Perfect Storm: Rising Tide But The Boats Won't Float genre: Econ-Recon & Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Perfect Storm

I’ve always been fascinated with society, psychology, and the human condition…especially from the perspective of what the future may hold. Don’t misinterpret that to mean that I think I can predict the future; rather I try to predict how the state of thought…what people believe, what they are saying, and how they are saying it today…will impact their experiences some time in the not so distant future.

Additionally, I love it when my musings can connect several disparate dots into a snapshot of what might unfold in that regard. Lastly, I adore words…how they are used, what they can and should mean, how they shape our hopes and beliefs, and how they can often be used to say one thing while intending or imparting another. Some say that we are what we eat…I say we are what we hear…which becomes what we say.

A couple of articles caught my attention this morning and allowed me to get lost in one of my moments of ADD induced speculation. First, let me offer the backdrop. Of late, I’ve spent a lot of time focused on the state of parenting and the messages today’s parents are giving their children which will influence how they will function in the world as adults. Add in the influence of religion and its tendency to support absolutist thinking, the preoccupation with being famous and being number one and you have a snapshot of the launching point for my contemplation.

The first article deals with the issue of climate change and the impact of global warming. According to a Washington Post article, the United States appears prepared to reject the proposal to be offered at the upcoming G8 Summit that would set limits on greenhouse gas emissions in order to cap the rise in global temperature.

Representatives from the world's leading industrial nations met the past two days in Heiligendamm, Germany, to negotiate over German Chancellor Angela Merkel's proposed statement, which calls for limiting the worldwide temperature rise this century to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit and cutting global greenhouse gas emissions to 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

Bush administration officials, who raised similar objections in April, rejected the idea of setting mandatory emissions targets as well as language calling for G-8 nations to raise overall energy efficiencies by 20 percent by 2020. With less than two weeks remaining, said sources familiar with the talks, the climate document is the only unresolved issue in the statements the world leaders are expected to sign at the June 6-8 summit.

"The U.S. still has serious, fundamental concerns about this draft statement," a paper dated May 14 states. "The treatment of climate change runs counter to our overall position and crosses multiple 'red lines' in terms of what we simply cannot agree to…We have tried to 'tread lightly' but there is only so far we can go given our fundamental opposition to the German position."

As I’ve followed the global warming debate, a couple things stand out to me. One, the projections suggest that if the trends were to in fact proceed unabated, rising ocean levels would threaten some of this country’s major population centers. Two, those rising waters are apparently being taxed to absorb the rising levels of carbon dioxide and should they reach saturation, the problems will only accelerate. At some point the entire system goes awry and all hell breaks loose…think high waters and boats…perhaps Noah’s arc meets Poseidon Adventure.

I read the second article at MSNBC. That article, in its broadest terms, is a discussion of the state of the American Dream…the promise of advancing prosperity from generation to generation. Toss in the oft heard GOP theory that the rising tide lifts all boats and you’ll begin to see some rhyme to my reason.

The American dream has always held that each generation will enjoy a higher standard of living than the previous one, and that is still true, as measured by household income.

But the generational gains are slowing, and the increased participation of women in the work force is the only thing keeping the dream alive, according to an analysis of Census data released Friday.

A generation ago, American men in their thirties had median annual incomes of about $40,000 compared with men of the same age who now make about $35,000 a year, adjusted for inflation. That’s a 12.5 percent drop between 1974 and 2004, according to the report from the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Economic Mobility Project.

To be sure, household incomes rose during the same period, but only because there are more full-time working women, the report said.

"Today’s data suggest that during a 30-year period of economic expansion, a rising tide did not lift all boats," Morton said in a release accompanying the report, "Economic Mobility: Is the American Dream Alive and Well?"

Of course, the men who run American companies don’t have too much to complain about. CEO pay increased to 262 times the average worker’s pay in 2005 from 35 times in 1978, according to the report’s analysis of Congressional Budget Office statistics.

Going back to 1820, per capita gross domestic product in the United States has grown an average of 52 percent for each 30-year generation, according to the report. But since 1973, median family income has grown only 0.6 percent per year, a rate that produces just a 17 percent increase over a generation.

