The ugly spectacle of political gridlock reflects a political culture best described as insane. It's increasingly disconnected from realities of our current world. We're living in the midst of massive, worldwide transformation towards a highly intertwined and increasingly transparent world. The impact of this transformation is visible in economic shifts, new political movements, changing social norms and personal values, business practices and in individual behavior.
The products of this transformation call for policies and actions that respond to them in pragmatic, positive ways. But here in the U.S., our political culture of both left and right operates as though these new realities either don't exist or don't matter; as though the old order still prevails.
Examples of the political insanity include:
Contrast the above positions and policy objectives with some of the transformations whose impact is increasingly visible in everyone's lives. On the surface, they appear disparate; unrelated. But collectively, you can see a theme: A rising change of mentality. That is, a mixture of values, world outlook, emotional attitudes, and conduct. It's simultaneously a response to and a driver of the rise of interconnection and interdependency. And it has cascading political, economic and social implications.
Here are some of the seemingly unrelated shifts that reflect the reality of today's world:
The new realities are marked by some common themes. For example, sharing and preserving resources for the public good; embracing and valuing innovation; openness to diverse people and rejection of hierarchical rank based on status. These themes contrast with the old order -- fear of change; holding onto having and getting for oneself; the desire to believe and go along with actions that are ultimately destructive, as a former GOP operative recently described.
This is, essentially, a clash between those who cling to an old model of an older world -- holding on to power that's shared mostly by the powerful, with some concern given here and there to the poor, the needy and minorities -- and those reflecting the shift of mentality towards raising all people towards more egalitarian sharing of resources and opportunity for increasing well-being.
The apparent insanity dominating our political culture reflects, to a great extent, a fear response to the disintegration of the old order and what it exposes. The transformation calls for actions that recognize and deal with them in social and public policies. But our political culture either ignores, denies or fails to understand them.
But the new realities are recognized and addressed by people outside the political culture, writing from different perspectives. Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne and others have written about the fear of transparency, for example. From an international perspective, Fareed Zakaria has written that economic growth outside the U.S. raises the question of how the U.S. can understand and thrive in this rapidly changing international climate, and what it means to live in a global era. Others, such as New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman have described the implications of worldwide transformation, as has Umair Haque, writing for the Harvard Business Review blog.
Who within the political arena today shows the awareness, connection with and understanding of the realities of transformation today? Who is articulating ways to address their impact, socially, economically, psychologically and through constructive policy?
Blog: Progressive Impact
Website: Center for Progressive Development
©2011 Douglas LaBier