With the incredible shifts in wealth in the US with more and more middle class American’s being left behind there is little doubt that pressure is building for a course correction. The question is – will that course correction be a destructive shift such as the economic crash of 2008 or something that is a bit more guided and manageable for us to negotiate. Will we become more divided by wealth or transform toward a more equitable nation? People on the right and the left are responding in large numbers to anti-establishment candidates. There is a rising feeling that the current system is rigged against the average American and that enough is enough.
As we see these passions building, what do we do with the desire for change? On the left is a rising chorus that all Americans matter and if we work together to re-balance systems that have shifted over time to strongly favor the wealthy that we can all do better. We have Bernie Sanders reminding us that it is not a radical idea for average Americans to have health care and education. On the right there is a rising chorus of anger that says if we get rid of certain groups of people, those who remain will be okay. We have Trump fanning the fires of “throw them out” and squashing voices that disagree with him. One side promises change that is messy but transformative with the possibility of getting to a better place as a nation, the other is fueling anger and hatred and risks exploding into destructive violence. There is probably no nation on earth that has the potential to implode with greater violence given the number of highly armed citizens.
Will the establishment folks on the right and the left pay attention to these rising signals of change? Will they look inward at their own self-interest and in self-protection work to squash the rising calls for change from citizens? Or will they recognize that this rising pressure might be slowed but ultimately cannot be stopped; that we have a choice of letting it build to explosion or using that energy to fuel constructive change.
It is helpful to remember that it is normal for all systems (businesses, nature and nations) to have cycles of birth and creation, peak output, decline or destruction and then cycling back around again. In healthy cycles the resources released as systems decline are reused for new innovation, creation and rebirth. In destructive cycles resources are severely damaged or even destroyed making recovery and rebuilding difficult or even impossible. Think Roman Empire.
It can be scary to think about entrenched industries scaled way back such as insurance companies or fossil fuel but we have to remember that these resources will get redeployed even if we don’t yet know what that will look like. We already know we will need more medical providers as more people get access to health care and we will see alternative energy jobs rise as we move toward more sustainable energy use. As change unfolds there will be rebuilding that we haven’t even yet imagined.
Even more scary than this type of change would be a violent course correction with people killed, resources destroyed and a downward cycle of using resources to manage violence rather than investing in a positive future. I believe we can come together as a people as we have done in the face of past crises and move toward a future where more Americans are served by the economic, education, health and political systems than excluded from them. I fear the consequences if we don’t.