Hot, flat, crowded – and broke

Thomas Friedman’s latest book impresses upon us why America needs a green revolution as the world becomes “Hot, Flat and Crowded.”

Friedman provides dense pages packed with data supporting his arguments around climate change — the dark side of America’s energy consumption and policies, along with growing world-wide urbanization and population expansion especially in the less developed countries.

The picture Friedman paints is not totally bleak, but certainly calls for a radical response, some exceptional leadership and a huge mindset change for our part. The illusion that we can have our cake and eat it and own the bakery is being dispelled with new realities every day.

Along with being hot, flat and crowded, we are broke. While the Federal Reserve continues to print more and more money in an attempt to meet daily bailout demands, the creation of money perpetuates further illusions of well-being. America is broke not just from a financial perspective, but our socio-economic paradigm is broke. Our version of capitalism is broke. Our model of government is broke. Our education system is broke. Our health-care system is broke. And our understanding of the pursuit of happiness is broke.

The good news is that we may be broke, but we are not broken. We have a beautiful country. We have vast and untapped resources of energy and creativity. We are resourceful, innovative and adaptive. We have faith and hope and, above all, we have one another.

The opportunity before us is not to fix what has been broken but to change, to transform, to find new mindsets, new ways of being in the world and new pursuits of happiness.

Infatuation with the bottom line belongs to the old paradigm. Huge wealth, soaring stock markets, spacious houses and limitless materialism belong to the old paradigm. Individual heroism and success based on scrambling over others also are outdated ideals. We can no longer do it alone. The best way to move forward is to realize we are in this together.

The new paradigm calls for new types of grassroots leadership. It calls for working together for the good of the community rather than “my organization has to survive” or “my welfare is all that matters.” This is the time to support each other. This is the time to set limits, to respect balance and to give an opportunity for the “invisible hand” to do its work.

This is the time to bring forth the enormous power that lies within each one of us to be humane, compassionate, thoughtful and, above all, generous. Let me be more specific:

•Can we request that the media, all media, for one day (if not one week) cease from relaying to us how much money we have lost or how much has been stolen and instead focus on stories of kindness, generosity and compassion? Yes we can.

•Can we impress on the leaders of all organizations that their future depends on the quality of their relationships with their employees, customers and suppliers and that taking care of those relationships at this time is paramount? Yes we can.

•Can we insist that our politicians take the path of diplomacy recognizing that violence never suppresses violence? Yes we can.

•Can we encourage our families and our communities to celebrate and share what they have rather than bemoaning what they have lost? Yes we can.

•Can our classes and programs emphasize the greatness of the human spirit with the intention of inspiring others to act out of their greatness too? Yes we can.

•Can we recalibrate the notion of the American dream to be an attainment not just for you and me, but to be a swell of greatness that raises up all Americans? Yes we can.

•Can we realize that even if we have no material possessions to give, an even greater gift we can give one another is a positive attitude, a generous disposition and an open heart? Yes we can.

•Can we demand that the leaders of our country leave their bipartisan squabbles behind and role model the new paradigm? Yes we can.

•Can we do this with one another and for one another? Yes we can.

Dr. Annabel Beerel holds the Christos and Mary Papoutsy distinguished chair in ethics at Southern New Hampshire University.

Categories: Opinion