“…and our Posterity…”

US Constitution - Preamble

Courtesy Ourdocuments.gov.

It’s encouraging to note that when we do a web search for those three little words “and our Posterity” most of the first page results point to the Preamble of the United States Constitution. That preamble, which many of us had to learn in elementary school, is just 52 words long but it shouts to the world so much about what America was and still is, for the most part. [1] The preamble told the world that America looked to the future and was concerned about the welfare of our coming generations.

Even though the framers of our Constitution were not soothsayers, nor perhaps even futurists the way we define that term today, they did have a great deal of concern about the prospects for our nation to succeed beyond the Revolution. Much of the friction the framers experienced in Philadelphia in 1787 had to do with balancing the great need to address contemporary shortcomings with the Articles of Confederation against how the nation would emerge as a collective of diverse state interests and governments. But even the original drafts of the Constitution that included a preamble overcame that friction and incorporated the term “…our Posterity.” [2] Our Constitution was not a short-sighted document. [3]

One thing the framers fully agreed on was how important their decisions and actions would be to future generations. This was not a stated interest of the Articles of Confederation as ratified in 1777, so we could surmise that overcoming Great Britain and prevailing in the Revolutionary War gave the framers deeper insight into the potential that transformed the “united states” of the Articles to the “United States” of our Constitution. In the intervening years, our framers had grown and become more aware of the Promise of America. That doesn’t seem so much the case today in our Congress.

Today, the “posterity” cohort is composed primarily of the Millennial generation about whom we’ve recently written. [4] In the blogosphere, there are signs that point to this new generation of Americans appreciating the foresight of the framers. In part this is based on the ways in which Millennials have exploited the technologies of the Connected Age. The blog posts that Millennials publish on the web seem increasingly open to a future with which we Boomers are uncomfortable. Millennials are showing early, positive signs of overcoming the Boomer passion for control and accumulation of “stuff” that haunts the production and consumption practices that drive America today.

In spite of our current political system’s preoccupation with endless election cycles and relentless pursuit and accumulation of massive campaign chests, Millennials seem to be getting on with the business of living in the real world of adaptation, flexibility and cooperation. They seem to relish finding and sustaining interdependent relationships that challenge biases and opinions held by the “ruling” generation of Boomers. These biases and opinions have unfortunately informed the growth of edge-driven politics and policies that jeopardize the world “our Posterity” must inhabit when we Boomers are “done” with it.

Last time, we wrote about how to tackle some of these important issues at the polls, but elections are subject to shortened perspectives and timeframes. We need long-term, strategic perspectives and solutions. Some of the best and most objective sets of solutions we’ve seen are embodied in a document about which we’ve also recently written: A National Strategic Narrative.

The authors of the National Strategic Narrative describe what they call a “Strategic Ecology” that could “represent opportunities to reestablish and leverage credible influence, converging interests, and interdependencies that can transform despair into hope.” Millennials are already establishing those interdependencies and from their writings on the web, are in fact transforming “despair into hope.” This is all despite the fact that the vast majority of the cohort of Boomer politicians decline to help Millennials in terms of affordable education and health care, better employment opportunities and seem ready to leave them a crumbling infrastructure.

Millennial objectivity almost seems more like the America in which we grew up as young Boomers in the 50s and 60s…perhaps it offers a better prospect about the future than we suspect. Perhaps the framers would have smiled about this new generation more than they would the Boomers!

Getting back to stuff, consumption and production, we’ll soon publish on the FAPITCA website an essay that has been four years in the making entitled “Renewing American Vigor: Transforming Consumption in Public and Private Life.” We started this work in 2010 when it became apparent that America was still struggling to recover from the “Great Recession” but we didn’t feel we had a proper forum in which to publish it. FAPITCA seems to be the right place now that we have had the website up and running for almost four months and have had a chance to think about this topic and its relationship to Fulfilling the American Promise in the Connected Age, particularly concerning Millennials.

The website The Story of Stuff offers a compelling look at how America (and indeed most of the world) got into a vicious cycle of building for obsolescence rather than sustainability, and offers ways to think about completely “changing the game” of production and consumption. Introductory videos featuring The Story of Stuff Founder and President Annie Leonard are in the playlist below:

Given our careers of diverse domestic and overseas service, both Carl and Chuck appreciate what The Story of Stuff contributes to this important conversation: we both have a lot of stuff from a great many moves and have lived in countries where stuff wasn’t nearly as important! [5] Look for the essay in coming weeks.

Originally posted by Carl and Chuck Hunt, 5/15/2014.

NOTES:

[1] Our preamble reads “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” Source: 100 Milestone Documents: The Constitution of the United States of America, www.ourdocuments.gov. NOTE: It was also a bit curious that “And Our Posterity” is the name of a blog about “Observations on energy, geopolitics, and the federal budget,” which seemed to focus mostly on the “energy” part of the title, but since it’s not readily apparent if there are political implications to this blog, we’ll just leave it in the category of “that’s another story.”

[2] Beeman, Richard, Plain Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution, Random House, NY, 2009.

[3] Consider the first of committee chair Edmund Randolph’s first two principles for the Committee of Detail in drafting the Constitution: “to insert essential principle only, lest the operations of government should be clogged by rendering those provisions permanent and unalterable, which ought to be accommodated by time and events…” (italics added by the editors for emphasis on the framers’ future perspectives. Quoted from Beeman, Plain Honest Men.

[4] We appreciate that the editors of The Generation Me reposted this piece on TGM Millennials, a prolific and attractive website “created to serve as a filter for all the political stories out there with a progressive point of view approach.” While FAPITCA avoids taking positions for or against specific political viewpoints, we do take a position on the future of America, “our Posterity,” and recognize The Generation Me as a web-based leader in this field.

[5] Our essay is also informed by an interesting book recently published by Betty and Mike Sproule called The Stuff Cure. Betty, the administrator and an advisor to the National Strategic Narrative website, provides a nice blend of philosophical and practical insights about living with less “stuff.”

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