"Thus, unless the rate of economic growth increases, the next generation will experience an improvement in its standard of living that is only one-third as large as the historical average for earlier generations," the report said.

Stay with me, I promise a big finish (wink, wink).

So when you take the words found in these two articles and factor in the issues from the backdrop, one can begin to see the images that will form a preliminary snapshot of our future human condition premised upon the existing and established social and psychological influences.

I’ll attempt to explain. Generally speaking, it seems to me that many of today’s parents are raising the expectations found in their children. Call it the American Idol mentality morphs with the Tiger Woods phenomenon…meaning mom and dad say to themselves, “My kid has star potential so I simply need to cultivate it from the outset". My bottom line assumption suggests that a growing number of parents believe every child can, should, and will be coached such that they are eventually discovered and catapulted to their rightful position in the spotlight. Call it the American Dream juiced up on steroids (h/t to David Letterman for the steroids slang).

At the same time, we see the data from the study referenced above suggesting that the economic prospects are moving in a diametrically opposite direction…and we have yet to consider the unknown though increasingly predictable ramifications of climate change that could render all prior historical equations virtually useless. Oh, and did I mention the case of the missing honey bees?

I’ve previously argued that humanity has continued to move towards a construct of diverging identities…in other words there is a greater divide between the outward lives we live and the more obscure, though ever lurking in the background, state of hyper reality…those moments when the facade of the outer world identity is stripped of its accoutrements to reveal the starkness of our real identity.

A couple examples might be helpful. It’s the eighteen year old young woman that dad has convinced is destined to be the next Serena Williams who finds herself entering college without a tennis scholarship and void of other measures of self worth…though still convinced her exaggerated “manifest destiny" is just around the corner.

It’s the thirty five year old son who was handed success in the form of family instituted social security when he joined his maternal grandfather’s business as a vice president the day he graduated from college…now left to realize the day after grandfather has entered a nursing home with Alzheimer’s that sales have evaporated in direct relation to grandpa’s advancing disconnect and that what little is left of a fortune will now be needed to pay for round the clock care.

The reality is that this aquarium we call America isn’t big enough to hold the advancing expectations we have sought to institutionalize and that we have exponentially instilled in the next generation. Worse yet, we haven’t yet equipped that generation with the boat to survive the rising tide…no, not the rising tide of success that will raise all boats…but the rising tide of a global economy that will subject the United States to ever increasing global economic realities. In truth, boats be damned…people are going to need to know how to swim…and no, there won’t be any gold medals awarded.

At the same time, we have a government that is intent on borrowing money in order to spend its way out of each new economic setback. Simultaneously, they ignore the warnings of an ever advancing science that suggests an entirely new and ominous cash eating calamity in the form of global climate change is just beyond the rising liquid horizon.

The bright future that has become the staple of our private and political rhetoric (the words we speak) may be nothing more than the glow of an approaching apocalypse…no, not the one associated with the rapture that runs rampant in religious imagery and that promises an idyllic after life…the one that was there in full view for all to see and fully of our own human making…the one we chose to ignore because our best human attributes and identities had atrophied such that we lacked the will to right the ship before it succumbed to the weight of an endless burden of belligerence and betrayal…particularly that betrayal which suggested that god would save us…because we chose to conclude that that would be easier than saving ourselves.

The curtain falls.

Daniel DiRito | May 26, 2007 | 12:11 PM
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Comments

1 On October 15, 2008 at 10:28 PM, chris wrote —

hi~~ interesting writing here. in short i agree with the reality check you are calling for here. i think in many ways we have a machine that is running in ways that if not changed, will have some terrible results.

on another topic... your photo at the top of the boat and storm... do you know who took it or where you got it from? thanks much,

chris

2 On July 4, 2013 at 9:30 AM, perfect world zen generator wrote —

I’m not that much of a internet reader to be honest but
your blogs really nice, keep it up! I'll go ahead and bookmark your website to come back down the road. All the best

Thought Theater at Blogged

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