Sunday, May 15, 2022

How the West Made the War in Ukraine Almost Inevitable

The Soviet Union had collapsed, the former Communist countries of Eastern Europe were free, the world balance of power had changed; the cold war was over.  Russia was starting to work with the US and Europe as a friend.

But then policy makers and Europe decided to take advantage of the situation and expand NATO right up to Russia's borders.   Was there a threat current or future that caused this move?  No.   It was instead a visceral desire to contain Russia; a never again vow.   Russia would not even be allowed to have a reasonable zone of influence in Eastern Europe, such as the US has in the Americas.

But by so doing, the west embarked on a new cold war.   There was no question that Russia would react negatively to this move.   It was an in-your-face aggression prompted by the weakness of Russia.   

Putin became obsessed with preventing Russia from being hemmed in.   He reached out to China to secure his southeastern flank.   He fought the war in Chechnya and the Crimea.   

And then he clearly made moves indicating that he was planning on invading Ukraine.   There was lots of rhetoric about the Russian people and mother Russia, but it was mostly really all about stopping the accretion of NATO. 

The question is, given these basic facts, why didn't President Biden and the EU, prior to the Russian invasion, offer to keep the Ukraine out of NATO in exchange for Russia guaranteeing that it would never invade Ukraine?  The Ukraine did say it was not pursuing NATO membership.

This would have been no loss to the west, and a huge gain for Putin.   But Biden and other western leaders don't like to appear to give in to bullies like Putin.   And they certainly don't like giving Putin a big win domestically.  

So Ukraine is being bombarded and lives destroyed because of a desire by Biden and others to save face.

But at it's core, it's much the same mentality that has always viewed as a friend a country that was friendly to US interests regardless how barbaric and undemocratic its leadership, and to see as a foe any country that was not friendly to our interests, regardless how democratically elected they were.   It is the desire for empire, not in the old sense but in tactical control and influence.

But we aren't willing to go to war to defend this empire.   We instead use other means such as sanctions.   That's because it's really not about national interests in any true sense, certainly not one that the American people would support.   

And so the Ukrainian people suffer.  They are caught in the middle of the West and Russia not wanting to loose face and power, but the West not willing to put its military force into the equation and so leaving the ground to Russia.

Saturday, February 26, 2022

The Vanished Frontier

Throughout all of man's development, there have always been frontiers, places either geographic or intellectual, where an individual could go to grow, to make a new person of himself, to make his fortune – places where anything was possible because it was an open book, man had not been there or done that before

For most of man's history, however, it was only exceptional individuals who had that opportunity.   For the vast majority of mankind, the present was their only reality and there was no knowledge of and therefore no longing for something different.  They were grounded in the knowledge of their place and value in their society.

There was no significant change in this societal dynamic until the enlightenment, when the masses came to realize that a better life was their due, resulting in revolutions occurring throughout the western world.   Later, the industrial revolution provided significantly expanded frontiers.

As recently as 100 years ago, the United States still had ample geographic frontiers and untold intellectual ones.   Even big cities like New York were frontiers because they were evolving and growing at such a rate that so much was possible, the opportunities were endless. 

After WWII, the geographic frontier shrank to almost nothing.   Not that there weren't still vast areas in the country that were wild or semi-wild, but there were no areas where man had not left his footprint, where he had not made his claims.   The days of homestead9ing were long gone. 

But intellectual frontiers were expanding at an incredible rate.   Especially in the sciences, technology, the questions to be explored were endless. 

Fast forward to the present.   There are no more frontiers really.   Not that there aren't still scientific questions to be answered, but the questions have gotten either smaller and smaller, and the payback or reward less and less, or they are so large and basic as to be Einsteinian, that even the questions are beyond the grasp of most. 

One could say that the frontier of technology in endless.   In one sense that may be true, but one can see already that advances in technology are not improving our lives; it is not as we once thought it would be.    Also we've reached the point of diminishing returns, in that technological changes are only incremental. 

