Social Commentary

This section of John's website contains some of his periodic op-ed pieces. They are listed below in the order of their postings to this site, starting with the most recent posting.

offered to FutureShapers Monthly subscribers to forward and use as they wish, August 1, 2007: subsequently published in Changing the World, One Broadcast at a Time, New Dimensions August 2007 newsletter

Outsourcing Citizenship:
Sure Formula for a Has-Been Nation
An op-ed by futurist John Renesch, author of Getting to the Better Future
630 words

Americans have been outsourcing jobs for years, a matter of great debate among those concerned about the reliance of our nation on the output of other countries, many of whom we owe great deals of money. Our national dependence upon China, India and other countries who could hold our economic fate in their hands is really scary to many Americans.

But there has been an outsourcing of a more personal nature going on for much longer here in the U.S. Our culture has included outsourcing many of our responsibilities long before the verb became popular in contemporary lexicon. For many generations we have outsourced the education of our children and the responsibility of our health. We outsource some of our domestic responsibilities hiring nannies and housekeepers, dog walkers and personal trainers. This allows us to focus on earning more money to buy more things, pay off debt, give us enough free time to watch American idol, play some poker and keep up with the exploits of Paris Hilton.
We have become an outsourcing culture. When people are wealthy enough this is their right and privilege. But, I would contend, there are two areas of responsibility that cannot and should never be outsourced: parenting and citizenship. The former puts our children at risk and the latter does the same for our country.

We outsource some of our responsibilities as citizens when we give our power to elected officials at the voting polls and wash our hands of the consequences of our votes. We outsource more of our responsibilities when we forego service to our country and rely on a paid militia to perform that role for us, whether an all volunteer military or paid mercenaries like we have in Iraq.

Our founders were true citizens. They responded to the call when they were needed to serve in the military, rallying to the needs of the country. They recruited the best and the brightest and asked them to serve as their elected officials; rarely did anyone announce themselves as a candidate for that was consider in poor taste in those days. In today's jargon, they were all "drafted" by an informed citizenry. They regularly attended town hall meetings, even if it meant a three hour horse ride into town and an overnight stay. They picked their candidates and the candidates were willing to serve when they were drafted. This was all part of being a proactive citizen in this new democracy. They didn't take their citizenship for granted. They cherished it!

Today, the vast majority of us sit back in our TV chair and vote with our remotes, form an opinion after listening to a few sound bytes and consider ourselves "informed." If we vote we consider ourselves good citizens. But have we been willing to be inconvenienced at all? How much have our lives changed since our nation went to war? Have we endured a fraction of the inconvenience of our WWII era parents and grandparents?

What price have you paid for these wars? Did you vote in the last election? Have you been in touch with those you elected? Do they know how you feel about the job they are doing? Have you talked with or written your senator or representative lately. Do you know what is going on in the rest of the world in your name as a citizen of these United States?

A nation with such passive citizenry has frequently fallen of its own weight....imploded through complacency. Could this happen to America? Will we even know it is happening if it was?

John Renesch is a businessman-turned-futurist, author of several books and international keynote speaker. 
Archives of Past Commentaries
Beyond Iraq, Beyond Bush: One Man's Soul Searching (April 16, 2007)
What Kind of World Do We Really Want? (February 2007)
If America Were Run Like a Business (January 2007)
The Beginning of the End of Empire: How Our National Hubris Is Destroying Us (May 2006)
Where Did The Compassion Go? (February 2006)
Has America Stopped Becoming? UPI (January 2005)
Outside View (UPI): We are all Americans (November 2004)
American Hubris: A Case for National Arrogance (August 2004)
Shouting at Our Choirs: Political Frenzies Going Nowhere Fast (June 30, 2004)
Outside View (UPI): An American introspection (June 16, 2004)
Outside View (UPI): Assent or oblivion? (June 2, 2004)
Is National Outrage About to Finally Occur? (March, 2004)
Waking Up America: A Return to What Made Us Great (February, 2003)
A Return to Freedom: Changing the Regime of Our Own Thinking (Fall 2002)
What Have We Learned Since 9-11? (Summer 2002)
A Letter to My Fellow Citizens: Seeing Opportunity in the Tragedy (September 2001)
Archived commentaries listed with most recent first
April 16, 2007, sent to The New York Times: sent to Washington Post, June 26, 2007:
Beyond Iraq, Beyond Bush
One Man's Soul Searching

An op-ed by John Renesch

Since 9/11, like many Americans, I have become more aware of my country's foreign policy and, more importantly, the impact that policy has had on the rest of the world, mostly less developed countries. I wondered how people could hate us so much and what had driven them to be so radicalized and extreme.

While the media is filled with opinions and news of Iraq, I could not help but wonder where we got off the track, where America got to be the world's most dreaded "bad guy." I was raised thinking we were the good guys, the global heroes. We helped win World War II and were riding high as an economic power. Not bad for a relatively new breakaway nation!

In the decades since those childhood memories, the good guy image has become tarnished, bolstered by Hollywood movies but not in real life. Korea and Vietnam were hardly theatres for us to repeat our victory celebrations. Even after the Cold War, I heard of our interfering in the politics of other sovereign nations, covert operations and so forth, but they never gave me sufficient pause. Then there were the more public incidents such as invading Panama and "capturing" Manuel Noriega, our questionable military activity in Colombia and other high profile events which made me wonder some. But I chose to rely on the media to get it straight.

I could say I trusted my government to be doing the honorable thing. But that would be a cop-out. It would be more accurate to say while I was somewhat aware of the malevolent activities of my country's political, economic and military aims in other parts of the world, I didn't want to learn the truth. My rationale: it would take lots of time to get to the real truth, I might never discover it since covert activity is usually well disguised and, even if I discovered major wrong-doing by my government, I wouldn't be able to do anything.

Since one-time American ally Osama bin Laden was identified as the man behind 9/11, I found myself compelled to wonder how could we befriend such people, how could we engage in alliances with people so opposed to our own ideals, how could we be so committed to imposing our will on others that we used any and all means to get our way? This seemed to be the ultimate in unscrupulous behavior! How could my country do this? I wondered. Was I so naïve I still thought we were supposed to be the world's "good guys"?

Then I read the document that serves as the basis for our current foreign policy and I got really scared! I began reading more about this less-than-candid side of my government, the policies being carried out in my name around the world. I can see now that our nation's policies cannot be pinned exclusively on the Bush II White House although their actions and rhetoric drew more attention to them. Near as I can tell, our foreign policy started going haywire shortly after WW II and both Democrats and Republicans were equally at fault in establishing and systematically expanding a two-faced foreign policy that pits us against the entire world.

Where did we get off track? When did we start promoting self-determination while covertly sabotaging it whenever we didn't agree with what people and other nations chose? When did we start being the champions of liberty by trouncing it whenever other people's free choices didn't conform to our agenda? When did we start playing God, using our military, economic and political muscle to strong arm others into playing our game, conforming to our wishes, exploiting their own people to serve our whims?

I only recently realized that the U.S. has always had an adversary, an identified "enemy," whether it was Great Britain during our founding, Native Americans as we expanded across the continent, Mexico, Spain or any others we deemed opposed to us. Nazi Germany and Japan served that role in the 1940s, followed by the USSR and the "communist evil empire" following WW II. Various dictators and regimes have been assigned the enemy role since then, leading us to our present enemy, Islamic fundamentalist terrorists, Iran, Syria, North Korea and God knows who else are listed now as our enemies. I am now convinced many of our past adversaries were far more benign than we the people were led to believe. It suited "our national interest," however, to have them as threats so that's how they were identified.

Does this seem misleading, dishonest and incongruent with the principles of a democratic republic? You bet it does!

With a slight amount of research I got some historical perspective. The once Top Secret "National Security Council Document #68," delivered to President Harry Truman in April 1950, set the stage for current U.S. foreign policy. "NSC-68" represented the thinking of Paul Nitze, former Wall Street investment banker who later became an arms negotiator. According to a 2004 obituary titled "Paul Nitze: The Man Who Brought Us the Cold War," by Fred Kaplan, "Nitze's first task: Scare the daylights out of Truman." This document laid the foundation for the Cold War with the USSR which kept Americans and the rest of the world constantly on edge about nuclear winters and anything that could spark the use of nuclear weapons.

Perhaps this was the birth of the present culture of fear that pervades life today - why we feel we need monstrous SUVs, numb ourselves with various palliatives, cling desperately to our cell phones, and worry about so many things? Could this have been the seedling of the "War on Terror?" What a perfect metaphor!

