Eagle Talk

Our Rapidly Changing Complex World

With this month’s Eagle Talk, I want to introduce you to Ken Barrett, whom I’ve asked to share his thoughts and wisdom with us in this March letter. He has graciously agreed.   He and I serve as fellow board members for CAVU, a non-profit dedicated to conservation, natural resource management and community engagement.(www.cavu.org) Ken is an old friend of CAVU’s founder and innovative director, David Smith.



Ken Barrett grew up in the Hudson Valley of New York, hunting grouse, woodcock and deer, and fishing for bass and trout.  A graduate of Cornell University, he has been a teacher, a non-profit development director, executive director, board member and board chairman, and worked extensively in both the profit and non-profit sectors, most notably the Greater Yellowstone Coalition (GYC), and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP).  While working as its first development director, the Coalition was named one of the five best run non-profits in the United States by its peers and US News and World Report.  While at TRCP, Ken wrote and hosted for five years the nationally televised and award winning outdoor TV show, Life In The Open.  He was the first person ever eliminated in a paintball game, and helped develop the game into an international phenomenon, writing the first rule book, having a great deal of fun along the way.  Ken has lived for over twenty years in Bozeman, Montana, has two grown children, and a grandson.  When not writing, reading, cooking, or enjoying lively conversations, Ken is usually afield with a fly rod or gun and his bird dog.

I’ve attempted to be a good student of history and tried to see events within a historical context. I’m often guilty of reacting in the moment, but usually recover and reexamine the situation with a cooler and more focused head. In a nutshell, here are my thoughts regarding our current situation.
 
Every major technological advancement impacts and changes human culture. We’re all familiar with: fire, bow & arrow, wheel, printing press, lightbulb etc. The impact of the internet and the Cloud dwarf all advancements before them. As Tom Friedman pointed out, it rules our lives. We now depend upon it for nearly everything. But unlike all the other technological advancements, many which helped strengthen institutions and human culture, the internet, as Friedman pointed out, has no institutions, laws or presence of God. It is lawless and answers to no one.  It is free to anyone and everyone. Without it, the election we’ve just experienced could never have happened.
 
Many people around the world have felt put upon, left out, and downright screwed by the ruling class, the so called elites. And well they should be. This isn’t something new, but strong institutions and the culture’s basic belief in those institutions, held the anger of the disenfranchised and disgruntled people in check.  In the case of Americans, we believed in: the government, our President, Walter Cronkite, and Time Magazine. But belief in these and other institutions has been eroding since the Vietnam War and Watergate, and many other scandals and lies have come to light.
 
The Internet and those angry and disenfranchised people have merged into a perfect storm, through often manipulated “news” and downright lies, perpetrated by individuals and organizations that often have agendas quite contrary to current cultural values, and in reality, will harm the very people they profess to represent. This, of course, is nothing new. Demagoguery is as old as the post hunter-gather era.
 
The Internet has collided with people’s discontent and allowed: Brexit, the election of Mr. Tweeter, the emergence and threat of Five Star in Italy, Le Pen, in France, and solid footholds of newly emerging right wing nationalistic groups in Germany, Belgium, most of Western Europe, and even Sweden.
 
Czar Vladimir hasn’t just hit the US with hacks, he’s done so throughout Europe. What better way to reestablish Russian strength than to dissolve the EU and NATO!
 
I don’t see any conspiracy here, but rather, like so many happenings throughout history, a convergence of events, spurred by technological advances, coming together and allowing opportunists to prevail.
 
The old pre-internet world is dying and a new world is emerging. Will we continue to espouse: honesty, charity, decency, fairness, compassion, personal freedoms, equal rights under the law, and all the other basic tenants of the American experiment? Will we truly address climate change, the single biggest threat to the world? Will we come to realize that the “sins of the fathers” and the “chickens coming home to roost” are old and true saws, and make amends for them? Will we see the refugee crisis is one of our own making? Will we acknowledge the era of the robot is upon us and what it means for the workplace and workers? Will we succumb to our darker angels, and turn our lives over to the Tweeters, Putin’s, Le Pen’s and other “saviors?”
 
Only time will tell, but as I said after 9/11, I see a long period of unrest and unpleasantness ahead. As the great thinker Thomas Berry said to me, “All great changes are accompanied by periods of unrest, usually spurred on by fearful people trying to hold on to status quo.” Friedman fears we Americans may become Sunnis and Shiites.
 
All of us are caught up in this sea change, it’s bigger than anything we’ve seen or experienced before.

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