In one sense, one could say that the only frontier left is making money.   There seems to always be new ways to be found to make money.   There are those who find that a driving force.   But for many, that is not the holy grail, and for those that it is, it is a spiritually empty grail.  There is nothing that enlarges man, enlarges his spirit, by making more money.

Which brings me to the point of this post.   Much has been written about the phenomenon of millennial boys and young men having little ambition; that they lack the drive that people had in the past.   They seem to be drifting. 

Some have looked to the increased role of women in the formerly exclusive masculine world of business and science to explain this.   But I think that hypothesis is not warranted. 

Instead, I think that boys and young men have no drive because they don't see possibilities open to them.   There are no frontiers that excite their imagination.   They don't see a way to be free of their past and present.   Part of that may be a failure of their education – everything seems blah to them – but I think the real reason is the lack of frontiers, the lack of challenge.   Instead they escape into the fantasy world of video games and seek refuge in technology.   This does not bode well for America's future in any sense – economically, politically, or socially. 

So what are we as a society to do?  The world is the way it is and there's nothing to be done to change it.   Perhaps the only frontier left is the spiritual one.   This has been a dead issue for a long time.   True spirituality has had no place in our society.   Yet it is needed now more than ever. 

If boys and young men came to have faith in themselves, to not look to outside things to make them feel somebody, worthy.    If they came to be open to the presence of God/Buddha inside them – not the Evangelical's God full of vengeance and hatred towards all who don't follow his lead – but the Divine essence that we are born with and can be found in our heart, which is love, light, faith, trust, humility, gratitude, compassion, joy, contentment, strength, courage, and wisdom. 

If boys and young men thus became the full potential of human beings, then they would face the world and their future with energy, to do whatever it is that they decided was meant for them.   This is my hope for the future.

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Republican's "Legitimate Political Discourse"

Is there no end to the mendacity of Republican Party leaders; have they no shame?   We've heard them labeling real news, "fake" news, whereas it is their news which is fake.   We've heard their claims that the 2020 election was stolen by fraud, whereas they are the ones who have perpetuated fraud in an attempt to steal the election. 

Now we have the Republican National Committee criticizing the January 6 Special Committee, and Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, for the "persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse."

Although Party leaders said afterwards that that description was not meant to apply to the rioters who stormed the capitol, how deceitful are they.   That is precisely what and whom the January 6 investigation is looking into.   Republican leaders – Trump acolytes all – want to have their cake and eat it too.   Not so fast!

All thinking Americans regardless of Party allegiance should rise up against this mendacious statement and say, "The attack on the capitol was not legitimate political discourse." 

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Making the Titans of Finance and Industry Accept Social Responsibility

Why is our society, our world, ignoring the warnings of climate change, destroying our environment, creating ever-larger inequality even as more people are lifted out of poverty?  Why is it that the U.S. middle class, which used to be such a strong, vibrant element of our society has become weak and stagnant?

The reason for all of this lies not with the mass of people on this Earth, who have no or little control of anything, even in their own lives.   The reason lies with those with ultimate power – the corporate titans of finance and industry.   

It is they who decide what is in their corporation's best interest, which is what will make the most money in the short run, and implement that plan of action without any concern for the plan's impact on the public good or the welfare of their workers.  And it is they who largely determine the regulatory scope of government, regardless which Party is in power, and so they are in most critical areas effectively unregulated.   

This is not an indictment of capitalism, as I made clear in my post, "Is the Problem Capitalism or Our Society?"  Regardless the economic system, it is the holders of capital – whether they be aristocrats, political dictators (Communist, fascist, or otherwise), or corporate titans – that have determined the fate of their economies, their workers, and the general public.   It is thus instead an indictment of man-made society going back millennia. 

Until the dawn of the 20th century, those who controlled capital pretty much had their way.   Whether it was the robber barons of the industrial revolution or the aristocrats of the old social/political order, these people could do what they wanted and treat people, whether their workers or cottagers, as they wanted.  Income inequality was huge with the large mass of people being both poor and illiterate.   Slavery may have been the most egregious example of this system, but it was definitely part of the system. 

