In 1987, the alternative rock band R.E.M. released this song filled with a fast moving chorus that was difficult to follow but catchy enough to be memorable. The song was not an instant hit in the U.S., but found a loyal following upon its re-release in 1991. While obviously lead vocalist Michael Stipe and his band mates from Athens, Georgia, were wrong about the world’s demise, they were correct that sometimes the stars align in a way where you wonder if the earth is about to spin off its axis.
Now seems to be one of those times that you begin to question whether the world of today is changing in ways we cannot control.
For example, we are almost half way through the college football season and traditional powers are taking a back seat to longtime doormats. Two teams from Mississippi (Mississippi!) are ranked in the top three in college football, with the Bulldogs from Starkville (Starkville!) sitting atop the polls as the No. 1 team in the land. The Ole Miss Black Bears are just two notches behind them in the rankings, sitting at No. 3 in the country. When was the last time two teams from Mississippi ranked this high in the history of college football? Never. All the while, traditional powers such as LSU, Florida and Alabama all look more beatable than any year in recent history.
In professional sports, the Kansas City Royals are about to return to the World Series for the first time since first base umpire Don Denkinger made that infamous call in 1985 and gave them the title, while the Yankees and Red Sox remained an afterthought for most of this year. The struggling Saints are actually running the ball more effectively than throwing it and have only thus far beaten the lowly Vikings and Buccaneers. This year, everything we know to be true about sports seems to be upside down thus far.
Similarly, the political world is also full of surprises.
Union leaders, still reeling from a Supreme Court ruling from earlier this year that will one day be viewed as the beginning of the end to their forced funding scheme, are being given a life boat thanks to Common Core politics. These union leaders, along with other longtime opponents to reform, are surely having a grand old time sitting back watching while conservative reformers eat one another alive and battle one another over the future of testing, standards and accountability in our state’s woefully underperforming educational system. Rather than treating this self-inflicted wound, conservative reformers are simply pouring more salt on the wound each and every day.
Speaking of conservatives, many in the conservative dominated Louisiana Legislature are openly flirting with the prospects of pushing tax increases next session to fund government growth in an election year, a prospect conventional wisdom says should be a political suicide mission. Despite that long-held logic, the growing hum of kamikaze-tax increase planes becomes more audible on the horizon by the day.
Meanwhile in Washington D.C., the growing terrorist threat of ISIS, ISIL and other anti-American groups is targeted with more speeches than military operations, though Congress has long since found the time to recess to prepare for campaign season.
Is this all the new normal or have we slipped into a parallel universe? Is this the storm before the calm or is R.E.M.’s prediction finally beginning to come true? If this really is the end of the world as know it, how do we get our “old world” back?
The answer is simple: We only get it back if we take it back. Nothing is guaranteed to last forever, especially for those that forget what got them there in the first place.
LSU football was built on defense and running the ball, and until both are done more consistently, we’ll continue to see mixed results. The Saints have allowed age and personnel decisions to impact their offensive line and receiver corps, likely grounding their offensive aerial attack until they reinvest in that foundation.
Conservative reformers have forgotten how to work together to resolve differences in a way that puts what’s right for our people ahead of what hashtags are trending on Twitter. All the many great reform laws we have put on the books in recent years will be useless if we fail to implement them in a manner that improves outcomes for our people by reducing bureaucracy, rewarding excellence and holding government accountable.
Our national leaders must not forget that we have been most effective at spreading peace and freedom throughout the world when our country was considered strong and resolute in standing up for what is right no matter the odds.
As I travel around Louisiana and talk to our business leaders and other residents of this great state, I hear all too often that people have lost hope in something they once believed in. Whether a favorite sports team or a political cause, they are beginning to feel like a golden era is passing them by only to be replaced by one that is destined to fall short of expectations.
Nothing could be further from the truth. What happens next is firmly in our control. If the future ends up being something less than we have previously experienced, it will be due to our own actions, or lack thereof.
The fact is that every day IS the end of the world, as we know it, because each day it is reinvented by the decisions we make as a society and as an individual citizen.
If you don’t like where the world is heading, get off the couch, stand for what is right and go make a difference. That, and consistent quarterback play, is the only way that order will finally be restored in the world.
Stephen Waguespack is the president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry,