When Philosophy Lost Its Way

By ROBERT FRODEMAN and ADAM BRIGGLE, Opinionator, New York Times, Jan 11, 2016

Excerpt

Philosophy, understood as the love of wisdom, was seen as a vocation, like the priesthood. It required significant moral virtues (foremost among these were integrity and selflessness), and the pursuit of wisdom in turn further inculcated those virtues. The study of philosophy elevated those who pursued it. Knowing and being good were intimately linked. It was widely understood that the point of philosophy was to become good rather than simply to collect or produce knowledge.

Full text

Once upon a time, acquiring wisdom and being a good person were intimately linked. The modern university changed all that.

The history of Western philosophy can be presented in a number of ways. It can be told in terms of periods — ancient, medieval and modern. We can divide it into rival traditions (empiricism versus rationalism, analytic versus Continental), or into various core areas (metaphysics, epistemology, ethics). It can also, of course, be viewed through the critical lens of gender or racial exclusion, as a discipline almost entirely fashioned for and by white European men.

The philosopher’s hands were never clean and were never meant to be.

Yet despite the richness and variety of these accounts, all of them pass over a momentous turning point: the locating of philosophy within a modern institution (the research university) in the late 19th century. This institutionalization of philosophy made it into a discipline that could be seriously pursued only in an academic setting. This fact represents one of the enduring failures of contemporary philosophy.

Take this simple detail: Before its migration to the university, philosophy had never had a central home. Philosophers could be found anywhere — serving as diplomats, living off pensions, grinding lenses, as well as within a university. Afterward, if they were “serious” thinkers, the expectation was that philosophers would inhabit the research university. Against the inclinations of Socrates, philosophers became experts like other disciplinary specialists. This occurred even as they taught their students the virtues of Socratic wisdom, which highlights the role of the philosopher as the non-expert, the questioner, the gadfly.

Philosophy, then, as the French thinker Bruno Latour would have it, was “purified” — separated from society in the process of modernization. This purification occurred in response to at least two events. The first was the development of the natural sciences, as a field of study clearly distinct from philosophy, circa 1870, and the appearance of the social sciences in the decade thereafter. Before then, scientists were comfortable thinking of themselves as “natural philosophers” — philosophers who studied nature; and the predecessors of social scientists had thought of themselves as “moral philosophers.”

The second event was the placing of philosophy as one more discipline alongside these sciences within the modern research university. A result was that philosophy, previously the queen of the disciplines, was displaced, as the natural and social sciences divided the world between them.

This is not to claim that philosophy had reigned unchallenged before the 19th century. The role of philosophy had shifted across the centuries and in different countries. But philosophy in the sense of a concern about who we are and how we should live had formed the core of the university since the church schools of the 11th century. Before the development of a scientific research culture, conflicts among philosophy, medicine, theology and law consisted of internecine battles rather than clashes across yawning cultural divides. Indeed, these older fields were widely believed to hang together in a grand unity of knowledge — a unity directed toward the goal of the good life. But this unity shattered under the weight of increasing specialization by the turn of the 20th century.

Early 20th-century philosophers thus faced an existential quandary: With the natural and social sciences mapping out the entirety of both theoretical as well as institutional space, what role was there for philosophy? A number of possibilities were available: Philosophers could serve as 1) synthesizers of academic knowledge production; 2) formalists who provided the logical undergirding for research across the academy; 3) translators who brought the insights of the academy to the world at large; 4) disciplinary specialists who focused on distinctively philosophical problems in ethics, epistemology, aesthetics and the like; or 5) as some combination of some or all of these.

If philosophy was going to have a secure place in the academy, it needed its own discrete domain, its own arcane language, its own standards of success and its own specialized concerns.

There might have been room for all of these roles. But in terms of institutional realities, there seems to have been no real choice. Philosophers needed to embrace the structure of the modern research university, which consists of various specialties demarcated from one another. That was the only way to secure the survival of their newly demarcated, newly purified discipline. “Real” or “serious” philosophers had to be identified, trained and credentialed. Disciplinary philosophy became the reigning standard for what would count as proper philosophy.

This was the act of purification that gave birth to the concept of philosophy most of us know today. As a result, and to a degree rarely acknowledged, the institutional imperative of the university has come to drive the theoretical agenda. If philosophy was going to have a secure place in the academy, it needed its own discrete domain, its own arcane language, its own standards of success and its own specialized concerns.

Having adopted the same structural form as the sciences, it’s no wonder philosophy fell prey to physics envy and feelings of inadequacy. Philosophy adopted the scientific modus operandi of knowledge production, but failed to match the sciences in terms of making progress in describing the world. Much has been made of this inability of philosophy to match the cognitive success of the sciences. But what has passed unnoticed is philosophy’s all-too-successful aping of the institutional form of the sciences. We, too, produce research articles. We, too, are judged by the same coin of the realm: peer-reviewed products. We, too, develop sub-specializations far from the comprehension of the person on the street. In all of these ways we are so very “scientific.”

Our claim, then, can be put simply: Philosophy should never have been purified. Rather than being seen as a problem, “dirty hands” should have been understood as the native condition of philosophic thought — present everywhere, often interstitial, essentially interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary in nature. Philosophy is a mangle. The philosopher’s hands were never clean and were never meant to be.

There is another layer to this story. The act of purification accompanying the creation of the modern research university was not just about differentiating realms of knowledge. It was also about divorcing knowledge from virtue. Though it seems foreign to us now, before purification the philosopher (and natural philosopher) was assumed to be morally superior to other sorts of people. The 18th-century thinker Joseph Priestley wrote “a Philosopher ought to be something greater and better than another man.” Philosophy, understood as the love of wisdom, was seen as a vocation, like the priesthood. It required significant moral virtues (foremost among these were integrity and selflessness), and the pursuit of wisdom in turn further inculcated those virtues. The study of philosophy elevated those who pursued it. Knowing and being good were intimately linked. It was widely understood that the point of philosophy was to become good rather than simply to collect or produce knowledge.

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As the historian Steven Shapin has noted, the rise of disciplines in the 19th century changed all this. The implicit democracy of the disciplines ushered in an age of “the moral equivalence of the scientist” to everyone else. The scientist’s privileged role was to provide the morally neutral knowledge needed to achieve our goals, whether good or evil. This put an end to any notion that there was something uplifting about knowledge. The purification made it no longer sensible to speak of nature, including human nature, in terms of purposes and functions. By the late 19th century, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche had proved the failure of philosophy to establish any shared standard for choosing one way of life over another. This is how Alasdair MacIntyre explained philosophy’s contemporary position of insignificance in society and marginality in the academy. There was a brief window when philosophy could have replaced religion as the glue of society; but the moment passed. People stopped listening as philosophers focused on debates among themselves.

Once knowledge and goodness were divorced, scientists could be regarded as experts, but there are no morals or lessons to be drawn from their work. Science derives its authority from impersonal structures and methods, not the superior character of the scientist. The individual scientist is no different from the average Joe; he or she has, as Shapin has written, “no special authority to pronounce on what ought to be done.” For many, science became a paycheck, and the scientist became a “de-moralized” tool enlisted in the service of power, bureaucracy and commerce.

Here, too, philosophy has aped the sciences by fostering a culture that might be called “the genius contest.” Philosophic activity devolved into a contest to prove just how clever one can be in creating or destroying arguments. Today, a hyperactive productivist churn of scholarship keeps philosophers chained to their computers. Like the sciences, philosophy has largely become a technical enterprise, the only difference being that we manipulate words rather than genes or chemicals. Lost is the once common-sense notion that philosophers are seeking the good life — that we ought to be (in spite of our failings) model citizens and human beings. Having become specialists, we have lost sight of the whole. The point of philosophy now is to be smart, not good. It has been the heart of our undoing.


Robert Frodeman and Adam Briggle teach in the department of philosophy and religion and the University of North Texas. They are co-authors of the forthcoming “Socrates Tenured: The Institutions of 21st-Century Philosophy.”

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Turned off from politics? That’s exactly what the politicians want.

By Steven Pearlstein, Washington Post, April 20, 2012

If you asked Americans to identify the most noticeable change in U.S. politics over the past two decades, they’d probably answer that politics has become more polarized and that this has made it harder for the government to address the problems the country faces.

To say politics has become polarized is another way of saying that the politicians we nominate and elect have moved away from the ideological center, that the Democratic Party has become more liberal and the Republicans more conservative, with little or no overlap. Liberal Republicans are all but extinct, and conservative Democrats aren’t far behind. Genuine bipartisan compromise has gone from standard practice to quaint anomaly. In Washington and increasingly in state capitals, once a majority of the party in control of a chamber decides what it wants to do, everyone else in the party is expected to line up behind it — and everyone in the other party lines up to oppose it.

Public opinion polls consistently report that Americans aren’t happy with these developments — they don’t like partisanship or gridlock — and that their views on issues are closer to the center than to the extreme positions in either party. And it’s not just the voters. Politicians themselves are frustrated at not being able to get things done; they chafe at their loss of independence and public respect; they loathe the endless fundraising needed to wage unending partisan warfare.

So if voters and politicians don’t like it, why does this polarization persist? In a democracy, like in any open market, having everyone pursue their own self-interest is supposed to generate the best outcome for society. What is causing this political market failure?

In the vision of politics that many of us carry around in our heads, it is the “median voter,” at the center of the ideological spectrum, who ultimately is supposed to determine the long-term course of government policy. In this model, the best way — the only way — for a party to increase its political market share is to moderate its views to attract such independent swing voters. When either party has tried a different strategy (Barry Goldwater in ’64, say, or George McGovern in ’72), it has failed.

But something fundamental seems to have changed in the political marketplace. The winning strategy is no longer to be more moderate than your opponent, to offer a bigger tent. Instead, it is to be more zealous and committed to your party’s ideology.

