[Image: High Alert, 2014, L. Borch (original image)]
Luke 12:54–56 (NKJV)
54 Then He also said to the multitudes, “Whenever you see a cloud rising out of the west, immediately you say, ‘A shower is coming’; and so it is. 55 And when you see the south wind blow, you say, ‘There will be hot weather’; and there is. 56 Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time?
Another image from Linda's Kenyan photo-safari, this one has "story" written all over it. The cats are magnificent and the cub looks like it would make such a cuddly pet that you almost want to take it home with you. The mom walking attentively behind reminds us of a scene from "The Lion King." If we listened carefully it seems we would hear her instructing her mischievous little offspring. What a warm image.
Unless you are a spiral-horned antelope (the one nearest the middle... I think) or any of the other "steak on the hoof" varieties nearby.
They don't consider the little cub nor its mother with anything near "warm and fuzzy" thoughts. They represent danger and they are not going to jump to any rash and potential fatal conclusions that these lions are just out for an afternoon stroll. Nope... the lions don't seem to be in stalking mode... but, one sudden burst of speed, a whipping turn, and the distance separating them from the herd would vanish in an instant... so, it is best to be alert, poised, spring-loaded to the fight or flee mode. When the lion is walking about caution and preparation is the order of the day.
In today's New York Times (HERE) we see yet another indication of the lion(s) walking about our turf.
The American middle class, long the most affluent in the world, has lost that distinction.
We have fallen in discretionary spending abilities ranking when compared to virtually every other first world nation. We rank somewhere behind.... wait for it... Canada. The Times article goes on to carefully note that all these other havens of human flourishing have fairly dramatic "income redistribution" taxes with guaranteed subsidies for many benefits such as child-care for working moms and three YEARS of paid maternity/paternity leave when their children were born and a very comfortable guaranteed minimum wage. Sounds like Nirvana doesn't it?
If you look carefully at the graphs though, you will note that though there may be some narrowing of the gap across the board, that the significant economies of Germany, Great Britain, Spain and France have not closed at any clear statistically significant fashion. Perhaps the real reason why these smaller enclaves are doing so well is that they are much more homogeneous and also, the benefit from the umbrella the larger countries provide.
But before we simply discount the article and think to ourselves "everyone's having the same problems as we are.... it will work itself out in the end" ... note the following quote and what it portends.
Americans between the ages of 55 and 65 have literacy, numeracy and technology skills that are above average relative to 55- to 65-year-olds in rest of the industrialized world, according to a recent study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, an international group. Younger Americans, though, are not keeping pace: Those between 16 and 24 rank near the bottom among rich countries, well behind their counterparts in Canada, Australia, Japan and Scandinavia and close to those in Italy and Spain.
To my perhaps over-simplistic way of thinking, this, more than any structural ideas about income-redistribution, etc., is the real threat. What we are facing is a moral crisis and it seems to be centered in our younger generations. We have failed to provide an atmosphere that encourages hard-work, study and social responsibility in the generations that follow.
The article talks about a loss of optimism in the various societies as well as other factors, and when you combine that with the abysmal performance of our young students compared to these other countries, especially in light of the very high amounts of money being spent on our school systems, the issue appears crystal clear. We have a potential threat facing this society that is far more immediate than global warming. As the older generation dies off, the tax income from these older, producing folks, will die off with them. Combine that with an increased tax burden and the disillusionment will not be improved, rather the opposite.
Somewhere, somehow, along the line, a revitalized work and achievement ethic must be reinstitued across our cultural and structural social order.
Recently the news in Great Britain spoke of how British kids are no longer very motivated by "winning or losing." Some of this same attitude is present today where the words "chill out" most often reflect a social pressure against any form of passionate intensity about much of anything. Along with Aristotle, I, of course, see that we must steer a middle course in such things, but it appears that we have moved way too far to the left on the "competitive scale."
When a person is not motivated to excel there is not much left to them but mediocrity... and if the prevailing attitude is such that "winners" and "losers" get the same social endorsement, then mediocrity is just one more acceptable lifestyle and life sinks into bland quests for instant gratification. The animated Disney flick, "Wall-E" pictures, perhaps prophetically, a future state of mankind, enclosed in a space ship, constantly stimulated by visual images, served by multitudes of robots, and languishing in obese inability. To its credit, the movie pictures "redemption" in terms of characters getting off their butts and doing something about their life. There is a generation or two at risk out there of never learning this lesson... and we had better be alert to the challenge.