Sarah Jane Vowell is an American author, journalist, essayist and social commentator. And she voiced the character of the daughter, Violet, in the animated film, The Incredibles. She is also very, very witty. If you don't know about her, you really should.
We were lucky enough to see her on a talk show and she said something to the effect that she had expected that during the Bush years, things could become difficult in our country and economy, but she had “suffered from a failure of imagination.” Well that phrase has stayed with us, because it puts a funny spin on even disaster. Or disasters.
Now we use the phrase all the time personally; it so aptly describes the difficulties of certain medical experiences we’ve dealt with recently, it describes the domino effect of political upheaval in the Middle East, and it puts a certain frame around the disaster of our national drought and all the damage that situation is going to do to our country and to our every-day lives. And … all that applies even before we mention the current political campaigns.
And perhaps the key word in this phrase, “suffered a failure of imagination,” is the word “suffered”. Because our collective “failure of imagination” is going to make us suffer, collectively, for depending on mono-culture practices in agriculture, for not planning appropriately for worst-case natural disaster scenarios, for not preventing our financial system from becoming a Las Vegas gambling game, for not being able to imagine the benefits of a country where everyone has health care, education to perform good jobs, even enough to eat.
And the real problem with “suffering a failure of imagination” is that the condition leaves us, personally and collectively, with the results of that failure.