• Tag Archives communitarian
  • The 4th of July

    Mid-Summer                                                     Waxing Honey Flow Moon

    Independence Day.  Celebrating our ancestor’s victory over the British army and considering how their enlightenment ideals apply to our time.  Happy 4th of July!

    For an unreconstructed radical like myself, these are trying times.  I wonder where the sense of communitarian spirit has gone.  Yes, we have a can do, go it alone spirit, too and I participate in it.  The ethical underpinnings of Western civilization, however, fed by the the deep springs of Athens and Jerusalem have always reminded us that we share this journey.   Our lives are not ours alone, but belong as well to the whole, to the commonweal.  When we establish a government of the people, by the people, and FOR the people, we make this claim a part of our countries essence.

    The rugged individualist, the objectivist, the capitalist have the inclination to see the community as a source for their betterment, which is fine as long as their betterment does not come at others expense.  In that case these same perspectives become exploitative and parasitic, not interdependent, mutual.  A 5-year old knows that if all you do is take and take and take, then the other kids will no longer want to play with  you.

    The atomistic viewpoints of groups like the Tea Party and, in an insult to the Christian faith, the evangelical right, make it clear that they want the government to enforce their bigoted views of morality:  no stemcell research, homophobia and respect for only one point of view in struggle over Roe v. Wade.  They want no government aid to the poor, no environmental review for corporate projects that threaten the long term health of our natural world.  They have a vast umbrella of negatives with which they hope to block the sunshine of equality and shared responsibility.

    They want the constitution, like the bible, to be an inspired document, written not by men and women, but by gods, inviolate and sacrosanct.  It isn’t true of the bible and it is even much less so true of the constitution.  Both of these documents live, that is, they get swept into new eras, with new challenges and demand a hermeneutics for understanding their relevance.  Always.  This is an iron law of human history, no document from the past means the same thing today that it did yesterday.  That is anachronistic thinking at its most damaging, its most infantile, its most destructive.

    My sister lives in Singapore and, up until very recently, so did my brother, Mark.  This makes accessible, in a personal way, the viewpoints of other cultures toward our country.  Many people don’t like us, see us as arrogant, uncaring and ruthless.  Of course, the big kid on the block often has that reputation, deserved or undeserved, but our recent actions, Iraq and Guantanamo among them, have cemented these opinions.

    Even so, I have this urge to celebrate our country.  We are a beacon of freedom, a beloved place of opportunity and real diversity.  We have committed ourselves to constructing a nation not on history or geography, but on founding ideals of freedom and equality and brotherhood. (sic) The number and variety of persons who come to this country from all over the world, the number and variety of them who become part of the patchwork quilt that is our history and our present at its very best, attest to the essential value of our presence.  We negotiate the boundary between sending cultures and our history and, again at our best, we do it with open hands and hearts.

    Have we slaughtered Native Americans and held slaves?  Yes.  Have we engaged in first-strike aggression?  Yes.  Have we often pretended that our nation, defended by two oceans, exists alone and isolated?  Yes.  Have we laid waste to our natural resources in the name of jobs and profits?  Yes.

    We should not be, cannot be, proud of these transgressions, but I submit that we are not the Great Satan.  We are not the only nation whose actions have transgressed human decency.  Further, I would submit that we are not even the worst, not even close.  Look at the Armenian and Jewish genocides.  The pogroms in Russia and the slaughter of the Stalinist era.  The vicious regime of the Khmer Rouge.  This is a long list and it runs deep in our world history.  No, we are a nation that has blundered and made arrogant mistakes, but we are neither all bad nor all good.  We are, rather, an imperfect nation with an imperfect history.

    As I look around the world, I find no country more committed to creating a united states of freedom, no country more committed to embracing the worlds refugees, no country more aware of its errors and no country more able to make amends.  We are a young nation, barely 240 years old, maybe an early adolescent in terms of our development.

    We must not give in to the petty, the self-aggrandizing, the screw the other guy mentality of our rising political movements.  We’re better than that.

  • Communitarianism No Longer In Fashion

    Mid-Summer                                                                          Waning Garlic Moon

    Today is a bee day, with reversals and hive inspections.  In reversals hive boxes get shuffled to keep the queen working in the bottom hive box and so the colony feels there is plenty of room, therefore no need to swarm.  At last check the colonies all looked good, plenty of bees and brood.  We’re still working out the kinks of our honey extraction process, trying to figure out ways to make it less painful for all:  us and the bees.  This year we’ll try an experiment, running the extractor in the garage with overhead water and an enclosed trailer for the frames awaiting extraction.  Might work.

    The potatoes still need mounding due to the back spasms yesterday.  If I can get finish that, I’ll call it a day.  No Tai Chi tonight, at least I think not.  We’ll see if the back limbers up after a day’s work or seizes up.

    Lori Sturdevant nailed the main problem with politics in our time.  Communitarianism is no longer in fashion.  Democracy demands a sense that we’re all in this together, all of us, the poor, the environment, business and government.  The concept of social justice, so dependent on a robust notion of communitarianism, has disappeared from the political stage, reflecting in part the decline of the mainline protestant churches focus on the least of these.  It reflects, in part, too, the old, more muscular liberalism of Hubert Humphrey:

    “It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”

    It is not only, nor even most importantly, the moral test of government.  It is the moral test of our nation.  In this high stakes testing, we have slumped, our gpa falling, falling, driven lower and lower by greed that blocks out the other, by, as Lori Sturdevant also pointed out, a religious perspective focused on individual salvation, by a shriveled sense of community, one so depleted that community may extend no further than the edges of our own yards, our own apartments.

    Returning to Heidegger, we are thrown into the world, landing in it with many existential givens.  Those of us fortunate to have an upbringing that celebrated education, that helped us learn how to plan, how to work toward our goals, succeed.  Those thrown into poverty, into communities for whom education equals selling out, for whom planning does not extend past today and whose work ethic never had a chance to develop, don’t.  Of course there are exceptions, but note that there are exceptions in both sets of existential givens.  There are, too, those thrown into disabled bodies or saddled with disabled minds.

    To not note the grim effects of our thrownness on some and its salutary effects on others is to deny reality, to pretend the world is other than it is.  This is the opposite of realism, it is denial.  To note those effects and be committed to leveling them is not idealism, it is realism.  In an increasingly competitive world we need the gifts and talents of all our citizens, not just a few, a lucky few with fortunate existential givens.

    Let me try another tact.  Love thy neighbor as thyself.  We hold as self-evident that all (persons) are created equal.  As long as one person is hungry, then we are all hungry.