In 2000, a group of neoconservatives created a ninety page "A Report of The Project for a New American Century," a strategy that could serve as a replacement of "NSC-68." Similarly fueled by fear, it calls for U.S. world dominance, but more blatantly. In addition to military and economic dominance, this updated policy document explicitly includes cyberspace and outer space as "colonies" of the American Empire.

Reading the Project's "Key Findings" one can see that it has been driving U.S. foreign policy since the 2000 election, soon after it was written. The authors write, "the United States has an unprecedented strategic opportunity ... to transform U.S. forces to exploit the 'revolution in military affairs'." It goes on to cite nine key sub-imperatives, two of which bother me considerably: One calls for "controlling the new 'international commons of space and 'cyberspace' and the creation of 'U.S. Space Forces'." Another is to "reposition U.S. forces to respond to 21st century strategic realities by shifting permanently-based forces to Southeast Europe and Southeast Asia, and by changing naval deployment patterns to reflect growing U.S. strategic concerns in East Asia."

This new imperative is based on three assumptions which are highly questionable seven years later: 1. the United States is "blessed with wealthy, powerful and democratic allies in every part of the world; 2. the United States "is in the midst of the longest economic expansion in its history;" and, 3. U.S. political and economic principles are almost universally embraced.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, we have squandered the first one, have had a severe setback in the second, and, in my opinion, the Report's authors were seriously in error about the third.
This doctrine to have America rule the world may offend the sensibilities of U.S. citizens who were raised believing that all people are created equal, free to pursue happiness as they define it, not as it might be prescribed by those in power. And how offended might you be if you lived somewhere else in the world?

I'm old enough to remember some bitter lessons learned about people in the world who had their own ideas about what was good for the many, who insisted on foisting their values on the rest of society. The United States used to fight those movements not lead them. The United States used to be the world's "good guy," not the biggest bully on the planet.

Defending the "American Way" is one thing. Prescribing it to the rest of the world, willing or not, and enforcing it through coercion or muscle is quite another. The latter smells of totalitarianism or autocracy, hardly the founding ideals for the "world's most successful democracy."

Somewhere during these fifty seven years of evolving U.S. policy of domination, the phrase "our national interests" became a buzz word for politicians to use in their public statements. It was assumed that the public would identify with this phrase and assume if their leaders told them this or that policy was in their best interests then they had better go along with it. Under this rubric the American public has been manipulated into passive acceptance of a whole range of failed policies, misinformation, worldwide atrocities including genocide, vast sums of wasted tax-payer monies, corruption and crimes against humanity.

Thanks to some courageous people who have been close to the implementation of U.S. foreign policy and seen the nasty impact we are having on much of the world, the harsh realities are coming into the public spotlight. John Perkins' 2006 bestseller Confessions of an Economic Hit Man was an example of one man "coming clean" in his role after some deep soul-searching. The new book A Game As Old As Empire written by more than a dozen people - some economic hit men and women, others who've been close to the action - reveals even more horror stories wrought on the rest of the world in order to support our lifestyles, our cherished "American Way" of life.

The question now is will the American people be willing to look at this aspect of our way of life and demand a change in the way we are represented in the world.

John Renesch is a businessman-turned-futurist, author of several books and international keynote speaker. 
"Paul Nitze: The Man Who Brought Us the Cold War," by Fred Kaplan, October 21, 2004,
"A Report of Project for a New American Century," September 2000

Published in Op-Ed News, February 15, 2007:
What Kind of World Do We Really Want?

An op-ed by futurist John Renesch, author, Getting to the Better Future

 © 2007 John Renesc
Don't look at what we claim to value to get to the truth; look at how we live and work, what everyday choices we make, and you will see what we really value - what we think is important.
Sages through the ages have stated versions of this for centuries. It isn't particularly new. But it warrants another look as we Americans seem to be making everyday choices that don't match the values we claim to hold so dear.
Do we really want a world at peace or do we want to dominate the rest of the world as stated in the philosophy driving our present foreign policy? [1]
Do we really care about all human life or are we only concerned about Americans, as appears evident from the news we subscribe to and the conversations in which we engage? [2]
Do we really care about children when we allow so many to die from malnutrition and suffer from a lack of medical aid? [3]
Do we truly believe all people are created equal or do we mean only people like us?
Do we honestly believe in the "invisible hand" of the free market when we find ourselves working ourselves to death to pay the debt incurred by our obsessive consumption? [4]
Do we really envision "joy to the world" while remaining content to live in a world filled with fear and hatred, mostly aimed at us?
Do we believe in a multi-nation approach to the world's problems or do we prefer to be "king of the hill"? [5]
Do we mean what we say when we decry war crimes and crimes against humanity yet we avoid persecution for these acts by standing above the laws we agreed to uphold? [6]
Do we want a united world federation that respects all nations or do we want to everything done our way? [7]
These are but a few questions we can ask ourselves as individuals, communities and as a country. Once we own these discrepancies between what we claim to value and what we do, once we own our hypocrisy, we can choose which values to honestly live by, which values to put into action and either align our walk with our talk or stop bullshitting ourselves and each other. Then at least truth will be told.

[1] See Project for a New American Century report
[2] U.S. news media and citizen awareness of Americans killed in Iraq, Afghanistan, terrorist bombings, airplane crashes and other disasters with little to no attention on other nationalities killed
[3] "More than six million children under the age of five needlessly die around the world each year, according to experts." - BBC News
[4] Lobbying by special interests, subsidies and manipulative advertising stacks the deck against free choices
[5] Pattern of constant U.S. disrespect for U.N. policies, blocking global initiatives that don't suit "our national interests"
[6] See Note 5
[7] See Note 5

submitted to The Wall Street Journal, January 15, 2007
If America Were Run Like a Business
an op-ed by futurist John Renesch

Imagine a company where the board of directors stood by passively while the management team completely squandered the company's brand over a period of five years, reducing the firm's goodwill from "best practice" to "least trusted" by the public and "worst offender" of environmental standards. Imagine the company's shareholders screaming in protest while the board simply rung their hangs with worry but failed to intervene in any way because they were bound by their employment contract with the CEO and his team.

Even when the CEO announced he was planning things that would further destroy public goodwill and share value, increasing debt to unimaginable new highs, the board's best remedy was to hope things would improve and talk among themselves about how bad things were. Even when it appeared the management team had become infested with "groupthink" and disallowed any feedback that ran counter to its strategy, the board did nothing. Board members seemed to forget that the management team worked for them!

Board members had plenty of opinions but they failed to do anything to stop the massive hemorrhaging of debt, loss of goodwill and brand deterioration. Those who sat on the board's media committee sent emails to each other expressing their opinions but still no action was taken to correct the policies and behavior that was causing so much damage.

Imagine the U.S.A. as such a company where the administration is the management team under contract, the board of directors are the electorate and the rest of the world are the shareholders.

If a company were to be run the way I described above, it would be out of business very quickly. The most likely scenario: the board would go into emergency session at the first indication of destructive behavior and demand accountability for the team's actions. Any actions or plans deemed harmful to the brand or the corporation's major assets would be countered or the management team would be replaced immediately, contracts or not. Decline in shareholder value and the restoration of the public's confidence in the firm would become the highest priorities.

American citizens have been ineffective in doing anything to reverse the rapid decline of it's "brand" value, allowing it to be systematically eroded for over five or six years, seemingly resigned to allowing it to continue for another two years. Will the U.S.A. have any value remaining at that time? Are we so resigned and feeling like such victims of the circumstances we are content to wait until 2008 to begin cleaning up the mess? Does this sound like the same America where our forefathers and mothers left their jobs and took up muskets to fight for individual empowerment and liberty? They fought for what they believed in, they put their lives on the line and risked death, imprisonment and losing everything they owned. What are we willing to risk to merely gain back what we've lost in the past few years?

What has happened to us? Why have we become a nation of wimps, allowing the an over-arrogant management team to continue reeking havoc and trashing our country and bullying the world. Our country is at risk of imploding while causing unforeseen horror in the world and "we the people" have the opportunity to stand up and be counted - to make things right. This is not a time for mere rhetoric or opinion but a time to take corrective action - NOW, without waiting two more years when another perhaps slightly less incompetent management team will be retained.

As members of America's board of directors, let us fire those who are failing their fiduciary responsibility with which we entrusted them and hire a new team which has both the competence and promise of restoring what has been destroyed these past five years. Then we can get on with moving ourselves closer to the true potential we have as a nation. Let us do whatever it takes and not be constrained by convention or existing precedent. After all, nothing less than our country is at stake!
John Renesch is a businessman-turned-futurist and the author of numerous books.

Published by, May 24, 2006
The Beginning of the End of Empire:
How Our National Hubris Is Destroying Us
An op-ed by John Renesch

The unpublished written work included in this website is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - NonCommercial 2.5 License.

