If history is a teacher, what have we learned?
When the world around us seems to be coming completely unraveled is it courageous or unwise to hold tightly to beliefs that somehow the chaos will be corralled and tamed to a level we always hope it will be? I’m inclined to recall a comment made in a business planning class several years ago that, “Hope is a poor business plan”. Is that the case today? Or, do we possess more than hope?
Repetition can be a poor teacher. Especially if the lesson is wrong – or at least misguided. A lie told a thousand times will often be accepted before a truth told once. When the fictional messages are inciting outrage and building peer pressure support, they will also increase the broadcast of the message to larger and larger audiences. The excitement of the crowd easily becomes the acceptance of the message as true, even though it is profoundly wrong. The wisdom of the crowd devolves to the error of the crowd. Reversing that notion is no small feat.
That brings us to the state of our world today. Chaos seems to be everywhere. The constant news reports make it seem that it is. Where is room for optimism there? Look beyond the popular reports. Lift the curtain to reveal the backstage and see what else is going on.
Start with what we see every day, the wars, the protests, the bombings and the killings, the blaming and the seeking of responsibility for horrid events. The responders to these things, those who are working to keep the affected people safe and alive, are courageous, intelligent, good people. They alone should provide a glimmer of optimism. And they do, though they often work out of the public eye. In the shadows of war.
There is room for optimism if we trust experiences of the past. In the past century we can identify many occurrences that left us with very doubtful feelings about how, or if, things would improve. The stock market crash of 1929, the Great Depression, World War II, Polio, The Korean War, Aggressive Communism, Viet Nam, Inflation, 1980’s Recession, 9/11, tornados, hurricanes, heat waves and icy winters, floods, forest fires and earth quakes … and the list goes on, and yet we always seem to make it through.
The fact that eventually things get better helps to make us eternally optimistic. Whether that is wise or not is up for debate, but it does give us a place to begin our recoveries, a starting point to move ahead.
We are a nation of survivors. We’ve found ways to keep our confidence up long enough to recover from devastating losses and events that we can forge on ahead no matter the obstacles in front of us. Somewhere down deep we simply believe in us.
As the nation’s population continues to grow so does the belief in our tomorrows. Immigrants and refugees are a part of that courageous optimism adding to what we have accumulated through our national history. Believing things will be better if we keep moving forward is imbedded in us. It builds our optimism and with that our talents and knowledge also grow. We get better, and better, and better as the challenges we willingly face also grow.
A solo hike to the South Pole? Land on the moon? Of course we can; it must be in our DNA.
Greg Henderson is the retired founder of the Southern Oregon Business Journal. A University of Oregon graduate and a six- year U.S. Air Force veteran.