It was only with the ascendancy of Teddy Roosevelt, of all people – a wealthy Republican – that finally some people with political power felt the huge damage that those with unregulated power wreaked on the masses, while acquiring astronomical wealth.   And so the progressive era was born.   The trusts were broken up, anti-trust laws were passed, and workers were protected and empowered for the first time, both through protective laws as well as government support for the growth of labor unions.   This movement gained further momentum in the 30s because of people's reaction to capitalism during the Great Depression and the election of F.D.R. with his crusading New Deal. 

As a result, the middle class grew from a small segment at the turn of the 20th century (15 - 20%) to become the largest single bloc in the population (around 70%) and the backbone of the country's economic prosperity at its highpoint in the 1970s.  This increase came about because the lower working class had largely become middle class.   In 1970, 62% of the nation's aggregate income went to middle-class households, compared to 29% for upper-income households. 

Then Ronald Reagan was elected President and things started changing.   Central to that change was the famous Reagan line, "Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem."  

From that perspective, the dismantling of government regulations that had protected the public and workers began and gathered steam in the decades that followed.   Culminating perhaps most significantly in the repeal of the Steagall-Glass Act which was passed to regulate banks in the aftermath of the 1929 stock market crash.   

This repeal happened during an otherwise liberal Democratic administration (Clinton), but with wall street insiders in key cabinet positions and Republicans in control of both the House and Senate.   Efforts to reenact Steagall-Glass after the 2008 market crash and recession failed, as did efforts to regulate derivatives – all of this again under a Democratic administration with full control of Congress. 

The result of this disempowering of workers/empowering of corporations together with the forces of globalization, which began in the 1970s, resulted in the stagnation of worker's salaries.    While wages have risen (26%), their purchasing power has stayed the same during the 50 years between the 1970s and 2020; or said another way, salaries adjusted for inflation have remained the same.   While those in the top 1% rose 160% during the same period, unadjusted for inflation.

As a result of that stagnation together with many formerly middle-class workers falling back into the lower-class income category, the middle class in 2015 accounted for just under 50% of the population – a significant drop since the 70s – and accounted for only 43$ of the nation's aggregate income, down from 62% in 1970. 

The middle class was also the main victim of the finance industry's predatory lending schemes, made possible when Steagall-Glass was repealed, that were a major cause of the 2008 recession.   The recession cost the middle class not only jobs but also resulted in the foreclosure of millions of homes.   (I do not include the upper class as a main victim of the recession because although they lost heavily, they generally regained their wealth when the market rebounded.) 

Another measure of how the middle class have fared during this period is to look at income inequality.   One measure of this is that in 1929, the richest 0.1% of Americans held 25% of the country's wealth.   By the 1970s, that percentage had fallen to below 10%.   Over the past 40 years, it has again risen to around 20%.

We have gone back to the future, with those with the control of capital being largely unregulated.   Yes, we don't have child labor anymore and various other controls remain in place.   But so many have been weakened or repealed that corporations have been empowered to consider almost no interests other than their own greed.   Workers are no longer considered an asset to be nourished and grown but as a cost center to be controlled. 

Clearly, if left to their own devices, corporate leaders will not do what is in the best interest of anyone other than themselves.   They only act as responsible members of society when they are forced to by government laws. 

And so, in one post, "Toward a Reformed Capitalism," I urged the laws of incorporation be changed to force companies to consider their workers' interest as well as the public good.   Let me quote from that post:

"We must reexamine what a corporation is.  What is its function in our economy and society?

Corporations are a creature of the law.  Corporations are allowed the benefits of incorporation because they provide something of value … they are critical to the economic health of the country and of their workers.  They also thus meet a societal need.

So from a governmental/societal perspective, corporations exist to enhance the greater good.  Unfortunately, as we have seen repeatedly ever since the industrial revolution, corporations have been mostly intent on making money and so have done much that harms, that is not in keeping with, the greater good.  And typically with full knowledge of that harm.    And they have been abetted by the government's action or inaction.

