations) in life, or seeking rewards from upper classes or government officers.

Obviously, order and cooperation are desirable shared values in a society.

But there is a huge difference between free citizens who have a significant say in establishing the rules and dependent citizens who are hardly involved in governance.

One of the great heroic roles in our modern culture is found in elementary teachers who work, serve and sacrifice to help to raise the next generation.

For example, 63% of public grade-school teachers spend their own money buying food for at least one hungry student each month.

This amazing statistic shows much of what is right, and wrong, with modern America.

The individual voluntarism and selfless service by such teachers is a foundation of freedom.

When parents don’t own their responsibility to care for their children (which is the case in at least some, perhaps many, of these cases), our moral imperatives demand that we must.

And when adults act like children, the state steps forward to feed and care for them.

Think of the great freedom cultures of history–from the Hebrew and Greek golden ages to the free Saracens, Swiss, English and early Americans, among others.

These citizens were not dependents and not particularly interested in pleasing the authorities.

In fact, they held the government dependent on the people and required government officials to please the citizens.

They made family and work the center of adult life, as opposed to the “bread and circuses” of Elementary Cultures in Rome and other less-than-free societies.

High School Culture

Some adults live more in a High School Culture which, like Elementary Culture, does not promote free society.

High School Culture generally values the following:

  • Fitting in
  • Popularity
  • Sports
  • Cliques
  • Class systems
  • Disconnection from adult society

Sometimes even teachers side or identify with certain cliques and basically join this culture. The currently popular television series “Glee” typifies this sort of class system.

When applied to adult society, this creates a culture that hardly deserves and never maintains freedom.

In many towns, for example, high school glory days represent all that is right and good, and success in sports is seen as success in life.

There are three major types of life success in High School Culture:

  1. Doing well in school and sports
  2. Raising children who do well in school and sports
  3. Having grandchildren who are succeeding in school and sports.

This is High School Culture indeed. In fact, in many places the activities of the local high school are the actual center and high point of culture and activity.

This happens in many traditionally conservative cultures such as many small and mid-size towns, much of the American West, Texas and the plains states, and also in traditionally liberal populations like in the South, the Appalachians and the Midwest.

Whatever they call themselves politically, the dominant culture in such places often centers on the high school and reflects high school values.

Adults living High School Culture focus on their local and private issues and hope to ignore political society until it forces itself into their lives.

At such times, the typical response is anger and rebellion.

Unfortunately for freedom, seeking to fit in, be popular, join the best clique and thereby win the caste battle, and stay as disconnected from politics as possible, do not tend to promote free society.

Whether or not these things are good for youth is arguable; but they are certainly not foundations of liberty or the ideal goals of free adults.

College-Corporate Culture

Nor is College-Corporate Culture naturally supportive of freedom.

Just as high school usually has more freedoms than elementary, college and work culture sometimes feels free in comparison to high school society.

College-Corporate Culture is usually more dominant in bigger cities than in small towns, though of course there are people from all cultures living almost everywhere.

College-Corporate Culture values the following:

  • Personal success
  • Career preparation and advancement
  • Non-committal relationships
  • Entertainment
  • Status
  • Pursuing individual interests
  • Spending on lifestyle

People and places which adopt College-Corporate values experience more personal freedom than citizens living elementary or high school lifestyles.

But they are unable to establish or maintain freedom on the large scale over time, and they are usually not interested in trying.

“Me” and “I” dominate the perspectives of Elementary, High School and College-Corporate Cultures.\

Official Culture

In elementary and high schools there are principals, administrators, teachers and other officials who take care of the little people.

In the adult lives that mirror grade and high schools, regular citizens see themselves as being taken care of by officials and the officers see themselves as taking care of the people.

Since they value class systems and popularity, the people tend to regularly give in to those they consider in charge.

Many even feel resentment towards those who seem to rebel against the (“adult”) officials.

Woodstockers, John Birchers, the “-ism” extremists and other “rebels” are seen like druggies, gangsters and other unsavory high school cliques.

The “good” kids don’t fight the system.

College, university and corporate officials are often seen as distant, professionally rather than personally interested, upper class, and probably self-serving.