This transformation has its roots in what has become the dominant reality of American politics: the arms race in campaign finance. Candidates and parties now raise and spend enormous sums, well beyond what would reasonably be needed to provide for a well-informed electorate and well beyond what is raised and spent in other advanced democracies.

These days, the average Senate candidate raises and spends $9 million to win election, which works out to slightly more than $4,000 for each day of a six-year term. For the average House candidate, it’s $1.4 million, or just under $2,000 per day in office (including Saturdays, Sundays and holidays). These sums are several times what they were 25 years ago.

Given this dramatic increase in campaign spending by those with the most intimate knowledge of campaigns, and with the most at stake in the outcomes, it’s probably safe to conclude that this spending must work — that it can determine the outcome of close contests. In fact, it appears to work so well that it has now been embraced by a growing legion of “independent” entities with their own fundraising and campaign spending.

And how is the money spent? Anyone with a telephone, TV set or Internet connection has surely noticed that it is mainly used to produce an ever-increasing volume of negative, distorting and ideologically tinged advertising about opposing candidates and parties.

Contrary to what many believe, the central effect of such negative advertising isn’t to move voters from supporting another candidate to backing yours, as Mitt Romney and his allies have discovered during this primary season. The main effect is not even to move undecided voters into your column. No, the real effect of negative advertising is to energize and solidify support among your ideological base while turning everyone else off to the other candidate, the campaign and the entire electoral process. Negative advertising isn’t about changing minds; it’s about altering the composition of the voter pool on Election Day by turning moderate voters into non-voters.

This is particularly true in low-turnout elections such as primaries and midterm contests. But it is even true these days in high-turnout elections.

Peter Hart, the dean of American political pollsters, notes that President George W. Bush won Ohio in 2004 by boosting voter turnout among conservatives in exurban and rural areas. If turnout in those areas had been the same as in the rest of the state, Bush would have lost Ohio and the election. And a key to the strategy was massive amounts of negative advertising.

Similarly, in 2008, Barack Obama was able to use negative advertising to move the traditionally Republican states of North Carolina and Virginia into the Democratic column, increasing turnout of reliably liberal voters around Charlotte and in Northern Virginia while dampening enthusiasm for the GOP candidate, Sen. John McCain, everywhere else.

Energizing the base has another important advantage: It increases campaign contributions from both small donors and rich zealots. That money can be plowed back into yet more negative advertising along with sophisticated get-out-the-vote efforts on Election Day. This self-reinforcing cycle creates a strong incentive for politicians to abandon the center and move permanently to the ideological extreme. You do not energize the base through moderation and compromise.

What makes this an effective and rational strategy, of course, is the phenomenon known as “free riding.” When you think about it, it’s pretty irrational for any of us to vote. During these endless campaigns, it takes an extraordinary amount of time and energy to inform yourself about the candidates and their positions. And it takes time and energy to interrupt your daily schedule and vote. And for what? Rarely, if ever, does any single vote make a difference in the outcome. The rational thing is to just stay home and let everyone else do their civic duty while we still enjoy the full benefits of democracy.

Unfortunately, if everyone follows that individually rational strategy, the political market fails, democracy doesn’t work, and we end up with a far-from-optimal outcome. And that is precisely the market failure that shrewd political campaigns seek to turn to their advantage.

There is a vigorous academic debate over whether negative advertising depresses or increases voter turnout. I suspect it does both, depressing turnout among moderates and independents while stimulating it at the ideological extremes. In that process, what has changed is the composition of the turnout rather than its overall level.

So, if this is such a winning strategy, why is it taking hold only now?

The most obvious reason is that American politics has gone through a gradual realignment since the civil rights movement of the 1960s, which finally ended the Democratic hold on the South. The economic decline of the Midwest Rust Belt and the rapid growth in the Sunbelt were also big parts of this process. One result of this geographic shift has been that states and congressional districts became more politically and ideologically homogenous and thus more heavily tilted toward one party or the other — and all the more susceptible to aggressive redistricting strategies. In such an environment, appealing to moderate swing voters has become far less important.

Technology has also played a role. It is much easier today to pursue a strategy of energizing the base and suppressing the moderate vote when you can tailor your messages to different groups. Because of the Internet, sophisticated databases and cable television networks that hew to one ideology or another, such targeting is now easier and more effective.

More recently, the rise of “independent campaigns” run by PACs, unions, business organizations and other special interest groups has also heightened the polarization. These groups tend to air ads that are even more negative and more ideologically charged than the ones from the candidates themselves. And the candidates have been all too happy to reap the benefits while distancing themselves from such tactics.

The irony is that the politicians who prevail in these gladiator contests inherit a system so bitter, so partisan and so ideologically polarized that they can’t accomplish anything. They know that they and their constituents would be better off if they cooperated and compromised more, but they just can’t. If they try, they face a serious risk of being run out of office, either in the next primary by someone who better appeals to the party’s political base, or in the general election by an opponent whose extremism has allowed him or her to energize the other side’s core voters.

Politics has become a tragedy — a tragedy of the commons, that is. The individual pursuit of rational self-interest by parties and politicians, which in political and economic theory is supposed to generate the best outcome, has instead led to a cycle in which extremism, partisanship and stalemate all beget more of the same. We keep thinking it can’t continue like this, but it only gets worse.

Some may complain that this analysis falls into the trap of moral equivalency, failing to note that Republicans practice the politics of extremism and suppression of the moderate vote and that Democrats offer more moderation and compromise. But while it is true that the move away from the political center has been asymmetric and probably began with the Republicans, the success of that strategy has now forced everyone to play the same game.

These days, congressional Democrats and Obama campaign strategists make no secret of their belief that previous attempts at moderation and compromise have not been to their benefit and that they have no choice but to energize their base with a tougher, more left-leaning campaign.

And to those who now expect Romney to move to the center as he shifts from primary- to general-election mode, I’d point out that didn’t happen with either John Kerry or Bush in 2004, or Obama or McCain in 2008. The problem with Sarah Palin wasn’t that she was too ideologically extreme — that part of her selection as McCain’s running mate is still considered a base-energizing, game-changing masterstroke. The problem was that her hard-edged ideology was not matched by a hard-core understanding of the issues.

We know the solutions to escalating polarization: A disarmament treaty for the campaign finance arms race involving spending caps and contribution limits. A ban on campaign spending by independent groups. A requirement that all broadcasters and cable networks provide free advertising time to all candidates. A requirement that everyone vote or face a fine. Transferring redistricting powers from party leaders to unelected, nonpartisan experts. And that hardy perennial, a third-party movement.

Simply to list these ideas, however, is to acknowledge how unlikely it is that the system can correct itself.

Arms races, free riding, tragedies of the commons — these failures in economic markets are well understood. The solutions usually involve some form of government action or regulation. But when similar failures occur in political markets, there are no institutions capable of stepping in and forcing the necessary collaboration or collective action.

Government can’t be the solution when it is the problem.

pearlstein@washpost.com

Steven Pearlstein is a Washington Post business and economics columnist and Robinson professor at George Mason University. This essay is adapted from the Harold Gortner Lecture he delivered at the university on April 16.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/turned-off-from-politics-thats-exactly-what-the-politicians-want/2012/04/20/gIQAffxKWT_story.html

Scientists find visions of a benevolent future society motivate reform

By Eric W. Dolan, Washington Post, March 21, 2013

Excerpt

Activists, take note: People support reform if they believe the changes will enhance the future character of society…people support a future society that fosters the development of warm and moral individuals…explore Noam Chomsky’s dictum that “social action must be animated by a vision of a future society” — a proposition they said had not been investigated by social psychologists… “On climate change, we have other research showing that support for action was higher when people focused on character, but also on opportunities for economic/technological development.”…“One challenge is to work out how to design policies to actually promote warmth/morality…“The whole idea may sound a bit implausible, but if you think of it as ‘community building’ (bringing people together to promote social bonds) then it becomes more tangible for policy makers, as this is something they are able to consider in policy design.”…“If you can communicate how a policy will serve its primary function and help community-building, our research suggests you will gain broader public support.”

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Activists, take note: People support reform if they believe the changes will enhance the future character of society, according to a study published online this month in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Namely, people support a future society that fosters the development of warm and moral individuals.

“There are implications for communication, but also for policies themselves. The ‘easy’ answer would be to promote a policy or cause in terms of how it will make people more warm/moral,” Paul G. Bain of the University of Queensland, the lead author of the study, explained to Raw Story via email. “But I think for this to really work it needs to be authentic/real and not just rhetoric – the policies themselves need to promote this.”

Bain, along with four colleagues, sought to explore Noam Chomsky’s dictum that “social action must be animated by a vision of a future society” — a proposition they said had not been investigated by social psychologists.

The researchers conducted eight separate experiments to investigate how people’s vision of society’s future affects their willingness or unwillingness to support particular reforms. The eight studies asked participants to reflect on how society would change by 2050 if climate change was averted, abortion laws were relaxed, marijuana was legalized, or various religious groups obtained political dominance.

Using meta-analyses, a procedure that statistically summarizes multiple studies, Bain and his colleagues determined what particular projections about the future motivated people. The strongest common element that emerged was “benevolence.” In other words, people were willing to actively support policies that they believed would result in a future where people were more friendly and moral.

“While a focus on character is more likely to be effective, this cuts both ways – if someone can persuasively argue that legalizing marijuana will harm morality/warmth in people, this might effectively turn people against legalization,” Bain explained to Raw Story. “So the main point I’d make is that we’ve helped identify dimensions that people are most likely to respond to, but these dimensions can be used rhetorically by both supporters and opponents of change.”

Implications for the climate change debate

Visions of future technological progress and crime reduction also motivated people, but only in certain contexts, such as climate change and marijuana legalization, respectively.

“While benevolence (character) showed consistent effects across studies, other dimensions emerged in particular contexts,” Bain added. “On climate change, we have other research showing that support for action was higher when people focused on character, but also on opportunities for economic/technological development.”

