We are in the midst of a good old-fashioned cold snap, common to those of us native to northern regions. January has always been the coldest month.
Oddly, the cold is now big news, at least if you watch local affiliate news. It’s part of my morning 5 AM routine that I can’t seem to shake. WMTW-8 sticks their second-string weatherizer out in some live location where this pale and shivering meteorologist tells us that “it’s cold outside.” Yes it is.
Two weeks ago, Portland was experiencing temperatures 60 degrees warmer, as they set a January 14th record with a temperature that was 59 degrees. If I didn’t know better, I’d say our weather was broken.
Climate change is a topic that continues to be argued about. Arguing does nothing to change our trajectory towards warmer temperatures, rising sea levels, and some significant fallout sure to be visited upon us down the road. Still, some insist this is a “liberal hoax” intended to confiscate something (what?), because lacking solutions, it’s always easy to crank up the fear-fogger and the conspiracy presses.
Having lived a bit more than half my life, I’m struck by the actual experience of living in the midst of our empire as it begins its downward trajectory towards whatever one chooses to call it; decline, irrelevance, even collapse.
I’m finishing up James Howard Kunstler’s latest book about a world where oil will no longer be abundant. Like his previous work on this topic, this one again details a world in which things will be remarkably different.
Because I’m unable to just read one book, I’m also working on a couple of others. Chris Hayes wrote Twilight of the Elites: America after Meritocracy, in which he addresses the fundamental failure of our elite institutions and how those in power refuse to address the issues relative to the failure, but rather, seek to fortify their remaining power.
Sometimes it seems like hand-wringing has become our national sport. Talking heads, whether political, cultural, or sports-blatherers, go on and on about the shortcomings of politicians, singers, or athletes. It sells ads and keeps them employed, so I guess in that framework, it has some relevance and it’s working for them. For the rest of us, however, it does nothing to stanch the loss of something that fewer and fewer are able to define, but know from intuition existed at one time.
I see a lot of this in the work that I do (which I’m not allowed to write about here at the JBE), at least on the workforce side. Lacking a clear plan, so-called leaders gather, form a new panel to study the __________ (insert a phrase, like “skills gap,” “aging workforce,” “declining test score,” et al), and then issue a press release. Problem solved. Perhaps I’m guilty of this, too.
Short of embracing an approach advocated by the likes of Seth Godin or Tony Robbins, things do look pretty bleak at times. This isn’t to say that positive gurus don’t have a purpose and in fact, maybe it’s merely to counter the negative drip, drip, drip that’s ubiquitous in 21st century America.
Relative to Godin, I think his critique of the industrial age and our transition to this entirely different paradigm that now defines our century is actually helpful. The video on school (below) illustrates our quandary. We know school is broken. That’s not even worth arguing about. The question becomes, what the hell are we going to do about it? We could ask the same question about any one of our failing elite institutions. What are we going to do about their failures?
I’ll end with one illustration from Godin. He talks about the resume and how “it’s worthless now.” It’s true; the resumed is an outdated tool that does little to illustrate the experiences and the qualities that job seekers possess, especially those who have transcended the 20th century paradigm and are now living the 21st century reality of risk-taking that Godin and others talk about. The kicker, however, is just how many places still hold the resume up as the primary litmus test of qualifications; I’d hazard a guess that it’s probably 95+ percent of employers. Any wonder why these dinosaurs struggle to locate available talent?
This is just one example of how truly FUBAR we are as a country.