Readiness is the measure of our preparedness to overcome any challenge.
Let’s focus today on the concept of “challenge” in our definition of readiness. I know you are challenged and that you challenge yourself everyday in ways that are difficult for me, generations removed from your experiences, to fully understand. For instance, your generation and that of your parents, make use of electronic devices to communicate, inform and entertain yourselves in ways that remove you from attention to your immediate surroundings. Your parents drive while electronically connected to something unconnected to driving and you text while walking, riding and eating. This is a new challenge for human beings. It challenges the members of your generation to develop a new sense for avoiding collision and fully considering the consequences of your physical actions. This has been a significant challenge for you that my generation only observes. We are not connected like you, and that leads to the challenge of communication between generations and a real difference in value systems. This is a social situation for which my generation was not prepared. You might look at our discussions as attempts to catch up and a demonstration of why being unready for the challenges ahead is so difficult to overcome.
When do you think about your future? When someone asks you what you want to be professionally? Or, when asked what you are studying? Perhaps, simply on your own?
When you think about your future, do you think about what the society, the world you will inhabit, will be like when you are 30, 40 or 60? I know that thinking about the future in this way is difficult. I cannot determine whether your new electronic connection make it more of less difficult for you. I do know that thinking about the future is essential to strengthening your readiness to meet its challenges.
Professor Sheldon Wolin’s comments open our discussion. In them he argues that we no longer live in a democratic society. In his later work he calls the society in which we live “Inverted Totalitarianism.” Everything we have discussed concerning our corporate empire including national service, Trayvons and their young white counter-parts, and Dr. King’s speech at Riverside, is consistent with Sheldon Wolin’s views. It is in this undemocratic state that you are now living. It is in this undemocratic state that your generation will live and raise your families, or change.
How will you get ready to meet the challenge of finding physical and economic security in this environment?
One place to start getting ready is to take a few minutes to explore the way that your great great-grandparents created the most democratic and secure society we have known in America—even though it was not very secure or democratic for Black Americans. The “Read More” below Sheldon Wolin’s picture takes you to an old civics book that began that older generation’s thinking about the society it should want to create.
In the first chapter of the book, Arthur William Dunn asked his students, your great great-grandparents to think about the things that all wanted together. The short chapter lists six common wants: Health, Knowledge, Association, Beauty, Religion, and Wealth. You may disagree with the list and his reasoning. For instance, security and entertainment, two common wants today, are not mentioned. The point however, is that our great, great grand-parents began thinking about what they wanted in common in order to ready themselves for the challenges of satisfying these wants. Does your generation have the capacity to think about and agree on a set of common wants? As students, and future workers and perhaps soldier/veterans?