“How do you know a politician is lying?” the old joke goes “His lips are moving” being the punch line. We in America love to vilify our elected leaders. It certainly is easy these days to succumb to this all too human tendency. But upon reflection, if we really assess the situation, we have created the climate where very few truly noble civic-minded individuals will want to enter the fray. Now I’m certainly not a politician and will likely never be one, I do have acquaintances holding political office that I hold in high esteem. So they do exist in larger numbers than we’d want to admit. However this career path certainly attracts its fair share of individuals with more nefarious goals. Why? Because noble individuals tend not to want to make the compromises required to win elections. We expect our officials to be well coiffed and silver tongued. But god-forbid, we can’t have a leader who is affluent. These days with the “new normal”, why would we permit someone to be rich in this country? However, if we really are looking for the best and brightest, we should be looking for those that have created something out of nothing. And inspired a workforce to realize a dream. In many cases, these entrepreneurs who can inspire a nation don’t snap into that politician profile. During the election cycle, we all comfortably and conveniently fall back into our easily offended people groups who don’t really want to hear straight talk. So, the builders continue to do what they do best – and it is certainly not a crime to create jobs and new markets. But why would these individuals want to enter into a field where they are ripped for these very accomplishments. There are other great minds from many other fields that also don’t want to enter this arena. During the next election cycle when you are ready to say “I’m voting for none of the above” – decide what you can do to make the process and public service a noble and temporary profession again. Perhaps instead of criticizing, it is your turn to enter the fray. I’m sure your local community can use some wisdom. Let’s start one politician at a time and lead the way in the world for a new breed of leadership.
I always wondered why we didn’t sink into an even deeper recession in 2008/2009 when everything crashed. Many talked of the “new normal” and reduced expectations on wages and services from both public and private sectors. It seemed this “new normal” represented a constant downward spiral of expectations. As disconcerting as this was, there was a point that the negative trend slowed. I noticed that there was an expectation level that roads will still be machine swept, trash picked up, high school kids still participating in expensive marching band competitions. Windows on skyscrapers were still being washed and parks were still well maintained. These are activities that in a developing country would be unthinkable in prosperous times and absolutely absurd in times of deep economic distress. So what kept this and other developed countries from falling into a death spiral of economic collapse? Society could have said that economic realities have forced us to drop these frivolous activities. But that’s what I don’t like about the concept of “economic realities” – because they are rarely “real”. The economy is comprised by a society’s expectations. And if the expectations continue to value clean roads, school band programs and parks that families can continue to visit safely, we make our own economic realities with their own weather systems. If we feel it important, that means band uniforms and instruments will still be purchased, road and park maintenance people will still be employed along with the positive ripple effect of these individuals and industries contributing back into the economic system. In developing countries, there certainly are the economic realities of needing to eat and not diverting scarce wealth into frivolous activities. Or is this even reality? As the developed countries slowly moved into prosperity, over many years, the expectation that led to our current state started with one societal expectation at a time. And we see this in some of the developing countries as expectations are changing. This is encouraging to me. While it will take some time for a country like India or China to have consistently well maintained areas, the expectation levels are rising leading to their own local economic weather patterns. And this is good. And it is a lesson for us if we ever approach that line again when we accept the “new normal” as an ever-declining expectation. I think that being in a race to the bottom is certainly a dangerous place to be. It is not a great example of the spirit of this country. And I, for one never want to be there again.