- - Sunday, June 14, 2020

As the most famous living poet in America once sang, “He not busy being born, is busy dying.” These are words for the current moment. Take a look around. Everywhere, from our education and financial and technological systems, down to our familial dynamics and even the way we as individuals view ourselves and live, things are changing. And thanks to pressure of current events, they are changing — irrevocably — fast.

The rate of change feels destabilizing. And truth be told, it is. During times of uncertainty, with the ground ever moving beneath our feet, a lot bad can happen, and often does. Like a volcano that erupts, nature is displaced in a sudden, destructive manner. Of course, after the lava cools, and over time, life forms anew. But we are at the eruption phase.

Consider, for example, the effect of COVID-19 on our understanding of traditional working arrangements. Much of our workforce and the companies that employ us determined long ago that the office environment was simply the only environment from which work could be accomplished. Even after the advent of the Internet, the morning march to the office remained. Cities were populated as a cause of this phenomena. Whole socioeconomic ecosystems flourished on account of this animating principle.

Then the coronavirus hit and many Americans were forced to labor from home. There were and continue to be bumps in the road, but work has continued. Efficiencies are now being discovered. In a matter of months, the whole concept of punch-in/punch-out has been rethought. Multi-billion-dollar companies like Twitter announced that employees never have to return to an office if they don’t wish. Every day more organizations make the same decision. Once this catches on, expect waves of second- and third-order effects to follow. And who knows, we may find the depopulation of major cities goes hand-in-hand with (potentially) renewed home life and a rediscovery of community.

In nearly every category one can imagine, the old ways of doing things no longer seem to fit. Our legacy media institutions (as recently and disastrously typified by The New York Times) are out-of-step with average Americans. Consequently, we no longer feel they have anything to teach us and we don’t trust them and we don’t read them. The concerns brought to us by way of a near collective virtue-signaling by the entertainment industry, from Hollywood to the NFL, again are not the concerns of average Americans, who just want to get back to work. Don’t get us started on corporations like Nike.

Perhaps most crucially, during the time of COVID-19 and the protests, we have seen that the government cannot totally be relied upon for protection or support. The political divide in America was once a source of fruitful tension. Now, political partisanship runs so deep that it barely can be said to represent the feelings of average Americans. As we draw closer to November, it will get worse. Beyond the election, no matter who wins, there is no telling how fractious the landscape will become. All of this forces the question: Of what consequence is the government in my life, really?

So, with all this change, how does one stay sane and survive? Well, it feels too pat simply to urge a mindset of adaptability. That’s important, but it’s insufficient in isolation. In fact, the atomization of modern society is largely to blame for a lot of the vice we see today. An opposite predilection is needed. A return to the family and strengthening the civic institutions that support healthy communities is what will save America in the end. A strong family and a strong community is the best defense against any virus, any economic downturn. Moreover, the traditions maintained by healthy families and communities keep a people psychologically grounded despite the hurly-burly of technological change around them. Paradoxically, the more we turn toward solidifying and mooring basic building blocks of our society, the more adaptative to the modern world we will become.

So, embrace the old saying that goes something like “the more things change, the more we stay the same.” That’s not a bad thing. And actually, it is key to our survival.

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