Just as a worldwide Great Depression and the violence and fanatical politics it spawned led to the human catastrophe known as World War II, there are similar ominous signs multiplying and swirling around us today.
Internationally, the Muslim radicalism that has been at the root of most of our military actions since the end of the Cold War seems intractable and is pushing toward a world war style clash with the West. At the least, we already are involved in another cold war -- this time substituting radical Islamists for communists.
On the home front, we see increasing disillusionment over prospects for the economy, particularly among the young, and particularly among young males -- and particularly among men who are not college graduates or bound for college.
With millions of American blue collar jobs lost over the past decade or two, we can't go on thinking the economy will turn around for these job-seekers, as it always did in the past. This time, the job losses are chronic, with nothing on the horizon to replace them with what is termed a living wage.
The everyday strife and violence that stems from the disappearance of prospects for a better life -- or even a somewhat secure life -- is evident on the global scale and in the United States. Locally, the impression is strong that many young people are frustrated and are taking out those frustrations while using drugs or alcohol. Violent behavior in the home and property crime and vandalism elsewhere are the glaring results.
We might have little control over international problems, but we can work at home and in our communities to reduce the negative effects of a global economy that displaces millions while a minority thrives and a tiny minority becomes wealthy beyond belief.
We should all agree by now that old approaches and attitudes about the economy and human nature won't help many below the upper middle classes and the wealthy. And stimulus plans that only lower interest rates or cut taxes on businesses or offer tax incentives are not working -- and won't turn back this nasty tide of unemployment and despair.
Jobs are the only answer if we want to bring those millions of Americans back into the community as productive and confident citizens with a stake in their families and local economies. As long as they have little, they will have little to lose.