No job is more difficult than the one you start having decided you are bound to fail. Things look tough now, as we look at the slow pace of change, the persistence of corruption, the failure of those we elected to bring about the full change we wanted.
But nobody, not you, not the politicians, not everybody else gets it right all the time. The question is, who puts the effort into continuing to try to change things, who lets the failures become the lessons that create the successes.
As I see, it the greatest enemy we face is not complacency, not apathy, it is the despair that we can gather together as a nation and change things for the better. If we start out from that position of despair, then what's the point? We become an anchor on our own hopes and dreams, and the ugly realities persist.
But if we just accept that and sit back in resignation that a screwed up state of affairs is just to continue, what then? Well, it really doesn't help, does it? It only permits greater abuses, as the opportunity passes by for this country to learn from its errors.
No, we should not let this happen. But the issue is, this has been precisely what has been happening, as the lobbyists win their victories, as the industry captured regulators and politicians.
The public just doesn't get outraged, because it's used to living in a constant state of cynicism about government that saps the will to change it, that puts Americans into a funk. Conservatives don't spread their outrage over big government and everything else for nothing. If everything is terrible, everything is corrupt, then why not opt for letting the whole thing just burn?
The irony, of course, is that if people went "hey, that's MY government", if they ditched the learned helplessness of years of conservative misrule, they might do something constructive about it.
The truth is, the government is not some alien thing dropped in from another galaxy. These are the people we select from among us. They are there, generally, at our pleasure. If we make the hard, fast decision that they are out, short of an unthinkable military coup, they are out.
Thing is, though, our concentration has been diffused. If the conservatives are to be believed, we only get what we want when we just let the chaotic mix of self-interests determine everything. No, we can't make a conscious decision as a country anymore. We can't lay down the law. We have to just trust that the screwed-up status quo is the best we're going to get. We just have to sit in our own mess and get used to the stink.
I am no rabid opponent of markets or capitalism. But I don't believe we can act like the folks in the market will write rules that will orient themselves to the public good. I believe that the interests of those industries ought to be set in some kind of balance with the interests of the public, with the public interests taking precedence, all things being equal.
Things are as bad as they are now because the consequences of a lifetime worth of negligence and carelessness don't go away overnight. It will be hard, unpleasant work to undo all the damage, and in a society like ours, the despair that this prospect presents us can be a major source of resistance.
In fact, that's sort of how we got Reagan and all the others that followed him. People saw all the things going wrong, and they simply gave up, and listened to those who preached getting theirs while the getting was good. Faced with terrible problems, we listend to those who told us that the solution was to give into our thirst for instant gratification, self-enrichment.
And you know what? The same people are saying the same things all over again. They're making the same promises, stirring up the same false hopes. They are hoping that people will forget the results of those policies over the last thirty years, hoping to blame everything on the liberals and on the President. They want us to be distracted by the fury of the here and now, and forget where their actions lead us.
In facing this situation, therefore, We must appeal, yes, to hope, and not despair. Despair is the enemy of progress here, because it saps the will to fight. When we talk of the Seven Deadly Sins, this is what gets labelled as Sloth. Sloth is not simple laziness, it is the kind of despair that robs you of your ability to do what needs to be done.
We need to commit ourselves to getting done what needs to be done, to defeating, rather than surrendering in the face of whatever corruption or failure of governance we see. And I'm not just talking about the political junkies right here, I'm talking about the nation as a whole.
We have, before, as a nation, risen to meet such challenges. Drastic reform is within our capability, as it was within those of our forefathers. Consider the world that those who came before us changed to deliver us the prosperity and prominence we enjoy even today, and you can see that our challenge is not so great as we might think.
But we have to motivate ourselves first. We have to stop taking for granted that this is the natural way things have to be, and understand that we can do better than this, and will do better than this, if we keep at it long enough.
I understand why some of you feel that everything's just screwed up. Everything is. But I assume you got into all this with the aim of changing that. I assume that what you want to do is more than just be a spectator to your country's continued fall from grace. There are two kinds of realism, the passive kind that just says "don't rock the boat, this is how things are, and we must adjust to it", and the active kind that says "This is how things are, they are unacceptable, but if we are to change and evolved the system for the better, we must start by acknowledge the truth of how things are now, and write up our plans from there."
Our Republic was designed to be adaptable, to change in the face of challenges in order to meet them. We can either be one more force acting as inertia against that change, as our despair drags us down and our feelings of helplessness paralyze us, or we can make the conscious decision to be active realists, people who acknowledge reality so they can change it and help the country move on.