C20 of The Great Disruption - Guess Who's in Charge

(Obviously we are in charge.)

This is the final chapter in the book.

It starts with a story.

Gilding imagines he is sitting in a cafe in Amsterdam in 1938 with his friend Pieter. Across the canal is the Frank house where Anne is now nine years old. Pieter, echoing the opinion of other smart people of the time, says that he believes in a few years Germany will violate Holland's neutrality, occupy most of Europe, kill maybe six million Jews (including the little Frank girl across the way) in a war that will eventually claim fifty million civilian and military lives. He further speculates that the US will not get in the conflict until the last moment - when the issue is very much in doubt.

Although Pieter feels the danger is obvious he doesn't see the possibility of any action taken anytime soon - even in Europe which will be affected first. The political leadership is not there; neither are the people.

As the now depressed 1938 Gilding cycles home, he wonders what he should do. That night he discusses the situation with his wife. They agree; it can't be that bad. Surely the leadership would do something. They decide to wait and see what happens.

Modern day Gilding's point is that the leadership is us. Business leaders (many of whom Gilding regards as smart, moral people) are limited. Political leaders (many of whom who are smart and moral; many of whom who are idiots and immoral) are also limited.

It's easy to give up. Gilding quotes this from the poem Common Sense by Paul Williams...

On the edge of the dream
we face our deepest doubts.
Now that it all is almost real
a terrible fear of success takes hold
and we grab desperately, uncontrollably, for failure.
One last chance to get off easy.
Who among us really wants to save the world,
to be born again into two thousand more years
of struggle?
How much sweeter to be the doomed generation,
floating gently on the errors and villainy of others,
towards some glorious apocalypse now…
Hallelujah! It's not my fault --
Bring on the end times!

Gilding's final point is this.

We need to get past stuff. We need to live happy, meaningful lives, not lives dominated by empty consumption.

Further, we need to talk and act - to get involved, even get mad - but as Gilding notes (maybe hard for some of us) not to get crazy. We need to follow the examples of Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King.

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