(RNS) Seems to me we made substantial progress in 2013.

We got over the idea that “class warfare” didn’t exist or was the whining of envious losers. We saw the warfare up close and personal, saw who was waging it — the rich against everyone else — and saw its tragic, anti-democratic and self-defeating outcomes.

Big year in technology. A renegade contractor enabled us to see the National Security Agency’s surveillance sickness and the spineless politicians who won’t stand up to it. Seeing it will enable citizens to address it.

The flag of the National Security Agency, the seal used was created in September 1966. The flag itself has been in use since at least February 2001.

The flag of the National Security Agency, the seal used was created in September 1966. The flag itself has been in use since at least February 2001. photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain


This image is available for Web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

No major new products from tech-land. Instead, those of us who rely on technology for our work and home life discovered new ways to manage work, manage time, avoid crowded stores, listen to music, watch television, communicate with family, and encrypt our email against the NSA. We did so using year-old smartphones and tablets and two-year-old computers.

We got a sobering look at the insufferable arrogance of the Silicon Valley techno-set. After over-the-top self-celebrations, Gilded Age indulgences and romper room workplaces, serious people began to take technology to saner regions. Even bankrupt Detroit got some startup buzz.

People proved to be smart and resilient. They stayed away from theaters showing lousy movies. They toned down their fascination with Facebook, now revealed as privacy-challenged and ad-saturated. They rallied to a new pope who seems the real deal and ignored shrill radio commentators calling him a “Marxist.” The Tea Party wore out its welcome, leaving congressional Republicans running over a cliff and no one following them.

Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, Gauteng, on 13 May 2008.

Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, Gauteng, on May 13, 2008. Photo courtesy South Africa The Good News / www.sagoodnews.co.za, via Wikimedia Commons


This image is available for Web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Not too many people seemed troubled when a “Duck Dynasty” star got suspended for being a raging bigot. But a whole planet of people cared that Nelson Mandela had waged his lonely struggle against bigotry.

Enterprises clinging to faded business models found their customers venturing elsewhere. Bricks-and-mortar retailers, for example, got swamped by online commerce. Change-resistant legacy churches lost more market share. Private colleges faced pushback against escalating costs.

Bookstores and book publishers discovered that people just want to read, not engage in some retro-romance with paper. Beyonce went straight to the public with her latest pop album and skipped the exploitation layers entirely. Cable networks created their own programming.

All of these changes, from e-commerce to e-church to e-publishing, sent a clear message: You can’t just open your doors and expect people to walk in. Consumers are smarter than that. They don’t hesitate to change the way they do the basics, such as shopping for groceries or buying cars and furniture.

Did everything come up roses? Sadly, no. It was a rotten year in some respects. Think NSA, Chase Bank, John Boehner, Koch Brothers, scammers preying on soldiers and the elderly, payday lenders and other bottom-feeders, and legalize-marijuana shills.

Even so, I end the year feeling positive. My business travels this year took me to many places, from big cities like New York and Boston to down-home places such as Orange, Texas; Mobile, Ala.; and Clarksville, Tenn. In all of them, I met some wonderful people who were working hard at being decent, God-loving, family-friendly and sensible.

Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the author of “Just Wondering, Jesus” and founder of the Church Wellness Project. Photo courtesy Tom Ehrich

Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the author of “Just Wondering, Jesus” and founder of the Church Wellness Project. Photo courtesy Tom Ehrich


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

It could be that recent signs of end-of-empire decadence are like Miley Cyrus’ grinding and tongue wagging — an act that is all surface. At the level where people live, I think decency is on the rise. So is common sense.

(Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the author of “Just Wondering, Jesus” and founder of the Church Wellness Project. His website is www.morningwalkmedia.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @tomehrich.)

 

YS/LEM END EHRICH

8 Comments

  1. What is the problem you see with the Koch brothers that you don’t, apparently see with George Soros since you made no reference to the latter despite his doing pretty much what the Koch brothers do for different groups?

    Your sentence in which you mention the Kochs is more negative than your remark about Miley.

  2. You lost me completely near the end with “god-loving people”.

    Decency is improving because society is getting more civilized.
    We are rejecting the barbaric judgements against gays, lesbians, successful women and inter-racial marriage.

    You should thank the growing numbers of Agnostics and Atheists who are rejecting the ancient, barbaric manacles of dogma.

    Sanity – not religion – is finally emerging in society.

    • “Sanity – not religion – is finally emerging in society.”- Shaman.

      Sure it is! Just look at how casually we treat the about-to-be-born. Just look how easy it is to discard commitments, requiring children to wonder “Who is my daddy?” or “Who is my mommy?”

      Oodles of stories appear daily about people who have rejected personal responsibility in their lives.

      Tell us where you live. The rest of us are not able to purchase rose-colored glasses anywhere nearby.

      Atheists have their own dogma: There is no higher being or authority.” Agnostics are not in this group; they simply aren’t sure how to consider metaphysical notions.

      There’s no citation from the bible that tells us to treat classes of people poorly.

      • Looks like you just want power over others.
        You want to control people, make them do things your way.
        You like authority.

        None of that is very decent. And none of it is needed.

        Atheists don’t believe in a god. That’s all.
        Show me a god and I’ll reconsider.

        • Shaman, perhaps you’re too young to understand the tremendous decline that has occurred in our culture during the past half century. Maybe you were brought up to believe that you as an individual are the final arbiter of good and bad.

          I like authority? It appears from what you have written that you like it every bit as much as I do. The difference is that, it seems, you consider yourself to be the ultimate authority. In my day responsible parents dealt with their children who thought this way in a consistent manner so that they would grow out of it by the time they became adults.

          Not overlooked is your overlooking the examples of cultural decline we see every day. I bet, though, that you do your best to insulate yourself from it–without ever asking why things are this way.

          • I see no sign of cultural decline. I do see a breakdown of the social compact, though. And much of it can be blamed on right wing religious politics which have divided the country most markedly on taxes and disparity of income.

            If Christianity is for the poor you would think a nation of 70% Christian might be a bit more socialist. Instead it is all, ‘Tax the poor and give to the rich’ in the USA today.

            Relgious agendas have been destroying America since Ronald Reagan and the Christian Coalition made it a national project. Yes. I’m old enough to remember that.

            Atheists see progress. But Christians see what they have always seen ‘Sinners. So many sinners.’

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