Previous research conducted by Bain found that skeptics of climate change could be coaxed into pro-environmental positions if the issue was presented as creating a more benevolent society and increasing technological progress.

“One challenge is to work out how to design policies to actually promote warmth/morality, and I’m discussing this with academics engaged in policy design and advice,” he told Raw Story. “The whole idea may sound a bit implausible, but if you think of it as ‘community building’ (bringing people together to promote social bonds) then it becomes more tangible for policy makers, as this is something they are able to consider in policy design.”

Bain noted the success of a community-driven effort in the deeply conservative city of Salinas, Kansas. By changing the conversation from climate change to enhancing the city, the Climate and Energy Project was able to convince residents to conserve energy and adopt renewable sources of power.

“So my advice would be to incorporate community building into policy proposals, even if the policy concern is not directly about community building,” Bain said. “If you can communicate how a policy will serve its primary function and help community-building, our research suggests you will gain broader public support.”

The study was co-authored by Matthew J. Hornsey, Renata Bongiorno, Yoshihisa Kashima, and Daniel Crimston.

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/03/21/scientists-find-visions-of-a-benevolent-future-society-motivate-reform/

How Climate Change Is an Historic Opportunity for Progressives

by Bill Moyers & Naomi Klein,  BillMoyers.com, published on AlterNet, November 16, 2012

Naomi Klein, author of the international bestseller The Shock Doctrine, says the tragic destruction of Hurricane Sandy can also be the catalyst for the transformation of politics and our economy. She’s been in New York visiting the devastated areas — including those where “Occupy Sandy” volunteers are unfolding new models of relief — as part of her reporting for a new book and film on climate change and the future, and joins Bill to discuss hurricanes, climate change, and democracy. “Let’s rebuild by actually getting at the root causes. Let’s respond by aiming for an economy that responds to the crisis both [through] inequality and climate change,” Klein tells Bill. “You know, dream big.”

Full transcript

BILL MOYERS: If you’ve been curious about why New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg endorsed Barack Obama for re-election, just take another look at the widespread havoc caused by the Frankenstorm benignly named Sandy. Having surveyed all this damage Bloomberg Business Week concluded: “It’s Global Warming, Stupid: If Hurricane Sandy doesn’t persuade Americans to get serious about climate change, nothing will.”

Well it was enough to prompt President Obama, at his press conference this week, to say more about global warming than he did all year.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I am a firm believer that climate change is real, that it is impacted by human behavior and carbon emissions. And as a consequence, I think we’ve got an obligation to future generations to do something about it.

BILL MOYERS: But he made it clear that actually doing something about it will take a back seat to the economy for now. He did return to New York on Thursday to review the recovery effort on Staten Island. Climate change and Hurricane Sandy brought Naomi Klein to town, too. You may know her as the author of “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.” Readers of two influential magazines to put Naomi Klein high on the list of the 100 leading public thinkers in the world. She is now reporting for a new book and documentary on how climate change can spur political and economic transformation. She also has joined with the environmental writer and activist Bill McKibben in a campaign launched this week called “Do the Math.” More on that shortly…. First, congratulations on the baby.

NAOMI KLEIN: Thank you so much.

BILL MOYERS: How old now?

NAOMI KLEIN: He is five months today.

BILL MOYERS: First child?

NAOMI KLEIN: My first child, yeah.

BILL MOYERS: How does a child change the way you see the world?

NAOMI KLEIN: Well it lengthens your timeline definitely. I’m really immersed in climate science right now because of the project I’m working on is related to that. So you know there are always these projections into the future, you know, what’s going to happen in 2050? What’s going to happen in 2080? And I think when you’re solo, you think, “Okay, well, how old will I be then?” Well, you know, and now I’m thinking how old will he be then, right? And so, it’s not that– but I don’t like the idea that, “Okay, now I care about the future now that I have a child.” I think that everybody cares about the future. And I cared about it when I didn’t have a child, too.

BILL MOYERS: Well, I understand that but we’re so complacent about climate change. A new study shows that while the number of people who believe it’s happening has increased by, say, three percentage points over the last year, the number of people who don’t think it is human caused has dropped.

NAOMI KLEIN: It has dropped dramatically. I mean, the statistics on this are quite incredible. 2007, according to a Harris poll, 71 percent of Americans believed that climate change was real, that it was human caused. And by last year, that number went down to 44 percent. 71 percent to 44 percent, that is an unbelievable drop in belief. But then you look at the coverage that the issue’s received in the media. And it’s also dropped dramatically from that high point. 2007, you know, this was this moment where, you know, Hollywood was on board. “Vanity Fair” launched their annual green issue.

And by the way, there hasn’t been an annual green issue since 2008. Stars were showing up to the Academy Awards in hybrid cars. And there was a sense, you know, we all have to play our part, including the elites. And that has really been lost. And that’s why it’s got to come from the bottom up this time.

BILL MOYERS: But what do you think happened to diminish the enthusiasm for doing something about it, the attention from the press, the interest of the elite? What is it?

NAOMI KLEIN: I think we’re up against a very powerful lobby. And you know, this is the fossil fuel lobby. And they have every reason in the world to prevent this from being the most urgent issue on our agenda. And I think, you know, if we look at the history of the environmental movement, going back 25 years to when this issue really broke through, you know, when James Hansen testified before Congress, that–

BILL MOYERS: The NASA scientist, yeah.

NAOMI KLEIN: Exactly, our foremost climate scientist, and said, “I believe it is happening. And I believe it is human caused.” That was the moment where we could no longer deny that we knew, right? I mean, scientists actually knew what well beforehand. But that was the breakthrough moment. And that was 1988. And if we think about what else was happening in the late ’80s? Well, the Berlin Wall fell the next year. And the end of history was declared. And, you know, climate change in a sense, it hit us at the worst possible historical moment. Because it does require collective action, right? It does require that we, you, regulate corporations. That you get, you know, that you plan collectively as a society. And at the moment that it hit the mainstream, all of those ideas fell into disrepute, right? It was all supposed to be free market solutions. Governments were supposed to get out of the way of corporations. Planning was a dirty word, that was what communists did, right? Anything collective was a dirty word. Margaret Thatcher said, “There’s no such thing as society.”

Now if you believe that, you can’t do anything about climate change, because it is the essence of a collective problem. This is our collective atmosphere. We can only respond to this collectively. So the environmental movement responded to that by really personalizing the problem and saying, “Okay, you recycle. And you buy a hybrid car.” And treating this like this could or we’ll have business-friendly solutions like cap and trade and carbon offsetting. That doesn’t work. So that’s part of the problem. So you have this movement that every once in a while would rear up and people would get all excited and we’re really going to do something about this. And whether it was the Rio Summit or the Copenhagen Summit or that moment when Al Gore came out with Inconvenient Truth, but then it would just recede, because it didn’t have that collective social support that it needed.

And on top of that, you have, we’ve had this concerted campaign by the fossil fuel lobby to both buy off the environmental movement, to defame the environmental movement, to infiltrate the environmental movement, and to spread lies in the culture. And that’s what the climate denial movement has been doing so effectively.

BILL MOYERS: I read a piece just this week by the environmental writer Glenn Scherer. He took a look and finds that over the last two years, the lion’s share of the damage from extreme weather, floods, tornadoes, droughts, thunder storms, wind storms, heat waves, wildfires, has occurred in Republican-leaning red states. But those states have sent a whole new crop of climate change deniers to Congress.

NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah, someone’s going to have to explain Oklahoma to me, you know?

BILL MOYERS: My native state.

NAOMI KLEIN: My sister lives in Oklahoma. And, you know, it is so shocking that James Inhofe, the foremost climate denying senator is from the state that is so deeply climate effected. There was something, actually, I was– last year I covered the Heartland Conference, which is the annual confab for all the climate deniers. And James Inhofe was supposed to be the keynote speaker. And the first morning of the conference, there was lots of buzz. He’s the rock star among the climate deniers. Inhofe is coming, he’s opening up this conference, right? And the first morning the main conference organizer stands up at breakfast and lets loose the bad news that James Inhofe has called in sick and he can’t make it.

And it turns out that he had gone swimming in a lake filled with blue-green algae, which is actually a climate-related issue. When lakes get too warm, this blue-green algae spreads. And he had gone swimming. And he had gotten sick from the blue-green algae. So he actually arguably had a climate-related illness and couldn’t come to the climate change conference. But even though he was sick, he wrote a letter from his sickbed just telling them what a great job he was doing. So the powers of denial are amazingly strong, Bill. If you are deeply invested in this free-market ideology, you know, if you really believe with your heart and soul that everything public and anything the government does is evil and that, you know, our liberation will come from liberating corporations, then climate change fundamentally challenges your worldview, precisely because we have to regulate.

We have to plan. We can’t leave everything to the free market. In fact, climate change is, I would argue, the greatest single free-market failure. This is what happens when you don’t regulate corporations and you allow them to treat the atmosphere as an open sewer. So it isn’t just, “Okay, the fossil fuel companies want to protect their profits.” It’s that it’s that this science threatens a worldview. And when you dig deeper, when you drill deeper into those statistics about the drop in belief in climate change, what you see is that Democrats still believe in in climate change, in the 70th percentile. That whole drop of belief, drop off in belief has happened on the right side of the political spectrum. So the most reliable predictor of whether or not somebody believes that climate change is real is what their views are on a range of other political subjects. You know, what do you think about abortion? What is your view of taxes? And what you find is that people who have very strong conservative political beliefs cannot deal with this science, because it threatens everything else they believe.

BILL MOYERS: Do you really believe, are you convinced that there are no free-market solutions? There’s no way to let the market help us solve this crisis?

NAOMI KLEIN: No, absolutely the market can play a role. There are things that government can do to incentivize the free market to do a better job, yes. But is that a replacement for getting in the way, actively, of the fossil fuel industry and preventing them from destroying our chances of a future on a livable planet? It’s not a replacement.

