The Fall of Our Discontent
Fall is a time of change and new beginnings. The lazy days of summer become a memory. A new school year is upon us. The calendar marches on toward a new year.
In the past few weeks, I have begun what I refer to as my Fall Speaking Tour, during which I am constantly moving around the country, and being at home is more akin to a pit stop. I love what I do, and I love speaking to and interacting with people about the future and what lies ahead. But that is a subject for another column. This is about the fall of our discontent.
People are angry. They feel that the values they consider fundamental to what America stands for are no longer being honored. Voters simply don’t believe that their elected officials are striving for the common good and long-term health of the country. The current political landscape would horrify Thomas Jefferson. Honest Abe would look around and wish for the more conciliatory Washington of the Civil War.
People are scared. The fact that security is more perception than reality has hit home for millions. The rosy picture that we were sold – ever-increasing real estate values, safe pension investments, a compassionate government, the land of opportunity – seems to have vanished. Crime is down, but mistrust has soared. When the American Dream is replaced by the reality of being just one more bad month away from being homeless, hope is diminished.
People are in a state of discontent. Regardless of the topic – Washington politics, the economy, the lack of opportunity, wars that seem to have no point except to reinforce our sense of no longer being great – there is a sense that things are not right. We are discontent.
What I see is the promise of a new age; a decade of transformation almost unparalleled in human history. I speak often about the Transformation Decade, the name I gave this decade back on 01-01-10. The dictionary definition of transformation is, “a change in form, appearance, nature or character,” and by that definition, I see transformation everywhere.
I recently had the privilege of being given a hard hat tour of the construction site that is becoming the Spaceport America in New Mexico. Spaceport America represents pure vision. Sir Richard Branson, and subsequently others, have and will partner with the state to initiate the private sector of space travel, ushering in the next phase of our fascination with space exploration. The Spaceport is emblematic of the future and the adventure of exploration.
The stunning success of the iPad and of the incredible new touch-screen app phones is apparent in every audience I address. What would people even 10 years ago think of these personal, tactile, mobile computers? Science fiction authors would see their futuristic visions realized, while Granddad or even Dad would have difficulty comprehending the freedom and personal power these devices provide.
Everywhere I go, people know we are on the verge of essential, different and exciting new forms of energy. The Transformation Decade will be the single-most dramatic decade in the history of energy, as it will fully birth rapidly scalable alternative and renewal energy sources that will transform the economy and the physical landscape of our world. This decade also will be the single-most transformative decade in the history of health care and medicine, confronting us with moral dilemmas we are not yet prepared to face. Science fiction again becomes fact.
The noise of our lives – the media, the negativity that politics has become, the economic difficulties we face, the vision deficit that exists today in America – all make us feel discontented. We may experience John Steinbeck’s “The Winter of Our Discontent” after this fall, as we move into 2011 and these anxious and angry times continue a bit longer. We are headed for times of both upheaval and transformation of that is there is no doubt. But, as The Mamas and the Papas sang way back in my youth: “The darkest hour is just before dawn.”