I am not much of the Hollywood type and rarely do I watch award shows like the Golden Globes, but I have to admit that it got my attention when I was reading this morning about the winners. It seems that the prevailing theme of the movies receiving awards was about survival. The Martian and The Revenant were by far the winners of the evening. Both movies were based on characters who, defying all odds, found the internal strength and fortitude to stop short of the precipice of death. And even though they had no warning of that precipice, no ability to see the future and thus prepare – they survived.
But reality doesn’t live in Hollywood.
Even though we can’t always foresee the dangers that lie ahead there are many times that we can. As the great Roman, Marcus Aurelius said, “[l]ook back over the past, with its changing empires that rose and fell, and you can foresee the future, too.”
That quote should resonate profoundly with all of us but there is this arrogance in this country, among all political classes, that this great country, the American empire, can never fail. But simply put, every great country, for whatever reason eventually does.
“When I was a young girl, the idea that the British Empire could ever end was absolutely inconceivable. And it just disappeared, like all the other empires. You know, when people talk about the British Empire, they always forget that all the European countries had empires.”
These words by English writer Doris Lessing should be taught in every classroom and recited every day by every American in this country. I know, most people reading this blog will first question the relevance since her quote refers to Europe, but that simply proves that we as Americans feel that we are different, that we somehow are impervious to failing. But we must wake up from that dream and recognize the nightmare that we are close to living. We are at the tipping point to which our nation’s survival is in question, at that precipice of extinction, and I hope that we have the strength of knowing we are there, looking into a dark pit filled with the remnants of all the empires before us.
One of my favorite French philosophers, Blaise Pascal, said it best, “[w]e run carelessly to the precipice, after we have put something before us to prevent us seeing it.”
That is my concern, that we have put something before us preventing us from seeing the reality – the precipice that we are upon. The cloud surrounding this Presidential election is a perfect example, where we are talking building walls, how people look, their citizenship, that we should have a religious test before allowing people in this country, how people handled emails and the list goes on. But none of the candidates are really talking about the implosion we will face if we don’t get a handle on a national debt that is approaching 17 trillion dollars – almost 100% of the GDP. Simply put, if we go bankrupt, insolvent and simply continue to write blank checks with no regard for the consequences – no other issue, regardless of how big or small, will matter.
I can’t refer to the Golden Globes in my blog without using a quote from one of my favorite directors, Martin Scorsese who said, “I love studying Ancient History and seeing how empires rise and fall, sowing the seeds of their own destruction.”
Isn’t that where we are - that we have sown the seeds of our destruction through excessive spending leading to a national debt that equals $156,411 for every man, woman and child in this country. There are rare times when such spending is justified but both parties spend more than we have every single day. Even though there are some strong fiscal conservatives in Congress, neither party can claim the mantle of being fiscally responsible – unless we are watching a comedy special on HBO. As an aside, and a subject of a future blog, maybe it’s time we break the monopoly of the two party system and allow for other political parties that might be better suited to address this fiscal crisis.
It is a new year and I hate starting it with a blog that is so fatalist and gloomy. But if we fail to fundamentally address our fiscal crisis, if we fail to stop passing the buck to future generations, and frankly fail to look past the vitriol of this election cycle and focus on the root issue that threatens this great nation, we won’t be winning a Golden Globe for a movie about how this nation survived when at the precipice. The movie that we might be nominated for would be entitled “The Fall of the American Empire” and all of us would win for best supporting actor and actress.
And for me, this is one award I personally hope none of us win.
All the best,