Here's one large trend in America, the one you hear about every day: the popularity of e-trading, the rise of the day trader, the ubiquity of business news, the excitement over new .com stock issues, the relentless pressure to get rich.
Here's the other trend, spoken of more in kitchens and over back fences than in news broadcasts: Across ideological lines, there is a quiet revolt against materialism embodied in the question, "Is this all there is?" It's not a revolt against capitalism or ambition. It reflects a concern that the marketplace, for all its splendors, may produce value but not values.
Such thoughts come to the fore at moments of national tragedy -- most recently, the shootings at Columbine High in Colorado and the terrible mass killing on Thursday in Atlanta. But the national mood has been shifting for some time. You can see this in the thoughts offered by politicians in both parties, in the way young people are spending their time, in the new demands Americans are making on their government and in the growing public presence of religion.
Take, first, the remarkable speech Texas Gov. George W. Bush delivered in Indianapolis in late July. It was his defense of his stock phrase and idea, "compassionate conservatism." At a moment when the Republican Congress was concentrating its energies on big tax cuts, here's what Bush said:
"The invisible hand works many miracles. But it cannot touch the human heart. . . . Self-control and character and goal-setting give direction and dignity to all our lives. We must renew these values to restore our country. . . . We are a nation of rugged individuals. But we are also the country of the second chance -- tied together by bonds of friendship and community and solidarity. . . . There must be a kindness in our justice. There must be a mercy in our judgment. There must be a love behind our zeal."
Now, be as skeptical as you want about Bush's preaching here. It's perfectly fair to ask what compassionate conservatism adds up to when Bush proposes all of $8 billion in tax credits to help religious charities while his supporters in Congress push a 10-year tax cut of nearly $800 billion, mostly for the well-off.
But precisely because Bush is a shrewd politician playing to the national mood, you have to ask why he is using such words as "solidarity," "community," "mercy," "kindness" and "love."
Instead of celebrating entrepreneurs and investors, he's highlighting prison ministries and volunteers helping poor kids. Bush understands there's a stirring in the country.
So does Vice President Gore. The day before Bush gave his love speech, Gore gave one in Tennessee: "It is hard to be a strong family in a weak community -- one that is overrun by crime and drugs; one with failing schools and not enough jobs; one in which people no longer even know one another's names. . . . A good community is a place where, whether you are affluent or struggling, neighbors know each other's names and look after one another's children." This is different from, say, reinventing government or global warming.
Or take the recent "Appeal to Hollywood" calling on the entertainment industry to create a "code of conduct," a "new social compact aimed at renewing our culture and making our media environment more healthy for our society and safer for our children."
The appeal was signed by a politically diverse group that included Bill Bennett and Mario Cuomo, Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, Sens. John McCain, a Republican, and Kent Conrad, a Democrat.
Here again, the fear is a disconnect between the creation of economic value and the production of good values. "Many factors," the appeal declares, "including the drive for profit in an increasingly competitive media marketplace, are contributing [to] the downward spiral in entertainment and the disappearance of even minimum standards."
Other signs of the times: study after study showing that the under-30 generation is giving more of its time and energy to volunteering; and polls finding that Americans want public goods (education, child care and health care especially) at least as much as they want the private goods.
Again, this is not about ideology. Conservatives and liberals alike worry about the commercial exploitation treatment of violence and sex. Conservatives and liberals alike -- often using similar language inspired by religious faith -- are proclaiming our obligations to the suffering. A new wind is blowing, and it can't be traded on the Web.