Looking Back . . . and Ahead

Look back or focus on what’s ahead? That’s always my quandary on New Year’s Day. And a New Year’s at the end of one decade and the beginning of another feels especially noteworthy. So I’m doing a little of both today.

At the dawn of the last decade, the potential for uncorrected computer programming glitches to shut down banks and businesses and to threaten life as we knew it never materialized. Suddenly our collective obsession with “Y2K,” the billions of dollars that had been spent to forestall calamity, the ubiquitous doomsday predictions on the evening news seemed…well, maybe just a little bit overblown. Plenty of people had gone downright nuts about it, stockpiling food, water and ammo in their basements or worse, in underground bunkers they’d built according to specifications found on the Internet. Perhaps the only truly sane people were the legions of Twenty-Something computer geeks who’d been paid a king’s ransom to exterminate those pesky Y2K bugs in every piece of software ever written. They were singing along with their portable karaoke machines all the way to the bank (or to the real estate office to buy the McMansion they’d had their eye on, now that mortgages rates were so low and credit so easy to get.)

At the beginning of the last decade, approximately 1.3 million Americans were incarcerated in our prisons and jails. Today, that number is over 2.3 million – an incarceration rate that’s five times higher than the average incarceration rate of the rest of the world.

At the beginning of the last decade, “911” was the number to call for accidents and emergencies, not a call to arms for a global war on terror. Few Americans would have been able to locate Kabul or Karachi, Tehran or Tikrit on a map.

A decade ago, we weren’t at war with several other nations, nor were we at war among ourselves in the sad and awful way we’ve been recently, as debates over healthcare, the environment, the economy and other hot-button issues have become “Us vs. Them” public smackdowns, filled with rudeness and rage.

At the beginning of the last decade, we knew nothing of iPods or iPhones, Facebook or YouTube, Wii or Wikipedia. The BlackBerry had just been launched and was found only in the briefcases of high-powered corporate execs, not the backpacks of middle-class grade-schoolers.

At the beginning of the last decade, no one got “texted”or “sexted” and you couldn’t “friend” or “unfriend” people except the old-fashioned way. A decade ago, we used full words and sentences to communicate with each other, instead of acronyms, abbreviations and emoticons. We had more F2F communication (that’s “Face to Face”), which, BTW, seemed a whole lot more conducive to building strong personal relationships and creating community, IMHO.

So, what lies ahead in the decade to come? Will technology replace real relationships with virtual ones? Will wars, social, economic and political differences, and fear of “the other” further isolate and separate us, as individuals and as nations?

I don’t think so. I think we humans have a fundamental need to connect with each other on a deep and personal level – and I predict a backlash from all of the things that have served to separate us over the past decade. Well, okay, maybe “backlash” is too strong – call it a “course correction,” then.

I think in the decade to come, we’ll see more community-building, from book clubs and neighborhood block parties to intentional communities and co-ops.

I think we’ll get back to real in-depth and wide-ranging dialogue on issues that matter, instead of sound bites and contentious arguments on radio and TV talk shows.

I think (I pray!) that diplomacy, peacemaking, and cooperation between nations for the benefit of all will become the norm, rather than the exception.

I’m greatly encouraged by the ever-increasing use of collaborative group processes to address social and community problems and hope these will continue to grow. There’s tremendous promise in processes such as:

Yeah, okay. I confess: I’m a big-time, no-holds-barred, starry-eyed optimist, with a hefty dose of idealism thrown in for good measure.

But this is the new decade I’d like to see and the one I’m willing to work toward.

Will you join me?

Posted by Melanie Tagged as: restorative justice healing communities

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