February 13, 2006
The failure to lead in this country now includes all the major fields of enterprise and resolves into a general and total failure of authority that threatens to drag us into darkness. Leaders in politics, business, the news media, science, medicine, education, and the organized religions have all failed to prepare the public for the hardships that will attend a global energy crisis supercharged by climate change, disorder in the financial markets, and almost certainly more war.
President Bush's failure to lead was obvious in his state of the union speech, and in actions that followed -- such as signing on with the continued starvation of Amtrak last week. If Mr. Bush doesn't like that crypto-private company, he could start an initiative of his own to reform and reorganize the railroad system we desperately need. So too, by the way, could Hillary Clinton or John Kerry, or any other putative Democratic leader. But they're too busy grubbing around the contribution circuits to fatten their campaign war chests.
The major news media's failure is near total, especially at the highest level of the New York Times, which gives more ink to narcissistic blather about gender identity than to the issue of how industrial civilization is going to carry on without its primary resources. The cable news networks have sunk into such mires of craven whorishness that they don't even pretend to broadcast news between eight o'clock and midnight anymore, just tabloid crime spectacles and celebutante melodramas. The Wall Street Journal has resigned from reality in order to DJ the financial sector's dangerous game of musical chairs.
I haven't heard one college president address the question of how we are going to reform education when it ceases to be a mass consumer activity and the giant campuses of the land-grant diploma mills enter their own waiting crisis of scale.
Where are the doctors speaking out about the nightmarish swindle that corporate medicine has become? The most conspicuous public doctor, Senate majority leader Bill Frist of Tennessee, is under investigation precisely for working one angle of that swindle -- insider trading of medical services stock. Isn't it bad enough that hardworking people have to face cancer and mutilating injuries from auto accidents without also shoving them into personal bankruptcy?
Business leadership in America has become nothing less than a transparent wholesale shift of wealth by irresponsible boards of directors from the pension funds of longtime employees to the pockets of grifting CEOs -- or the outright looting of supersized enterprises such as Enron. Here's an interesting question-of-the-day for those of you who ponder over business matters: how does a person really improve his standard of living after the first $10 million? Give that some thought, because a few years hence a furious public is going to be asking that very question of fattened corporate executives as they prepare to roast them on spits over the flames of discarded automobile tires.
Where are the clergymen in America who are willing to tell their congregations that casino gambling is a moral fiasco and that the worship of unearned riches is an offense in the sight of God?
Where are the scientists who will inform the public and its political leaders that we really are in trouble with oil and natural gas, that markets do not magically deliver rescue remedies on demand, that technology and energy are not interchangeable and mutually substitutable, and that our nation is about five years from falling into a condition of energy starvation that will bring down all our complex systems of daily life?
When the public finally discovers how they have been let down or played by these leaders, there will be a convulsion more severe than the one that tore this country apart in 1861.