That Used To Be Us: Time To Pay Attention

Thomas Freidman wrote a book entitled “The World is Flat.” He explored ten different flatteners that made the world smaller. Two examples of the flatteners are the Internet and Microsoft Windows. It is amazing how those two tools have brought the world closer, while creating a more integrated economy. Freidman’s recent offering is “That Used To Be Us.” In this book Freidman compares the United States with China. He views China as an emerging economic powerhouse, and we as a country with reducing opportunity. Nothing illustrates our dilemma more than the current Fiscal Cliff fiasco.

On the other hand, China has evolved from its Maoist foundations. Instead of denigrating business leaders as Mao did, the current Communist leadership has welcomed millionaires into its ranks. According to today’s WSJ seven of China’s new leaders are men who have made millions as businessmen. “For years the Communist Party filled key political and state bodies with loyal servants; proletarian workers, pliant scholars, and military 0fficers. Now the door is wide open to another group: millionaires and billionaires.”

The WSJ, using information from China, has identified that 160 of china’s richest individuals, with a collective net worth of $221 billion, are seated in the Communist Party Congress. Times they are a changing. Lenin, Russia, and Mao, China, are probably turning over in their graves due to the change occurring in their countries. I have seen Lenin’s tomb, and there is n upscale mall across Red Square from his tomb. However, Russia is not as aggressive economically as China.

The point of Freidman’s book is that we, the United States, have lost our passion and direction. Generally speaking we are more excited about playing video games than we are about being productive. We are more focused on the easy score than we are with producing an honest day’s work.  To illustrate this Freidman gives the example of China building a convention center safely in several months, when we can’t even get an escalator fixed in New York City in six months. We don’t know how to work anymore.

As I mentioned during the last couple of blog entries I am reading about Jefferson. One thing I have learned, our founding Fathers were not perfect men, but they were men who wanted to create a strong Republic of the people and for the people. They were willing to do whatever it took to be free. There was a willingness to pay attention, there was a willingness to work.

An example of this was when Thomas Jefferson spent a few years in France. He met many of the European thinkers of the time, and as a result honed his ideas about the Republic, especially when it comes to work. He wrote:

The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.

In other words, we need to pay attention to the politics around us. Because if we don’t care, and if we don’t take initiative then, we become inattentive to the public affairs, resulting in you and I, and Congress, and Assemblies, judges, and governors becoming wolves….man is the only animal which devours his own kind.

I have taken two paths with this blog. The first involves our loss of a willingness to work, resulting in a reliance on government to take care of us. The second path involves the need for us to pay attention. If we want this great Democratic Republic experiment to continue, we need to pay attention. We must stop operating on autopilot. Put down the video games and read a book. Become a thinker, worker, someone who pays attention. Our country needs this.

And that is my thought for the day!





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