What if one day we were all on our own. We’d still have our family and friends, but the institutions we normally depend on just vanished. The government, the schools, the insurance companies, the institutional safety nets … all gone. How would you live your life? Would you take less risks? Would you take more? Would you look towards the future, or bury yourself in what was left of the past?
If there is one central thread throughout most of my writings, it’s been the need for us to take “personal responsibility.” Whether it’s our dependence on schools to educate our children, our government to feed and house us when we lose our jobs or even for it to prop up our mortgages when our house values plunge … we expect help. It seems like we’re always looking for someone to “fix things” when they go south. It’s always someone’s fault … someone except us. It’s not our fault that the greedy company we worked for laid us off. We trained for that job and put in our time. “They owe us!” It’s not our fault our children aren’t getting the education they should to prepare them for the future. “After all we pay our taxes!” And it’s not our fault that the value of our home dropped forty percent in two years. “It’s our dream house and isn’t that’s part of the American Dream.”
We didn’t think that just maybe the job we trained for twenty or even ten years ago would become obsolete. Or did we recognize change should be part of life. We didn’t think that education is also the job of us, the parents – not just the school. Sure school is important, but ultimately how our children are prepared for the future is our responsibility. And we didn’t think that putting our life savings into an investment that’s value is dependent on factors completely outside our control, might not be the most prudent strategy.
The problem is “we didn’t think” … and most of us still aren’t. But we’ll be the first ones to complain about our schools, the government and everything else that hasn’t delivered. Hell, we’ll even complain that our neighbor’s teenage son and the parties he throws are dragging down the neighborhood and the value of our house.
Maybe my tone sounds a bit harsh. Maybe it is. But softening the message, won’t make reality any less severe. We can all sit around and hope that our storied institutions will shore-up and provide that hand up, the hand up that will rescue us from the inevitable. But it’s not going happen. And it’s probably going to get worse before it get better.
I’m sure I’ll hear comments saying that not everyone can fend for themselves. And I accept this. For any one of a variety a reasons, there are people who need help. And in the past this assistance has come primarily from the government. But that doesn’t change the situation today and probably in the future. Charity and its role in the government is drifting further and further apart. Talk of austerity and cost-cutting (mainly social services) is front and center in public discussion. Even with Hurricane Sandy, the biggest economic disaster in America’s history, took three months of “child-like sandbox bickering” before significant government assistance was approved.
But here’s what I believe. Regardless whether someone should receive government or any other aid, that doesn’t excuse them, or you, from using your mind – from thinking. Don’t just assume you’ll be bailed out if something goes other than planned in your “perfect world.” Whether or not you consider your plight in life your doing, you can still act with personal responsibility and use your mind. Maybe, just maybe, if you would have in the first place … you wouldn’t be in this position. Get past the mass media and its preoccupation of classifying everyone as victimized. The boat’s full of real victims and there ain’t no more room.
Turn off the “auto-pilot!” Get the synapses firing. Rather than resting on your laurels, assume your job will be phased out and develop a habit of learning a new one. Before you push your child to become a lawyer (or other profession that makes YOU feel good) and strapping them with a six figure student loan debt, do some research. Maybe then you’ll learn their job prospects in that field may not be what they were twenty years ago. And before you shackle your future to that “dream house,” well … just don’t do it!
Change is happening, whether you like it or not. And it’s happening at a rate faster than anytime in history. How you react to its impending chaos, will dictate where you end up in the future. But it all depends on taking responsibility, and thinking before you automatically act as you always have.
Evolution doesn’t happen on its own … you have to help it along.
You can find me on Twitter at @clayforsberg