We have to do both. Yes, we need these market incentives on the one hand to encourage renewable energy. But we also need a government that’s willing to say no. No, you can’t mine the Alberta tar sands and burn enough carbon that you will have game over for the climate as James Hansen has said.

BILL MOYERS: But I’m one of those who is the other end of the corporation. I mean, we had a crisis in New York the last two weeks. We couldn’t get gasoline for the indispensable vehicles that get us to work, get us to the supermarket, get us to our sick friends or neighbors. I mean, the point I’m trying to make is we are all the fossil fuel industry, are we not?

NAOMI KLEIN: You know, we often hear that. We often hear that we’re all equally responsible for climate change. And that it’s just the rules of supply and demand.

BILL MOYERS: I have two cars. I keep them filled with gasoline.

NAOMI KLEIN: But I think the question is, you know, if there was a fantastic public transit system that really made it easy for you to get where you wanted to go, would you drive less? So I don’t know about you, but I, you know, I certainly would.

BILL MOYERS: I mean, I use the subways all the time here.

NAOMI KLEIN: And if it was possible to recharge an electric vehicle, if it was as easy to do that as it is to fill up your car with gasoline, you know, if that electricity came from solar and wind, would you insist, “No, I want to fill my car with, you know, with dirty energy”? No, I don’t think you would. Because this is what I think we have expressed over and over again. We are willing to make changes. You know we recycle and we compost. We ride bicycles. I mean, there there’s actually been a tremendous amount of willingness and goodwill for people to change their behavior. But I think where people get demoralized is when they see, “Okay, I’m making these changes, but emissions are still going up, because the corporations aren’t changing how they do business.” So no, I don’t think we’re all equally guilty.

BILL MOYERS: President Obama managed to avoid the subject all through the campaign and he hasn’t exactly been leading the way.

NAOMI KLEIN: He has not been leading the way. And in fact, you know, he spent a lot of time on the campaign bragging about how much pipeline he’s laid down and this ridiculous notion of an all of the above energy strategy, as if you can, you know, develop solar and wind alongside more coal, you know, more oil, more natural gas, and it’s all going to work out in the end.

No, it doesn’t add up. And, you know, I think personally, I think the environmental movement has been a little too close to Obama. And, you know, we learned, for instance, recently, about a meeting that took place shortly after Obama was elected where the message that all these big green groups got was, “We don’t want to talk about climate change. We want to talk about green jobs and energy security.” And a lot of these big green groups played along. So I feel–

BILL MOYERS: You mean the big environmental groups?

NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah, big environmental groups went along with this messaging, talking about energy security, instead of talking about climate change, ’cause they were told that that wasn’t a winnable message. I just think it’s wrong. I think it’s bad strategy.

BILL MOYERS: He got reelected.

NAOMI KLEIN: He got, well, he got reelected, but you know what? I think he, I think Hurricane Sandy helped Obama get reelected.

BILL MOYERS: How so?

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, look at the Bloomberg endorsement that came at the last minute. I mean, Bloomberg endorsed Obama because of climate change. Because he believed that this was an issue that voters cared enough about that they would, that Independents would swing to Obama over climate change, and some of the polling absolutely supports this, that this was one of the reasons why people voted for Obama over Romney was that they were concerned about climate change and they felt that he was a better candidate on climate change.

The truth was, we didn’t have a good candidate. We had a terrible, terrible candidate on climate change, and we had a candidate on climate change who needs a lot of pressure. So I feel more optimistic than I did in 2008, because I think in 2008 the attitude of the environmental movement was, “Our guy just got in and we need to support him. And he’s going to give us the legislation that we, that we want. And we’re going to take his advice. And we’re going to be good little soldiers.”

And now maybe I’m being overly optimistic, but I think that people learned the lesson of the past four years. And people now understand that what Obama needs or what we need, forget what Obama needs, is a real independent movement with climate change at its center and that’s going to put pressure on the entire political class and directly on the fossil fuel companies on this issue. And there’s no waiting around for Obama to do it for you.

BILL MOYERS: Why would you think that the next four years of a lame duck president would be more successful from your standpoint than the first four years, when he’s looking to reelection?

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, I think on the one hand, we’re going to see more direct action. But the other strategy is to go where the problem is. And the problem is the companies themselves. And we’re launching the “Do the Math” tour which is actually trying to kick off a divestment movement. I mean, we’re going after these companies where it hurts, which is their portfolios, which is their stock price.

BILL MOYERS: You’re asking people to disinvest, to take their money out of, universities in particular, right? This is what happened during the fight against apartheid in South Africa and ultimately proved successful.

NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah, and this is, we are modeling it on the anti-apartheid divestment movement. And the reason it’s called “Do the Math” is because of this new body of research that came out last year. A group in Britain called “The Carbon Tracker Initiative.” And this is, you know, a fairly conservative group that addresses itself to the financial community. This is not, you know, sort of activist research. This is a group that identified a market bubble and were concerned about this meant to investors. So it’s a pretty conservative take on it. And what the numbers that they crunched found is that if we are going to ward off truly catastrophic climate change, we need to keep the increase, the temperature increase, below 2 degrees centigrade.

NAOMI KLEIN: The problem with that is that they also measured how much the fossil fuel companies and countries who own their own national oil reserves have now currently in their reserves, which means they have already laid claim to this. They already own it. It’s already inflating their stock price, okay? So how much is that? It’s five times more. So that means that the whole business model for the fossil fuel industry is based on burning five times more carbon than is compatible with a livable planet. So what we’re saying is, “Your business model is at war with life on this planet. It’s at war with us. And we need to fight back.”

So we’re saying, “These are rogue companies. And we think in particular young people whose whole future lies ahead of them have to send a message to their universities, who, and, you know, almost every university has a huge endowment. And there isn’t an endowment out there that doesn’t have holdings in these fossil fuel companies. And so young people are saying to the people who charged with their education, charged with preparing them for the outside world, for their future jobs, “Explain to me how you can prepare me for a future that with your actions you’re demonstrating you don’t believe in. How can you prepare me for a future at the same time as you bet against my future with these fossil fuel holdings? You do the math and you tell me.” And I think there’s a tremendous moral clarity that comes from having that kind of a youth-led movement. So we’re really excited about it.

BILL MOYERS: What do you mean rogue corporations? You’re talking about Chevron and Exxon-Mobil and BP and all of these huge capitalist or institutions.

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, rogue corporations, because their business model involves externalizing the price of their waste onto the rest of us. So their business model is based on not having to pay for what they think of as an externality, which is the carbon that’s spewed into the atmosphere that is warming the planet. And that price is enormous. We absolutely know that the future is going to be filled with many more such super storms and many more such costly, multibillion-dollar disasters. It’s already happening. Last year was– there were more billion-dollar disasters than any year previously. So climate change is costing us. And yet you see this squabbling at, you know, the state level, at the municipal level, over who is going to pay for this

NAOMI KLEIN: The public sector doesn’t have the money to pay for what these rogue corporations have left us with, the price tag of climate change. So we have to do two things. We have to make sure that it doesn’t get worse, that the price tag doesn’t get higher. And we need to get some of that money back, which means, you know, looking at issues like fossil fuel subsidies and, you know, to me, it’s so crazy. I mean, here we are post-Hurricane Sandy. Everyone is saying, “Well, maybe this is going to be our wakeup call.” And right now in New York City, the debate is over how much to increase fares in public transit. And they want to, the Metro Transit Authority wants to increase the price of riding the subway, you know, the price of riding the trains, quite a bit. And so how does this make sense? We’re supposedly having a wakeup call about climate change. And we’re making it harder for people to use public transit. And that’s because we don’t have the resources that we need.

BILL MOYERS: You’ve been out among the areas of devastation. Why?

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, for this book I’m currently writing about climate change and a documentary to go with it, so we were filming in the Rockaways, which is one of the hardest-hit areas and Staten Island and in Red Hook. And also in the relief hubs, where you see just a tremendous number of volunteers organized by, actually, organized by Occupy Wall Street. They call it Occupy Sandy.

BILL MOYERS: Really?

NAOMI KLEIN: Yes. And what I found is that people are—the generosity is tremendous, the humanity is tremendous. I saw a friend last night, and I asked her whether she’d been involved in the hurricane relief. And she said, “Yeah, I gave them my car. I hope I get it back. If you see it, tell me.” So people are tremendous.

BILL MOYERS: This means–

NAOMI KLEIN: So one of the things that you find out in a disaster is you really do need a public sector. It really important. And coming back to what we were talking about earlier, why is climate change so threatening to people on the conservative end of the political spectrum? One of the things it makes an argument for is the public sphere. You need public transit to prevent climate change. But you also need a public health care system to respond to it. It can’t just be ad hoc. It can’t just be charity and goodwill.

BILL MOYERS: When you use terms like “collective action,” “central planning,” you scare corporate executive and the American Enterprise Institute and The Heritage Foundation because they say you want to do away with capitalism.

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, first of all, I don’t use a phrase like “central planning.” I talk about planning, but I don’t think it should be central. And one of the things that one must admit when looking at climate change is that the only thing just as bad or maybe even worse for the climate than capitalism was communism. And when we look at the carbon emissions for the eastern bloc countries, they were actually, in some cases, worse than countries like Australia or Canada. So, let’s just call it a tie. So we need to look for other models. And I think there needs to be much more decentralization and a much deeper definition of democracy than we have right now.

BILL MOYERS: Decentralization of what, Naomi?

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, for instance, you know, if we think about renewable energy, well, one of the things that’s happened is that when you try to get wind farms set up, really big wind farms, there’s usually a lot of community resistance that’s happened in the United States. It’s happened in Britain. Where it hasn’t happened is Germany and Denmark. And the reason for that is that in those places you have movements that have demanded that the renewable energy be community controlled, not centrally planned, but community controlled. So that there’s a sense of ownership, not by some big, faceless state, but by the people who actually live in the community that is impacted.

