The civil unrest we are currently experiencing in the United States has exploded into a multi-layered complexity of ongoing crises. Like the deterioration of social order in America, the present outburst has deep historic roots. As new crises continue to proliferate, this blog will remain focused on the challenges of social disruption and interpersonal alienation.
We will seek effective solutions for making safety and problem-solving possible despite our many differences. And, we will return again and again to fundamentals.
When we hear a contentious and quarrelsome tone in the disputes that dominate today, how do we respond? Does unproductive hostility frustrate us? Do we yearn for a more practical attitude toward problem-solving?
The clash of differing opinions is a valuable time-honored American tradition. But no one responds well to verbal abuse, much less physical violence.
Expressing our views is important. Indeed, it is necessary for a healthy society. But nothing will subvert ones’ purpose more quickly than a combative attitude that alienates the very people we wish to influence – or need to work with.
Imagine for a moment that we had the good fortune to live in a community where local safety and practical problem-solving is given relative priority over philosophical differences.
In my most recent post (May 18), I challenged readers to consider how far we are willing to go to create safe, positive and productive conditions in our communities.
Do we have the vision, courage, and fortitude, I asked, to commit ourselves to principled means and to engage responsibly in constructive action?
I am not asking what you think other people are willing to do. I am asking what YOU will do.
Nothing will change while we wait for other people to accept responsibility for themselves. Responsibility is personal and self-defining.
The most important things in our future – creating safe communities, ensuring food security, recovering from economic collapse, for example – depend on collaboration.
Most of us understand what responsibility means in our personal lives, whether or not we make it real. And, most Americans know that freedom cannot exist without responsibility.
But what do I mean by ‘constructive action’? This might sound unfamiliar, but it is hardly a new idea.
As regular readers know, this concept provides effective means for breaking through log-jams of discord.
Constructive action is geared for problem-solving – allowing a sufficient level of cooperation to get the work done, however limited this might be.
Constructive action is exercised with dignity and respect. It refuses to hurt or injure – whether by impatience, dishonesty, hatred, or wishing ill of anybody.
Please do not imagine this to be simply a state of harmlessness. On the contrary, constructive action is the foundation for coherent strength.
It is the first principle upon which all other principles, values, and purposes depend.
It makes problem-solving possible despite inevitable conflict.
The moral integrity of the civil society we wish for will depend on the spirit of respect and trustworthiness that characterizes constructive action.
The two are inseparable as means and ends.
Constructive action is the means. A future grounded in moral integrity is the end.
Political thinking has always considered means to be either an abstraction of tactics or simply the inherent nature of social and political machinery. In both cases means are considered only in their service to the goals of political interests.
Here we have a very different understanding of means, replacing end-serving goals with an end-creating purpose.
Such an approach is necessary if we wish to apply traditional American values effectively to rapidly changing circumstances.
This in no way denies the validity of partisan political views. Instead it provides a rational forum for debate, opening hearts and minds to different ways of thinking.
Influencing others can only happen where there are ears to hear.
And, a free and prosperous future can only be sought by capitalizing on our differences in experience, knowledge, skills, and perspective.
The better our working relationships with friends and neighbors, the greater the opportunity to attract, inspire, and learn.
We can choose to learn the skills and tactics that make collaboration possible – or we can walk away forever from the safety and integrity of a future we can trust.
You may watch for the next post on or about June 16.
Links to several additional chapters from the coming book have been added (in draft) at the top of the homepage.