Margin Notes - Blog

A Noble Mission

Fahad Manjoo recently penned a column in The New York Times entitled, “The Internet is Breaking the Outrage Meter.” He noted that “If you’ve logged on to Twitter and Facebook in the waning weeks of 2015, you’ve surely noticed that the Internet now seems to be on constant boil. Your social feed has always been loud, shrill, reflexive and ugly, but this year everything has been turned up to 11.”

In most cases, this vitriol isn’t caused by honest disagreements or even by passionately held positions, it’s driven by a social phenomenon best described as “unconditional warfare.” We’re battling with ourselves. Over government ineptitude. Business malpractice. Cultural and religious concerns. And what seems like a thousand other flashpoints.

Some blame social media for this turmoil. Others point to the 24 hour news cycle. And still others say it’s the uncertainty and fear created by a world in flux.

Those are all powerful forces to be sure, but they are not the source of our “uncivil war.”

To find the real first cause, we have to look in the mirror. We have to acknowledge that it’s we the people who are doing this to ourselves. We are living the symptoms of a condition that’s weakened our unity and crippled our compassion. We are the agents of our own distress.

There is no fault here, however. This condition happened to us. Boomers, especially, have had to deal with it their entire lives. So, I think it’s appropriate that Boomers should take up the banner of eradicating it, of dislodging its hold on them, their kids and grandkids.

I’m a Boomer so I know what I’m proposing is a big step. At this stage in our lives, we’ve earned a bit of retirement rest. But consider the benefit: taking on this challenge enables us to reconnect with the idealism of our youth and to forge a legacy that’s every bit as great as that of the generations which preceded us. It is a noble mission and A Prescription for the Soul.

       December 11th, 2015    

There’s Still Time to Do More

F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote “There are no second acts in American lives.” Maybe that was so when the average American lifespan was less than 65 years. Today, the average life expectancy in the U.S. is 78.7 years and rising. To put a fine point on it, there’s no lack of time to do more.

For Boomers, that longevity is both a relief and a challenge. We are hurtling past the temporal seam that marks our 65th year, but we haven’t yet even opened our second act. There’s still the opportunity to do something historic. Something great. We just have to figure out what that is.

Or, do we?

Pick up the paper (a quaint idea, I know) or check out online news sites or social media, and the answer is immediately clear. In fact, it’s impossible to miss. Whether it’s in our politics, our business culture or our response to societal problems, we are facing off against one another as if we are enemies. We are waging “unconditional warfare” on ourselves.

Not most of us, to be sure. But too many of us and, certainly, far too many of our so-called leaders. They talk and act as if all electoral and commercial competition and all disagreements, especially those dealing with the most difficult issues, must be decided in a winner-takes-all battle. They believe these are conflicts in which victory consigns all but one to defeat.

That’s not democracy, it’s combat.

In such a noxious environment, collateral damage is inevitable. The war-like behavior of a very small segment of our population is maiming the lives of tens of millions of Americans caught in the middle. It is ravaging their American experience and scorching their American Dream.

I call this condition “PTSD of the soul.” And curing it is the great mission of the Baby Boom generation. It is our second act. Our chance to stand tall in the long line of Americans who stood tall before us.

       December 1st, 2015