Back-to-school issues It�s the end

by francine Hardaway on August 20, 2003

Back-to-school issues
It�s the end of August and the kids are going back to school. As we gear up for another season of entrepreneurial activity, what�s going on in the world of potential globalization? What is the backdrop against which we are all trying to build our budding businesses?

Let�s see: there�s Al Qaeda still claiming credit for activities in Afghanistan, while Osama bin Laden remains at large�if holed up in a cave counts as being at large. There is Hamas still blowing up busses in Jerusalem. Or maybe it�s that other group who blew up the bus; two groups have �claimed responsibility.� Pretty pathetic when there�s so much cachet attached to blowing up a bus. Not long ago, if you did that sort of dastardly deed, you�d be hiding the fact.

There�s at least one American soldier a day dying in Iraq, where Saddam Hussein is still hiding out somewhere, protected by friends and relatives. Crank in the occasional suicide bombing of an embassy or the demolition of the UN headquarters in Baghdad, and you have quite an international climate.

During the same period of time, England is seeing temperatures of over 100 degrees at Heathrow Airport. 5,000 people died in a heat wave in France, after which the Health Minister was forced to resign.

Here in the United States, there was a two-day blackout on the east coast, which revealed the pathetic condition of the electric power grid– something we all take for granted. Now that the lights are back on, a gasoline transport pipeline has ruptured in Arizona, cutting off 30% of the state�s supply of gas in an area with virtually no mass transit. People are waiting in line for an hour to fill their tanks, if they can get gas at all, and paying $3-4 a gallon for the privilege.

In other news, the health care system is in a crisis; the cost of prescription drugs will break the bank as we baby boomers age. This has caused 8,000 doctors to sign a petition advocating a national health system, something that was anathema as recently as ten years ago.

Education, too, is in crisis, with declining public funding and rising enrollment, teacher shortages and disagreement on everything from standardized testing to a common classroom language. People are pulling their kids out of public school and putting them in private and parochial alternatives, charter schools, and home schools.

Welcome back from your summer vacation (if you took one). More than the mail has piled up during your absence.

What do we make of all this?

Well, it hasn�t been a slow news month, that�s for sure. But I believe we are getting a message from the gods: we can�t fix everything.

Over the past fifty years, we have become increasingly certain in America that we *could* indeed, fix almost everything. On the one hand, we relied on the technological fix � for diseases, for global warming, for food shortages. Related to that is the �throw money at it� fix: more money for prescription drug benefits, more money to build highways, more money for prisons. And, when push comes to shove (bad joke), we have the military fix, also known as the �regime change� fix.

Have you noticed that not one of these fixes really works anymore? Technology produces used computers and discarded Pampers that clog the landfills; money produces corrupted CEOs and accounting fiascos; regimes may change on the surface, but underneath the same terrorists continue to operate. It�s like having an election at the top of an organization and not firing the bureaurats; Iraqi terrorists are the bureaucrats of the Hussein government.

Somehow we have developed an overconfident view of our own ability to control the world. No wonder the rest of the world thinks Americans are arrogant. Everywhere else, there�s a consciousness of interdependence � on tribes, families, governments, farmers or craftspeople. Only in America do we think food comes to the supermarket from the sky, gas should be available on every corner, age should produce no negative changes, and everyone should live in a single family home.

But have you ever seen a woman who has had a facelift? The skin on her face may be tight, but the skin on her neck and hands are wrinkled, and they signal the real condition of the person underneath. We can keep giving the American economy and lifestyle those tweaks and tightenings, but our aging infrastructure will not be denied, and we can�t fix it without the help of the rest of the world.

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