The answer to this conundrum is to reform the laws under which corporations are organized by restructuring their governance.  The goal of this effort should be to make consideration of the greater good … the public interest as well as worker interest … an integral part of the corporate decision making process. "  Specific recommendations are made in the post. 

These recommendations are not unrealistic or totally novel.   Most countries in the EU require employee board-level representation.  They also require a number of "independent" directors; but these are not directors who are tasked with representing the public good, they are just tasked with preventing conflict of interest in decision making.   My recommendations go much further.

This will take strong political leadership and lock-step support from Democrats in Congress because this will certainly not be a bi-partisan effort, not in the current political climate. 

This may result in the end of corporations as we have known them, but they will still be strong and financially profitable.  As I noted in the post, this proposal does not in any way eliminate the profit motive in corporate decision making, nor the amount of profit they seek to make.   It just ensures that the public good and workers' interests are considered in the adoption of corporate plans, and so it will most likely impact the amount of profit.   

Republicans will scream, "socialism."  But this is not socialism in any form; government is not taking over the role of the private sector.   This is not even the government hovering over or involving itself in corporate decision making; it is just setting the law which corporations must follow.   

Clearly this is a change in the way things have been done.   But it is a change that is wholly in keeping with the reason why corporations are sanctioned by the government, why government gives corporations the benefits of incorporation.   And it is past due because of the havoc corporations have caused in the economy, the environment, and people's well-being due to the unregulated effect of corporate greed over the past four decades.   

It is important to note that in the period between the passage of Glass-Steagall in 1933 and its repeal in 1999, the U.S. suffered no major financial crisis – there were recessions but they were due to monetary policies or other factors.   Further, during the period of progressive corporate regulation and increasing government measures supporting low income families, income inequality decreased.   

Since the repeal of that act we have had a major financial crisis and economic downturn, major stuck market volatility.   That together with the decrease in regulation and lower-income supports since the 80s (pre-Biden) returned income inequality to its pre-Depression levels.   One measure of this is that in 1929, the richest 0.1% of Americans held 25% of the country's wealth.   By the 1970s, that percentage had fallen to below 10%.   Over the past 40 years, it has again risen to around 20%.

If we want to maintain a sound, stable economy and one that fosters greater income equality, then government must take this step to reform capitalism and our society. 

Monday, December 27, 2021

An Open Letter to Democratic Party Leaders

My fellow Democratic colleague:

In 2004, I warned in my book, We Still Hold These Truths, that our democracy was being attacked from within.  I stated that the new radical Republicans were seeking to destroy our historic values.   That the argument with them was not just about big v small government.   "At risk is the heart of our democracy, our historic values. "  A claim that found little support at the time; it was felt to be over the top.   And in that book, I set forth a vision for the Party that would counter that threat. 

Recently in The New York Times, there was an op-ed piece about whether Democrats were adding to the strength of the Republican take-over effort in 2022 and 2024 by alienating middle-class voters through it's policies.   

One commentator, expressing the same view as several others, said that "the Democratic Party over the past few decades has gotten into the position of appearing to oppose and scorn widely cherished institutions — conventional nuclear family, religion, patriotism, capitalism, wealth, norms of masculinity and femininity, then saying “vote for me.” Doesn’t sound like a winning strategy to me." 

The key word here is "appearing."  As I wrote in my book, We Still Hold These Truths, the Democratic Party doesn't take second place to Republicans when it comes to supporting the family, religion, patriotism, capitalism, etc.   The  record of the Party, both past and present, is clear. 

What has happened is that Democrats have for several decades allowed Republicans to successfully define them in these anti-American-values terms, distorting the essence of the Party's Liberal policies.   

There is nothing, for example, in our pro-choice policies or those supporting the LGBTQ community, that are anti-family, anti-religion, or other core historic American values; indeed, they spring from them.   They may be against what many people feel are traditional American norms, but they are not against our historic values.   And it is up to Democrats to explain this fact.

