The Herald Bulletin

March 25, 2014

Primus Mootry: A call for leadership in the 21st century

The Herald Bulletin

---- — Have you ever driven a car at 100 mph? If so, you know there is little time for error. If you take your eyes off the road for a second or two, you might wind up in the middle of a cornfield. That's if you're lucky.

So it is with today's world. For millions of years human history moved at a relative snail's pace. You know, the hunter gatherers, the farmers and the Industrial Age folk. These human groups dominated for a long period of time, up until about 70 years ago, in fact. That's when things really began to speed up.

As I have suggested in previous articles on this subject, the sheer speed at which we are moving changes everything, just like driving at 100 mph changes everything. That leisurely view of hills and trees becomes a blur. You can't see because you have to keep your eyes glued to the road ahead.

Driven largely by information and computer technologies, our world has been turbo-charged that way. Those who long for "the good ol' days" can forget about it. Those days are gone forever.

From time to time, I meet someone here in Anderson who still believes General Motors is coming back to town. They don't seem to notice that, unlike just 40 years ago, to see anything other than a GM automobile was a rarity. Once hated foreign cars are commonplace now.

In this very local sense, the disappearance of GM also meant the disappearance of jobs, the displacement of thousands of middle management and line workers, the disappearance of dozens of small businesses, many neighborhood school closings, and other effects.

What is clear here is that certain kinds of community losses are not isolated events. They have a profound, far reaching ripple effect.

Usually, the signs are there long before the event takes place. But people have a difficult time envisioning and preparing for it.

Take this same idea, this phenomenon, to a larger scale. It's not just Anderson, it's the Rust Belt. It's not just the Rust Belt, it's most of the United States of America. It's not just the U.S., it's global. Yes, shifts are occurring on a global scale that are just as profound as the disappearance of GM from our town, but we choose to believe it is not happening. That's human nature, I guess,

Well, I don't know. I don't consider myself to be in any way an alarmist. I don't go around looking for gloom and doom. I don't see rain and say "the sky is falling." But I do see trouble ahead.

For one thing, this nation is so deeply in debt that there may be no way out of it. The solutions no doubt involve doing a series of things at the same time: raising taxes, judicious cuts to government spending, elimination of waste in government spending, and some mechanism for re-distributing wealth.

The problem with all that stuff is that it is so politically poisonous that it likely will never be swallowed. That's the second thing. Our national political leadership is functioning like we were in the 19th Century. Thanks to television and big money, our elections are little more than dog whistle popularity contests. Big money sells them, then it buys them. As they say, "he who pays the Piper calls the tune."

We are at a moment in time when there is an urgent need to keep our eyes on the road. That means effectively addressing issues of stifling debt, income inequality (many college graduates can't even afford to buy a car), quality public education and adequate health care service delivery, unemployment, poverty, immigration, globalization, nuclear proliferation, war mongering, climate change, loss of vital natural resources (like water), and on and on.

I apologize for the long list, but it is a very long list and it is very real. We no longer have time for 19th or even 20th Century games. Either we work to create a better future for ourselves, or an uncertain future will create us. Effective government at all levels is one of the keys. There are other keys, though. They are called votes.

But, as I have often opined, time is running thin. Hey, God willing, I'll be 69 in a few days. Obviously, my best wishes are not for me. They are for a better world for children everywhere. Is that too much to wish for?

Have a nice day.

Anderson resident Primus Mootry is a retired school teacher. His column appears Wednesdays in The Herald Bulletin.