Sunday, June 29, 2008

Innovation and the American Spirit

Innovation and the American Spirit

I am very optimistic about the future of America. I think there are exciting times in innovation and invention ahead of us. However, our present problems and struggle for prosperity may be on the shelf sooner than we realize, as the price of maintaining this lavish lifestyle languishes in the doldrums, but let's look at our past to see the possibilities of our future.

As I've said many times before, we diverse and resilient Americans blindly box ourselves into a corner and after we've had our collective heads pummeled into mush, we suddenly awaken and come out swinging and that is exactly what I see happening and in our future. We truly are the champions of the world, but we are going down folks and the way back to the top will be difficult and full of challenges.

We are used to being on top – on top of everything and we refuse to acknowledge our pinnacle position is precarious at best and all but gone at worst. We see ourselves as the creme de la crème of fancy spring waters and everyone else is just white generic cans marked "Cola". Tough love; this is the way we roll - world.

We unashamedly see ourselves as better than the rest of the world because we are Americans and we have the strength of our ethnic and cultural diversity, freedom, privilege, democracy and lots of guns. We are unstoppable and arrogant, but hey – when you got it – flaunt it, right? It's our way or the highway and the way we prove we believe this to the world, is by borrowing, spending and accumulating cool recreational stuff. We alone get in our personal (usually multiple occupancy) transportation vehicle weighing 3 to 5000 pounds and go wherever we wish, whenever we wish and damn the torpedoes. We got it all, baby.

We are users/consumers first and since we are all about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, it's perfectly okay to keep using, consuming and dumping. We are defined by what we eat, read, watch and where we spend our quality time and folks, to the rest of the world we can be summed up in one word: gluttons. We are first and foremost in the global game of life and a man's worth is measured by how many barns he has stuff stored in…and we like it that way. I too am an American and all of this describes me to a certain degree, as sad as that may be.

Now, let's take a look at the future of our country and each and every one of us fortunate enough to be a part of the solution and a self-imposed successful change.

I see a cultural paradigm shift on the horizon. A paradigm is nothing more than a set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality for the community that shares them, especially in an intellectual discipline.

I see a general mentality adjustment or movement in our future where Americans will lead the rest of the world in doing things the right way and have our precious righteous fun also. Imagine a new America where efficiency in personal transportation becomes "cooler or hipper" than how much horsepower your vehicle delivers to the drive train or where the general population delights in Zen-like recycling - because they want to, not because it's forced on us. It's what we will do because we are Americans.

Organic vegetable gardening becomes the rage and folks forsake conventional lawn maintenance for xeriscaping. Endless trips to the supermarket will be reduced in lieu of fresh homegrown veggies. New homes will be built with functionality in mind instead of past aesthetics and the quality of life in America in general will be about its timbre, not bulk quantity, size, speed or accumulation. Can you imagine how wonderful this would be?

Smart CarCapitalistic entrepreneurs whose vision is not confined to fossil fuel-based propulsion systems will best solve the current energy problem by inventing and investing in alternative ways to travel. In other words, who says we have to continue using Henry Ford's antiquated internal combustion engine to get from point A to point B? Loose the creative dogs of efficiency on America and let them market solutions that make a real difference. The Smart car is one such new option that challenges convention.

Drilling for oil so we can keep consuming like there is no tomorrow should be given the green light – but, we should also jump head first into alternate methods of transportation, because there will be a tomorrow. Finding alternative fuels to keep burning our hydrocarbon-hungry engines is still the old school way of looking at the problem. We need exciting and creative solutions to free ourselves of the dependency on this mode of conveyance.

In the future, we Americans must demand better quality and efficiency by making wiser purchases. Who says we have to settle for what is offered? I say boycott junk and encourage good quality by smart purchasing and with that said we have to do our share to make this a better country too.

We foolishly have empowered greedy corporations and encouraged inefficient outdated technology and shoddy workmanship on everything from deplorably slow high-speed Internet/cable service to only having the choice to buy about five of the nine hundred plus varieties of bananas grown globally. We've bought $40,000 four-seat chunks of metal and plastic with miserable MPG and warranties and we almost felt blessed to own it. Why? Regardless of how much a dealer cuts off the buying price, for most of us this mode of transportation is too fuel-costly to maintain and some fat cat, our money in his pocket, leans back and blows Cuban cigar smoke through his toothy grin.

As my Pastor of many years, L.S. Marcus used to say, I said all that to say this: We Americans will be the only obstacle to change and ultimately - survival. We are our own worst enemy…or friend.

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