As the news continues to feature stories of frustration with our country's ability to do anything right, I'm reminded of a time when the U.S. was indeed the "can do nation." After WWII we were feeling our oats, having kicked the bad guys' butts and being hailed as heroes by most of the world. We stood tall and proud of having saved much of the world from fascism. We congratulated ourselves for a job well done. That was three generations ago.

More recently we have failed to demonstrate any great degree of consistency in fixing things, at home or around the world. As British economist John Gray queried in The Economist a couple of years ago: Is America on its way to being "just another country"?

In a recent commencement talk, a Princeton professor wondered how much time the U.S. has remaining in its turn as "top nation." He noted that throughout history a succession of countries have taken turns at being top nation. But if we follow the pattern, he contended, our turn should be up within fifty years.

Hard to swallow as an American.? Perhaps. But let us take a brief look at history.

Through the ages empires have crumbled under their own weight. Their failure has usually been the result of their own arrogance and complacency; i.e., they destroy themselves! They start thinking they are infallible and become filled with national hubris, or ego. Economic historian Arnold Toynbee observed, "An autopsy of history would show that all great nations commit suicide."

What are the signs that this might be happening here in the U.S.?

Take our mighty military: despite the most sophisticated weaponry money can buy, we aren't nearly as dominating in armed conflicts as you would think we should be. Our disproportionate reliance on technology to carry out our killing on the battlefield continues to result in the death of non-strategic innocents. We blame it on mis-information, dismiss it as "collateral damage" and continue doing it! From Asia to Iraq, we seem to have messed things up more than fixed things. Yet we continue. And what about Americans torturing prisoners and avoiding international prosecution for war crimes? Weren't we supposed to be the world's good guys? It used to be the other guys who invaded countries. It used to be the other guys who committed war crimes and killed innocent people and tortured prisoners. Have we become "the other guys" for much of the world? .

On the domestic front, our lack of responsiveness and inability to aid the people of New Orleans has been downright shameful. And the Twin Towers memorial? Going on five years and we still can't agree on what to do with the Manhattan site of the 9-11 terrorists attacks. Our education system has become so eroded our kids graduate without the ability to spell. Remember when Americans were the best educated students in the world? And what about our rapidly accelerating national indebtedness? We're in hock up to our bottoms; other countries own us!

In discussions with American friends I hear how we "won" the Cold War. Are they nuts? We didn't "win" anything. The Soviet Union collapsed of its own weight. Many factors and people contributed to it, some visible and some not so visible. So what did we do? We took victory laps and claimed we did it, all by ourselves! Green Cross founder and former USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev, a major player in ending the half century long nightmare, has urged the West to "get over your 'winner's complex' and attend to challenges of our time." Nationalism in any form, he states, "is an evil from which humanity has already suffered enough..."

Since 2000, our nation has steadfastly enforced a foreign policy based upon world domination. Drafted prior to the 2000 presidential elections, Project for a New American Century calls for the U.S. domination of cyberspace and outer space as well as maintaining our military "superiority" as the lone Super Power.

FDR's first inaugural speech
This plan is quite a reversal from what FDR said in his pre-WW II inaugural address: "I would dedicate this nation to the policy of the good neighbor: The neighbor who resolutely respects himself and, because he does so, respects the rights of others; the neighbor who respects his obligations and respects the sanctity of his agreements in and with a world of neighbors." That was the philosophy of America that helped defeat the bad guys in WW II.
This inability to see our own warts, this unwillingness to admit our faults, this denial about our not-so-good-guy-ness and this confusion between fact and spin suggest that we may have fewer years as top nation than the professor estimated. Our hubris may be igniting the fuse for our own implosion as a great nation, just as it was for the Greeks, Romans, Spanish, British and others before us.

Economist Gray's question is still nagging at me. We are on our way to becoming "just another country," but there is still time to take corrective measures and restore
our country as a beacon for hope for a better future for the whole world. We are, after all, a nation founded on some pretty lofty principles. The heart of our "can do nation" is still beating and there is still time to restore a sense of neighborliness and win back the respect of the rest of the world. We can begin by taking a close look at ourselves as a nation, admitting our failings and building on our strengths. We can start paying more attention to the facts than our own press releases. We can reclaim the integrity of our heritage. Let's stop the rhetoric, get over the "winner's complex" and restore alignment between our walk and our talk, as a country and as a people.

I am not bothered by my country losing its status as "top nation." I'm a bit uncomfortable with that label anyway. What bothers me is the possibility of our squandering the opportunity which our nation's founders offered "the world of neighbors" and the loss of hope such a squandered opportunity will mean to so many people around the globe.
About the author
John Renesch is a San Francisco businessman-turned-futurist. His background includes over thirty years experience as a business owner, CEO and Managing Director. He edited a series of forward-thinking business anthologies that included the original writings of over 300 visionaries from industry, business academia, and the professional communities. His latest book is Getting to the Better Future: A Matter of Conscious Choosing. He's received praise as a business/social seer. Warren Bennis, best-selling author of leadership books for nearly twenty years, calls John "a wise elder who shines with wisdom." Stanford School of Business' Michael Ray calls him "a beacon lighting the way to a new paradigm." The Futurist magazine calls him a "business visionary." For more information about his work visit his website - . To contact him call 415-437-6974.

Published by, February 26, 2006
Where Did The Compassion Go?
John Renesch
2006 © John Renesch

I'm not sure when we lost it but it was during my watch as a U.S. citizen. I'm in my late 60s and I remember World War II, the advent of credit cards, television and touch-tone phones, long before the co-called Technology Age. Being a fourth generation Californian, I was "Americanized by my family, school and the movies.

I remember when Americans were one of the most compassionate people in the world, willing to go to the far corners of the globe to help, send money, Care Packages, food and even military help if we thought it was having a humanitarian benefit. We felt so fortunate to be citizens of this great nation and so compassionate for those who were hurting in some way. Maybe it was because of our immigrant roots. But we cared about the rest of the world.
But it got off track someplace. And it happened on my watch. It happened sometime between my growing up and becoming a senior citizen. And it seems to be getting much worse, much faster!

We have become far less generous that we were only a generation or so back. We are nowhere close to being the most generous country when it comes to foreign aid. But we're the richest country! We have the strongest military but we only commit troops now "to protect our interests." Committing troops nowadays is largely to impose our own ideals on others. We've become ardent crusaders for The American Way instead of caring helpers and we all know what horrible consequences occur when ardent crusaders are fervently fighting for their cause.

Our commitment to help fight genocide withered immediately in the Sudan when a few of our soldiers was killed. We earned a reputation with the evil doers in the world as the country that has little stomach for fatalities from our own ranks. But this sensitivity has become reserved for Americans, not citizens of other countries. We do not seem to care about casualties from other countries. In recent years, we seem incredibly insensitive to the people who we kill, even accidentally, as long as they are not "Americans."

The latest ghastly mistake resulting in the slaughter of 17 Iraqis has been a mere news item in recent days but I don't detect any compassion, regret or even ownership for this tragedy. I can only presume that it is because there wasn't an American killed in the attack.

One of the 2000 candidates for U.S. presidency ran his campaign on a platform of "compassionate conservativism" - an acknowledgement as to just how uncompassionate we had become. The compassionate thing worked. He ended up in the White House. While we haven't seen much true compassion from the Washington since that election, it is a diversion for us to point the finger. "We the people" are the ones who've lost our ability to feel compassion for others. We the people are allowing our media and our leadership to take such a self-centered, unfeeling attitude toward the rest of the world. Instead of blaming our leaders or our media we need to exam our own hearts and see just how self-centered and callous we may be becoming in our rush for material wealth, technology fixes and our obsession with our own busy lives.

When people stop feeling in one area the deadening progresses. Once the heart starts shutting down or numbing out it spreads contagiously. In war we learn how to numb out the horrid impact our actions are having on others. The "enemy" becomes a demon animal or an object. Objectifying those we kill is a common way that soldiers numb themselves so they can continue functioning in battle. One way Americans do this is by "remote killing" - causing death and destruction with minimum risk to our military personnel. This kind of "clean killing" allows the killers to maintain that insulating distance and remain emotionally aloof from recognizing the full impact of what they've done.

The downside of this clinical approach to killing people is that there's no feedback. Remember the B-29 airmen of World War II who firebombed Tokyo and were shocked when they actually had feedback of the impact, something they were unused to because they were well above the ground? The conflagration over Tokyo was so fierce they could actually smell the human flesh burning, even at their high altitudes!

