Summer Under the Lily Moon
Politics. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my.
Analysis from odd arenas has caught my eye. We’re all trying to figure out how to deal with the political and economic mess in which we find ourselves, so folks take looks down many avenues.
Three that have struck me. First, EJ Dionne, columnist for the Washington Post, has written a book, Our Divided Political Heart. I’ve got it and haven’t read it yet, but I know the principle thread of the argument. We are both a communitarian nation committed to the public welfare and a libertarian one dedicated to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This makes sense to me since it shows we have a nation built on two different continents which split off from the European pangea of the Enlightenment.
Where do we inflect national policy and political will? On the side of property rights, individual liberty or on This Land is Our Land, from California to the New York Islands? Dionne, I believe, answers this question with a definitive yes.
And in so doing he follows an unlikely line of thought, that of multilevel selection in the field of evolutionary biology and championed by Edward O. Wilson, of Consilience and ants and several other books, fame. Wilson suggests that human evolution reflects evolutionary pressures on behalf of the individual (the Selfish Gene idea), but that it also and equally, reflects the altruistic evolutionary thread that propels groups upward and onward through evolutionary time.
A third bit of analysis also caught my attention. Gail Collins, a NYT columnist, wrote, in a column titled Running on Empty, that our current political struggle is between those who live in the empty places and those who live in the crowded places.
Our time reminds me, in a much milder form, of the Warring States period of early China, before the first true emperors who begin with the Qin dynasty. It was in this desperate and violent period of Chinese civilization that the Tao Te Qing was written, Confucius lived, Han Fei,the legalist scholar most admired by the first emperor of the Qin dynasty. Many, many other schools of thought emerged, all focused on how to bring order or peace to a people tired of conflict.
Somewhere in the creative ferment occasioned by those who want to bring order or peace or prosperity or justice to contemporary America will come at least a few visions for a future worth paying attention to.
In the next week I’m also going to comment on a very interesting David Brooks column, What Republicans Think. Teaser. He says Republicans believe the end of the liberal era is at hand and are not willing to compromise.