The question that I addressed in writing the book was how to combat this Republican assault and their distortion of the Democratic position.   It is not by back-tracking on Democratic support for the right to abortion, for the LGBTQ community, for fairer taxes, and other matters that are labeled by Republicans as anti-family and anti-capitalism.   

But it is certainly not in the strident positions of AOC and her fellow progressives, which alienate not only the middle class but many liberals. 

The answer, I argued, is to frame the Democratic position on these and other issues in terms of American core values – our historic documents, and especially the Declaration of Independence.   These are the sole, the heart of our democracy; they are as American as apple pie, familiar to all.   I argued at the time that Democrats must win back the hearts and minds of the American people.   The need is more acute today than ever; I just pray it is not too late. 

James Fallows, National Correspondent, The Atlantic Monthly, urged Americans to read We Still Hold These Truths, saying it "is a systematic and serious effort to make [the national values and policy] debate as clear and valuable as it can be. Agree or disagree with his specific conclusions, the questions he is asking are the right ones for the public this year."


I urge you to read We Still Hold These Truths and watch the YouTube video, "We Still Hold These Truths: The Democrats' Vision",  For more information on the book, go to 


Ronald L. Hirsch 

Sunday, November 28, 2021

The State of American Democracy, the Body Politic

Over the course of almost 250 years, American democracy has often been a raucous place, both at the level of the citizenry and elected officials.   But throughout those years, despite the divisions caused in our country by racism, income inequality, and ethnic bigotry, when it came time for receiving the results of elections, they have always been respected.   Majority rule has prevailed.   

And despite many people, especially Blacks, having ample cause to be aggrieved by the physical, psychic, or economic violence they experienced, America has been a place of overwhelmingly peaceful coexistence, on the surface.   Yes, there have been riots and protests that have resulted usually from cataclysmic events, but these disturbances generally did not result in a hardening of the divisions among us. 

The centripetal force has been greater than the centrifugal force.   One could be cynical and say that the centripetal force was mostly due to the aggrieved's weakness.   While that was certainly a factor, I believe that the fact that people felt that we were all Americans, regardless of our backgrounds and place of origin, and that we shared a history even though it was not really ours, because we believed in the promise of America regardless how distant it was – this was the essence of the centripetal force.   There was at some level a belief in the good-hearted nature of the body politic, there was hope, despite all the nastiness that was observed at an individual or even group level. 

The threat to our democracy now is not coming from these traditionally aggrieved groups, the classic source of revolution, but ironically from those who have been privileged but feel threatened by the aggrieved groups. 

Starting during the Reagan years, the attitude of those on the right began to harden.   The sense of conviviality with their opponents, and later even civility, was lost.   People became angry.

Partly it stemmed from Reagan's famous line that, "government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem."  And so the division came to be not just the traditional liberal/conservative argument about big government v small government, but government v private rights, often the de facto rights of white privilege.   

The other factor was the advent of Lee Atwater and his combative, dirty tricks, form of campaigning.   This was the beginning of the Republican's national embrace of the big lie, racial fear-mongering, smears and winning at all costs. 

And so over the next three decades, the Republicans became obstructionists when they weren't in power because they saw that as the best way to win the next election, by making it difficult if not impossible for the Democrats to make good on their promises.   Bi-partisanship was out the door, except when they were in power. 

With the election of Obama, this principle reached a fever pitch.    The epitome was probably Senator McConnell's not giving Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, a hearing, flouting all precedent, the excuse being a presidential election 7 1/2 months off. 

The election of Obama did something else.   The election of a Black President enabled the Republicans to really put fear into the hearts and minds of their base – the fear of whites losing their privileged position in American society and workplace.   Now not only were legislators in Washington nasty, people on the streets became nasty. 

