You're unique, just like everybody else.
That's a tag line I've heard for years, a subtle put-down of a consumer culture that feeds off our desire to make a personal statement in the way we interact with the world.
We all want to make a personal statement. We all want to stand out from the crowd. Clothing makers, accessory makers, sellers of all sorts of consumer goods, all of them try to paint themselves as the agent of that statement of individuality.
What a shuck!
Look - the human population of this planet right now is somewhere between 6.5 and 7 billion people. If we accept the lower number, here's what it looks like written out:
That's a lot of people!
Do any of us seriously believe that we're so special that there's no one else in all those billions of human beings who isn't our equal in just about everything we do, or perhaps even our superior?
How about on a national level? The population of the United States is about 310 million people. If my arithmetic is correct, that means that we Americans are less than one-twentieth of the population of the world.
Numerically, we're also-rans. How is it that we have so much power, so much influence?
How is it that we're so special?
That's a good question. We have a relatively open and free society that is admired, even as it's feared, by many people in the world. We have a standard of living that is in most ways better than anyone else in the world. We have a lot going for us.
We also have a national debt that is beginning to overwhelm us. We have a healthcare system that sooner or later is going to bankrupt us. We have a society that is feeling the effects of too much rich food and too many good things - we're fat, and getting fatter, and it's affecting our health and long-term quality of life.
But we're special.
Unless we get a handle on these problems, and others equally serious, we'll be less special soon enough. History has a way of redressing imbalances when they exist - nothing lasts forever.
I don't want us to be has-beens. I don't want my country to be a shadow of what it once was.
Unless we begin to act like adults, though, the shadows will settle in on us, and it will be someone else's century.
Adults face facts.
Adults can make tough decisions.
Adults do what's necessary.
Adults don't hide from the truth.
Adults protect children, because children don't usually make wise decisions.
Children are swayed by impulse.
Children don't think about things long-term.
Children behave emotionally.
Children need to have adults look after them.
What are we today? Who will we be tomorrow?