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We've grown increasingly complacent: the USSR/communism defeat, Japan, the Internet, globalization, .com boom, and so on, are reasons for overindulgence with the comfort in the stillness of some American way. Yet, the American way has never been about stillness, our creative energies have always been channeled towards greater and better, in no small part by external factors. Unless we see our image as mirrored by some external challenge (i.e. the EU, China/India rise) we won't be able to bring our actions into focus; our creative energies won't amount to much.

In a strange way, we are lucky the American supremacy doesn't go unchallenged from abroad. In a good way, we are lucky the American business and intellectual elites (Gates, Friedman, Hagel, Brown) have taken, and put us on, notice. Let us, the civil society, make it so that the politicians won't be too far behind!


Funny that the last sentence of Friedman's column says that for the U.S. to respond effectively to the challenges represented by globalism Bush would have "to do something he has never done: ask Americans to do something hard." In his news conference last night those were the exact words the President used to describe why his social security and energy plans are meeting with opposition -- because he's asking us to do soemthing hard.

Could the real problem behind the opposition to the President's plan be that his ideas are delivered with an utter lack of anything resembling an inspiring narrative? The narrative he uses to describe his social security plan is all wrapped up in bankrupcy and solvency and financial security for our retirement years. And his energy plan is all about freedom from dependance on foreign (oil rich) states.

In previous columns Friedman has called for a "Manhatten Project" to solve our energy situation. I take him to mean that we need to be challenged to think big, bold, audacious thoughts about what energy means to us and how we can imagine a new model for powering our culture. In other words he is suggesting an approach that encourages vision -- a picture of the world as it could be when we break free of predominate paradigms of expression. If this is hard it is also liberating. Again the President's plans for social security, energy (and if he should ever devise one, the overhaul of education) rely entirely on these predominate paradigms. They lack vision, and when he communicates them they only seem like another item added to the long list of chores the nation has to tend to this weekend after the kids' soccer games.

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