But that was all just rehearsal for the real "show" - the election and presidency of Donald Trump.   Trump was able to build on the long held-in-check fears and bigotry of many Americans – towards non-whites, be they Blacks, Hispanics, or Muslims and their distrust of government, and Evangelicals' frustration at being excluded from the halls of power and not being listened to by the larger society – and turn his base and the majority of Republicans into a mob that hates liberals and distrusts the government as an agent of liberals.   He gave bigotry, distrust, and hatred legitimacy; people no longer needed to keep their voices to themselves.

The explosion of social media during this same period provided an unchecked petri dish for the expansion this animus, misinformation, and outright lies into the deepest recesses of the minds of most Republicans.   That this is no longer just the state of what was thought of as Trump's core base can be seen in the fact that 75% of Republicans surveyed by PEW Research in January 2021 believed that the election of President Biden was not legitimate; they bought the Trump argument, they bought the fake news. 

We have reached a point in the public arena where most Republicans will believe anything they are told by Trump, his allies, and FOX News, and will not believe anything the Democrats or the rest of the media says to the contrary.   What is up is down for them; there is no objective truth.  Irrationality has been mainstreamed.

This distrust has even impacted the legitimacy of government and science regarding efforts to control the pandemic.  The misinformation coursing through social media regarding the vaccine is beyond bizarre, yet that is what these people believe.   And when Republican leaders tell them that vaccine mandates and mask mandates are an assault on their Constitutional freedoms, they believe that too.

Trump said once during the campaign that "I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters. "   That unfortunately might be true.   It is hard to imagine anything happening that would discredit Trump and his sycophantic allies in the eyes of their base, because all Trump has to do is label the truth "fake news" and his minions will believe him. 

The latest act of hypocritical mendacity by the Republican leadership is that they are calling President Biden to task for not meeting his campaign pledge to control the virus, when it is their stand against vaccine mandates and mask mandates that has removed the only power he potentially had to control the virus.   The large number of unvaccinated Americans, and thus the ongoing surges, is largely a product of their failure to support science and proven epidemiological methods.

Regardless whether Democrats manage to maintain power in the midterms and 2024, it is highly likely, given Republican gerrymandering and the situation I've described, that Congress will remain evenly and combatively divided.   I fear we will have reached a situation in which the electorate, the body politic, is divided more deeply than at any time in our history, except for the Civil War. 

And I can think of nothing that would turn the tide, barring a near-total turnabout by Republican elected officials.   But even when Trump at some point ceases to be in the picture,  and it is inevitable that that will occur, it is pretty clear that they will not lead but instead pander to their base in order to get elected.   They have created a monster and it must be fed.   They have no ethics and they have no shame. 

It seems likely that we are struck with this dynamic until there is a generational change or some major event occurs that shakes up the status quo.   How sad. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

The False Promise of the Future

We as a society/culture are very future-oriented.   Why?  Because we feel the future holds the promise of having better lives, often through advances in science and technology. 

This perspective was boldly stated 50-60 years ago by companies such as DuPont, "Better living through chemistry," and General Electric, "Progress is our most important product."  The common thought was that everyone's lives would be made easier, not just housewives', by advances in science and technology.   As a result we would spend less time working – it was expected that the work-week would shrink to 35 hours – and more time relaxing and playing. 

As we know, however, although women do spend less time, certainly less arduous time, in keeping house and clothes clean and cooking than they did pre-WWII, it is safe to say that no one's life has gotten easier, that our work time has reduced and play time increased.   In fact just the opposite. 

We live now in a world where everyone is constantly connected through technology and is therefore expected to be available at all times, whether for work or otherwise.   We live in a world where the demands of work have become more oppressive.   And where mothers, while they spend less time on certain tasks, have been given a whole new set of tasks which take up a huge amount of time and energy, e.g. soccer moms.

Everything has become more complicated, not easier, and with it, the frustrations of completing tasks, of knowing how to move forward has increased.   This is not how it was supposed to be.   This is not what the prophets of progress, of the future, had promised us. 

But it gets worse.   It's not only that the promise hasn't panned out, the whole premise is an example of wrong thinking. 

