Quick. Whom do you trust? A government institution? A corporation? How about a politician? If you came up empty, join the club. I'm writing in Illinois, where politics is done a bit differently.
George Carlin says it powerfully, but not delicately, in Words to the World, a rant with a chilling ring of truth.
Got that sinking feeling? The New York Times confirms it.
“New approaches are needed to address the fundamental and practical challenges of our financial, economic and social system,” a group of econophysicists wrote recently in an open letter to George Soros, the billionaire investor and philanthropist.
Yes, we desperately need a new approach. The Open Letter stands as Exhibit A that the wealthy control the levers—corporations, the media, Congress, etc.—that run the world. For the rest of us, the cold reality is that we only have each other. The Institute for New Economic Thinking, the non-profit organization that Soros seeded with $50 million is engaging the world's prominent economists to figure out how to get the world back on sound economic footing. It's a good that they recognize the problem. The agendas that they end up backing will likely pose no threat to the existing power structure, however.
Addressing our needs at the community level is imperative. In Better Together, Robert Putnam and Lew Feldstein say that knowing your neighbor's first name is a far more effective crime deterrent than extra cops on the beat. It's a lot cheaper too.
"We must learn to view the world through a social capital lens," said Lew Feldstein of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation and co-chair of the Saguaro Seminar. "We need to look at front porches as crime fighting tools, treat picnics as public health efforts and see choral groups as occasions of democracy. We will become a better place when assessing social capital impact becomes a standard part of decision-making."... (emphasis added)
Putnam and Lewis readily admit that fostering cohesive, diverse communities is a tall order. Groups organized for a specific purpose, such as a bowling league, or a community choir are a good start. Though encouraging diverse community involvement where we live, work, go to school and shop is more difficult, the big pay off in healthier, happier residents and lower crime is well worth the effort.
Systemic change is fermenting. In the meantime, individuals, organizations and businesses need life support until that shift kicks in. The fastest life support is creating strong, healthy, resilient communities. Sound ConneXions, Transition Rogers Park, the Tutor/Mentor Connection, including Cabrini Connections, Mess Hall and many more are working to build the base that supports entire communities on secure foundations.