“True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.“
– The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I want to repeat this piece from five years ago exactly as it was then. Much is still true, even in this much darker moment of despair. We have a long road, and we are making progress. It’s slow, but it is true. The next generation will definitely do better.
At this time every year we have the same kind of conversation around the dinner table. My kids are growing up in a different world, one even more thoroughly defined by the struggles and triumphs of Dr. King’s generation than mine was.
But as they grow older, they see the work left to do more plainly. It is disheartening and difficult to watch those who once thought that the old black and white news film of dogs and firehoses was a document of a black and white history – a story of races and realities laid bare for history to pass its judgement. Now that they are in school they’ve seen and heard what racism is. The struggle is still alive, and every year more than just black and white.
Take a look around you. The routine of your life has probably coalesced into an arrangement of things – a computer or phone, a mug of tea, a table, a home. These are the things which make up your life. What defines any of them is not only what they are, but what they are made of. They are, themselves, a series of connections between created objects and molecules that make up your world.
What connects them all together in this moment is you.
While humans tend to see the world as a collection of things, what makes those things what they are, and indeed makes them at all, is how they are connected. What makes you is how you are connected as well – to these things, to other people, and to ideas which inform how you perceived them.
All anything is in this world, from the corporeal to the conceptual, is a series of connections.
Nine years ago, January 2010, was the bottom of what I’ve come to call the Managed Depression. Here is a piece from that time which is still relevant. At that time, we were awaiting a “recovery” and hoping for productivity gains to get us out of it. But they didn’t. And the core issues outlined here remain.
What would make a recovery sustainable? If you ask an economist, they’d tell you that what makes any economy grow and prosper is, ultimately, what they call “productivity gains”. That’s the ability to make more with less that allows a people to prosper. During the 1990s this was given as the reason why interest rates could remain low and we could have one Hell of a party – a sloppy, hazy bender. We live in the hangover that resulted, but have we really learned how intoxicating this one, simple idea is?
As we approach the halfway point of the Trump administration, I think it’s worth re-iterating the message from two years ago, as we anticipated this mess.
Today is the big day. An new era full of uncertainty starts with the inauguration of Donald Trump.
God save the Republic.
I firmly believe it is critical to take the long view on this, since we are about to settle in for what is likely to be a tumultuous four years. We will have to pick our battles, declare victory where we can, and always keep our eyes on the prize. For this reason, and to keep our sanity, the wisdom of the ancients should be a primary source of comfort. Today’s readings are from the Tao Te Ching, as translated by Stan Rosenthal.
A high technology world is a world fundamentally based on trust. The lack of this is currently the single largest issue, defining politics within and without national borders.
The classic American road trip is a great experience for a lot of good reasons. More than the core of great novels and movies, it’s usually a journey of inner discovering and bonding and so much else all at once. At the core, however, is one undeniable lesson – this is a truly vast and amazing nation.
The best measure of how stuck in a rut this nation have become is how much that obvious fact has been forgotten. I promise you that the United States is bigger than you or I can ever possibly imagine. But to listen to today’s media or politics of any kind you’d swear that this nation is weak, fragile, and small.
We need a road trip. Short of that, let’s take one in our minds.
“People say that having more women in engineering will change everything. Well, that’s the damned point!”
Professor Toor was particularly animated one day in 1986. Our Heat & Mass Transfer class at Carnegie was very technical, with infinitely more time spent on math than sociology. Herb Toor, however, was a empathetic and real-world professor with a reputation. He was out to change engineering forever, and put his prodigious passion into it.
I think about him a lot when we reach milestones, such as the recent swearing in of a record 102 women in the US House of Representatives.