It took more than 2000 years for the full effect of the Peloponnesian Wars to have a lasting impression on North America. It took the Viet Nam War less than 24 hours, the War In Iraq an only 24 minutes and what is happening now Egypt and Syria mere seconds. The world hasn’t just become smaller, it has become faster. Information and its effects travel around the world virtually at the speed of light.Unfortunately, it isn’t just information that moves faster. Our expectations kept pace.
There was a time when we understood that the world is a complex place and many of the issues we face have a degree of interconnectivity and complexity that makes it challenging to resolve. Increasingly, we have no patience for that. We want things done now; today preferably by 2:00 pm.
It has made us reactive, impulsive and careless.
Arab Spring is an example of what I’m talking about. People living under tyranny rose up and marched in the streets. They were met with resistance which prompted an increasingly violent response and that led to the overthrow of regime’s like those in Libya and Egypt. Unfortunately, no one had stopped long enough to put together a plan for what would happen once the protest had accomplished its goals and that led to a power vacuum. Nature and societies abhor a vacuum and too quickly they were filled by even more tyranny and violence and chaos.
In Egypt, the same military that supported the original protest movement in the overthrow of the Mubarak government now rapes, tortures and kills anyone who protests it. In Libya, tribal, religious and political factions are fighting for control.
This is nothing new.
Revolutions, protests, wars, even elections which have no plan for what takes place after always end up in disaster. The overthrow of the Shaw of Iran has led not to freedom and democracy but to an even more oppressive theocracy. The Russian Revolution having no plan other than to overthrow the Czar eventually saw the emergence of Joseph Stalin who murdered and oppressed his people beyond anything the Czar ever considered.
The French Revolution overthrew a monarchy only to end up executing its own leaders and being taken over by a military dictatorship followed by war and a return of the monarch. It was only decades after the original revolution that democracy finally found its home
We expect everything to happen instantly but put less thought into whatever it is than we do over which new smart phone to purchase. We talk endlessly but usually it is nothing more than arguing. It is seldom planning. Lives are squandered. Opportunities for real change are wasted and in the end it too often leads to places that were worse than those we tried to change.
We are frustrated. We get information instantly and we react before we have digested what we’ve read or heard.
Democratic elections in most democracies are another example of how little thought goes into anything and how our expectations exceed politician’s ability to develop policies to keep up with those expectations. There is no vision, no willingness to work towards long-term goals. It’s all about today and maybe, if we have time, tomorrow.
I’ve never been a particular fan of President Obama but three years ago he came to the presidency inheriting a war in Iraq, the global economic meltdown and a multi-trillion dollar deficit. It’s three; years later and the glow has fallen from the man because he did not fix those problems that took decades to create in the first three years of his presidency.
Quite frankly it wouldn’t have mattered who had been elected, the events are bigger than one person and our expectations too unrealistic and impatient.
Some are demanding that the U.S. attack Iran without stopping to think about the realities of where that could lead. Occupy is demanding the overthrow of a system it barely understands.Whether it is the environment, the economy, democracy, or any one of a dozen other issues facing us today our expectations of how quickly they should be resolved are unrealistic.
We all have an opinion and increasingly, those opinions are based more on impatience than on reasoned analysis. Many will support a candidate or leader of proven failed character rather than switch allegiance to a new idea based on new information. Others move back and forth from position to position based on whatever is popular at the moment or whatever information they stumbled on twenty minutes ago.
In the end, it comes down to the same thing. It took a very long time to get us to where we are and while we can debate where that is and which direction is best to take us to improved circumstance, there is no question that expecting it to be done immediately is a fool’s errand.
This past year has been challenging, interesting, sometime violent and often confrontational. I’ve been around for a few years and to put it bluntly, I didn’t see anything I haven’t seen before. I just saw it faster. My expectations remain unchanged, however. Until we learn that we expect too much too quickly, we’re simply going to continue the way we are and nothing will be improved.
I’ve seen that for decades too. Unfortunately I’ve just seen too much of that.
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