If we continue to kill as if the enemy is an image in a video game, we will forget what taking a life is like. We will forget what compassion feels like. Then we'll forget what sorrow feels like. Then we will have forgotten what its like to be human.
John Renesch is a San Francisco businessman-turned-futurist. His background includes over thirty years experience as a business owner, CEO and Managing Director. He edited a series of forward-thinking business anthologies that included the original writings of over 300 visionaries from industry, business academia, and the professional communities. His latest book is Getting to the Better Future: A Matter of Conscious Choosing. He's received praise as a business/social seer. Warren Bennis, best-selling author of leadership books for nearly twenty years, calls John "a wise elder who shines with wisdom." Stanford School of Business' Michael Ray calls him "a beacon lighting the way to a new paradigm." The Futurist magazine calls him a "business visionary." For more information about his work visit his website - . To contact him call 415-437-6974.

op-ed for January 2005, sent to UPI Outside View
Has America Stopped Becoming?
by John Renesch
2005 © John Renesch

For a good part of our nation's life, we were a society of dreamers. We were growing, maturing and learning how to bring forth the vision of our founders over 200 years ago. We were a work in progress, still developing. We earned our share of bloody noses and bruises to our pride through a number of mistakes as we continued to learn and grow and mature as a young country. We grew from being a small band of revolutionaries to a sovereign nation and then to the most powerful country on Earth in a very brief time relative to human history.

Somewhere during the last several decades, we stopped trying to become better. We stopped growing, except in population and economic terms. We stopped learning, developing and maturing. We stopped dreaming and we started protecting.
You see this happen with some teenagers who get a few things right and then start thinking they know it all. Pride turns to hubris and they become stubbornly entrenched in their arrogance. They think they are invincible, know-it-all and they project those images.

It seems to me we Americans have become stubbornly entrenched in our arrogance. We certainly haven't shown much interest in acquiring whatever wisdom might be offered by any other culture.
One of the great things about these United States is that our greatness came out of our constant reinventing ourselves, the "can do" society which emulated the curious youngster who is constantly inquiring. Like a sponge soaking up all the wisdom life had to offer, humility allowed us to learn from the mistakes we made as well as from the mistakes made by other cultures throughout history.

Our innate greatness has become part of our egoic self-image and we have slipped into a mode of protecting ourselves. Instead of inspiring the rest of the world we are now trying to dominate them, flaunting our power over others, rubbing our material success in their faces. Self-confidence has morphed into self-righteousness and most of the world is more afraid of us than they are of terrorists.

As John O'Neil points out is his book The Shadow of Success, hubris was the hero's "fatal flaw" in classical Greek drama. Successful leaders who fail to witness their shadow side are doomed to experience the "fatal flaw" at some point in their careers. This shadow side applies to nations as well as people and corporations. Historians claim nearly all great empires eventually failed because of this. You might say they committed national suicide!

Will America become "just another country" as some Europeans have been predicting? Will history report us as a once great society which eventually succumbed to the same "fatal flaw" that caused the Roman and British empires to implode?
I hope we can look deeply into our national arrogance, our know-it-all attitude, and begin dreaming, learning and growing again so we can return to becoming as great as we can be. I hope we once again become an inspiration to the world instead of a dominator. If we do not, we are risking our destiny and possibly even our survival.

John Renesch is a futurist, social commentator and international keynote speaker. 
November 24, 2004 United Press International
Outside View: We are all Americans (as published in The Washington Times)
by John Renesch
Outside View Commentator

San Francisco, CA, Nov. 23 (UPI) -- Before you start making plans to move to another country or resume the pre-election pattern of furthering the divide between red and blue, left and right, conservative and liberal, let's take a deep breath and reflect a moment. Let us reflect on this great country we live in, these United States of America, a nation founded on dissent with a track record of weathering many ideological battles in our history.

I cannot recall when the United States has been this sharply divided. I wasn't around in the Civil War days, so that might have been somewhat comparable. Vietnam certainly caused many wounds, some of which evidently have not yet healed -- witness the debate during the just-concluded presidential election. But I also know we can seek out what divides us and come to some common reconciliation. After all, if the South Africans could do it after several generations of apartheid, Americans can certainly do it after one political campaign.

I am now refusing to look at e-mails -- even from friends -- that contain material that furthers the divide between us. I'm sick and tired of one side or the other insisting on being right and making the other side wrong. I got caught up in it several times myself. It is alluring and seductive to be sure.

Obviously, people have strong opinions concerning certain issues, and it looks unlikely that there's going to be any effective convincing through righteousness and sheer repetition. So we can either remain almost equally divided or seek a balance and come together.

What has proven to bring about reconciliation is talking to one another, seeking out the people with opposite views and engaging in dialogue with them. Clearly, we are all afraid. We may be afraid of different things, but we are nonetheless acting out of fear.

If nothing else, we were all afraid of what would happen if the other side won the election. We may have been afraid of terrorists, radical ideologies, losing our morality, war, long-term implications of our foreign policy or the economy, but we are all afraid of something.

By talking to one another we could discover what the other side is afraid of. We could share with them what we are afraid of. This requires vulnerability, not righteousness, on both sides of the conversation. We all love our country. Neither side is any less patriotic than the other, despite all the barbs that were exchanged during the campaign.

I had an insight while talking with some friends and colleagues on this subject and decided that when I am engaged with someone with another point of view, I will remain aware of whether what I am saying and how I am saying it furthers relationship and connection with the person or group or whether it serves to make me right. Does it bring us closer, or is my righteousness attempting to dominate? True dialogue bridges divides and allows for reconciliation, like the South Africans did in 1994 with their Truth and Reconciliation Project.

So I'm betting the commonality of all Americans can rise above individual personalities, loyalties and egos and stand tall for America to transcend this contemporary divide. My money is on our united-ness prevailing as our still young nation matures.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., once wrote, "We are an unfinished nation." We certainly are not finished, so there's more work to be done if we are to fully realize the great vision our founders articulated.
The United States is certainly still in its adolescence, showing all the traits of a pesky but accomplished teenager, a teenager with more stuff than any of the other teenagers, but still a teenager. All of this is part of our growing up and, as we know from our own experiences, growing up is hard to do.
(John Renesch is a futurist, social commentator and international keynote speaker.)
Copyright 2004 United Press International

sent to UPI August 19, 2004
American Hubris: A Case for National Arrogance
An op-ed piece for UPI by John Renesch
2004 © John Renesch

Psychologist Carl Jung coined the term "shadow" to describe an aspect of the human psyche that grows darker as it is left unexamined. Usually, it is something the person doesn't want to "own" so they try to bury it where it festers until it erupts in some not-so-subtle ways. Really successful people, leaders and those used to achieving excellence and great success, often have higher profile "eruptions." The media is filled with smart successful people turning into aberrations of their "normal" selves.

Looking at the "shadow side" of excellence is applicable not only to people but to groups, including whole nations. The fall of the Roman and British empires can attest to a sort of national or cultural hubris, a quality in the culture or national personality that remained unexamined in a dynamic similar to what has been called "group polarization" or "groupthink" on a very large scale.

This may be happening to the United States of America which has achieved great material success so quickly for such a young nation. Could our "national hubris" be raising its head like it did with the British and the Romans? Psychologists write about how people who achieve great success can start to think their desires will always be satisfied; they get so used to getting what they want that they start expecting it everywhere. Sometimes, they start thinking they must be blessed by God. It is not uncommon for whole cultures who have amassed worldly goods to convince themselves that they are "heaven's elect."

All too often material possessions and power substitute for self-­worth--whether we perceive ourselves as honest, kind, coura­geous, humble, loyal, or whatever virtues we claim to cherish. A colleague makes a point that when "self-worth" is tied to "net worth," people can be condemned to living superficially.

Great success can cloud even the most brilliant minds. An inflated national ego crowds out perspective and good judgment. It is easy to develop a sense of invulnerability that can be dangerous, not only for others but for our own nation.
In his book, The Paradox of Success, author John O'Neil states that the "hyper-achiever sometimes deliberately decides that old friends and associates are no longer good enough, especially if their perceptions of new achievements are not always flattering....A dark side of distinguishing oneself is the risk of isolation and alien­ation."

Socrates said, "The unexamined life is not worth living." Since the danger represented by the "shadow" is leaving it unexamined, it could be time for all Americans to look deeply into our souls and do some truth-telling about aspects of our nation and our culture that we may prefer stay hidden. Shining light on whatever darkness we may encounter will make us healthier, far less dysfunctional and allow us to thrive.
John Renesch is a futurist and social commentator who lives in San Francisco. His latest book is Getting to the Better Future. 

