I am traveling today, so rather than post a lengthy article, I’d instead like to point you to a friend’s piece from earlier this year.
One of my favorite thinkers on public life (and a good friend and colleague), John Creighton, wrote a wide-ranging essay as the new year turned about the mood of America. He suggests that, in addition to some of the long-standing core concerns that Americans express for security, control, and meaning — we add “balance.”
John makes an excellent case and I urge you to read his entire thoughtful article.
Here’s an excerpt:
The first three qualities – security, control and meaning – tend to develop as a package. As a person establishes personal and financial security, she also gains a sense of control over her life. We have expression to reinforce the importance people place on security and control – for instance, “Everyone is a king in his own home.” Public policy often reinforces these values, too. . . .
In many ways, Americans have come full circle since World War II. We have enjoyed riches and opportunities unprecedented in history. Yet, at the end of a long run, we crave the same things people have always wanted: security, control (freedom) and meaning, now, leavened with a healthy dose of balance.
What’s different is that we must learn to achieve these lifestyle aspirations in a context unknown to our parents and grandparents. The structures of work, learning, socializing and many other aspects of daily life that defined the lives of generations of Americans are quickly fading away.
Time, geography, and social norms, for instance, once forced healthy limits upon our consumption. Now it is possible to instantly satisfy nearly any legitimate need and frivolous whim at any time – 24/7/365 (a set of numbers seldom if ever used in this way until the rise of the internet). The ability to gain instant gratification will not go away. Instead, we must learn to strike balance in our lives with temptation lurking on our shoulder, incessantly whispering in our ear.
Thanks for an important contribution, John.