BILL MOYERS: You’ve written that climate change has little to do with the state of the environment, but much to do with the state of capitalism and transforming the American economic system. And you see an opening with Sandy, right?

NAOMI KLEIN: I do see an opening, because, you know, whenever you have this kind of destruction, there has to be a reconstruction. And what I documented in “The Shock Doctrine” is that these right-wing think tanks, like the ones you named, like the American Enterprise Institute or the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation, they historically have gotten very, very good at seizing these moments of opportunity to push through their wish list of policies.

And often their wish list of policies actually dig us deeper into crisis. If I can just– if you’ll bear with me, I’ll just give you one example. After Hurricane Katrina, there was a meeting at the Heritage Foundation, just two weeks after the storm hit. Parts of the city were still underwater. And there was a meeting, the “Wall Street Journal” reported on it. And I got the minutes from the meeting.

The heading was 31 free market solutions for Hurricane Katrina. And you go down the list and it was: and don’t reopen the public schools, replace the public schools with vouchers. And drill for oil in ANWAR, in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, more oil refineries. So what kind of free market solutions are these, right?

Here you have a crisis that was created by a collision between heavy weather (which may or may not have been linked to climate change, but certainly it’s what climate change looks like) colliding with weak infrastructure, because of years and years of neglect. And the free market solutions to this crisis are, “Let’s just get rid of the public infrastructure altogether and drill for more oil, which is the root cause of climate change.” So that’s their shock doctrine. And I think it’s time for a people’s shock.

BILL MOYERS: People’s shock?

NAOMI KLEIN: A people’s shock, which actually we’ve had before, as you know, where, you know, if you think about 1929 and the market shock, and the way in which the public responded. They wanted to get at the root of the problem. And they wanted to get away from speculative finance and that’s how we got some very good legislation passed in this country like Glass-Steagall, and much of the social safety net was born in that moment. Not by exploiting crisis to horde power for the few and to ram through policies that people don’t want, but to build popular movements and to really deepen democracy.

BILL MOYERS: Well, the main thesis of “Shock Doctrine,” which came out five years ago before the great crash was that disaster capitalism exploits crises in order to move greater wealth to the hands of the fewer and fewer people. You don’t expect those people to change their appetites do you or their ways do you, because we face a climate crisis?

NAOMI KLEIN: I don’t expect them to. I wrote “The Shock Doctrine” because I believe that we, I believed at the time that we didn’t understand this tactic. We didn’t understand that during times of crisis certain sectors of the business world and the political class take advantage of our disorientation in order to ram through these policies. And I believed, at the time, that if we understood it, you know, if we had a name for it, if we had a word, a language for it, then the next time they tried it, we would fight back. Because the whole tactic is about taking advantage of our disorientation in those moments of crisis. And the fact that we often can become childlike and look towards, you know, a supposed expert class and leaders to take care of us. And we become too trusting, frankly, during disasters.

BILL MOYERS: It used to be said that weather, now global warming, climate change, was the great equalizer. It affected rich and poor alike. You don’t think it does, do you?

NAOMI KLEIN: What I’m seeing. And I’ve seen this, you know–I’ve been tracking this now for about six years, more and more, there’s a privatization of response to disaster, where I think that wealthy people understand that, yes, we are going to see more and more storms. We live in a turbulent world. It’s going to get even more turbulent. And they’re planning. So you have, for instance private insurance companies now increasingly offer what they call a concierge service. The first company that was doing this was A.I.G. And in the midst of the California wildfires about six years ago, for the first time, you saw private firefighters showing up at people’s homes, spraying them in fire retardant, so that when the flames came, this house would stay. This mansion, usually, would be standing and the one next door might burn to the ground. So this is extraordinary. Because we would tend to think of, you know, firefighting. This is definitely, you know, a public good. This is definitely something that people get equally. But now we’re finding that even that there’s even a sort of two-tiering of protection from wildfires.

BILL MOYERS: Yeah, there was even a short-lived airline in Florida I read about that offered five-star evacuation service in events of hurricanes.

NAOMI KLEIN: After Hurricane Katrina a company in Florida saw a market opportunity. And they decided to offer a charter airline that would turn your hurricane into a luxury vacation. That was actually the slogan. They would let you know when a hurricane was headed for your area. They would pick you up in a limousine, drive you to the airport, and whisk you up. And they would make you five star hotel reservations at the destination of your choice. So, you know, why does a hurricane have to be bad news after all?

BILL MOYERS: And this kind of privatization is what you wrote about in “Shock Doctrine,” that privatization of resources, monopolization of resources by the rich, in times of crisis, further divide us as a society

NAOMI KLEIN: Absolutely. And, you know, one of the things about deregulated capitalism is that it is a crisis creation machine, you know? You take away all the rules and you are going to have serial crises. They may be economic crises, booms and busts. Or there will be ecological crises. You’re going to have both. You’re just going to have shock after shock after shock. And the more, the longer this goes on, the more shocks you’re going to have.

And the way we’re currently responding to it is that with each shock, we become more divided. And the more we understand that this is what the future looks like, the more those who can afford it protect themselves and buy their way out of having to depend on the public sector and therefore are less invested in these collective responses. And that’s why there has to be a whole other way of responding to this crisis.

BILL MOYERS: You wrote recently that climate change can be a historic moment to usher in the next great wave of progressive change.

NAOMI KLEIN: It can be and it must be. I mean, it’s our only chance. I believe it’s the biggest challenge humanity has ever faced. And we’ve been kidding ourselves about what it’s going to take to get our emissions down to the extent that they need to go down. I mean, you talk about 80 percent lowering emissions. I mean, that is such a huge shift.

And I think that’s part of the way in which, and I don’t mean to beat up on the big environmental groups, because they do fantastic work. But I think that part of the reason why public opinion on this issue has been so shaky is that it doesn’t really add up to say to the public, you know, “This is a huge problem. It’s Armageddon.” You know, you have “Inconvenient Truth.” You scare the hell out of people. But then you say, “Well, the solution can be very minor. You can change your light bulb. And we’ll have this complicated piece of legislation called cap and trade that you don’t really understand, but that basically means that companies here can keep on polluting, but they’re going to trade their carbon emissions. And, you know, somebody else is going to plant trees on the other side of the planet and they’ll get credits.”

And people look at that going, “Okay, if this was a crisis, wouldn’t be we be responding more aggressively? So wouldn’t we be responding in a way that you have, we’ve responded in the past during war times, where there’s been, you know, that kind of a collective sense of shared responsibility?” Because I think when we really do feel that sense of urgency about an issue, and I believe we should feel it about climate change, we are willing to sacrifice. We have shown that in the past. But when you hold up a supposed emergency and actually don’t ask anything of people, anything major, they actually think you might be lying, that it might not really be an emergency after all. So if this is an emergency, we have to act like it. And yeah, it is a fundamental challenge. But the good news is, you know, we get to have a future for our kids.

Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/bill-moyers-naomi-klein-how-climate-change-historic-opportunity-progressives

 

Links:

[1] http://billmoyers.com/

[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/bill-moyers-0

[3] http://www.alternet.org/authors/naomi-klein

[4] http://billmoyers.com

[5] http://www.alternet.org/tags/bill-moyers

[6] http://www.alternet.org/tags/naomi-klein

[7] http://www.alternet.org/tags/climate-change

[8] http://www.alternet.org/tags/capitalism

[9] http://www.alternet.org/tags/shock-doctrine

[10] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

We the People, and the New American Civil War

by Robert Reich, Common Dreams, November 6, 2012

Excerpt

The vitriol is worse is worse than I ever recall….It’s almost a civil war….What’s going on?…

And we’ve had bigger disagreements in the past…Maybe it’s that we’re more separated now, geographically and online….

But now most of us exist in our own political bubbles, left and right…

So when Americans get upset about politics these days we tend to stew in our own juices, without benefit of anyone we know well and with whom we disagree — and this makes it almost impossible for us to understand the other side.…I think the degree of venom we’re experiencing has deeper roots….

In other words, white working-class men have been on the losing end of a huge demographic and economic shift. That’s made them a tinder-box of frustration and anger – eagerly ignited by Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and other pedlars of petulance, including an increasing number of Republicans who have gained political power by fanning the flames.

That hate-mongering and attendant scapegoating – of immigrants, blacks, gays, women this degree of divisiveness would have taken root had America preserved the social solidarity we had two generations ago. The Great Depression and World War II reminded us we were all in it together. We had to depend on each other in order to survive. That sense of mutual dependence transcended our disagreements…

So we come to the end of a bitter election feeling as if we’re two nations rather than one. The challenge – not only for our president and representatives in Washington but for all of us – is to rediscover the public good.

Full text

The vitriol is worse is worse than I ever recall. Worse than the Palin-induced smarmy 2008. Worse than the swift-boat lies of 2004. Worse, even, than the anything-goes craziness of 2000 and its ensuing bitterness.

It’s almost a civil war. I know families in which close relatives are no longer speaking. A dating service says Democrats won’t even consider going out with Republicans, and vice-versa. My email and twitter feeds contain messages from strangers I wouldn’t share with my granddaughter.

What’s going on? Yes, we’re divided over issues like the size of government and whether women should have control over their bodies. But these aren’t exactly new debates. We’ve been disagreeing over the size and role of government since Thomas Jefferson squared off with Alexander Hamilton, and over abortion rights since before Roe v. Wade, almost forty years ago.

And we’ve had bigger disagreements in the past – over the Vietnam War, civil rights, communist witch hunts – that didn’t rip us apart like this.

Maybe it’s that we’re more separated now, geographically and online.

The town where I grew up in the 1950s was a GOP stronghold, but Henry Wallace, FDR’s left-wing vice president, had retired there quite happily. Our political disagreements then and there didn’t get in the way of our friendships. Or even our families — my father voted Republican and my mother was a Democrat. And we all watched Edward R. Murrow deliver the news, and then, later, Walter Cronkite. Both men were the ultimate arbiters of truth.