July 30, 2004 United Press International
Shouting at Our Choirs:
Political Frenzies Going Nowhere Fast
an op-ed by John Renesch
published in The Washington Times
2004 © John Renesch

The political left is doing it as well as the right, just using different mediums. Both are screaming at their own constituencies with the gospel according to Michael Moore or Paul Wolfowitz, Al Franken or Bill O'Reilly, documentary movies or radio talk shows.

I'm reminded of how children or immature adults will raise their voices when they don't think they're being understood. They start screaming in a desperate attempt to get their point across. Rather than reconsider how and what they are saying they raise the volume. That is what both the left and right wings of American politics are doing in what I'm experiencing as one of the most polarized political climates I have witnessed since the 1960s and Vietnam. It is also incredibly adolescent.

The vitriol and rancor being expressed is killing all of us. What is surprising is that we are shouting in the faces of our own constituents, polluting our own nests! Neither side is listening to the other so all that verbal venom is being spewed at the already converted, the true believers, the choirs to which we already belong. Whether we are a member of The Church of the Left or The Church of the Right, why shout at the true believers in our own congregations? Are we so frustrated that we're having such little impact on "the other side" that we are whipping ourselves into adolescent frenzies like lynch mobs?

Wouldn't real debate be a refreshing change? Dialogue might be too much to hope for but genuine debate would be far healthier for all of us, including our wonderful country. Debate, however, demands a much higher level of exchange, a "higher road." Listening is a requirement. Both sides must listen in true debate. Both sides must be open to having their minds changed. But shouting our points-of-view at each other is not debate and it is nowhere even close to dialogue.
I'm reminded of a time when our country was perhaps the most united and energized, in those years between the signing of the Declaration of Independence and George Washington's second term as President. An incredibly visionary man, Washington saw a great deal of benefit in having more than one political party since each could learn from the other and, together, they could better resolve situations than either might achieve separately. His fear, however, was that one party would think of their interests as more important than the whole and try to destroy the opposition rather than learn from it. While he envisioned collaborative opposition as contributing to order and unity of a growing nation, he saw what we'd call "partisanship" today as being absolute poison to the vision of our founders.

Lincoln reminded us that "a house divided cannot stand." Senator John McCain reminded us of a couple of years ago that we are still "an unfinished nation." Let's act as if these three men from three different centuries might be offering us some useful wisdom and start behaving in ways that bring us together, seeking the best for all the people, not just those who have joined our camp. "We the people" of these "United States" are in grave danger of losing both our "we-ness" and our "united-ness" forever.

Let's declare a cease fire on the venom-spewing and focus on where we might learn from each other. Let's grow up and stop this adolescent squabbling and name-calling. Let us stop traveling down this road to nowhere, this path leading us to becoming "just another country." Let's allow ourselves to transcend the adversarial DNA in our culture that our legal system has planted and our media continues to enflame. Let us break free of our adolescent righteousness, our own addictions to the right-wrong game. Let us stand tall for that greatness that Washington saw in this great nation.

It starts here and now. After all, if not here, where? If not now, when? And it starts with us, you and me. After all, who else is there?

John Renesch is a futurist and social commentator who lives in San Francisco. His latest book is Getting to the Better Future. 

United Press International June 18, 2004
Outside View: An American introspection
by John Renesch
A UPI Outside View commentary

SAN FRANCISCO, June 18 (UPI) -- Don't look now but U.S. arrogance is showing! Americans still brag about how great we are when the evidence for this being true is rapidly evaporating. Here are a few examples of where we are really off in our braggadocio:

-- While we proudly claim to be the world's greatest democracy, fewer than 40 percent of us voted in the last national election, placing us 139th in voter turnout among 167 democracies.
-- While we brag that we stand for equality our actions convey total superiority, that we are "king of the hill" and that the rest of the world isn't equal to us at all.
-- We claim to stand for personal freedom but most of our citizens are feeling less free, working longer hours, burdened by debt and stress.
-- While we used to be "the world's best friend" we are now the biggest bully on the planet, relying on military power and economic coercion to "have our way" with the rest of the world, making enemies right and left as we do.

Mental health professionals call this "hubris" or exaggerated pride or self-confidence. Self-confidence is one thing but delusion is a much more serious matter. The United States is acting in such contrast to what we tell ourselves that we could be clinically designated as delusional. Jung called this refusal to look at the darker sides of oneself the "shadow." It would seem we have a severe case of "national shadow" and this concerns me for our country.

This disconnect from reality, which we are all part of, whether we are actively engaged in it or simply turning a deaf ear to what is happening, could cost us our wonderful country. Why have we become so fixated on imposing our "way" on the world, ignoring all other cultures, when we were so committed to democracy and freedom? Why do we insist on blustery rhetoric such as "USA No. 1!" and promoting our version of capitalism, our version of explicit sexuality, our version of music videos, our version of a true God?

Hypocrisy is part of it. Arrogance is another.

The Roman and British empires crumbled, as have many so many others throughout history. Our nation's attempt to establish "a new American Empire" (call it "hegemony" or some other polite term instead of "domination") is pure folly as well as a further distraction from the original American Dream. Most great cultures implode. They destroy themselves.

Is the United States on the same track? Have we reached the epitome on our path to destiny? Are we on track to be "just another country" as many are predicting?

I don't think so. I believe that the United States has a much higher calling, a calling whereby all people have equal rights, opportunity and their basic needs met. Why can't we live up to that calling and include the rest of the world rather than pretending that we know what's good and right and, "By God, we're going to thrust our point of view down the throats of everyone else in the world just because we can!"

The United States has the military power and can dominate or bully our way for now. Yes, we have the economic clout to intimidate all cultures to conform or suffer. Yes, we can insist that the world succumbs to our demands and yields to our arm-twisting. But will we still be around in a generation? Will we have manifested the destiny so many of us feel is yet unfulfilled for these United States of America?

These are questions I ask myself and wonder if anyone else is doing the same. If they are, they are being very quiet.

Copyright © 2001-2004 United Press International

June 2, 2004 United Press International
Outside View: Assent or oblivion?
By John Renesch
A UPI Outside View commentary
Published 6/2/2004 4:04 AM

SAN FRANCISCO, June 2 (UPI) -- I was having lunch last year with a friend when the subject of the pending war in Iraq and our nation's foreign policy found its way into the conversation. After a few exchanges about the then-pending U.S. invasion she said something that has stuck with me ever since. With much anguish she said, "This is not my America!"

My friend had just verbalized what had been nagging away at my conscience for weeks.

Most of our citizenry has been completely ignorant of State Department policies and how they've changed from one administration to another. Few of us knew the distinctions in foreign policy under Reagan, Bush I, Clinton and Bush II. Some of us had become more aware over the past couple of years as news of the new "Bush Doctrine" leaked out in the alternative media.

This new imperative was designed by a group of neoconservatives in September 2000, months before the current administration took office. This group, which includes many of the people presently in the White House, published this new imperative under their foundation, Project for the New American Century.

When I read its Key Findings I became far more aware of the direction this Bush administration wants to take the United States and I was terribly bothered. Then I read the entire report and I became even more troubled about what's going on with "my America." In their "Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century," the authors write "the United States has an unprecedented strategic opportunity ... to transform U.S. forces [in order] to exploit the 'revolution in military affairs'."

It goes on to cite nine key sub-imperatives, two of which bother me considerably.

One calls for "controlling the new 'international commons' of space and 'cyberspace' and the creation of 'U.S. Space Forces'." Another is to 'reposition U.S. forces to respond to 21st century strategic realities by shifting permanently-based forces to Southeast Europe and Southeast Asia, and by changing naval deployment patterns to reflect growing U.S. strategic concerns in East Asia'."

This new U.S. imperative was based on four assumptions, three of which are highly questionable: the United States is "blessed with wealthy, powerful and democratic allies in every part of the world; the United States "is in the midst of the longest economic expansion in its history;" and, U.S. political and economic principles are almost universally embraced.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, we have squandered the first one, had a severe setback in the second, and, in my opinion, the report's authors were seriously in error about the third.

This doctrine to have "my America" rule the world offends my sensibilities as a fourth generation citizen who was raised believing that all people are created equal, free to pursue life, liberty and happiness as they define it, not as it might be prescribed by those in power.

Besides being blessed as a fourth-generation American, I'm also fortunate to be old enough to remember some bitter lessons learned about people in the world who had their own ideas about what was good for the many, who insisted on foisting their values on the rest of society. The United States used to fight those movements not lead them. The United States used to be the world's "good guy," not the biggest bully on the planet.

Defending the "American Way" is one thing. Prescribing it to the rest of the world, whether they like it or not, and enforcing it through coercion or muscle is another. The latter smells of totalitarianism or autocracy, hardly the founding ideals for the "world's most successful democracy."

