Saturday, March 05, 2005

Civic Caring & Shared Community

Abraham Lincoln declared that our nation was dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Men are obviously not equal. Some are strong, aggressive, talented and greedy, and others are weaker, ordinary and average. So what does it mean that our nation was dedicated to the proposition that men are created equal? We get the answer in part from the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal...That to secure (this right), Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...”

So our government is dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal for the precise purpose of meeting the equal common needs of all men. Our government is dedicated to protecting every person from the strong, aggressive, talented and greedy and the power such persons get in the unregulated exercise of their liberty in earning money, building weapons and disseminating propaganda. It was Lincoln’s fervent hope that “this nation, so dedicated and so consecrated, of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Our government is not of the rich, by the rich and for the rich. It is of, by and for all people equally. It exists to protect us, and to meet the needs that humans have in common.

What needs do we humans have in common?

We need recognition and confirmation that each one of us is a worthy human being with an equal right to flourish.

We need recognition that every one of us is dependent on and connected with each other human.

We need recognition of our capacity for caring.

We need truth, fairness, honesty and transparency in our dealings with each other and from our government.

We need the preservation of our beautiful planet home.

We all need clean air, clean water, sanitary sewage treatment, public health and disease control, safe nutritious food, medical care and medicines.

We need a sustainable political economy that is designed to fit human beings and designed to provide a reasonable livelihood for the ordinary human together with a safety net.

If we are to have democracy, each adult human needs an equal fractional share of the aggregate of political power.

In order to govern ourselves wisely, we need reliable sources of truthful information.

In a word, we need protection from the jungle, the law of the jungle, and the “survival of the fittest.” We need protection from those who are more talented in making money than we are. We need protection from the unregulated planet wide market economy. We need both awareness of and protection from the submissive psychology and cultural erosion that this market economy creates in each of us.

But what constitutes the government? Its most important branch is us! “We the people,” as a practical matter, we voting citizens, are the source of our Constitution and our government. Since we elect our representatives and agents, we are the sovereign branch of government and we are ultimately in control. We get what we want, and we are privileged to implement our own vision, hope, caring, ethics, and spirituality. Lest we ignore the responsibilities that come with self-government, we each must answer the question: “Who do I want to govern me if I do not?”

The infrastructure, non-governmental institutions and government, including the sovereign fourth branch, “We the People,” that meet these common needs constitute our wealth in common, our common wealth. Our common wealth is founded on the value of equality and our caring for each other. It is our commonwealth.

The dangers ahead are daunting and we voters have been brainwashed and denied relevant wisdom for decades. We must avoid the mistakes of the past, whether they be Stalinism, Bush’s Oligarchy, racism, nationalism or materialism. We the people need Tikkun’s “transformation and healing” of our own inner psychology, of our attitudes, and our beliefs. It may be necessary for us to open ourselves.

We may have to recognize the 4 separate and important fields of knowledge identified for us by E. F. Schumacher in A Guide for the Perplexed.

1. What, really, is going on inside myself? (What gives me joy? What gives me pain? What strengthens me and what weakens me? Am I aware of my own capacity for greed, authoritarianism, vigilantism, and subtle racism and my own vulnerability to spin, propaganda and manipulation? Am I aware of the subtle ways that capitalism affects our psychology, our culture, and even what we think we know? We ask these questions of ourselves not to determine if we are “sinners,” but simply to open ourselves to more learning.

2. What is going on in the inner world of other humans around me? (One can know this only to the extent that one knows oneself. Can we try to put ourselves in “someone else’s shoes?”)

3. What would I see if I could see myself as others see me? (This is an effort to be more realistic about ourselves and our actions, and to confront our own delusions.)

4. What do I actually observe in the world around me? (The field of Rationality, Science and Reason. It is ironic that we do not use this field of knowledge more actively in evaluating the free market economy. How many humans benefit? How many humans are harmed? What is it doing to our planetary environment? What are its dynamics? Is there a way to reduce the disparity between wealth and poverty? What are its effects on democracy? Are the benefits worth the costs?)

These four fields of knowledge constitute an outline of what it takes to become truly adult, human and wise. It is simply not enough to have “good intentions,” and to be spiritual. We also need to become wiser if we are to have a “politics of meaning.” We need to be knowledgeable about what is really going on. We need an accurate diagnosis of ourselves and of our political economy.

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