But now most of us exist in our own political bubbles, left and right. I live in Berkeley, California – a blue city in a blue state – and rarely stumble across anyone who isn’t a liberal Democrat (the biggest battles here are between the moderate left and the far-left). The TV has hundreds of channels so I can pick what I want to watch and who I want to hear. And everything I read online confirms everything I believe, thanks in part to Google’s convenient algorithms.

So when Americans get upset about politics these days we tend to stew in our own juices, without benefit of anyone we know well and with whom we disagree — and this makes it almost impossible for us to understand the other side.

That geographic split also means more Americans are represented in Congress by people whose political competition comes from primary challengers – right-wing Republicans in red states and districts, left-wing Democrats in blue states and districts. And this drives those who represent us even further apart.

But I think the degree of venom we’re experiencing has deeper roots.

The nation is becoming browner and blacker. Most children born in California are now minorities. In a few years America as a whole will be a majority of minorities. Meanwhile, women have been gaining economic power. Their median wage hasn’t yet caught up with men, but it’s getting close. And with more women getting college degrees than men, their pay will surely exceed male pay in a few years. At the same time, men without college degrees continue to lose economic ground. Adjusted for inflation, their median wage is lower than it was three decades ago.

In other words, white working-class men have been on the losing end of a huge demographic and economic shift. That’s made them a tinder-box of frustration and anger – eagerly ignited by Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and other pedlars of petulance, including an increasing number of Republicans who have gained political power by fanning the flames.

That hate-mongering and attendant scapegoating – of immigrants, blacks, gays, women seeking abortions, our government itself – has legitimized some vitriol and scapegoating on the left as well. I detest what the Koch Brothers, Karl Rove, Grover Norquist, Rupert Murdock, and Paul Ryan are doing, and I hate their politics. But in this heated environment I sometimes have to remind myself I don’t hate them personally.

Not even this degree of divisiveness would have taken root had America preserved the social solidarity we had two generations ago. The Great Depression and World War II reminded us we were all in it together. We had to depend on each other in order to survive. That sense of mutual dependence transcended our disagreements. My father, a “Rockefeller” Republican, strongly supported civil rights and voting rights, Medicare and Medicaid. I remember him saying “we’re all Americans, aren’t we?”

To be sure, we endured 9/11, we’ve gone to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we suffered the Great Recession. But these did not not bind us as we were bound together in the Great Depression and World War II. The horror of 9/11 did not touch all of us, and the only sacrifice George W. Bush asked was that we kept shopping. Today’s wars are fought by hired guns – young people who are paid to do the work most of the rest of us don’t want our own children to do. And the Great Recession split us rather than connected us; the rich grew richer, the rest of us, poorer and less secure.

So we come to the end of a bitter election feeling as if we’re two nations rather than one. The challenge – not only for our president and representatives in Washington but for all of us – is to rediscover the public good.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License
Robert Reich, one of the nation’s leading experts on work and the economy, is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. Time Magazine has named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written thirteen books, including his latest best-seller, Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future; The Work of Nations; Locked in the Cabinet; Supercapitalism; and his newest, Beyond Outrage. His syndicated columns, television appearances, and public radio commentaries reach millions of people each week. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, and Chairman of the citizen’s group Common Cause. His widely-read blog can be found at www.robertreich.org.
more Robert Reich

Article printed from www.CommonDreams.org
Source URL: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/11/06

The Prerequisite of the Common Good

by Jim Wallis, Huffington Post, November 9, 2012

Excerpt

…The results of the presidential election showed how dramatically a very diverse America is changing; people are longing for a vision of the common good that includes everyone.

people of faith aren’t going to be entirely happy with any political leader, and they shouldn’t be. Many of them feel politically homeless in the raging battles between ideological extremes. But they could find their home in a new call for the common good — a vision drawn from the heart of our religious traditions that allows us to make our faith public but not narrowly partisan. That requires a political engagement that emphasizes issues and people above personalities and partisanship….

Whether government is serving its biblical purpose of protecting from evil and promoting good, is more important than ideological debates about its size. How can we move from an ethic of endless growth to an ethic of sustainability, from short-term profits to longer term human flourishing, from the use and consumption of the earth to stewardship and creation care?

Protecting “life” can no longer be restricted to a few issues, but must be consistently applied to wherever human life and dignity are threatened. The failure of strident and partisan efforts by people like Franklin Graham and Ralph Reed to narrow those issues in the final stages of this election was very evident and significant. More and more Christians, especially younger ones, now believe our congregations will be finally evaluated not merely by their correct doctrines, but by whether their missions are serving the “parishes” of this whole world; here and now, not just for the hereafter.

The prerequisite for solving the deepest problems this country and the world now face is a commitment to a very ancient idea whose time has urgently come: the common good.

Full text

The day after the 2012 election brought a great feeling of relief. Most of us, whether our candidates won or lost, were so weary of what elections have become that we were just glad the process was over. Many were disappointed that dysfunctional and bitterly partisan politics in Washington, D.C., had undermined their deep desires for “hope” and “change.” Politics has severely constrained those possibilities by focusing on blame instead of solutions, and winning instead of governing. And, as the most expensive election in American history just showed, the checks have replaced all the balances.

But the election results produced neither the salvation nor the damnation of the country, as some of the pundits on both sides seemed to suggest.

The results of the presidential election showed how dramatically a very diverse America is changing; people are longing for a vision of the common good that includes everyone. As one commentator put it “the demographic time bomb” has now been set off in American politics — and getting mostly white, male, and older voters is no longer enough to win elections, as the Romney campaign learned on Tuesday. The common good welcomes all “the tribes” into God’s beloved community, and our social behavior and public policies must show that. Even after such a discouraging election campaign, many still hope that we are not as divided and cynical a people as our politics would lead us to believe, as President Barack Obama passionately said on election night to the diverse American coalition that had just re-elected him.

As for religious voters, it appears a strategy of citing a “war on religion”– and doubling down on the long-failed strategy of citing abortion and traditional marriage as the two “non-negotiable” religious issues — once again failed. But at a deeper level, the meaning of “evangelical” in American politics is changing to now include African American and Hispanic Christians whose theology is clearly “evangelical” and overwhelmingly voted for the president this week. And despite the opposition of many Catholic Bishops, Obama also won the Catholic vote, again, because of the influence of Hispanic Catholics and Catholic women voters.

But people of faith aren’t going to be entirely happy with any political leader, and they shouldn’t be. Many of them feel politically homeless in the raging battles between ideological extremes. But they could find their home in a new call for the common good — a vision drawn from the heart of our religious traditions that allows us to make our faith public but not narrowly partisan. That requires a political engagement that emphasizes issues and people above personalities and partisanship.

For example, fiscal responsibility is indeed a moral issue, but how we achieve it, and at whose expense, is also a moral choice. As the debates about the “fiscal cliff” now begin, expect the community of faith to be visibly and actively involved in pressing both republicans and democrats to protect the poorest and most vulnerable. An even deeper unity has grown across the faith community about the need to “welcome the stranger” by fixing a broken system with comprehensive immigration reform.

Trust has been lost in the fairness and opportunity of our economic system, and must be restored by asking what a “moral economy” would look like. More people think everyone deserves a “fair shot” and believe both our economic and political systems have been rigged on behalf of the wealthy and powerful. New senate voices like Elizabeth Warren are promising to be “champions” on those issues.

Whether government is serving its biblical purpose of protecting from evil and promoting good, is more important than ideological debates about its size. How can we move from an ethic of endless growth to an ethic of sustainability, from short-term profits to longer term human flourishing, from the use and consumption of the earth to stewardship and creation care?

The need to restore the health of households, to strengthen marriage and prioritize the raising of children is essential now, which can go even deeper than equal protection under the law for same sex couples — which also gained ground on Tuesday. Protecting “life” can no longer be restricted to a few issues, but must be consistently applied to wherever human life and dignity are threatened. The failure of strident and partisan efforts by people like Franklin Graham and Ralph Reed to narrow those issues in the final stages of this election was very evident and significant. More and more Christians, especially younger ones, now believe our congregations will be finally evaluated not merely by their correct doctrines, but by whether their missions are serving the “parishes” of this whole world; here and now, not just for the hereafter.

The prerequisite for solving the deepest problems this country and the world now face is a commitment to a very ancient idea whose time has urgently come: the common good. How do we work together, even with people we don’t agree with? How do we treat each other, especially the poorest and most vulnerable? How do we take care of not just ourselves, but also one another? Only by inspiring a spiritual and practical commitment to the common good can we rescue and redeem our politics.

Many of us believe that to be on God’s side, and not merely claim that God is on ours (to paraphrase Lincoln), means to live out the prayer Jesus taught us, “Thy kingdom come, they will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

(That’s why every politician in Washington, D.C., needs to see Sojourners’ new documentary The Line and understand what it’s like to be poor in America today. If you chip in $15 today, we will hand-deliver a copy of The Line to your members of Congress. To show our appreciation, we’ll send you a copy, too.)

Jim Wallis is the author of Rediscovering Values: A Guide for Economic and Moral Recovery, and CEO of Sojourners. His forthcoming book, On God’s Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn’t Learned about Serving the Common Good, is set to release in early 2013. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jim-wallis/the-prerequisite-of-the-c_b_2093760.html?utm_hp_ref=daily-brief?utm_source=DailyBrief&utm_campaign=110912&utm_medium=email&utm_content=BlogEntry&utm_term=Daily%20Brief

How the Common Good Is Transforming Our World

by Douglas LaBier, Huffington Post, 10/17/10

Excerpt

… a steadily growing consciousness and behavior that refocuses personal lives and public policies towards promoting the common good.  By the “common good” I’m referring to a broad evolution beyond values and actions that serve narrow self-interest, and towards those guided by inclusiveness — supporting well-being, economic success, security, human rights and stewardship of resources for the benefit of all, rather than just for some.
It’s like a stealth operation, because it hasn’t become highly visible yet. But polls, surveys and research data reveal several strands of change that are coalescing in this overall direction….It’s an awareness of interconnection of all lives on this planet, and a pull towards acting upon that reality in a range of ways. They include rethinking personal relationships, the responsibility of business to society, and the role of government in an interdependent world.