The aforementioned doctrines outlined in the report scare me; but not nearly as much as they idea they are being implemented with the rest of the world thinking that all Americans are behind it.
(John Renesch is a business futurist and social commentator based in San Francisco. His latest book is "Getting to the Better Future: A Matter of Conscious Choosing.")
(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)
Copyright © 2001-2004 United Press International

March, 2004:
Is National Outrage About to Finally Occur?
an op-ed piece by John Renesch
2004 © John Renesch
Suppose a young man enters the police academy where he befriends several fellow cadets who share his firmly-held ideology for how the world should be. One of the ideas that binds them together is a vendetta around one particular guy they consider a real hood, a bully within the ghettos. We'll call him "Bad Guy." The cadets frequently talk about what they'd do to Bad Guy if they were ever to catch him doing anything wrong when they're on duty. They itch for any opportunity to "nail" him.
The cadets graduate and start on the local police force. They speculate about what excuses they can muster and how they'll be real heroes if they could activate their plan and get Bad Guy off the streets.
One day, after hearing the dispatcher report an incident in Bad Guy's part of town, the young rookie officer invites a couple of his rookie pals to meet him there. They find Bad Guy and bullets start to fly. Bad Guy is seriously wounded and some of his friends are killed. The officers call headquarters and report that they were merely going to question "a nasty looking man" when he went for a gun and they opened fire.
But eyewitnesses come forward and testify that Bad Guy never went for a gun! In fact, they say, he wasn't carrying a weapon of any kind. Sure enough, no weapon is found. As the media focuses on the story, a former fellow cadet from their academy days informs the media that the young officer and his pals had plotted to put Bad Guy out of commission long before they were ever sworn in!
Now the community gets really pissed! Public outcries are heard on the six o'clock news. The community is outraged and boiling mad. The investigators of the incident feel huge pressures to get to the facts as soon as possible and prevent the public's rage from turning into frustrated rioting. The offending officers are suspended until the investigation is completed.
An inquest is held and the Grand Jury decides that the men must be tried for murder. The indicted officers post bail awaiting the trial date and the community temporarily cools down, waiting to see if justice will be served.
Public outrage like this is completely understandable for citizens of a nation that claims to be a true democracy and advocates worldwide human rights and democratic principles. This demand for justice is appropriate for people living in a country where "all men are created equal" and our anthem cries for "liberty and justice for all."
Americans have long served as a model for freedom and democracy for the rest of the world. So why are we mystified when people all around the world are perplexed by our endorsement of an invasion of another country, an entirely new precedent for the U.S.? Why does public legitimacy for this drastic departure of U.S. policy continue, even after discovering that all the justifications for a preemptive attack were false?\
Where is the national outrage about this? How can we get so incensed about policemen who use vigilante tactics in our neighborhoods but remain so complacent about our national leaders doing the equivalent on a global scale? How can we remain so silent and polite as we learn of lie after lie in justifying an invasion, a plan which had been part of an overthrow doctrine hatched long before the War on Terror?
Why do we get so worked up over one President who lies about getting blow jobs from an intern (an incident between consenting adults) yet remain so passive when another one lies to justify invading another nation (costing thousands of lives, injuring tens of thousands and costing billions)? Where is our sense of proportion here?
The policemen are supposed to be the Good Guys. The public relies on them for protection, to operate within "just cause" and truth-telling. After all, that's what the "good guys" are supposed to do in a democracy! Why don't we demand the same of all our public servants, whether they serve in on the local police force or in the White House?
If we allow our public servants to lie, bully, employ vigilante tactics and dictate new doctrines and policy without our expressed permission, then we are no better than the "bad guys" we claim to abhor. If we don't express our outrage and stop condoning their actions though our silence, we get what we deserve.
In a democracy, that's the deal!
John Renesch is a U.S. writer, futurist and former businessman. 

February, 2003
Waking Up America
A Return to What Made Us Great
an op-ed piece by John Renesch
2003 © John Renesch
Has anyone else noticed that there are a few facts that contradict the values we Americans claim to hold near and dear?
We think of ourselves as champions of democracy yet the majority of us didn't bother to vote in the last national election. We claim to advocate freedom in the rest of the world yet we do our best to bully, bribe and coerce other countries to do our bidding and impose our values on other cultures.
Our souls scream for community yet we avert our eyes whenever we pass someone on the sidewalk. We complain about how busy we are yet we continue to make choices that add to our busy-ness. Based upon our actions, we'd rather interact with technology than other people.
We claim to abhor violence yet we surround ourselves with it every day - in the movies we watch, the news we listen to, and the words in the music we choose.
We get so righteous about any nation we identify as our foe for going back on its word yet we ourselves break international treaties designed for the good of all. We refuse to join other nations in the banning and removal of landmines, environmental initiatives such as the Earth Summit, remain outside of the international war crime tribunals, and continue being in arrears in our U.N. support. Who's ignored more UN resolutions, broken more treaties, and ignored world opinion more than the U.S.?
To use the old colloquialism, our walk doesn't match our talk.
We claim to cherish life but what our actions tell the world that we only cherish American lives.
We condemn religious fundamentalism yet we fill our store windows with posters extorting that God is blessing our country - certainly a strong implication that the one true God is with us.
We see the ourselves as a paternalistic nation - the world's protector of freedom and democracy - the one nation with the power and the responsibility to make the world safe. Yet, the rest of the world is afraid of us and we tell them to go to hell. We have become the big bully in the world, if not with our military intrusions then with our blustery rhetoric. While we are the richest nation in the world, we give the least percentage of our wealth to other countries.
A psychiatrist friend of mine called this schism or disconnectedness between one's stated values and how one actually lives their life as "double-mindedness."
The evidence suggests that we have become a nation of liars and hypocrites - at least if you compare what we say we value and what we value with our actions - our votes, our wallets, our behaviors and the legitimacy we give to our designated leaders.
Perhaps we Americans are not as self-centered as we appear to be. Perhaps we have simply drifted into a stupor as a result of being so wrapped up in our own lives - like falling into a coma. It isn't too late to come out of our stupor. It begins by seeing our complicity in the state of the world and that it isn't simply everyone else's fault.
Americans can transcend their double-mindedness by simply growing up. Like the adolescent who eventually needs to leave the house where he or she grew up, it is time for us to become mature citizens of the world. We needn't give up our national identity or forsake our patriotism. Adolescents don't forsake their parents when they leave home, or forget their home towns. They simply expand their sense of who they are to include other neighborhoods, cities, states and other regions of the world. Their universe expands as a part of growing up.
Americans have an opportunity right now. We have another chance to demonstrate global leadership and mature global citizenship, just as we have in generations past.
One of America's greatest traditions has been that we held ourselves to higher standards in all that we did. I'd like to see us - as a "We the People" nation - renew that tradition, not just in talk but in our deeds as well.
John Renesch is a San Francisco-based social commentator, futurist and author of Getting to the Better Future: A Matter of Conscious Choosing. 

