I really love movies especially those with memorable, quotable lines. Do you remember Starman with Jeff Bridges? At the end of the movie he tells the Karen Allen and Charles Martin Smith characters something I never forgot.
It had to do with human beings and what is good about us….”when things are at their worst, you are at your best”.
After 9/11 the country was cohesive and ready to be mobilized to take on whatever challenges were to follow. We were afraid and we were pissed. We waited for the government to do something to use this huge potential energy. And what did we get? Nothing.
Oh, we got war, we got the patriot act, we got hours waiting in lines at airports….but no direction from Washington about how to use this enormous energy to make our country better and safer. And so it dissipated virtually untapped.
The same thing may be happening now. Every newscaster in this country and abroad is talking about the crisis and coming calamity. So is the President.
One of the purposes of fear is to move us to action. Except we don’t have a sense of direction…where to go, what to do. Lots of fear, lots of potential energy, no direction for its positive use. Not a recipe for a successful outcome.
Y2K (oh no!)
Let me take you back a very short time to the late 1990’s when everyone was concerned about Y2K. There was considerable concern and even fear in many quarters. And those feelings were held by credible people who created the programs.
What was done with that fear and all that potential energy? It was turned into action.
Companies formed teams to understand and remediate the problems and build contingency plans. So did organizations of every kind including towns and cities. Local groups sprang up all over the country to consider the impact on their local communities and to set up contingency and continuity plans including how to help senior citizens or the disabled if electricity was lost, how to get food for everyone and how to keep order, etc. etc.
The point is: No one sat back and waited the Federal Government to direct them. People actually thought about how to build resilient organizations and communities. Most of these were grass roots efforts and partnering between local businesses and the communities.
Useful lessons were learned. Including that many disparate groups could come together for the common good without having to have a program from Washington.
Today, there are ideas for solutions coming from lots of places. I consider ideas from non-legislators or govt. officials to be grass roots. For example, check out Jim Cramer’s ideas for solving the mortgage crisis on CNBC or his website www.thestreet.com. I am not espousing his solution only providing this as an example of ideas coming from ‘grassroots’.
And we are waiting for….
After 9/11 we waited for the government. And now we are waiting again. Wrong decisions.
Just as with Y2K, we have to come up with our own ‘local’ solutions. There is a role for government just as there is a need at times for antibiotics. But government is neither the savior nor the solution…we are. So we need to stop looking exclusively to them and start looking closer to home.
“When things are at their worst, we are at our best.”
What can we do, individually, collectively to help ourselves and others in this situation?