Full text

In my previous post I wrote about a rising social psychosis that’s visible in three areas of our society. It’s likely to prevail for some time, but I think it’s like a wave that’s crested and will crash to the shore. The reason is that the social psychosis is a backlash against a steadily growing consciousness and behavior that refocuses personal lives and public policies towards promoting the common good.

By the “common good” I’m referring to a broad evolution beyond values and actions that serve narrow self-interest, and towards those guided by inclusiveness — supporting well-being, economic success, security, human rights and stewardship of resources for the benefit of all, rather than just for some.

It’s like a stealth operation, because it hasn’t become highly visible yet. But polls, surveys and research data reveal several strands of change that are coalescing in this overall direction. I describe each of them below. They may appear to be unrelated, but I think they’re driven by an underlying perspective that we’re all like organs of the same body, and the body doesn’t thrive if any of the organs is neglected or diseased.

It’s an awareness of interconnection of all lives on this planet, and a pull towards acting upon that reality in a range of ways. They include rethinking personal relationships, the responsibility of business to society, and the role of government in an interdependent world.

A 21st-Century Mindset

The rise of the common good reflects a sense of global citizenship and an obligation to be a good ancestor to future generations who inhabit this planet. In fact, it embodies behavior and policies that fit the needs for effective functioning — both personal and political — in our post-9/11, post-economic meltdown world.

That is, in previous posts I’ve argued that this new era of unpredictable change in a non-equilibrium world requires new criteria for psychological health and resiliency, beyond just effective stress management and coping. Others have emphasized the new mindset that’s needed for effective business and leadership strategies in this interconnected era.

For example, Matt Bai has described in the New York Times that “[n]ow we live in an integrated world where American jobs rely on the economic policies of governments in Asia or Latin America, while our security is subject to the whims of a cleric living in a cave,” and, “[w]ith global interdependence comes a certain lack of control, a vulnerability to disparate influence.”

Similarly, CUNY professor and blogger Jeff Jarvis refers to a “great restructuring of the economy and society, starting with a fundamental change in our relationships — how we are linked and intertwined and how we act.”

And Umair Haque writes in his Harvard Business School blog about the new principles of a new economy “built around stewardship, trusteeship, guardianship, leadership, partnership,” adding that “[a]s interaction explodes, the costs of evil are starting to outweigh the benefits.” In effect, transparency will become the antidote to evil.

Let’s look at some of the seemingly disparate themes of the massive shift underway that has spawned the current social psychosis.

The New Norm of Racial-Ethnic Diversity

As you read these words, the country is becoming more diverse. Some demographers believe that 2010 could be the first year that most children born in the country will be non-white. Already, five states have a majority non-white population. New York Times columnist Charles Blow captured a slice of this at the time of the passage of health care legislation, writing that “[a] woman [Nancy Pelosi] pushed the health care bill through the House. The bill’s most visible and vocal proponents included a gay man [Barney Frank] and a Jew [Anthony Weiner]. And the black man in the White House signed the bill into law. It’s enough to make a good old boy go crazy.”

Nearly 20 percent of counties in the U.S. have, or are close to, a nonwhite majority. This shift is steadily changing the social landscape. The trend is towards movement in the direction of tolerance, acceptance and valuing — rather than fearing or hating — the increasingly diverse composition of American society. And that includes the rising numbers of those with multi-racial/ethnic backgrounds. Moreover, research finds that the latter group tends to be open-minded and more oriented to inclusiveness and openness.

Volunteer Service

Data show that the number of volunteers is steadily growing among all age groups. During 2009, about 64 million Americans did volunteer work (defined as unpaid volunteer activities through an organization.) That’s nearly 27 percent of the populations and reflects a steady year-by-year increase, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report. And a rapid rise of volunteerism has occurred in the last decade among men and women in their 30s and 40s. Today, people describe volunteerism as part of their sense of responsibility to help others in need, not something for padding their resume.

Donations of Organs by Living Donors to Strangers

That number is steadily rising. For example, kidney donations from living donors have outnumbered those from deceased donors since 2003. Some states, such as Wisconsin, offer tax deductions for expenses related to living organ donations.

Hands-On Philanthropy

This trend is towards wanting contributions to have visible, direct impact upon people’s lives. More are turning away from writing checks to well-heeled organizations like universities or cultural centers. This trend is visible among venture capitalists who bring a high-impact perspective to venture philanthropy as well as among average citizens, who increasingly contribute to international organizations that help people become more self-sufficient in daily life — for example, through micro finance (providing small loans to individuals starting businesses in impoverished countries), or purchasing a goat for a family that relies on small farming for their livelihood, or paying the salary of a schoolteacher in an impoverished part of the world.

Responsibility for a Healthy Planet

Despite the continued denial of the reality of climate change and the human contributions to it by the GOP, a denial unmatched among major political parties around the globe, pressure continues to build, both politically and on a grassroots level, for actions that reverse or halt climate change and promote sustainable living. Among the latter are groups like 350.org, the Alliance for Climate Protection and community alliances of citizens, businesses and government such as Bethesda Green, in Bethesda, Md. This trend is underscored by the steadily rising financial contributions to environmental organizations.

Support For Human Rights

Data show a steady increase of both financial contributions to and membership in such organizations as Human Rights Watch, Save the Children, Amnesty International, Mercy Corps International and others. Even in the absence of effective action, consciousness continues to build around the perspective that violations of rights to safety, dignity and personal freedom for another — anywhere in the world — affect oneself, as well. In addition, the view of security and human rights is expanding to include not only freedom from violence and terrorism, but also the rights to health care, support of older citizens, rights to adequate housing, food, fair wages and other conditions. A recent U.N. report examines these issues with respect to responsibilities and actions of member nations.

Personal Success

I’ve written previously that men and women increasingly want a “4.0 career”: one that provides more than personal recognition, power and financial reward. They want meaningful work, opportunities for continued learning and growth, a positive management culture and a team-oriented, ethical environment. They want to have impact on something larger than just their own personal success. These themes are especially pronounced among younger workers.

The Social Impact of Business

Business leaders have already bought into the need for sustainability, and many are contributing to the rise of a new business model, one that addresses social problems and serves the common good as well as achieving financial success. The “green business” movement reflects this shift, along with the concept of the “triple bottom line.” Related trends include sustainable investing, social entrepreneurialism, corporate social responsibility, building a psychologically healthy management culture, and transparency via open access to information and corporate disclosure policies.

Acceptance of Gay Relationships and Gay Marriage

Acceptance of gay relationships has steadily increased, while opposition to gay marriage has steadily decreased, when tracked over the last several years, according to data from the Pew Research Center. Between one-quarter and one-third of gay and lesbian couples are raising children, a steadily rising number. And the most current surveys indicate that about half of all Americans support gay marriage.

Families And Relationships Are Transforming

A majority of Americans now say their definition of family includes same-sex couples with children, as well as married gay and lesbian couples. Regarding intimate relationships, surveys by the Gallup organization and other groups find that the quality of the relationship is more important to people today than simple allegiance to the institution of marriage. Census statistics and other data confirm this, showing, for example, a steady decline in the marriage rate over the last several decades, while cohabitation has steadily risen in each of those same decades. About half of all households today are headed by people who are single. And unmarried couples are as likely as married couples to be raising children: it’s currently approaching 50 percent.

Some surveys report that at least 30 percent of those polled admit to having had an affair. Whether that’s accurate or not, the upshot is that affairs are no longer viewed as immoral in today’s culture. Moreover, attitudes towards prostitution are also shifting towards greater acceptance and focus on the rights of sex workers.

So, these are just some of the pervasive shifts underway. My read is that they link around an underlying theme that our culture is evolving in both consciousness and action, and that evolution will grow and strengthen over time. That’s why the current social psychosis will fade. That’s not only hopeful but important: The rise of the common good is both a necessary path for survival and security on an interdependent planet and the path towards personal psychological health, success and well being in this new world era.

Douglas LaBier, Ph.D., a business psychologist and psychotherapist, is Director of the Center for Progressive Development, in Washington, D.C. You may contact him at
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/douglas-labier/the-rise-of-the-common-go_b_759622.html

Happiness Comes From Respect, Not Riches by Stacey Kennelly

Published on Sunday, August 5, 2012 by Greater Good / YES! Magazine

 A series of studies shows that wealth doesn’t make us happier—but the respect of others does.

Money really can’t buy happiness, research shows. Instead, a new study suggests, those pursuing a happier life would be smart to sharpen their social skills. (Jiri Kabele)

In a series of four experiments, researchers found that it is the level of respect and admiration we receive from peers—not overall wealth or success—that more likely predicts happiness. They refer to this level of respect and admiration as our “sociometric status,” as opposed to socioeconomic status (SES).

In one experiment, 80 college students from 14 different student groups rated how much they respected and admired the other people in their group, and how respected and admired they felt themselves; they also answered questions about their family’s income and their own level of happiness.

The results, published in the journal Psychological Science, show that people with higher sociometric status reported greater happiness, whereas their socioeconomic status was not linked to their happiness.

In a similar experiment, more than 300 people answered questions about the respect and admiration they received within their friends, family, and work circles. They also reported their personal sense of power in those social circles, and how liked and accepted they felt, along with their income and happiness.

Again, people of high sociometric status were much more likely to be happy than were people of high SES. Through their data analysis, the researchers also found that these people were happier because they felt a greater sense of power and acceptance within their groups.

“Where people stand in their local hierarchy matters to their happiness,” they write.

But does feeling respected and admired actually cause people to be feel happier—or could it be that people admire peers who project happiness?