Fall, 2002
A Return to Freedom:
Changing the Regime of Our Own Thinking
an op-ed piece by John Renesch
2002 © John Renesch
We have gone insane. We are allowing a relatively few "stupid white men" (thank you Michael Moore), who have not quite achieved mental or emotional maturity, to make decisions for the vast majority of us while we remain silent. Worse yet, our silence is perceived as agreement, making us just as complicit in the insanity as if we were working shoulder to shoulder with the other "stupid white men." Failing to dissent, failing to challenge, failing to speak out lends legitimacy to a system gone berserk.
While many talk about regime change - whether it is in Baghdad or in Washington - I suggest that we need to overthrow a government of a different sort. If we are so damn interested in fostering democracy and freedom, as we claim to be, let us begin with ourselves. Let us begin with the regimes of our own minds.
Martin Luther King, Jr. once said "A time comes when silence is betrayal." As the world accelerates along a short-sighted path to an uncertain but dismal-looking future, we are betraying ourselves by remaining silent - regardless of our rational and reasoning for doing so. The "new silent majority" is as complicit in this journey as those who appear to be at the controls. Not only do we betray ourselves, and our brother and sister human beings, but we betray our Selves - our destiny, our potential, our legacy as finite beings with infinite souls. As Rob Rabbin and Deborah Masters write in their forthcoming book, Crimes Against Consciousness, "To be silent is to betray our heart, and to be passive is to betray our conscience."
It is a time to start speaking out about matters we feel deeply about - matters that weigh on our hearts and our consciences. It is a time to awaken our consciences from the stupor brought on by self-imposed sentences that have resulted from our failures to speak out earlier. It is time for the New Silent Majority to end their silence and shed the cloaks of shame, hopelessness, and cynicism which we have been wearing for so many years.
It is a time to be naked. It is a time to be vocal. It is a time for ruthless honesty. It is a time to stand up and engage in dialogue with one another - open and honest conversations about things that really matter, things we haven't been talking about. It is a time to be committed to our own higher callings. It is a time to grow up and begin acting with wisdom and maturity.
In my last book, I tell the Parable of the Boiled Frog. It goes something like this: put a frog into a saucepan of hot water and it will most likely leap out immediately, sensing the danger and reacting to the extreme temperature difference. Put another frog into a saucepan of room temperature water and gradually heat the water. If done slowly enough, the frog will remain in the pan, eventually succumbing to the heat. The frog will die because it never senses the danger and remains "comfortable" while it is slowly boiled to death. Slow-but-steady change can mesmerize us and lull us into a stupor.
There is one distinction that I did not make in my book. We are not frogs! We are human beings and we can wake ourselves up, snap out of our stupor, any time we choose to.
We claim to want true freedom. Yet, we sentence ourselves to indebtedness, overwhelm, worry, busyness, apathy and all the other live-draining afflictions that result from trying to cope with a world going insane. We cope by succumbing to all sorts of additions that numb us - like Novocain for our souls. We cope by abusing substances, overworking, overeating, endless consuming, Extreme Sports, trash TV, and all sorts of other addictions that seemingly distract us from facing the truth.
Ending the silence is the first step in bringing us back to sanity. Speaking from our hearts, taking our stands, naked in the truth, will bring us that true freedom we yearn for so much. Our silence lends legitimacy for the adolescent and insane behavior in our world. Ending our silence will ultimately give us the freedom we want so badly. True freedom is essential to democracy. It is time to break our bonds to silence - to remove the gags that we have placed over our souls.
As King stated back in 1967, "Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak." He spoke of how difficult it can be for the human spirit to move "against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own bosom..."
It is time to end the regime of self-imposed acquiescence and passivity. It is time to wake up to the fact that we are the ones giving legitimacy to the very systems we claim to be victimized by. It is time to overthrow the regime we have empowered and start insisting on a new legitimacy - for a sane and mature world that allows us all to grow, express ourselves, be emotionally honest, and truly free.
About the Author
John Renesch is a "white man" although he tries to avoid doing "stupid" things as much as possible. Nonetheless, he is probably eligible for membership in the club of "stupid white men." He is a San Francisco business futurist, writer, and international keynote speaker. His latest book is Getting to the Better Future: A Matter of Conscious Choosing. He's received much praise as a business/social seer. Warren Bennis, best-selling author of leadership books for nearly twenty years, calls John "a wise elder who shines with wisdom." Stanford School of Business' Michael Ray calls him "a beacon lighting the way to a new paradigm." The Futurist magazine called him a "business visionary." For more information about his work, visit To contact him call 415-437-6974 in San Francisco.

Summer, 2002
What Have We Learned Since 9-11?
by John Renesch
Nature shows us that dissonance is a means of restoring stability to natural systems. The caterpillar's residue gives rise to the butterfly. Natural forest fires clear the way for life of many varieties to regenerate. Systems seek stability and they may create what we humans call conflict or chaos in order to do so.
If you look at the past year's headlining events like the corporate scandals, terrorists attacks or the Middle East crisis through the lenses of a "systems thinker" you might see beyond the politics, religious fanaticism, greed, and perverse nationalism; you might see these events from a wider perspective - an "eagle's view."
Terrorism is certainly dissonance - whether the acts of suicidal religious extremists, legally constructed armies, or Wall Street financial manipulators.
Looking at the American brand of capitalism from an eagle's point of view, one might see a global system attempting to make adjustments which it sees as necessary for its own survival. Any system will try to make "corrections" when its stability is being undermined. These adjustments will tend to get more and more severe, until stability or the system's sense of harmony begins to return.
What clearer signal might have been given that the American version of consumption-based capitalism needs to change than to have the very "heart" of the world's economic system - the World Trade Center - totally destroyed?
If a person has a heart attack, it is a pretty clear sign that they should change their lifestyle. The "heart attack" on global capitalism was quite severe. For years the system has been giving us signs that something needs to change but those seemingly "in charge" - particularly we Americans and other industrialized folks who think like we do - have ignored these signals and remained oblivious to these systemic attempts to self-correct. With total arrogance, these signals have been dismissed as aberrations in an otherwise "okay" system. And most of us who don't "seem" to be in charge go along with this dismissive attitude, condoning it by our silence.
Most Americans look at the events of 9-11 from the personal or national levels, rationalizing that the terrorists were motivated by perverse religious beliefs and fanaticism, coupled with economic suppression that is so rampant in the third world that people take it for granted. On the level of all humanity, however, it was a wake up call for us to change our ways.
The corporate scandals we are now facing aren't being carried out by Islamic extremists but are nonetheless another form of terrorism. Innocent "civilians" were the victims here too. Initially, pundits were referring to the news as "capitalism gone amuck" and other characterizations that are chillingly accurate assessments. To be sure, the conflicts in the Middle East, the corporate scandals, and the War on Terrorism are all intertwined. But the pundits won't allow themselves to see the accuracy of their initial comments, for that would be traitorous or disloyal to "the system" that we all empower. So now we talk about "a few bad apples" - be they radical Islamics or unscrupulous executives.
It is easy for us Americans to ignore the impact we are having in the world. We rarely hear much about it from our corporate-owned media and very few of us take the time to see ourselves as other countries do. Some of us may have been shocked to learn that we are resented by so many other cultures who've been victimized and exploited by the "American Way." But that naïveté was popped on September 11 as millions of Americans started to realize that we weren't as well-liked as we may have thought.
Face it. The American Way is hated by the rest of the world, although many countries are more diplomatic about expressing themselves than others. There is little awareness here at home that the American Way has become a curse for much of the world which is seeing cultures ruined, traditions abandoned, people exploited, environments scavenged and local values ignored. As my colleague at Stanford Business School, Professor Emeritus Michael Ray says, "The American Dream has become the world's worst nightmare." And what's our response to those who are critical of our bullying tactics? "Screw 'em" is the essential response. No wonder we are hated!
As a middle-aged man, I can still recall when the women's movement pointed out male chauvinism. At first, I refused to give the idea any credibility. Why? Because it was "just the way things were," I reasoned. Gradually, however, I started to see my complicity in the suppression of women and realized how it felt to be a male chauvinist, despite my not wanting to be labeled as such.
Now, I have similar feelings. But it isn't about my "maleness." It's about my "American-ness." American chauvinism is being confronted right now. Our swagger and arrogance is out of control. People in other parts of the world, even Americans living abroad, have seen this coming for years.
The system has tried to correct from both the outside and the inside, from foreign shores and from the boardrooms of Corporate America. The system is smarter than we are right now. It will continue to "whack us 'up side' the head" until we either get it and start changing or we destroy everything and everyone, including ourselves, in the process.
The most positive change we Americans can make is to stop thinking so chauvinistically - as chief exporters of the American Way and as the best damn consumers in the world. As U.S. Senator John McCain wrote recently, "We are an unfinished nation." We still have lots to learn, despite our great strengths and achievements. We are a very young country, barely pubescent compared to most other cultures. But like the talented teenager who has yet to taste defeat, our adolescent arrogance can be our biggest blind spot and our ultimate undoing - our Achilles Heel.
As a species, we have much farther to go in our evolution. We are hardly a "fully-evolved" humanity. But will we be around to enjoy our transcendence or end up a mere notation on God's log for "Spaceship Earth" as an experiment that failed to live up to its potential?
We need to think not only as Americans who are proud of our country and the incredible strides we have made in creating one of the first and most powerful democracies in history but as responsible global citizens. Responsibility goes with power and responsibility for the whole goes with responsible leadership.
Whether or not we are aware of it, we all give legitimacy to this system that is "running amuck." If we do nothing to withdraw our endorsement of the status quo, we continue to empower it. Complaining about the system that we have had a hand in creating is like crying over the pain caused by keeping your fingers pinched in the door jam. We are the cause; we are the ones giving power to this system that appears to have control over us. Instead of pretending that someone else is in charge of things, let's own up to the fact that we who are in control of this system. The only ones who can change it are the ones feeding it power. And that's you and me.
The most important thing we all can do is to change our minds, which doesn't happen by "doing" things or rushing into automatic reactions. American chauvinism has been ingrained in our thinking and that is where the change needs to take place.
One way for us to initiate our own course corrections is to start talking with one another. Americans would learn much by engaging in dialogue with other peoples in the world. We could learn what it is like to live outside of the U.S. and see some of the more shadowy sides of the American Way. We can talk with people who value different things than we do - people who do not subscribe to consumerism, eroticized music videos, Christianity, violent movies and television. We can listen to them as if their point-of-view matters. We can pick people to engage in dialogue who are different - VERY different from us - and really listen to them.
We can demand that our media provide a balanced point-of-view in reporting the news, or subscribe to non U.S.-controlled periodicals. We can look around the world for models that we might learn from.
The ridiculously protracted conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians is a microcosmic projection of how we Americans are dealing with people who don't like us. The system is giving us a great mirror for how NOT to reconcile differences, and we can learn from it. Why can't we learn from South Africa, which invoked their truth and reconciliation project so the previously warring factions could get on with living together in harmony through forgiveness and honoring their shared humanity? Are Americans too arrogant to learn lessons from other nations?
Public indifference, cynicism, resignation and apathy are the real villains here. They allow the U.S. arrogance to perpetuate. They are the enemy of achieving a sane and sustainable world that our grandkids can enjoy. This reminds me of the "parable of the boiled frog" - where people slowly and gradually become accustomed to the ever-growing insanity, adapting to it by raising their thresholds of tolerance. This is how many people cope with things they don't like or don't want to know about. They numb themselves out through various means so they can endure what's going on. These passive responses to the craziness are what allow it to continue escalating. Having chosen to anesthetize themselves, huge numbers of people have taken themselves out of the equation (the new "silent majority").
This is a time for true soul-searching. As we look into our souls, we get to see the interconnectedness that resides in the depths of our humanity. The collective human soul is incredibly fragmented right now and those of us who see this huge disconnect are the ones who can bring about integration, reconciliation and reunion. If we don't make some really big changes......well, you get the idea.
John Renesch is a San Francisco-based business futurist, author and social commentator. His latest book is Getting to the Better Future: A Matter of Conscious Choosing.