What would make our lives truly better than they are now?  Let me list a few things for starters.   Feeling secure.   Feeling good about yourself.   Feeling you are loved.   Feeling you can trust others.   Feeling you will be ok regardless what life throws your way. 

It is safe to say that for most people, the feelings I just listed would not be descriptive.   Yet what is life if one does not have these feelings/knowledge.   You can have all the material wealth in the world, and still not be happy, still not feel secure.   We see evidence of that all around us, both among the rich and powerful and those at the other end of the affluence/power scale. 

The problem is how our culture – and it's not just America's, it's now the world's – defines happiness.   Happiness in this scenario, as portrayed in countless movies, ads, and media, consists of having the financial ability to acquire the things that make for the "good" life.   To get what you want, to be successful, on any level.   If you do, you will be happy; if you don't, you will be frustrated and upset. 

From practical experience we all know this is not true.   Even when people get what they want, they still want more, they aren't satisfied, they worry about losing what they have.   Our masked insecurity gives us no peace.

What is needed to allow the vast majority of people to lead a meaningfully better life, to experience peace, happiness, and security, not necessarily materially, is a major shift in how our culture defines happiness. 

Luckily we don't have to look very far.   The teachings of Buddhism and that of the mystical traditions of all three major Abrahamic faiths (not the organized religions) all teach that happiness means to be at peace with oneself, to have good self-esteem, to know that you will be ok regardless what life throws your way.   That happiness comes from within and is not dependent on anything outside you. 

But how do we get to there from here?  The answer is back to the future.   Advances of science and technology are all well and good.   But they are meaningless, if not destructive, if people are not grounded in the past – not in the sense of their past, but the past of mankind.   And first and foremost, that involves a connection to and faith in a cosmic force larger than ourselves, and derivatively faith in ourselves.   

Whether it's the cosmic force of the Buddhist universe (Buddha is not a God, a deity, so the faith is not in him) or the Divine essence that the mystical traditions of the Abrahamic faiths teach is in each of us, or whether it's a more new-age concept of God, or the Universe or your higher power – humans must know that they are not put on this earth to fulfill some banal material or sexual desire. 

They are instead put on earth to be good human beings.   Human beings are born with the divine essence inside them.   And what is that divine essence?  It is light, love, faith, trust, compassion, humility, gratefulness, joy, contentment, strength, courage, and wisdom.   A human being treats other people with kindness, which is why inhumanity is defined as cruelty.   A human being has lived his life well if he has offered joy to himself and others and made a positive difference in the lives of others. 

If we were grounded in this faith in ourselves and the universe, we would have no fear of the future, of death, or of anything else.  We would do, commit our lives to, whatever we felt inside us that we were meant to do, not what our culture or our parents want us to do.  And we would be happy doing what we felt we were meant to do, regardless whether we were "successful. "  True happiness is derived from the doing, not by the outcome. 

And if we lived in a world where everyone was grounded in this faith, we would not be faced with the competitive forces we experience today.   Society would be more communal in nature with people helping others.   Everyone would have their acknowledged place at the table (not as in 'know your place").   And if people could not provide for themselves, government would provide the resources so all people could live a life of dignity and respect. 

There would still be the rich and the poor, but the difference would be far less and the poor would want for none of the essentials of life or of the equal opportunity to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. 

Does this sound like a utopia?   I guess the answer would have to be, yes.  But the sad thing is that man has it in his ability to create such a world.   He has been given a highly developed brain but has not used that brain to make human life better, on a higher plane, than animal life.   Instead, man's brain, his mind, has in many ways made his life worse; there is no such thing as a neurotic animal, unless he has come under the control of man; whereas neurosis in man, psychic suffering, is universal.   Animals are wise in ways which men have ceased to be. 

I don't know what the answer to these observations is.   But the observation, the truth, needs to be spoken.   If there is any hope for man, it is with people becoming aware of this truth, understanding its impact, and vowing to change their approach to life accordingly.   The change will come one person at a time.   Perhaps over the course of a generation, this movement will create a sufficient mass to have an impact on the rest of society.