For a moment, play detective. Scan your world for patterns of behavior out there. You can do it right from home, because the world conveniently comes right to us by way of 24/7 television and computer screens. Even our favorite morning newspaper is on there.
Easy to see and sense the relentless waves of violence and sex. Two mainstays of modern culture from foreign frontiers to raunchy sitcoms to absurd reality shows. But there’s another clue. Easy to miss, for it’s so symptomatic it seems like it’s the natural order of things. Isn’t it that aggressive little verb: Get??
Hurry now! Get your tickets…get your smartphone…get the latest best seller…get your shots…get your kids into the right schools….get in on that new market tip…get to see the show before it leaves town….get to church…get to the gym. Get, get, get. The good stuff doesn’t last forever. And Americans have traditionally been a getting-there-first culture.
A habit that goes by nicer names like initiative. Ambition. Imagination. We don’t particularly like greed. Acquisitiveness. Materialism. But whatever the precise verb, there’s this very precise view. Life is a swift-moving carousel, and the brass rings go only to those who can reach out and get them.
Oh, it’s a great caper. One in which we’ve all played a role. Helps explain our great cities and industries and innovation and military outreach across the globe. I mean, life is for the go-getters. Getting is good. Growth is good. Being first is good. And we’re good at this.
Except when there’s less out there to get. Go-getters are the first who should know the rule of supply-and-demand. While our demands may be as great as ever, the supplies are less than ever. Of rich harvests, clean water, good air, good schools, good neighbors, good friends and allies overseas.
We often say the neighborhood’s changed. Well, so has the country. So has the world. The same old American playbook of getting-there-first-and-getting-there-best may have to be changed to fit the field. To face the fact there’s less to get and more who want to get it. As any good detective can tell you — that kind of case spells trouble for those who can’t crack it. Or for those who aren’t willing to listen to the warnings from the constables on the beat…
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