late September 2001 (This was John's first ever op-ed piece)
A Letter to My Fellow Citizens:
Seeing Opportunity in the Tragedy
John Renesch © 2001
My fellow citizens:
The terrorist activity of September 11th is being met with mixed responses. On one hand there's an unprecedented alignment of sentiment behind the flag and the President with a strong desire for revenge, suggesting that some of us harbor as much hate as the terrorists. Then there are those who just abdicate to the White House and say "whatever our leaders do is okay."
And then there are many still-silent people who are thinking to themselves "there must be a better way." This letter is for you.
Hate came to visit us on September 11th and it left many scars. Many who were alive a few weeks ago are now dead. Shock, anger, fear and grieving are all happening in these days following - all natural emotions for such an appalling tragedy. Why did all these people die? Is there any meaning to this carnage? What will be the legacy of those we lost? What would be the legacy each of them would have wanted?
Ask almost any person what they would like to do with their lives and they will tell you something like, "I would like to make a difference of some sort." When asked how they'd like to be remembered, many will say, "I'd like to think I helped make the world a little better place." These are normal desires and hopes that the vast majority of American people have in their hearts. It is hard for me to imagine that these same desires and hopes were not residing in the hearts of those who died. Have you ever heard someone say, "I want to be responsible for killing people"? Or, "Please start a war on my behalf"?
There is talk about "honoring" the dead, so their deaths "will not be in vain." But much of this talk is steeped in a desire for revenge, retaliation, and wreaking havoc against the perpetrators. If we want to truly honor those who were killed, let's work together to bring about a legacy that THEY would like - a legacy that honors THEM and not OUR own rage and OUR aberrant need for vengeance. After all, HATE IS OUR REAL ENEMY. Anger is part of the human experience. It is a natural, healthy emotion. But hate is learned and fostered. People are taught to hate, and it is passed on from one generation to the next. Hate results from harbored, suppressed and un-experienced anger that festers and leaks out in righteously destructive ways like we saw in New York and Washington, DC.
Hate kills people, not anger. Anything we have learned, we can un-learn, which presents us with an unprecedented opportunity.
Indeed, there is an opportunity here, among the rubble and stench and misery. In the midst of this horrible tragedy, in the midst of all the pain and anger that we are feeling, we have a collective choice. And this choice is a BIG one. We can start down a new path toward a much better future or we can add to the perpetuation of escalating violence by trodding down the same familiar path we know so well.
We have been jolted out of our complacency and had our hearts opened in a way that we might have never done on our own. It took this scale of a disaster for us to come together with open hearts and re-visit our true humanity. While we are still reeling from this horror, there is a "window of opportunity" to transcend the hate that has become so apparent to so many of us in recent weeks. Transcending the hate can take place if we seize the moment and respond to this enormous tragedy in a whole new way. Before we return to "business as usual" and crawl back into our busy, crowded complacent lives, let's seize this opportunity, and honor our fellow citizens by making a conscious choice - a conscious choice for a better world, a better future for ALL of humanity.
What would this better future look like? What can we create? We can create a future where we honor our emotions and don't rush to action in order to avoid them. We can create a future that holds everyone accountable for their actions, thus preserving a genuinely civilized society - demanding true justice that includes total accountability and personal responsibility for all the world's citizens. We can create a future where real freedom comes with this responsibility - where people's choices have consequences which they can own without blaming others. We can create a future in which we truly honor diversity, recognizing the enormous value of differences in the world. We can create a future in which all religions are respected and we truly have "liberty for all." We can create a world in which we are proud of our national heritage, love our country, yet care about the entire world as our extended community rather than taking solace in perverse chauvinistic patriotism. We can create a future where we stop rationalizing war by blasphemous claims that God is on our side.
Let us honor the thousands who have died by ending some cycles that we have become accustomed to - cycles that border on mass addictions, such as our propensities to go to war and flex our military might even when wisdom and experience tells us it doesn't really bring about a sustainable peace in the world; let us end the cycles of retaliation that honor our own hate and revenge instead of the lives of those we lost; let us end the cycles of arrogant rhetoric that incite people to join in brutal and vindictive acts, even in the name of God and the American flag; let us end the cycles of insanity where we become "enemies" with yesterday's "friends" who we recently funded and trained, simply to justify our collective need for vengeance; let us end the cycles of refusing to learn from our own mistakes, repeating deeds that we're familiar with despite their unwanted outcomes; let us end the cycles of killing and violence that have now touched our own shores, recognizing that greater numbers have died elsewhere because of our own politics and insecurities; let us end the cycles of mass denial and realize our own role in creating this condition in the world; let us end the cycles of never-ending retributions that seem to be going on incessantly, whether or not all of us are aware of them all; let us end the cycles of thinking "us" versus "them" and enter an era of realized "connectedness" and spiritual union - a union we profess to honor when we pray; let us end the cycles that allow terrorism to keep going, that fuel the hate and animosities that are harbored by so many people in the world.
How do we end these cycles? What can we do? We start with ourselves, each and every one of us. We can stop thinking that it is all up to "them" (our President, the Defense Department, the State Department, the C.I.A. and all the other "them's"). We can "grow up" and start acting with a maturity and wisdom that is required if we are ever going to become an adult species and stop carrying on in our all-to-familiar adolescent-like behavior. We have authorship in the kind of world we want for ourselves, and our children, and their children. We have authorship in the kind of legacy that's created for our dead.
Let us ask ourselves why we want to strike out? Is it really for those we wish to honor? Or is it because we think we might feel better somehow, like doing SOMETHING to take our minds off the terrible reality we are being faced with and to insulate our hearts against the depth of pain we are afraid to feel. We can ask ourselves, will our actions honor those who have fallen or provide hollow fodder for our own solace and consolation?
If we agree that there is this opportunity to end senseless cycles that don't work and do it differently this time, we can talk with others and not let fear stop us from speaking out. Public polls suggest that most of our citizenry wants revenge but there's a growing desire for a more enlightened approach, rising from the bosom of our nation through a sort of Internet underground. The network polls don't pick up on these cries for sanity but as more people gain their voice, a call for a wiser more enlightened approach will be heard. But it won't come from our "leaders." It will come from us, you and me and all those like us who know something has to change drastically for us all the live in a better world. I urge you to join in and add your voice to those who are calling for an end to these cycles and a return to sanity.
If you don't feel comfortable writing your own letter or making calls, forward this and other messages calling for a new way - a better way that our dead would be proud of.
This is how we can honor those who died. Killing other innocent people - even if done "legally" with a vast majority of domestic and global acceptance - keeps these cycles going, perpetuating violence and hate - the real enemy here. I sincerely doubt that those who died would have wanted this kind of future as their legacy.
Let us honor those who have perished so they might say, "Well done," and smile down at us.

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