Rarely has a bold truth come ringing out of a Sunday talk show during the holidays. And rarely have so few words implicated so many with such little fanfare.
As the usual year-end imagery gathers on TV and the Internet, it’s highly unlikely the comments of Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick will make the final cut. That’s too bad. Because what Patrick had to say about the past 10 years has deep implications for the next few.
Appearing on “Meet the Press” alongside New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and pol Newt Gingrich, Patrick summarized the first stage of the new millennium as the “self deception decade.” Y2K, threat of terrorism manifested by Sept. 11th, two wars fought on the cheap, housing/Wall Street bubbles, etc. Whatever we spent or did then was put off for tomorrow. Patrick predicted that the coming decade will be when we finally get honest and deal with the “intractable problems facing society.”
Fair enough, Governor. You’re a smart and admirable point-of-view public figure. But what you said strikes to the core of a much deeper issue that no one seems able to address — much less solve.
A vast majority of leadership elites have grown to believe their own deception, making real connections with followers fleeting. Trust and confidence have been thrown out with the bath water. Innovation — which Patrick said will characterize the coming decade — gets tossed around in conversation like a worn out bromide while little changes. Consider the evidence. Government, despite a transformational president, remains the same both symbolically and systematically. Two of the recession’s hardest hit industries, autos and banking, continue to maintain the status quo as evidenced by events at GM and Bank of America Corp. “Going green” remains just that as even Bloomberg confessed by saying “no one knows what that means.” How the green movement hasn’t been effectively connected to eliminating dependence on foreign oil tells all you need to know about how special interests engulf the present system.
Elites have grown oblivious to their own deception for a range of factors — most center on self glorification vs. productive difference making on behalf of others. Case in point: What just transpired between Congress and the White House on health care reform. Note: This is not a policy indictment; more to the point, it’s about acting above board when no one trusts what you’re doing. Equal offenders from the political and business realm line both sides of this issue.
Huge sums of money also feed the beast called deception. A billion here, a billion there. No amount is too small. It’s almost as if Monopoly money is being exchanged for derivatives to be paid later. Leaders have forgotten that it’s the public’s (taxpayers’ and shareholders’) treasure that they’re manipulating for selfish personal gain. No accountability leads to zero correction; cycle continues. The passing of Sen. Kennedy over the summer served as a stark reminder of what a lifetime of public service entails. It’s too bad his legacy has already been shuffled away in the Senate’s coat closet.
Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your view, the public is way ahead of the deception. They’re furious, anxious and often perceived as irrational, which means they are irrational in a heavily mediated world — or whatever passes for the nightly news.
The real question is what can be done. There are no easy answers, but it begins with calling out the issue. It’s too bad we can’t assign TMZ.com or the “National Enquirer” to the story because they would get to the bottom of the barrel in a hurry. Facts or no facts, the tabloid media, YouTube and other new outlets such as Twitter have a way of cutting through to the unfiltered core faster and better than anyone else.
Which brings us back to the future. Before we go further into the “honesty decade,” as Patrick predicted, there’s still a fair share of flushing out to do with the deception decade. Which means we’ll probably keep throwing the bums out of office and tossing stones at CEOs in glass houses while little gets done. Some things don’t change.
The only way to make a difference is by taking personal action and encouraging others to do the same. Not everything has to be about ME! Granted, until there is a sense of collective We, it’s awfully hard not to look out for A-1. Especially when things are upside down economically.
Maybe the next 10 years will turn out to be the “Me to We” decade? Probably not. ‘Mewee’ sounds like a dumb Charlie Brown character. Oh well. Back to the drawing board for now. Welcome your ideas on a better name.