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Apologies to philosopher and writer George Santayana, but we assume there are people who would prefer, given the opportunity to choose which is better, to be condemned to repeat the past or the present.

After all, the past is the devil we know, while the present seems to bedevil everyone but those running for office. Still, if we actually had the option of choosing to repeat the past, the present or neither, it would mean, if the tired old saw still has some teeth in it, we'd need to begin to understand the present in order not to let it happen again.

That's why we felt we needed to talk about the gorilla in the living room in American society and business, which is that there's something fundamentally tribal about people. Also, those tribal instincts engender profound divides, many of them hostile, by virtue of who has what and who wants what others' have.

From cover to cover in this issue, we immerse ourselves in a culture and society whose makeup is a theme and variations of bifurcated interests, be they political, educational, business and moral, both deep and superficial.

For instance, our own exclusive survey on envy, (Up on the Envy Meter, page 6) the gist of the 10th Commandment, reveals that those who admit to feeling covetous of their neighbors' (i.e. prime-time reality celebrities, friends, etc.) goods are principally younger Americans whose sense of what they have and don't have is defined by the personalities they are watching in prime-time television's reality series. It's as if the pixels our new resident futurist, Andrew Zolli, writes about in his essay on low-rez vs. high-rez reality (page 44 ) have formed themselves into more than imagined worlds of privilege that real people actually aspire to and lust after.

Santayana, a lifelong Spanish citizen, asked to be buried in unconsecrated ground, and actually secured a plot in Panteon de la Obra Pia espanola in the Campo Verano cemetery, thanks to the Spanish government. In our Boomers When All is Said and Done analysis by Boomer guru Michael Rybarski, the daunting notion of the cultural impact of having the number of annual natural deaths in our country double in the next 25 to 30 years is a future shock we are trying to deal with in the present.

Mostly, we are trying to decipher the code of American collective conviction. As we find in our analysis of exclusive data fielded for us by Zogby International, we're a nation whose behavioral fault line describes embedded partisan impulse. We'll vote, not for who we believe in, but who we can elect. In her analysis, Divided We Stand, on page 26, contributing writer Alicia Mundy's key revelation is of fault lines not only between parties, and between Red states versus. Blue states, but between individuals' sense of what is right and their belief in what will carry the day.

Correction: In the May issue of American Demographics, a typographical error occurred in a chart entitled Living in the Shadow, which contained generational comparisons between Baby Boomers and Generation X in terms of total contribution to consumer expenditure. Under Generation X, 2004, the total consumer expenditure figure should have read $735 billion, 35 percent of the $2.1 trillion in consumer expenditure among Baby Boomer households during 2004. We regret the error.

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