“They ignore us, and we ignore them,” is the operating principle of the regular people.

“We’re too busy pursuing our own success and fun to worry about them anyway–except to impress them.”

The officers, in contrast, see the regular people as functionaries to help them achieve big goals and successes.

Official Culture values the following:

  • Respect of those in authority
  • People following the rules
  • The infallibility of the rules
  • The need to lead significant, bold change
  • Overcoming the roadblocks which the regular people naively call “freedom”
  • Keeping the system strong
  • Promoting support and respect for the system
  • Really helping the people
  • Giving the people what they really need, even if they “think” they don’t want it or understand how much they need it

These have little likelihood of promoting long-term freedom.

Note that the official value of really helping the people is nearly always truly sincere. They really mean it.

While some may consider this patronizing, like the noblesse oblige of upper classes, we can still admire those who genuinely seek to serve and help people.

For freedom to succeed, however, the majority of the people must move beyond being cared for by experts and instead adopt and live in Adult Culture.

Freedom is lost in cultures dominated by Official Culture.

For that matter, freedom cannot survive in a society run by Elementary, High School, College-Corporate and/or Official values and systems.

Adult Culture

As mentioned above, freedom is incredibly rare in history.

It occurs only with an extremely high cost in resources, blood, sacrifice and wisdom, and it is maintained only when the citizenry does its job of truly leading the nation.

Regular people must understand what is going on at the same or a higher level than government leaders, or the leaders become an upper class and the people are relegated to following child-like as submissives and dependents.

To elect and become the right leaders and support the right direction in government, the people must study, watch, analyze and deeply think.

They must study and understand the principles of freedom, and they must get involved to ensure that these principles are applied.

Adult Culture values those things which keep societies free, prosperous and happy. Such values include the following:

  • Being your genuine self and therefore not easily swayed by peers, experts or anyone else
  • Actively and voluntarily contributing to society’s needs
  • Accepting responsibility for society and its future
  • Appropriately and maturely making a positive difference in the world
  • Accepting others for who they are and respecting their contributions
  • Spending wisely and balancing it with proper savings and investment
  • Consistently saving and effectively investing for the future
  • Dedicating yourself to committed relationships
  • Helping the young learn and progress
  • Providing principled and effective assistance to those in need
  • Influencing the rules, policies and laws to be what they should be, changing bad ones, and following the good ones
  • Sacrificing yourself for more important things
  • Taking risks when they are right
  • Respecting those in authority, earning and expecting their respect in return, and holding them accountable to their proper roles and duties
  • Balancing relationships and work with appropriate leisure, entertainments, sports, toys, hobbies and/or relaxation
  • Openly discouraging and, if needed, fighting class systems and unprincipled/unjust inequalities
  • Helping influence positive change while keeping the things which are positively working
  • Never allowing “progress” to trample freedoms
  • Promoting support for and respect of the system as long as it is positive and improving
  • Really, sincerely helping the people while respecting them as adults, individuals and citizens worthy of admiration and esteem

Any move away from these adult values is a step toward less freedom.

And let’s be clear: Most people naturally want to be treated like adults.

For example, there are now more independents than Republicans or Democrats in part because the political parties so often seem to exhibit elementary and high school values.

Populist movements nearly always arise when governments seem to adopt Official Culture.

The anti-Washington populism which swept President Obama into office was largely a response to perceived officiousness by President Bush and Vice President Cheney, just as Tea Party populism arose when many felt that the Obama Administration was treating regular Americans like inferiors.

Any sense of arrogance, superiority, smugness or overwhelming and unresponsive mandate by political leaders quite predictably spurs frustrated reactions.

Both parties routinely fall short in this arena, however, as do many in non-public sectors.

All of us would do well to guard ourselves against pride, which is perhaps the most negative High School value.

When combined with the harmful College-Corporate values of pushy ambition and myopic self-centeredness, pride wreaks havoc on societal leadership, prosperity and freedom.

In contrast, adult societies value relaxed confidence, poise, genuine humility, and authentic strength.

