The last decade has marked an incredible journey not just for the U.S., but also for the world at large. In fact, it’s been the rest of the world’s evolution that has impacted us so profoundly perhaps more so than any other time since World War II.
We have all seen, heard, and lived a lot. But like an old Marine Corps friend used to tell me, “There’s no such thing as ‘lessons learned.’" There’s only "lessons available.” The learning is, of course, optional.
So, in spirit of the ever-popular Top Countdown, here are the top 9 things I’ve learned in the last ten years.
9. Information Travels Fast, But That Doesn't Mean it's More Accurate:
Indeed, the opposite is true. “Fast information” (information received almost instantaneously; as it happens via blogs, social media, social networks, etc.) is more often than not, “wrong information.” This leads to the need for more information clarifying the first information. Now!
8. You Can Become Famous for Being Famous:
You need no particular talent, skill, ability, or even personality. You either need to be born or marry into money, or you just need someone to find you as appealing as watching a building burn, a train wreck or a plane crash. Unfortunately, most people don’t get the joke when they watch these people, and believe that’s how they’re supposed to behave. Which, of course, creates even more infamy, er, famous people.
7. Anyone Gets Medals for Anything:
No one has to be stellar or superlative, because we are all stellar or superlative. Which means, no one is stellar or superlative. Unless you’re super rich or super famous. And if you’re super rich, you’re automatically super famous (see #9 above).
6. The U.S. Political System is an Elementary School Playground:
The loudest, meanest, and best liar wins. And we all want to win, so we want to be on the winner’s team! The rest can be on the other team because there is simply no other option. You are either with us or against us. And the other team only wins occasionally, because we just weren’t loud enough, mean enough, or lied good enough this time.
5. Everything Revolvs Around Fantasy:
We are vampire, witches and wizards, zombie, outer space, dinosaur, never grow old, never be denied, never have enough obsessed. Even so-called “reality TV” is not reality. Oh, it may not be scripted per se, but it’s definitely a fantasy. We can’t seem to just live in the present, ever.
4. If You're Not "Green," You're a Traitor and Deserve to Be Executed:
Which is amazing, because most “green” supporters are a seemingly intelligent bunch, but yet don’t know that it’s not us (people) who are doing the greatest and most damage to our environment. It’s like, you know, Harry casting spells on Lucius Malfoy while Lord Voldemort gets away! Whatever.
3. Government and Corporations, Two Essential American Institutions, Are Now Evil:
And it’s a well-deserved reputation. Both have managed to lose sight of the original vision, that “We, the People” are the foundation upon which they both rest. The words “politician” and “banker” have become synonymous with greed and corruption. There is a collective void of moral courage, and the cloak of invisibility – behind closed door deals, shady operations, intentionally convoluting and contravening laws and good order – has enabled character to flee. We have too much polarization -- haves and have nots; right and left; winners and losers – and not enough accountability, responsibility, cooperation and shared success.
2. Our Educational System Sucks Big Time:
It has failed to serve our country because it has failed to evolve with our society. According to the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), the U.S. has fallen to “average” in international education rankings (we’re behind South Korea, for God’s sake!) Our high school graduation rates rank near the bottom in comparison with other developed nations. We’re no longer an agrarian economy who needs the kiddos for farm labor in the summer.
We’re no longer an industrial or manufacturing economy who needs a whole lot of 18-year old factory workers. We’re an information-based, consumer economy that needs a whole new education model that serves us now and in the future.
Is there anything designed in the 1940s that we’re still using today? The answer is yes, our education system! Similarly, our post-secondary education apparatus is out-dated and out of touch. It’s too expensive, too long, too easy, and too regimented. We can do so much better, so why aren’t we?
1. War is Good for Nothing:
I have learned that wars can be expensed and then written off. So can warriors. The so-called war on drugs – epic fail. Our prisons are full, but there are more overdoes from prescription drugs in this country than ever before (source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). War on poverty? (see “have nots” comment in #3) Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? History, of course will provide more clarity, but as of now, Iraq is still plagued with violence and instability. Iran – a far greater threat to the world than Iraq ever was – is poised to receive its prize served up compliments of the U.S. taxpayer, and Afghanistan, well, as soon as NATO (oh, who am I kidding?), as soon as the U.S. leaves, the vacuum will re-set to its default position. That is to say, hell on earth.