Daily Archives: February 22, 2007

Entering 20 and Leaving 20

I take time to step back from the world as it is and imagine what it could be. What will guide me as I enter the third decade of my life? It is time to imagine abstractly at first and then build and revise later. There are two broad issues I want to touch on: politics and religion.

The way the world works is changing. We live on shifting ground. I think Thomas Friedman makes an excellent case that we’ve entered a new phase of globalization and the world is “flatter,” so to speak. America, still licking her wounds from 9/11, is struggling to adapt to a new, more dangerous world. But the world has shifted, and bigger shifts are still to come, in both the realm of economics and foreign policy. The Bush Doctrine, neoconservatism, and compassionate conservatism have utterly failed. We’ve been in the middle of a new religious awakening, but with the decline of the Bush administration, I see the pendulum beginning to swing back towards secularism. Before, I’ve said that I see tectonic shifts coming within domestic politics, but I haven’t figured out what those shifts will entail. Now, I am beginning to think that I should not simply sit back and stake my position based on the wreckage. I should jump up and down and help shake the world up. This is not a profoundly conservative position; I should be preserving the old order, should I not? But the ground is shifting. We must adapt.

The lense with which I see this shift coming is envisioning a paradigm shift based on the turn of the century. The old battles of the 20th century are still being fought, leaving us blind to the new challenges. What I envision is a new conservatism, a different kind of philosophy, adapted for the 21st century, but no further. I do not plan to build a lasting edifice. I plan on building something that can guide us through these next 100 years, perhaps through our battle with radical Islam and their fellow agents of chaos.

The republic is large and will be guided by gridlock. Luckily, we have these laboratories of democracy called states. Federalism will play a larger role as we enter this new century, but I also see more shifts happening on a more local level. Technology will be a catalyst, but the results will be paradoxical. As the internet brings us together, it will push us further apart. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Local papers use to be more local. The internet will allow us to connect better with our own immediate communities, but we can only process so much information. This cost will come at the expense of our national identity. Somehow, we need to figure out how to maintain our unity, but as we become more individualistic, it does not mean we will become separated. The communication between states does not need to be top-down. Successful policies will spread like a contagion, rather than coming from the speeches of grandiose utopian presidents trying to please everyone. Even I, who is so involved in politics, has no idea about the workings of my state government. When the paradigm shift comes, everyone will know more about their state governments.

I’m definitely not a libertarian. I want the federal government to keep its clumsy tentacles away, but I want the nimble fingers of more local government to be in more issues. In general, I am optimistic about government. I break with Newt Gingrich. I don’t want government to become more like business. The slow process, the gridlock, is not a bug; it’s a feature. It’s to prevent far-reaching change from being enacted in haste. I break with Ronald Reagan. Government isn’t the problem.

Schools will need to change. Education will be revolutionized. Learning will be connected to the community. Instead of the continuous present that it now exists in, it will be linked with the past. (I wish I remembered who it was who wrote those papers my sister showed me, where I am taking some ideas about education.) Children will be given the flexibility to learn what interests them, but still learn the basics. Children are actually much smarter than you think, and if we make school lesson boring, they will learn at rates we think unimaginable. If left off the track, I would undoubtedly have done higher math before even reaching high school. The government-financed scam that leaves poor people out of jobs, also known as undergraduate education, will have to adapt as well.

America changes her stance to the world. We are not the world’s police, nor the world’s baby-sitting. It is not our job to midwife democracy. Democracy almost always comes from within. We can facilitate this change, but we cannot do it via empire. We need to engage the world. This is not soft diplomacy. This is hard diplomacy. We need to focus more on the Western Hemisphere before radical Islam places its dirty roots in Latin America. America needs to reclaim her soul. She needs to reclaim her values, but more importantly, she needs to reveal her inner workings. The mechanics of our government, the basic pragmatic institutions and principles, should be exported. They will prove infinitely more useful to other cultures than an imposition of our traditional “liberal” values. Of course, we cannot do this without first renouncing torture.

Social security and its ilk are not solvent. Health coverage isn’t actually insurance; it’s subsidizing a service. We will not solve these problems on the federal level. They are complex issues; I have no simple solutions; and the predictive power of even the best policy wonks may still have vast, expensive errors. It is better to think smaller. But I’d still like to imagine a different paradigm, where the government does not subsidize all care, but provides disaster insurance for medical emergencies.

Philanthropy will be as robust as the rest of our private sector. Like in that Slate article I read, giving away all your money will be the second half of the American Dream. The values of corporations will change because the values of the people in those corporations will change. They will be more involved in the community, especially in education. Perhaps it’s too utopian a thought, but the government will be able to do less because people will do more.

These are the inklings of my new political paradigm, a paradigm for the 21st century.

As for religion, this will not take place on the public realm. However, I’d like to investigate natural religion as opposed to revealed religion. What counts for me is what I can reason about and what I can experience, even if reason cannot grasp it. Mostly, I’ll try to figure out what God isn’t, rather than what God is. It may even be a “God of the gaps,” but I don’t think this is a bad thing, because those gaps in science are still very large, despite what progress we have made.

I’d like to build a faith for myself.

So now, I enter my 20th year, and leave the 20th century.