Friday, January 02, 2009

Themes of Hope Change Optimism and Anxiety Are All Part of the New Year.

As I get focused and down to some serious work this morning, Friday January 2, 2009 (the first time I have typed 2009 – feels weird!)I am struck by some pieces I read this morning.

It is an interesting American take on what is happening as we emerge into 2009 facing very different realities than the last decade. Here fears were about runaway climate change, loose nukes and societal breakdown she describes as a potential “Mad Max World.” All valid but I want to focus on her message of hope and positive change potentials.

I really liked her optimism over “young people stepping up and how they “infused the country with the ‘Yes, we can’ spirit.” We need that young people’s infusion of a democratic spirit to happen in Canada in inevitable election coming 2009. She sees overwhelming support emerging in the States for “universal health care and notes “A majority of Americans favor a tax-supported single-payer system like Canada’s.” The waning of corporate power is a reason to be hopeful too and Obama permeated all the hope and change points she makes.

The second was by Timothy Garton Ash who hangs out at Stanford and Oxford and wrote an Op-Ed in the Globe and Mail today entitled “2009 Capitalism on the Ropes.” His theme is that there are “hard choices ahead on the road back to prosperity.” He calls for a review of the shelf-worn brand of free market capitalism of the past two decades and calls for a re-balancing of the “…state and market, public and private, the visible and the invisible hand.”

Government is no longer a dirty word thanks to Obama. What government seems to be doing in the face of the market meltdown, according to Ash, is “desperate improvisation.” This improvisation is due to the urgency of the situation caused by swiftness, depth and global reach of the meltdown. This economic calamity has seemed to happen virtually overnight. It has been building to a tipping point was fed by years of excessive deregulation, poor monitoring and enforcement of bank and other regulations and the extreme greed of some corporatist.

Obama talked about change and hope. I think we have to reverse the order and hope for change. It is now going to be personal as we see millions of people fall into serious uncertainty about their future. Growth at any cost, including degradation of the environment and erosion of social cohesion and decline of personal security is no longer acceptable.

When we all come out of this recession we need to be better people if we hope to be better off and happier in the future. We need to re-engage as citizens and participate in our democracy and civil society. We need to redefine success beyond consumption and include concepts like conservation, preservation and equity in a new success paradigm. We need to retool our institutions and invent some new ones to face the realities of global economic, ecological and societal interdependence. We need wiser leaders who are called to public service and not motivated by personal or political power as we have seen in recent times.

I am interested in what others think about the reasons, rationales and readiness for hope and change as we plunge into recession and the inevitable recalibration of our economies and communities. As Lily Tomlin once said, “We are all in this alone, together.” I look forward to your comments.
(Photo credit to .Hessam from Flickr)