Friday, June 14, 2024
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The Long Way Home

Maybe it’s because of advancing years, but I seem grumpier than I should be. Simmering rage sends me to my keyboard to write about things that aren’t right and rail against the establishments that keep them going.

So it was with great hope that I subscribed to a weekly online newsletter titled “What Could Go Right?” They captured me with this:

“Can’t stop doomscrolling? Take a break with our progress newsletter.”

It’s true that I spend too much time “doom-scrolling” on my mobile phone. It keeps me from doing more productive things on the ridge and the habit does fuel my discontent.

Still, I don’t really like myself when I get worked up from Facebook or Threads (I gave up on Twitter when the Musk guy took over because, well, the Musk guy is a twit.) So the Progress Newsletter seems like an interesting and happier diversion.

The Progress Newsletter is put out by The Progress Network which is part of an organization called New America. New America claims to be a non-partisan think tank (we have too many think tanks) that is “dedicated to renewing the promise of America in an era of rapid technological and social change.” It focuses on national security, technology, health, gender, energy, education, and the economy.

New America lists the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, and our very own State Department as major funders. After years of doom scrolling, that’s enough to raise my skeptical hackles. Government funding of any kind of think tanks deserves a rant of its own.

The latest issue of the Newsletter, the first I’ve read, features a story about Generation Z, the people born between 1996 and 2010. The headline proclaims “Gen Z is a generation of optimists.”

Funded by a foundation started by the Walton family, of Walmart fame, the Gallup organization has released a survey of the much maligned Gen Z.

The survey found that eight out of ten believe they will achieve their goals in coming years. Three quarters think they have a great future ahead of them and two-thirds feel they will nab a dream job. 

As a proud grandpa to four Gen Z people I’m encouraged by those results, downright happy.

I remember that despite a horrific war in Asia and a President who, despite his protestations, was a crook, I too felt I’d achieve my goals, would have a great future, and nab a dream job when I was their age. And I did. I fervently hope Gen Z will too.

The Newsletter has links to a couple dozen articles that are considered “good news.” One tells of new, airless bicycle tires developed using NASA technology that ride like pneumatic, last a lifetime, and roll with minimal resistance. Others bring good news of varying merit about education, health care, and government.

I recommend you check out Progress Now, if just for a hit of optimism.

But I’m chronically skeptical of large institutions that end up needing to continue problems rather than solve them. For sure the money is better if problems continue.

Think about some of the issues of our day:

  • Racial equity/civil rights Government corruption Inflation
  • Military spending and adventure Exploding population growth Abortion
  • Labor disputes
  • Wealth and income disparity The environment and pollution

This list of nine issues would be pretty comfortable in the 1970s. True, we’ve made progress, but solving these things will never be.

Steve Fernlund
Steve Fernlund
Typically these “about me” pages include a list of academic achievements (I have none) and positions held (I have had many, but who really cares about those?) So, in the words of the late Admiral James Stockwell, “Who am I? Why am I here?” I’m well into my seventh decade on this blue planet we call home. I’m a pretty successful husband, father, and grandfather, at least in my humble opinion. My progeny may disagree. We have four children and five grandchildren. I spent most of my professional life in the freight business. At the tender age of 40, early retirement beckoned and we moved to Grand Marais. A year after we got here, we bought and operated the Cook County News Herald, a weekly newspaper in Grand Marais. A sharp learning curve for a dumb freight broker to become a newspaper editor and publisher. By 1999 the News Herald was an acquisition target for a rapidly consolidating media market. We sold our businesses and “retired” again, buying a winter retreat in Nevada. In the fall of 2016, we returned to Grand Marais and bought a house from old friends of ours on the ridge overlooking Lake Superior. They were able to move closer to family and their Mexico winter home. And we came home to what we say is our last house. I’m a strong believer in the value of local newspapers--both online and those you can wrap a fish in. I write a weekly column and a couple of feature stories for the Northshore Journal. I’m most interested in writing about the everyday lives of local people and reporting on issues of importance to them.
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