Dave Smith: What is to Become of Us?

In these difficult times, we need to take control of our lives and improve the world as best we can.

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Every time you look at the headlines, they seem to be an increasing stream of depressing news and bizarre information. Impeach, resist, cancel, protest, shoot, burn, climate, socialism, capitalism, collusion, and so it goes daily. As a student of history and with a nearly useless minor in Sociology I have always watched for cultural events and transitions that might change our lives for good or bad, and tried to draw attention to them with the various venues I have available to me, not the least of which is this column so generously given to me by the good folks at POLICE Magazine. This month I was intending to write about the decline of our values in the United States and how that leads to a rapid decline in a society's standard of living and quality of life.

As I was reading Mariano Grondona's A Cultural Typology of Economic Development (fun read, right?), I realized one of the key points he makes is that as a culture declines folks just stop trying. They stop living the very values, the very way that led to the successful society they live in. As an Argentinian sociologist he has spent his life wondering what happened to one of the world's great economic and social successes so that today Argentina is a third-world nation struggling economically and socially. He covers everything from trust in the individual to a nation's worldview. When I read his explanation of the contrast in views on life between a society favorable to progress versus a culture that is resistant to development, he makes the following observation: In the progressive culture, life is something that I will make happen—I am the protagonist. In the resistant culture, life is something that happens to me—I must be resigned to it.

Wow, that got me thinking, "Am I just sitting around lamenting what is happening or am I really trying to make a difference?" And what difference can I even make? Maybe the best thing to do is sit down and really think about the things I control and the things I don't. I teach this stuff, so at least I should live it! So here goes.

First off, I am not going to give up the things I believe in like the value of an individual and my God and the belief that work is a fulfilling part of life and meaning, not just something to be done for subsistence. I am going to keep being courteous to others, as charitable as I can be, punctual, and take pride in a job well done. These are known as lesser virtues but are part of the fiber of a truly successful people.

I am going to focus on the things I control and not obsess over the things I don't. In fact, that is something all of us who believe in the goodness of our society and try to preserve it for the law abiding should take to heart. Control the things you can and don't sweat the things you can't. The first element of that control is your integrity and professionalism. Take pride in the adventure that is your life and stand against those who lie to you or try to denigrate law enforcement. Make sure your work ethic and work product are the best you can make them. You honor us all in your efforts and successes. Make any failures simply learning events that are a source of growth, not remorse on your part.

Finally, control how you react to things. Learn to roll with the punches and not let things linger in your heart. Too often we fail to "let it go" and a haunting anger, resentment, or grudge lies in bed at night foremost in our minds. This is a form of giving control to others; take back that control and just stay focused on a positive future. Remember, you don't control your agency, your politicians, even the nation. In fact, too often we don't even control ourselves when we actually can and should.

So, here is my action plan for a greater future for our society: Everyone needs to take control of their lives and understand work and life are not just things to be endured but truly lived and enjoyed. I guess Señor Grondona said it best when he wrote, "In the resistant culture, the optimist is the person who expects that luck, the gods, or the powerful will favor him or her. In the culture favorable to development, the optimist is the person who is resolved to do whatever is necessary to assure a satisfactory destiny, convinced that what he or she does will make the difference." These are truly wise words in these difficult times.   

Dave Smith is an internationally recognized law enforcement trainer and is the creator of "JD Buck Savage." You can follow Buck on Twitter at @thebucksavage.

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Officer (Ret.)
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