When Dumbledore spoke to Harry, uttering the words penned by JK Rowling, “These are difficult times. The challenge will be to decide between what is right and what is easy,” they could have not been any better suited for an American audience.
In the United States the concept of balance, the feng shui of life, has been displaced with a far-flung indulgence and mediocrity that has so misshapen our current state of affairs, that it leaves a gruesome mutation that borders on inanity, insanity—or both.
In feng shui, there there is a continuous interplay between opposing forces; opposing forces, that in and of themselves, are comprised of elements of each other. Balance is achievable and balance is pursued through an ongoing interaction. Through balance comes good fortune and health; conversely, life out of balance breeds destruction and death.
At the core of balance is the engagement of thoughtful and corrective action: the give and take, amongst the inevitability of change.
For some time now, the United States has allowed the continuous interplay of opposing forces for the good of the people and the country, to morph out of control. So extreme is the vitriol, avarice, gluttony and wrongheaded focus, the American situation resembles a boomerang, soaring toward a black hole rather than returning to its thrower—corrective action is needed if we are to continue the path the founding fathers set for us.
This is the same path many have worked and died for, all to uphold the potential and evolution of values enshrined in key American documents, like the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
For 200 years, America made amazing inroads, growing its economy, enfranchising larger numbers of people, creating opportunity and fostering creativity. The United States amassed great wealth and it was looked upon as a model for how people of different backgrounds, with different ideas, come together to solve problems and steer a course for a better tomorrow, in a generally non-violent and democratic manner.
Today, a different picture exists.
The wealthiest nation in the world is far from a shining example for its own people or the people around the world. Yes, blowhards proclaim our preeminence but if one looks behind the curtain, the real America has too wide of a stance.
When it comes to infrastructure, the United States simply doesn’t match up. On an international scale, the U.S. receives a ‘D’ grade from its own independent, professional assessors. Everywhere from aviation, bridges, dams, drinking water, energy, hazardous waste, inland waterways, levees, public parks and recreation, rail, roads, schools, solid waste, transit to wastewater. The largest economy in the world ranks 24th in infrastructure where barely two percent of it’s gross domestic product (GDP), is spent annually on maintenance and improvements.
Our roads are on par with Malaysia and the overall infrastructure of the U.S. has been characterized as on par with Barbados. According to the congressional budget office, the U.S. would have to spend $80 billion more a year into the foreseeable future to reverse the trend of decline and crumbling infrastructure. Do you cross your fingers when you drive across a bridge or fly on an airplane?When it comes to infrastructure, the United States simply doesn’t match up. On an international scale, the U.S. receives a ‘D’ grade from its own independent, professional assessors. Everywhere from aviation, bridges, dams, drinking water, energy, hazardous waste, inland waterways, levees, public parks and recreation, rail, roads, schools, solid waste, transit to wastewater. The largest economy in the world ranks 24th in infrastructure where barely two percent of it’s gross domestic product (GDP), is spent annually on maintenance and improvements.
Internationally, the United States is one step from bankruptcy; we are the single largest debtor nation in the world.
The U.S. currently owes foreign investors and its own institutions, all of whom have purchased American debt, $15 trillion, roughly $48,000 per person—the U.S. owes nearly as much as it produces in goods and services in a year. The interest payments in 2011 were over $211 billion alone.
An individual or a business seeking a loan with this liability sheet would not even be considered, yet, the U.S. continues to lobby and believe others will support it’s insatiable desire for more credit. How much longer can America get away with it? And what happens when it cannot?
A Harvard Report found that: “Children in Latvia, Chile and Brazil are making gains in academics three times faster than American student,s while those in Portugal, Hong Kong, Germany, Poland, Liechtenstein, Slovenia, Colombia and Lithuania, are improving at twice the rate.”
It seems U.S. policy is less about no-student-left-behind-and-a-race-to-the-top, than it is about leaving students behind in a race-to-flop.
If economic opportunity and security are desired, don’t look to America for it. The United States no longer enjoys the highest mobility from class-to-class when compared to other nations. Nearly 24 percent of American children live in poverty—only Romania is worse.
According to the US Census Bureau and the Pew Research Center, the middle class has shrunk by over 10 percent, since the 1970’s. Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Peace Prize Recipient and author of The Price of Inequality, states that “the wealth of the typical American has been wiped out.”
The lower income groups are worse off. The winners? 90 percent of all income gains go to the top one percent of people. This one percent controls five times the wealth of the top; this equals one percent of those who lived the lavish lifeduring the Gilded Age.
Are feudal times just around the corner?
A native westerner, Dr. Michael Bittner brings a complementary blend of western practicality, free spirit and authenticity to teaching, fitness, interior design and organizational management to his role as co-founder and managing partner of ZenSpot, Inc., a holistic lifestyle, design and education company, whose mission is to empower people to be themselves. Viewing overall health as a combination of fitness, diet and balance between work, home and personal time, Michael emphasizes the importance of caring for the internal body and simultaneously organizing the external environment. Through these efforts, balance is achieved enabling the mind, body, spirit to operate at their optimal level. Prior to ZenSpot, Bittner held academic and executive posts in research, teaching and administration in Washington, California and New York. Bittner earned a Ph.D. and Master’s degrees in Education in the Social Studies, from the University of Washington, with supporting areas of study in urban design and planning, and global trade, transportation and logistics. Bittner holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Boise State University, where he graduated magna cum laude and received a secondary teaching credential from the State of Idaho. Bittner possesses a graduate credential in Feng Shui Interior Design and Interior Design from the Sheffield School of Interior Design in New York City. Michael is a registered yoga teacher with the Yoga Alliance, having completed training through the Barkan Method of Hot Yoga. He is also a certified specialist in yoga for children, a life coach with the International Coaching Federation, a holistic stress management coach through The Spencer Institute and a Lifestyle and Weight Management Specialist through NESTA (National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association). Bittner is certified in First Aid and CPR by the American Red Cross.
Editor: Evan Livesay
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