Without A Vision A People, A Country, And A President Are Lost
Twenty years ago the largest gathering of world leaders in history came together in Rio de Janeiro to discuss how to address the world’s environmental problems. At the same time in another Brazilian city, Sao Paulo, there was a huge trade show featuring green technologies that would both protect the environment and spawn economic changes that could be the basis of jobs, profits, and overall prosperity in the 21st century.
That was 20 years ago.
Tomorrow Rio+20, the UN Conference On Sustainable Development, a follow-up to this earlier gathering and trade event. will open in Rio. Most of the world’s leaders will not be in attendance, however. Obama, Putin, Merkel, Cameron, they won’t be there because they have another priority — figuring out at the G-20 meeting in Mexico how to bail out yet again the world’s banks and bankers.
No new jobs nor profits nor general prosperity will emerge at this latest G-20 meet. Except for the banking class whose bugling, massive misappropriation of capital, arrogance and greed, has dragged the world into a deep recession and bodes to take it all the way down in the near future. This G-20 assemblage of world leaders is still hard-wired by their handlers into the idiot view that you save economies by saving banks, rather than vice-versa.
While this sputtering myth holds sway in the West, a different vision has taken hold in another part of the world. It’s a true vision for the future, not just a set of haphazardly strung together government policies.
I heard someone interviewed about Rio+20 on NPR this morning. He made a very interesting observation: That the world leader in environmental technologies these days is China. That’s right, China. It leads in solar, in wind, in battery sciences, in the development of environmentally sound transportation systems, in the creation of sustainable cities.
In 2008 then-candidate Barack Obama promised Hope and Change. This wasn’t a vision. It was (or seemed to be) a promise for a vision to come. Something truly grand. Something that not only animated the economy, but transcended the economic parts of our collective existences. Something that makes us, all of us, feel better about ourselves and our kind, while it also works to enrich our material lives.
America long led in its ability to not only formulate but to realize such visions. From the City On The Hill vision of the first European settlers here, to an ocean-to-ocean empire vision, to that other wonderful quasi-biblical vision of nineteenth century America, bringing the light of democracy to a blighted tyrannical world, something actually carried through in the last century with the wearing down and ultimate destruction of communism.
There was another recent American visionary quest I remember so well in my own lifetime. JFK’s send-a-man-to-the-moon in the decade of the 1960s vision. The year this was realized this country was stuck in one of its stupid foreign military misadventures, this one in Vietnam. Yet on the day Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon something extraordinary happened. The event was broadcast on TV everywhere. And when people in country after country were asked what made them joyful about it, they didn’t cite America’s landing on the moon. They said “we did it, we [humanity], did it.”
Never, perhaps, had America stood so tall. Because never before had the entire world been so fulfilled so successful by one of our visions, one of our own statesman’s visions. Fully articulated. Fully realized.
And here we are today. Watching the light of the future, economic dominance linked to environmental salvation, shining most brightest in another country — in China.
Its leaders have understood the imperatives of a new environmental economics in which greater efficiencies, sustainable production, and the incredible potential when live energy from sun and wind and heat from the earth itself and moving waves are tapped rather than perpetual reliance on the grave-robbing burning of fossil fuels.
The East is rising and the West declining in large measure because of a simple lack of vision on the part of western leaders. The sun shines on all. The wise catch its emanations, learn to use them wisely, and prepare to reap great future harvests. The foolish dig and drill deeper into their holes, finger their pennies and shun the rays.
America will be going to the polls soon without a leader or a potential leader professing vision greater than one tied to jobs, taxes or debt. It’s an election pitting ideologues against careerists in a money-drenched spate to see who will get a few extra temporary takeaways for their respective principals.
The fact that we are a sick nation is not what is really the scary thing. We have been sick before and risen up healthier. What is really scary as that we are a sightless when it comes to the needed cure. That we have no clearly articulated future vision worthy of our history and our very best angels and our vast technological capacities.
That there is no one with the power, or the possibility of power, who seems to understand what has to be replaced, how to do it, how to transcend, what the new will look like, the needed creative destruction that must come before a global restoration and a prosperous global future can appear.
The vision of such a future now lies elsewhere. America has half-hearted policies. China has vision. On the earth. And as we have seen just this week, beyond the earth as well.
In the nineteenth century only a fool would want to be anything but an American. Land of dreams. Land of opportunities. Land where the people understood well where the future should lie and the road to get there. In the twenty-first century, not so much.