Don’t look now, but a quiet contentedness has settled upon the land. A Pax Americana might be upon us. It seems most Americans are pretty happy; 90% if you believe the polls. Certainly much of this has to do with finance; economics – if you cannot set before your family a table of plenty, if your children want for not only needs but the fullness of opportunity in prosperity; if leisure eludes you, you perhaps might be justifiably frustrated. For it is these things; but more than that the hope of more of them to come which keep Americans satisfied. The founders called it “Pursuit of Happiness”, which is predicated by the “chase”. Without this oh-so-American action, stasis – even the luxurious stasis of our vast opulence – will lead to boundless frustration; to wonder ‘why’, to let the seeds of jealousy begin to take root in our heart of hearts, fertilized with bitterness and boredom. It is rarely about what you have – but what you think you can attain, what you might obtain, wherein lies American satisfaction.
And in this, our situation really hasn’t been better – more than three years of unprecedented growth; of rebalancing against a stupidity cold and violent now resolutely in our past; of reexamining that which really matters. Of ending our costly wars and reinvesting our treasure away from foreign prison-camps silent and dank in which festered away the call for global jihad until it was no more, into a space force which will take us to Mars and beyond. A world of tomorrow, brought to us by the technological advances which spill forth from our new quest and will assuredly seep into society to fertilize free-enterprise: the possibilities are mind-boggling. Recall, if you will, that not too long ago our soldiers made the internet – that which has revolutionized the world. Imagine what will happen when they set their sights on the stars?
But in less epic ways, life has gotten better for most people in Tulsa and Gilbert and Chattanooga. Driverless cars; the end of the internal combustion engine; greater health (for those who choose it – today those who suffer from disease do so mostly product of their own choice). Opportunity – where to eat, what to watch, what game to play, what to read, where to go over the weekend and how to get there. There has never been more opportunity, even for those who look at themselves only in pity.
So what now? That’s always the question – we are not really people ever to be satisfied, always pushing the boundaries of our contentedness. This is a result of our fallen nature which remembers in its DNA the perfection of man in the garden and constantly seeks to find a way back there, though that is impossible. The great stagnation has, alas, made us wicked – but our new mobile world must bring us back to the issue at hand: goodness, “I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers – and it was not there . . . in her fertile fields and boundless forests and it was not there . . . in her rich mines and her vast world commerce – and it was not there . . . in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution – and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.” – Alexis de Tocqueville.
That is our first mission, close to home – with our neighbors and the people in our supermarkets and along the highways where we sit during rush hour – we must rediscover our goodness. In faith, for those who will; because that is the source of all that is good. But for those who will not, still the image of our creator burns brightly, found most often in the glow of our shared fellowship: “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” – J.R.R. Tolkien.
No, these are not the days of revolution; unless it be a revolution of goodness. There is no epic war against which Enslaved-Peasant-Bolsheviks must revolt. No famines in the trenches while the Tsar feasts in his golden winter palace. These are not the days of such violence; those are past, for they proved wanting, the bloodshed did not fill our hearts with meaning. These are the days of our glorious aging, and the wisdom it brings. My great-grandfather sitting in his chair recounting stories of the circus and the railroad. Me, telling my children of the days when our land was threatened by jihad, and how I fought them – those times long ago, when things still felt so existential. America is becoming older; our world is becoming older. The ‘youth bulge’, if it ever existed, is well in our past. In point of fact it was in the 70s; our boomers having children, there are now more old people than children in America, a trend that is irreversible. In places like Japan and South Korea and Russia they are now approaching a dependency ratio of 1-1. Even the much-maligned-millennials are reaching 40 years of age; tired beforehand, empty and wanting of a fulfillment not found in politics. These are the days of consolidation; of making our peace with our world and what we have done and what it is in our power to affect. They are days of less hubris, but more opportunity – for it is a hubris bereft of ignorance, as we age.
Oh, to be sure there is a cabal of enraged spectators whose moral hazard is so absolute that it empowers them to hurl hate into the void as they flirt with ideas of revenge; but Gramsci they are not nor our world one of Lenin flitting across the borders to join in the revolt. They are weak, and scared. Even their environmental-apocalypticism rings false, because churning all around us is a world of individual agents acting in the interests of the little animals. We are increasingly banning plastics (single use at first, but this will extend). We are reforesting our increasingly empty spaces as our populations urbanize (before they begin to shrink, for the first time in the history of history, in the coming decades) and our mechanized agriculture can produce enough to feed the world many times over on much less land. The Environmental Kuznets Curve has been reached in most of the world (except Africa and parts of Brazil – thanks to the socialists for that) and we are reversing the damage industrialization has caused. Counterpoint, you might be thinking, there are many – those same enraged spectators – who would wish to return us to the bean fields; in their constant leveling processes finding their only tool in destruction. But nobody is listening to them; and they do need an audience – instead turning off the television and unplugging from our anti-social media. Why would we consider them…?? – we are on the verge of eliminating the internal combustion engine!! A world flush with oil will no longer need it. Our next revolution in energy is already upon us.
Our economics are changing. A world of elderly will not need more, bigger, faster. Capitalism will have to adapt to no growth. New businesses are popping up, “Business Death Consultants” in Japan helping shutter the dying enterprises in honor. The “Joneses” died of old age long ago, and we are next; and contented with that fact, or mostly so. Ours is a world of smaller houses with no stairs to climb; a self-driven Uber to transport us to the places close-by where we may gaze at our forested lakes and spy for the bald eagles which are again plentiful, filling the skies. It is the age when we reconcile with those against whom we had raged in the days of Twitter or Facebook – those things that have fallen away too – and as we sit face to face, drinking fine beer with old enemies, sharing a glass of wine and laughing about our youthful indiscretions, we are finding our peace and reconnecting with our goodness.
This does not mean that there are not any battles left to fight; because men will always seek glory!!! But those will less be found on the battlefield – jihadis hiding in holes; but more in great achievements of creation. Who can repopulate the plains more quickly; who possesses the greater swath of virgin forest in which the toucans play – whose grandchild has been born on Mars. Oh, of course, there is some catching up to do. Africa is a constant insult against those of us who know that it need not be so – self-inflicted for the most part but that does not matter to those caught barefoot and naked fishing out the last minnows from a desiccated lake. They have no time for blame – they need solutions, they need opportunity. But opportunity in a world awash with capital is only one genius idea away; just ask the jostling tech-hubs of Lagos.
If this is not the world that you see, you might want to consider your prejudices – for you might find yourself in a perilous state of spectator capture; and you would not want to miss out on all that we are achieving.