Adult Culture benefits from such values as elementary sharing and playing, high school enthusiasm and idealism, college self-improvement and dedicated learning, corporate hard work and excellence, and official emphasis on the rule of law and authentic caring for others.

However, each of these is optimized and put in context in an adult society–the only culture which can build and retain lasting freedom.

The Hidden War

Sadly, High School and College Culture have created a war brewing between the generations.

This is not a generation gap or a simple matter of the old not understanding the young.

It is an actual financial war between today’s children and their parents and grandparents.

But the youth aren’t engaged–they are simply the victims.

For example, as The Economist wrote of Britain:

“Half the population are under 40 years old but they hold only about 15% of all financial assets. People under 44 own, again, just 15% of owner-occupied housing….If pensions are counted, the situation is even more skewed.”

In the same article, entitled “Clash of Generations,” The Economist cites Member of Parliament David Willetts in his concern about the growing financial abuse of the young by older generations.

After noting the wealth of the baby-boomer generation, the article says:

“Young people have little chance of building up similar wealth. They are struggling to get on the housing ladder, though close to a fifth of the people between 49 and 59 years old own a second home…

“On top of this, older baby-boomers have dodged two speeding bullets, leaving their descendants squarely in the line of fire.

“The first is the bill for bailing out the financial sector; the second, the effect of climate change on the cost of energy, water, flood-prevention and the like.”

Former Reagan speech writer Peggy Noonan wrote in The Wall Street Journal:

“And there are the moral implications of the debt, which have so roused the tea party movement: The old vote themselves benefits that their children will have to pay for. What kind of people do that?”

Certainly not those with adult values. As The Economist put it:

“There is an unvoiced contract that binds the generations. Parents look after their children, with a view to helping them do at least as well as they themselves have done, and grown-up children look after their parents, in the hope that their children will do the same for them one day.

“But there is now a ‘breakdown in the balance between the generations…’ Mr. Willetts cites, approvingly, the way some American Indian tribal councils used to take decisions in the light of how they would affect the next several generations.In Britain, alas, it is painfully hard to see beyond the next election.”

The same problems are widespread in the United States.

The tribal approach mentioned clearly comes from a society with adult values, unlike the philosophy guiding much of Anglo-American financial policy.

No Chewing Gum!

Besides self-centeredness, another high school value is that the “good” people always follow the officials.

John Dewey taught that the most lasting lessons learned in schools are the non-academic cultural values taught.

While it has been famously said that all one ever needs to know he learns in kindergarten, one lesson which seems to have most taken hold is that the teacher (or president, expert or agent) is always right.

This falsehood has always been the end of freedom.

Consider how recessionary times impacted the current generation of youth (ages 15-29) raised with jobs as the central goals of their life.

They know how to stay in line, not chew gum in class, stick to their social clique, and leave decision-making to the officials.

But not only have innovation and leadership not been highly rewarded in their young lives, they are alien to most of them.

Speaking of the current generation of college graduates, the experts have written:

“You’d think if people are more individualistic, they’d be more independent. But it’s not really true. There’s an element of entitlement–they expect people to figure things out for them.”

[Source: Jean Twenge, quoted in Don Peck, “How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America,” The Atlantic, March 2010.]

In the workplace, they

“need almost constant direction….Many flounder without precise guidelines but thrive in structured situations that provide clearly defined rules.”

[Source: Ron Aslop, quoted in Don Peck, “How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America,” The Atlantic, March 2010.}

“This is a group that’s done resume building since middle school. They’ve been told they’ve been preparing to go out and do great things after college. And now they’ve been dealt a 180 [by high unemployment rates].”

[Source: Larry Druckenbrod, quoted in Don Peck, “How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America,” The Atlantic, March 2010.]

“Trained through childhood to disconnect performance from reward, and told repeatedly that they are destined for great things, many are quick to place blame elsewhere when something goes wrong, and inclined to believe that bad situations will…be sorted out by parents or other helpers.

“All of these characteristics are worrisome, given a harsh economic environment that requires perseverance, adaptability, humility, and entrepreneurialism.”

[Source: Don Peck, “How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America,” The Atlantic, March 2010.]

