March 2, 2014

Divisions in society impede progress

In this last, for now, in my series of columns about the growing divide among Americans over economic opportunity, I lament that most Americans still suffer from the economic crisis of our lives.

Adversity can make us stronger and more resolute. The Sputnik challenge captivated and motivated a nation and propelled us to the pinnacle of global economic supremacy.

Other times, adversity divides us, causes each of us to covet what others have, or offers us too many easy directions where we can point our finger. I fear that we have not capitalized on our most recent adversity to make us stronger. Instead, we have become weaker and more divided. It has forced us into boxes with ever-higher walls on all sides.

If we choose to look at the world from the vantage point of division, we all live in little boxes — Republicans and Democrats, Greens and Libertarians, Progressives and Conservatives, Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and myriad others.

Let’s tear down those walls. Divisions isolate us from our neighbors and insulate us from the rest of humanity. If we define spirituality as believing we are part of something bigger than each of us, then humanity offers a spiritual opportunity. Our species has survived and thrived so spectacularly precisely because we recognize our interactions with each other and with our surroundings. Our acknowledged interconnectedness allows us to succeed in ways we otherwise could not. 

There was a time when social issues seemed to divide us. Now, it seems like those social issues are less important and less divisive. Our children, especially, are very comfortable in their tolerance of other’s beliefs and lifestyles.

The great divider is now economic. While there are few that live in extreme poverty any more, the gap between the richest and the rest in this country is growing wider every decade. The founding assumption of this nation was that everybody had a shot at the brass ring. That brass ring, for better or worse, is now most strongly defined by relative income. When the gap widens between the income of the top 1 percent and the middle class, the brass ring moves ever farther away.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • ken_wibecan.jpg Another day in the life

    Each morning I rise from bed, slowly, as is my habit, and sit quietly on the bed contemplating the day that looms before me, writes columnist Ken Wibecan.

    August 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • PPR small talk mug 081714 Corner store is no more

    Columnist Gordie Little offers a reminder of the little grocery stores of days gone by.

    August 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • PPR skin deep mug 081714 High-end products worth the splurge

    Regardless of the price, writes columnist Felicia Krieg, she would buy the core group of her makeup products over and over again.

    August 17, 2014 2 Photos

  • paul_grasso.jpg Tax code needs overhaul

    Corporations may be criticized for exploiting loopholes, but it is the complex tax system that is at fault, according to columnist Paul Grasso.

    August 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hagar_mug1.jpg Ideas about soil health changing

    New techniques like no-til and cover crops can make soil healthier than conventional tillage, according to columnist Peter Hagar.

    August 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Economy may have changed forever

    The Great Recession has reordered the workforce in a way that makes it unlikely it will ever be the same, according to columnist Colin Read.

    August 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Terry_Mattingly.jpg The dark side of fun funerals

    Something strange happened in American culture in the past decade or two: People started planning fun funerals, writes religion columnist Terry Mattingly.

    August 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • PPR fit bits mug Developing power key to success

    While strength is important, the ability to generate power is required for many basic activities in life, writes columnist Ted Santaniello.

    August 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • PPR you had to ask mug 081014 Time to reel in youth sports parents

    Do not scream at a child that he's a loser, at least not in a language he understands, columnist Steve Ouellette writes.

    August 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Treating corporations like people

    Problems arise in many areas when businesses take on the attributes of individuals as mandated by the court, according to columnist Colin Read.

    August 10, 2014 1 Photo

Peter Black: Canadian Dispatch

Lois Clermont, Editor

Cornell Cooperative Extension

Richard Gast: Cornell Ag Extension

Bob Grady

Guest Columns

Peter Hagar: Cornell Ag Connection

Health Advice
Ray Johnson: Climate Science
Gordie Little: Small Talk
Terry Mattingly: On Religion

Steve Ouellette: You Had To Ask

Colin Read: Everybody's Business

Pinch of Time