We are still in the early part of the 21st century, and instead of looking brightly into the future we tend to believe the outlook is rather dark and ominous. These are strange and turbulent times we live in. Regardless of your political persuasion, Americans are suspicious of their government officials, how the government operates in general, the political parties, big business, even their neighbor. All three branches of the government are believed to be tainted. Trillions of taxpayer dollars are given away either as pork or dispensed to those who fraudulently abuse government programs, and there is an enormous amount of data available to support this contention. Our trust in government, at all levels, is reaching new lows. We no longer believe politicians are trying to do what is best for the country overall, but for themselves and are nothing more than puppets for lobbyists and their political party. Further, big business in this country is now considered an icon for greed as opposed to the captains of industry. It seems we have traded ethics, patriotism, and unity for graft, cronyism, and corruption.
Quite simply, the perception is the system is broken, not just a little, but a lot. So, what holds us together? The average American just hangs on in the hopes that somehow things will get better. The reality though is the damage is so massive there is no single person who can fix it regardless of who we elect. So, what can be done? Fire our politicians and start over with new ones? I think the problem will just replicate itself. Do we tear up the Constitution and develop something else? I know of no politician living today who can match the brilliance of the authors of the Constitution, just lawyers. There is nothing wrong with the basic logical design of our government, but we have certainly botched its physical implementation. It is large, complex and unmanageable, and as such, prone to failure.
Let us not forget our system was designed and implemented by generations of people with strong moral convictions. They believed in the Golden Rule, "to do unto others as they would have others do unto you"; to observe the Ten Commandments; and cherish the human spirit, it's dignity and honor, and defend its need for freedom. Based on this, our forefathers tried to lead worthy and honorable lives. Cheating was unfathomable and taking relief was unimaginable. If you indeed needed help, you reluctantly asked for it as you didn't want to disgrace your family and become a burden on society. Yes, there was always an underworld, but it was rather small by comparison.
I do not believe we possess the same fervent beliefs as our predecessors did and, as such, our morality is in decline. We are now encouraged to take money even if we didn't earn it, and applauded for cheating whenever possible. If we are truly disappointed with our government, we should also be disappointed in ourselves as it is nothing more than a reflection of our character. After all, since the government is elected by the people, and we continue to elect corrupt officials and tolerate corrupt practices, then we are undoubtedly corrupt as well.
Actually, we shouldn't be surprised by our moral decay as it has been eroding for quite some time. To illustrate, The American Religious Identification Survey has been conducted several times over the years in order to study the religious trends of the American people. Comparing the reports from 1990 and 2008 (spanning just 18 years) within the last quarter century, the study found:
(Numbers are expressed in thousands)
The obvious conclusion from this study is that Christianity is in decline, and Agnostics/Atheists ("No Religion") are on the rise. Theoretically, organized religion is suppose to teach and promote moral values, but if this is in decline, then perhaps we should not be surprised to see the American system begin to deteriorate.
So what should we do about the American system? Desolve our political parties? Dismiss our government and start over? Rewrite the Constitution? Hardly. As an old systems man, I can tell you authoritatively that systems are built by evolution, not revolution. Nobody has built the perfect system the first time, and nobody ever will. It is an ongoing process of modifying and improving the existing system, something we have neglected for far too long in this country. We can certainly design new processes to help prohibit fraud and corruption, and we certainly can find new leaders who are more interested in doing what is best for the country as opposed to their pocketbook. However, we have to recognize the American system hinges on our own morality, and that is an area within ourselves we must first address. If all you do is lead a noble and worthy life, surrounding yourself with people of similar character, and not tolerating amoral behavior, then you are improving the American system.
The 21st century will either be remembered as the century where America was reborn or suffered a slow and painful death. As for me, I vote for the former and not the latter.
Keep the Faith!
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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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