Reality Where is Thy Sting?

Frank Rich wrote in The New York Times that Tiger Woods should be nominated “person of the year”. Why? Because the chasm between his public persona and his frenzied personal antics and peccadilloes seems emblematic of a rather tawdry decade, book-ended by Enron and Woods, with Iraq war fictions and sub-prime meltdowns in between.

We have reached that period where people truly cannot distinguish between “status” and “stature”. More’s the pity. Nonsense eventually reveals itself, and the debacle of the “Me” decade where we sought personal identity from retail logos and gadgets, impoverishing our discernment and perhaps our souls in the process, is now before us. The debris of reality-avoidance and narcissistic self-indulgence, of chastising political candidates who make us think and mulishly following those who beat their chests, is everywhere.

But if these icons have been shown to be incontestably hollow, where does that leave us? Do we rend our garments, flagellate ourselves, what?

Maybe it’s time to remember instead that human progress has depended on substance, not spin. It is the evolution of social institutions, the wide scale dissemination of education, Gutenberg and the printing press, the Enlightenment, the industrial revolution, the expansion of voting, Civil Rights and more. None of these came from congratulating ourselves for fluff and having role models who had to parade themselves as paragons for the rest of us to build esteem vicariously from.

Let’s get back to education. Let’s demand accountability from leaders. Let’s rise to the responsibility of active citizenship. Let’s rebuild families rather than using electronic babysitters for our kids. Let’s balance budgets, personal ones and national ones, and let’s restore common sense. Let’s not be bought off by pyrotechnics, in war or in economics.

It has been said that life is a tragedy to those who feel, and a comedy to those who think. We need to feel more passionately and think more clearly.

It’s time to get real.

The hope was that President Obama’s election was an augury of a new decade to come. But not if we think we can delegate our future prospects to him or any other leader.

We have to live the words so beloved to Nelson Mandela from the poem Invictus,  “I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.”  It’s time to reclaim that mastery and leadership.

Baby steps are fine. But let’s break ground on a better, more worthy decade!