Even if many of our traditional or inherited institutions are broken today, that begs the question what to do about them now.
For, in general, they are not going away. We will still need institutions of governance, education, and business. That’s simply the upshot of our political nature.
At such times, we tend to see two types of problematic would-be reformers. One group are the utopian revolutionaries. Seeing a broken arm or leg, they propose to cut it off and grow a new one. The other group are the willfully blind reactionaries. “It’s not broken,” they insist. “Shake it off.”
That might make for exciting television, but it does not make for good politics or policy.
By and large, our political fights today are not about “fake” news but rather apparently opposed profound truths. Loss of a job or status is profoundly painful; so is historical and daily oppression.
We’re facing a crying need for the cultural equivalent of the kind of personality integration that’s supposed to come with adulthood. It’s not easy for any of us, and it surely won’t be easy for all of us.
Political, cultural, and civic institutions are where we have traditionally turned to work on this kind of integration, and that need is as live as ever. But, given the widespread sense of brokenness and disillusionment, we have an extraordinary opportunity to re-examine how these institutions function, whom they serve, and how we might improve them.
Evolution is sometimes harder than amputation, but that’s what we’re being asked to do. Rather than flee reality or join the shouting fray on television, we could start by asking some simple questions:
What, specifically, is broken?
How do you know?
What would it take to change it?
What would you be willing to do?