Sacrifice in 2010
This past year was rough, for Michigan and for the country, so several I've spoken are thankful that this year is [nearly] complete.
There was a lot of spilled milk this year and even more finger pointing. Lot's of analysis of who was right and wrong (see: bailout, healthcare, Iran, Afghanistan, DPS, Cobo Hall, MI Budget, CA Budget, etc...) and less of an emphasis on what went wrong or how we can move forward, effectively, smartly, and interdependently. The MO was to recognize a problem, try to figure out what wen't wrong, poll the American public, try to make statements to "win" an argument, and lobby any solutions conceived to be evaluated as "right" in the eyes of the public. The way I see it, the amount of emphasis on the "best solution" or accepting/moving past blame was exasperated at best.
Of course, I know that many people work hard towards finding solutions to societal problems, behind closed doors and in conference rooms full of really smart people. But the public image of those discussions and solutions is influential. Public image and public posturing shapes of the boundaries for what public policy solutions might become. For example, if someone holds belief A publicly, any public policy solutions have to reconcile with belief A. In that way, public posturing is important because it limits policy before it is even created.
I often wonder why such image-inspired, solution-conspired dialogue - or multi-person monologue - is so standard and repeated. I have a theory...that it comes down to sacrifice.
I do not for a moment believe that people are not willing to make sacrifice. Even downtrodden Michiganders, I think we would oblige in making a sacrifice as long it was clearly and honestly explained and the difficult of the sacrifice was proportional to the challenge it was meant to alleviate. In other words, when the truth is explained and a reqeust is made, I think people are willing to fulfill the request.
I do not for a moment believe that leaders have evaluated, explained, or requested that I make a sacrifce this year, even though I want to. I know that solving our nation's problems will require sacrifice, but I don't know what sacrifices to make.
Discussion of sacrifice is squelched because it is believed to be unpopular. Intuition would suggest that the public would be angry if a political or business leader asked the country to make any of the sacrifices I have or have not listed. But I don't think so, as long as the requests were honest.
So, tell me how to sacrifice.
Should I cut back on electric use? Should I minimize my reliance on prescription drugs? Should I spend 5 minutes of my day checking on my neighbors? Should I adopt a puppy? Should I carpool to work? Should I enlist in the miitary? Should I pay more taxes?
Some might say, it would be good to do all these things and more. But, that's not helpful. I - and I presume others too - need help to focus and decide on what sacrifices they need to make...simply because the ways to make sacrifices are limitless.
I have ideas on how to sacrifice...if I was the one deciding which sacrifices to ask of the public...I'd probably mention some of the following:
-Use less resources (material resources, energy, food, etc.) to reduce individual carbon footprint. Businesses too.
-Forego luxury purchases to pay down debt.
-Talk to and care for people in your immediate social network.
-Be willing to pare down certain government services and increase taxes to fully fund programs and infrastructure initiatives that remain.
The problem is, I'm not qualified to ask the public to make sacrifice...because I don't know enough to make really educated assertions about public sacrifice. But that doesn't disqualify me from intuiting that sacrifice is necessary. We just need you, designated leaders, to help focus around some key priorities.
[This could spur into a discussion about the "mission" of government at large, at a really strategic level, but I'll save that for another time...I'm really fired up about getting people to talk about government what is should focus on because I think it has too MUCH on it's plate while being under-resourced and as a result is mediocre at a lot of things]
Instead of this year being about taking and trying to advance the self and winning political arguments and getting ahead of everyone else, I want to make this year about public sacrifice...that is to say about making sacrifices for the public good. Not to compromise individual rights and privileges, but to invest in them so they can be preserved for the next century.
So friends, I ask you this. What sacrifices (for ourselves, our friends/family, our state, and nation) do we need to make in 2010?