A generation of assembly-line education has failed to prepare today’s youth for the real world.

The simple solution for the generation now between ages 15 and 29, and for a lot of other people, is more jobs.

This requires more entrepreneurial action. As Don Peck wrote in The Atlantic:

“Ultimately, innovation is what allows an economy to grow quickly and create new jobs as old ones obsolesce and disappear.”

Entrepreneurship requires adult values, not people full of high-school risk aversion and dependence.

Calling All Adults

Today we need a drastic return to the adult values in our society.

Insecurely seeking to fit in, searching for popularity, sports and toys as measures of success, dependency on government and officials, class systems, pleasing those in charge, waiting for others to structure your success, feeling entitled, thinking your resume should create success, expecting a lottery or reality TV show to bail you out, and blaming others when things go wrong–these are not things free people cherish.

The question for our generation is: Can we regain our freedoms without putting aside childish things and becoming a society of adults?

Click Here to Download a Printable Version of This Article

***********************************

Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

Category : Citizenship &Culture &Economics &Featured &Generations &Government &Liberty

The Renaissance of Family

October 18th, 2010 // 4:00 am @

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Whatever happens in Washington, Wall Street, Main Street, Hollywood or Silicon Valley in the next ten years, it will all be irrelevant if our families don’t come together at a much higher level.

Without a renaissance of family, no new candidate can rise to save us. No new legislation, policy or program will heal our land.

On the other hand, the buttressing and revitalization of our society at the most basic level of family, though it be quiet and virtually ignored, is the most powerful catalyst to the revitalization of our freedom and prosperity.

Rising Pressures on the Family

In crisis periods of history like the one we are now experiencing, virtually everything changes –in major and surprising ways.

Since few people realize that historical cycles are driving things, most are frustrated and feel vulnerable and even victimized by widespread changes.

Many turn to government to solve our most pressing problems, hoping it can work miracles. Others turn to different institutions. Still others rely on their own individual efforts.

Few, however, realize the power of families in such times. Indeed, increased financial challenges and frightening world events often amplify the pressure on marriage and family relationships.

Divorce rates increase, family dysfunction grows, and people look outside the family for more and more help–at the very time family members need each other and can help each other the most.

Buckle Up; The Crisis is Just Getting Started

“But the crisis is over,” some say.

Gross Domestic Product is a preferred indicator by economists to determine growth or recession. GDP is calculated by combining several factors including private profits, capital values and government spending.

GDP has been in recession for the past year, but it showed small growth in the third quarter of 2009, causing some to that we are in a recovery.

The fact is that this “recovery” was actually one more quarter of decreased profits and capital values–no change in the trend of economic slowing there–masked by the other factor: government spending in the form of Cash for Clunkers and other bailouts.

And since government gets its money either by taxing the private sector or printing money, it can’t keep spending like this and maintaining a “recovery” for long without drastically raising taxes or causing inflation.

In short, reports that a recovery is here to stay are, let us say, premature. A lasting recovery will only happen if profits and values also increase. Also, one of the better indicators of where we are is the unemployment rate, which continues to worsen.

As the Family Goes, So Goes the Nation

This means that pressure on families is almost certain to increase for the months and probably years ahead.

Crisis Periods in history are preceded by Good-Times Periods, then followed by Rebuilding Periods.

If the cycles of history hold true and we face major military conflict and even the draft in the decade ahead, or even if unemployment continues to worsen, families will face even more challenges.

I am an optimist, and I’m convinced that great things are ahead for America and the world.

But let’s be clear about one thing: Our nation and our world will rise no higher than our families. If the family continues to decline, so will peace, prosperity, freedom and happiness.

The experts have studies and graphs outlining the details, but history is absolutely clear on this point:The future of the family is the future of our world. Higher numbers of single-adult, single-parent and other non-traditional families are included in this great opportunity.

A Disturbing Divergence From the Past

In past Crisis Periods, layoffs and failed businesses have resulted in the family pulling together–planting gardens, starting businesses, chopping wood to save on fuel, and otherwise facing upheavals and trials and working to overcome them together.