“You don’t have to be rich to be happy, but instead be a valuable contributing member to your groups.”

The researchers addressed that question in two additional experiments. In one, they manipulated people’s sense of status by asking them to compare themselves to people who were much more or much less respected and admired than they were. Other participants had to compare themselves to people who had much more or much less wealth, education, and professional success. Then all participants had to think about how their “similarities and differences” might come into play if they were to interact with these imaginary others.

In this case, people temporarily made to feel like they were of higher sociometric status were happier than people made to feel like they were of lower sociometric status, regardless of their actual status outside of the experiment. By contrast, people made to feel like they had high socioeconomic status were not happier than people made to feel like they had low SES. The results strongly suggest that feeling respected and admired can actually cause our happiness to increase, whereas feeling wealthy (without also feeling respected) doesn’t carry the same effect.

In the final part of the study, the researchers tracked 156 MBA students, following them from shortly before their business school graduation through nine months after graduation. For many of these students, their graduation brought a change in sociometric status—someone admired on campus, for instance, could be disrespected at his or her post-graduate job, even if his or her income went up.

The results show that as the students’ sociometric status rose or fell, their happiness level rose or fell accordingly; in fact, changes to their sociometric status were much more strongly linked to happiness than were changes to their socioeconomic status.

The findings echo past research finding that income has surprisingly little effect on happiness, says Cameron Anderson, a professor at theUniversityofCalfiornia,Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and the lead author of the study.

Instead,Andersonand his colleagues’ research suggests that what really matters is the respect, admiration, and feelings of power we get from others within our face-to-face groups.

“You don’t have to be rich to be happy, but instead be a valuable contributing member to your groups,” saysAnderson. “What makes a person high in status in a group is being engaged, generous with others, and making self sacrifices for the greater good.”

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License

Stacey Kennelly wrote this article for Greater Good, the UC Berkeley-based magazine that covers research into the roots of compassion, happiness, and altruism. This article is republished through a special collaboration between Greater Good and YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions.

Published on Sunday, August 5, 2012 by Greater Good / YES! Magazine

We’re All In This Together

The Commons Moment is Now – How a small, dedicated group of people can transform the world—really by Jay Walljasper, CommonDreams.org, January 24, 2011- Introducing the Commons Paradigm -
There are emerging signs that market fundamentalism has passed its peak as the defining idea of our era….a group of activists, thinkers, and concerned citizens around the world who are rallying support for the idea of a commons-based society…These commoners, as they call themselves, see possibilities for large numbers of people of diverse ideological stripes coming together to chart a new, more cooperative direction for modern society…
In the truest sense of the word, the commons is a conservative as well as progressive virtue because it aims to conserve and nurture all those things necessary for sustaining a healthy society…
Now is the time to introduce a decisive shift in worldview. People everywhere are yearning for a world that is safer, saner, more sustainable and satisfying. There’s a rising sense of possibility that even with our daunting economic and environmental problems, there are opportunities to make some fundamental improvements. Everyone deserves decent health care. The health of the planet should take precedence over the profits of a few. Clean water, adequate food, education, access to information, and economic opportunity ought to be available to all people. In other words, a commons-based society. Let’s transform that hope into constructive action.

Five Lessons in Human Goodness From “The Hunger Games” By Jeremy Adam Smith
YES! Magazine, Posted on AlterNet.org, June 28, 2012

How the Common Good Is Transforming Our World by Douglas LaBier, HuffingtonPost.com, October 17, 2010

 

The Social Animal by David Brooks, New York Times, September 12, 2008  …Barry Goldwater, “The Conscience of a Conservative” Goldwater’s vision…celebrated a certain sort of person — the stout pioneer crossing the West, the risk-taking entrepreneur with a vision, the stalwart hero fighting the collectivist foe. The problem is, this individualist description of human nature seems to be wrong. Over the past 30 years, there has been a tide of research in many fields, all underlining one old truth — that we are intensely social creatures, deeply interconnected with one another and the idea of the lone individual rationally and willfully steering his own life course is often an illusion…What emerges is not a picture of self-creating individuals gloriously free from one another, but of autonomous creatures deeply interconnected with one another…

A Matter of Life and Debt by Margaret Atwood,Op-Ed Con­trib­u­tor, New York Times, Octo­ber 22, 2008we’re delud­ing our­selves if we assume that we can recover from the cri­sis of 2008 so quickly and eas­ily sim­ply by watch­ing the Dow creep upward. The wounds go deeper than that. To heal them, we must repair the bro­ken moral bal­ance that let this chaos loose. Debt — who owes what to whom, or to what, and how that debt gets paid — is a sub­ject much larger than money. It has to do with our basic sense of fair­ness, a sense that is embed­ded in all of our exchanges with our fel­low human beings. But at some point we stopped see­ing debt as a sim­ple per­sonal rela­tion­ship. The human fac­tor became diminished…The whole edi­fice rests on a few fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ples that are inher­ent in us.We are social crea­tures who must inter­act for mutual ben­e­fit…Is there any bright side to this? Per­haps we’ll have some breath­ing room — a chance to re-evaluate our goals and to take stock of our rela­tion­ship to the liv­ing planet from which we derive all our nour­ish­ment, and with­out which debt finally won’t matter.

Reweaving the Fabric of our Society by Joan Blades Most of us agree that D.C. dynamics have got to change for the U.S. to solve the real challenges we confront and to retain our leadership role in the world. Political leaders and the media are failing us on so many levels…all Americans have a great deal in common. But our understanding of politics, economics, science and even basic facts is increasingly disparate. We cannot afford to continue on this path. A healthy democracy requires an educated electorate that shares basic truths and values — or at least is willing to sit down and listen to one another with an open mind, with mutual respect and civility…While the traditional media loves fights, the new and emerging social media loves connections. We can leverage the wisdom and creativity of crowds to find win-win solutions to our common problems. We can scale our efforts to tens of thousands of conversations, giving individuals the power to begin to reweave the social fabric of our communities…

The Prerequisite of the Common Good by Jim Wal­lis, Huff­in­g­ton Post, Novem­ber 9, 2012The results of the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion showed how dra­mat­i­cally a very diverse Amer­ica is chang­ing; peo­ple are long­ing for a vision of the com­mon good that includes every­one.…peo­ple of faith aren’t going to be entirely happy with any polit­i­cal leader, and they shouldn’t be. Many of them feel polit­i­cally home­less in the rag­ing bat­tles between ide­o­log­i­cal extremes. But they could find their home in a new call for the com­mon good — a vision drawn from the heart of our reli­gious tra­di­tions that allows us to make our faith pub­lic but not nar­rowly par­ti­san. That requires a polit­i­cal engage­ment that empha­sizes issues and peo­ple above per­son­al­i­ties and partisanship.…Whether gov­ern­ment is serv­ing its bib­li­cal pur­pose of pro­tect­ing from evil and pro­mot­ing good, is more impor­tant than ide­o­log­i­cal debates about its size. How can we move from an ethic of end­less growth to an ethic of sus­tain­abil­ity, from short-term prof­its to longer term human flour­ish­ing, from the use and con­sump­tion of the earth to stew­ard­ship and cre­ation care? Pro­tect­ing “life” can no longer be restricted to a few issues, but must be con­sis­tently applied to wher­ever human life and dig­nity are threat­ened. The fail­ure of stri­dent and par­ti­san efforts by peo­ple like Franklin Gra­ham and Ralph Reed to nar­row those issues in the final stages of this elec­tion was very evi­dent and sig­nif­i­cant. More and more Chris­tians, espe­cially younger ones, now believe our con­gre­ga­tions will be finally eval­u­ated not merely by their cor­rect doc­trines, but by whether their mis­sions are serv­ing the “parishes” of this whole world; here and now, not just for the hereafter. The pre­req­ui­site for solv­ing the deep­est prob­lems this coun­try and the world now face is a com­mit­ment to a very ancient idea whose time has urgently come: the com­mon good.…


 

Our Human Family

 We’re all in this together

Five Lessons in Human Goodness From “The Hunger Games” By Jeremy Adam Smith
 YES! Magazine, Posted on AlterNet.org, June 28, 2012

Change Agent Karen Armstrong argues for practical compassion — interview with Heidi Bruce,  published in YES! Magazine, posted on Christian Science, April 17, 2012

How the Common Good Is Transforming Our World by Douglas LaBier, HuffingtonPost.com, October 17, 2010

The Commons Moment is Now – How a small, dedicated group of people can transform the world—really by Jay Walljasper, CommonDreams.org, January 24, 2011

Compassion/Empathy

The Compassionate Instinct by Dacher Keltner, Greater Good Science Center, Spring 2004

The Empathic Civilization by Jeremy Rifkin, Interview by Amanda Gefter, New Scientist.com, February 17, 2010

The Empathy Ceiling: The Rich Are Different — And Not In a Good Way by Brian Alexander, MSNBC, August 10, 2011

Generational Justice

Our Three Bombs by Thomas Friedman, New York Times, October 7, 2009

The Decade of Lost Children by Charles M. Blow, New York Times, August 5, 2011

Why our children’s future no longer looks so bright By Robert J. Samuelson, Washington Post,  October 16, 2011

Human Nature

The Fascinating Scientific Reason Why “Money Doesn’t Buy Happiness” By David McRaney, Alternet.org, January 25, 2012

The Social Animal by David Brooks, New York Times, September 12, 2008

Human Rights in History by Samuel Moyn, The Nation,  August 11, 2010

Global economic crisis also values crisis – Davos poll - by Tom Henegan, Religion Editor, New Frontiers  |  Davos – PARIS, Reuters, January 27, 2010

Crisis

Humanity Must Stabilize Population, Consumption or Face ‘Downward Vortex’ of ‘Ills’ by Common Dreams staff, Common Dreams Report, April 26, 2012

How Right-Wing Conspiracy Theories May Pose a Genuine Threat to Humanity by Joshua Holland, Alternet.org, December 25, 2011