I read in a recent piece by David Brooks that, “Over the past seven months, the number of people who say government is doing too many things better left to business has jumped from 40 percent to 48 percent, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.” My first reaction was, “Remember last year when ‘business’ ruined our economy?’” My second reaction was, “Why must we choose between only two options, business or government?”
There are more areas of influence than these two facets. Among them are academia, media, church, community, and family. All of these are VERY powerful forces. Unfortunately they have been hijacked by the first two.
Academia has been marginalized as impractical. “It’s all theory.” Education has been turned into job training—for business. Our culture no longer seeks education to better itself, but to better its chances in the marketplace and to better its earning potential. Consequently, we are well-trained but poorly educated. We seek easy answers and eschew tough questions. We have lost the art of discussion and debate, and instead seek out “news sources” that validate rather than challenge our opinions. In order for academia to regain strength, we must value a thinking education, not just job training or certification, as an integral part of the betterment of our culture.
The media have been turned into the business of entertainment; even programs that purport to inform feel they must sensationalize and “play to the audience.” There are too few media outlets that make us think and give us unbiased information or make us take a hard look at our warts in the mirror. Instead they distract us from what is really happening and what we must make happen in response. They make us feel we’re too small to affect the world around us or that the problem lies with someone else. We must 1) unplug ourselves and seek better sources of information, sources that make us think (books?); and/or 2) become our own media to the people within our circle of influence.
Religion has lost much of its influence in America. Although more than 90% of Americans believe in “god,” few participate in organized religion, a tragedy in regards to social support systems. But, thanks to government, churches don’t have to do these things anymore (irony alert). They don’t have to “lift up the hands which hang down,” “visit the fatherless and widows,” feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, take in the stranger, clothe the naked, visit the sick, or go unto the prisoner. The government does all that for us, right? And so we lose sight of that other side of humanity, and therefore lose perspective on life itself. We must take back the role of “pure religion” from the government, because we can care for our neighbor better than they can.
Community is a dead concept to most Americans. We look to Washington and Wall Street for our needs to be met. We expect individual solutions from people trying to spit into an anthill from 30,000 feet in the air. Ironically, the more needs we have locally, the more we look to Washington for solutions. Fat federal fingers don’t have the dexterity of local people, organizations, and functions. Some of the best solutions to our most pressing needs are conceived and implemented at the local level. We should all be looking for ways to solve problems locally and to pull back to the local level as much as possible.
The familyis under heavy stress. Success in families requires selflessness, absolute commitment, time, and a very thick skin, all of which are in short supply in our culture. Selfishness, pride, and a lack of integrity lead to unmended rifts, divorce, misprioritization of time, money, and emotional effort, an inability to communicate—all of which disintegrates the foundation of society. None of the other six areas can compensate for the family. We must put honor above pride, family above self, and integrity above success.
Only through equalizing these spheres of influence can we achieve the balance we need in our lives.