In our current world, with its urbanized and technologically advanced lifestyle, we aren’t following this pattern of family retrenchment. We aren’t relying less on paychecks and more on the family farm, or even leaving the family farm to find opportunity in places like the New World (1780s), the West (1860s), or California (1930s).

In our times, no geographical Promised Land has arisen to deliver us.

At the same time, the modern world keeps us busy and separated from each other–kids at school, youth with groups of friends, mom and dad holding down multiple jobs or seeking employment, etc.

Even where both adults in some homes are unemployed, they don’t necessarily spend more time together, but rather cope with their stresses and seek solutions independently.

Diminished finances for vacations, no time off at a new job, productivity-related compensation and workplace competitiveness all bring pressure to emphasize less family time and more work time.

And the technologies that used to be tools to help connect us have turned on their masters. No longer luxuries, they have gone from being pervasive to invasive to divisive; each family member has his own unique and virtual social life, and family life suffers as a result.

The average American couple in 2009 spends only 16 minutes a day talking with each other, according to a report in Men’s Health. Half of that time is spent discussing things like household chores and finances, leaving very little time to build relationships.

The same article reported that “lack of quality time” is the number one cause of tension in couples’ relationships in 2009–more than finances, work issues or other challenges.

Unlike past Crisis Periods, we are spending less time together just talking and having fun as couples and families than we did even in the past two decades. Rather than refocusing on our marriage and family relationships during Crisis, we are pulling even further apart.

The Potential Tragedy of Lost Opportunities

The simplistic reason that Good-Time Periods turn into Crisis Periods is that families turn away from each other to serve the agendas of corporations, marketing firms, schools and others.

Crisis Periods are all about recapturing the most important things–especially happy and successful families. If families don’t come together, strengthen communities, build new entrepreneurial enterprises and begin to rebuild society, we won’t see the benefits of a great Rebuilding Period ahead.

This is a potential tragedy of Dark Ages proportions. Just consider Rome in the first century, France in the late Seventeenth Century, the South after the Civil War, or modern Cambodia, Bosnia or Rwanda.

A society has no destiny that is not tied to the strength of its families. Without a family renaissance, no society rebounds from crisis.

The Good News

The good news in all this is that the bad news is good news: If the biggest challenge in our families is lack of quality time and taking the time to really talk, then the solutions are simple.

What if you spent a lot more time with your spouse talking about less urgent, more important, more fun things and enjoying each other? What if you did the same with each of your children, siblings and/or parents?

Not everyone has all these options, but clearly not enough of those who do have families are giving them enough attention and effort.

What if families spent two or three evenings a week and half a day each weekend doing fun things, entrepreneurial ventures and/or service projects together?

Together is the key word here. This is truly the way that Crisis Periods in history are solved at the grassroots level.

Usually economic or political realities force family unity and mutual cooperation in surviving and making a living. In our day it is still as vital to ending the attitudes, behaviors and habits that brought on Crisis; these same elements will keep the Cultural Renaissance progressing until things change.

Of course, this only works where families both bond within and connect without–not isolating themselves but strengthening their relationships with each other and the rest of the community.

And it works most effectively where families reject the temptation to draw factional, us/them lines, and instead reach out and build new relationships.

The Little Things That Make a Huge Difference

Here is the pattern: improve marriages, strengthen family relationships, make new friends, and build stronger connections with friends and community.

This naturally overcomes Crisis, and without it Crisis Periods persist and worsen.

Ironically, it is the little things that will most likely win (or lose) this battle. In the next decade, improving your marriage one hour a day (at least) may be the most important thing you can do for society. Same with many hours a week spent actively talking with and doing activities together with children and grandchildren.

Seldom has so much depended on such little things!

Will we follow the course of societies past that have lost their way and crumbled under the devastating forces of economic upheaval, war and other crises? Or we pull together as families and communities to create a brighter future?

If we get it right, we’ll also see a renaissance of America and, hopefully, watch it spread to the world. No matter what experts may say or what historians may someday write about our times, it will certainly be defined by either the Demise or the Renaissance of the Family.

Recommended Reading:

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Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

Category : Culture &Economics &Family &Featured &History &Liberty

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