We do not choose our challenges, we either face them or we ignore them. The measure by which those alive today will be judged in the future will be the degree to which we face our challenges. When we look back in history for inspiration who do we look to? The Founding Fathers, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, MLK and so many others who faced down the challenges of their times. Not perfect, any of them, but they did the very best they could according to their lights with what they were given. They did not have to do that; they could have stayed home and left the heavy lifting to others, but they stepped up to the plate. No doubt there was always ego involved, but then it takes some kind of ego to believe that you have something valuable to offer.
We live in a cynical age, and we see public figures as power seekers with little thought for the public good. Certainly the halls of power have always been well seeded with such types, but there are many who genuinely see themselves as a force for good. Sadly today we have such a corrupt system that even the well meaning almost always get sucked into the muck, seeing it as the only way to get anything done.
The industrial system has saddled us with a power system that seems all-powerful, that seems to control every aspect of our lives, and that seems almost impossible to successfully overcome. It owns our means of communications, it has bought our system of government. Armed insurrection in the face of the US army is unthinkable. The only answer seems to be to surrender to the system, find a comfortable berth within it and look after number one.
I do not think the situation is so dark, and I think we have every reason, in fact an absolute duty, to get involved. The system is not impregnable; the history of empires and civilizations tells us that the empire seems strongest when it is already undermined. Empires are the victims of the sweep of history. New ways supplant old ways and make them irrelevant. Mankind has gone through two gigantic shifts in the past which completely changed society. The first was the invention of agriculture which enabled us to settle into cities and build the societal system that lasted some ten thousand years pretty much unchanged except in the details. The movement that swept all of this away so that only the barest traces remain was the Industrial Revolution. It is hard for us to even conceive of how different life was in 1850 from that of, say, 1650. And all of this happened, in historical terms, in the blink of an eye.
What does this have to do with today? I believe that we are right now undergoing a third great shift as profound as the industrial revolution. The Industrial Age reached its peak around 1955, and since then we have been seeing the birth of the next age. Like any great movement in its early stages it is still very indistinct, but it is well underway. This is why we need to participate. We are privileged to live at one of the hinge points of history. Or to put it another way, one can imagine history as a railroad. For most of the time (ten thousand years in the case of the agrarian age) the train is thundering across the prairie, and to significantly change its direction requires putting it off its tracks. Very rarely the train of history enters a switching yard, and during this time very small application of power can have very far reaching results. This was the case in the early days of the Industrial Revolution, for instance. Today we are in another switching yard. Everything is up for grabs. We have both the tools and the knowledge needed to make the world a better place; The question is, do we have the wisdom to learn from the past and take the tools out of the hands of those who would use them to control us, and instead use them for the good of all?