The end is near?

It used to be that we had men on the street carrying boards
saying, “The end is near.”  Now
we have Paul Krugman [today’s New York Times]telling us pretty much the same
thing.
“Whatever the deep roots of this paralysis, it’s becoming
increasingly clear that it will take utter catastrophe to get any real policy
action that goes beyond bank bailouts. But don’t despair: at the rate things
are going, especially in Europe, utter catastrophe may be just around the
corner.”
I hope that the reason this statement resonates with me is
that I have a deep neurosis:  Could a
dark pessimism lurk deep in my personality? 
I only hope it cannot be real.   
What I know is that I have friends from left and right who
fear catastrophe ahead — for different reasons, of course.  But when the future looks dark from starkly
different angles it could actually be as bad as we fear.
What is most exasperating is how easily — even in this
perilous time — our politicians pin  the
problems of our age on the failures of each other.  Of course each one tells us, in this election
year, that they know how to fix it — without giving us details; only that they
are the ones qualified to deal with the great problems of our age.   For me it is terrifying that we have to
entrust our future into the hands of politicians, the same guys that got us in
this mess.
This crisis — in governance, in the economy, in the global
ecology, etc — has been brewing for at least a generation and it isn’t going
away easily or quickly.  At least, so I
fear.  

The obligations of privilege

Thank you, Andrew Delbanco, for putting a good educational experience in the proper light.  In an op-ed piece in today’s New York Times he was replying to Rich Santorum’s dumb and insulting remark against higher education.  Santorum described America’s colleges as “indoctrination mills” from which God-fearing Americans should keep their distance, and he called President Obama a “snob” for urging Americans to go to college.

The whole article is worth reading in full [click on the title above for a link], but the part I think worth emphasizing is this:  

To the stringent Protestants who founded Harvard, Yale and Princeton, the mark of salvation was not high self-esteem but humbling awareness of one’s lowliness in the eyes of God. With such awareness came the recognition that those whom God favors are granted grace not for any worthiness of their own, but by God’s unmerited mercy — as a gift to be converted into working and living on behalf of others. That lesson should always be part of the curriculum.

Yes, for those of us so fortunate to have the natural endowment and practical opportunity to enjoy a good education, let us take that endowment and opportunity as gifts given by God’s grace, not as a sign of superior worth but as a call to a life of humble service to the world around us.

I wonder: Will that concept ever be part of the curriculum at the Chicago business school?