Freedom of Thought, Integrity of Values

For most of us any threat to our expression of belief or opinion would be a threat to our personal integrity.  Freedom of thought and expression is a hallmark of liberty and fundamental to a free society.  This post raises questions about how the assumptions we make about beliefs and opinions can impact freedom, both our own and that of others.

Our personal freedom, however, depends on accurate information, including the accuracy of our assumptions about the interests, beliefs, and views of others.

What do our assumptions have to do with freedom? My answer is that our ability to engage effectively, safely, with real people in the real world, both friend and foe, depends on accuracy.

Assumptions are beliefs about facts (or the views of others) that may or may not be true.  My suggestion here is that unexamined assumptions can limit our knowledge of the reality we are dealing with, and thus our ability to respond effectively.  Inaccurate assumptions interfere with the free flow of information, which limits our personal autonomy and independence.

And so I ask you: If we have not investigated and fully understood opposing points of view, how can we engage with and influence others effectively?  How can we question their assumptions?

I do not suggest that agreement is necessary.  That will often be impossible.  But, being mindful of the dangers of untested assumptions can protect us from misunderstandings or worse.

Questions of judgment often involve complex circumstances and depend on information coming from multiple sources.  Sometimes complexity can be aggravating, but if we value the integrity of our beliefs and our role in the world, there is no alternative to pursuing accuracy.  After all, our personal views reflect our identity as decent and intelligent people.

Problems often catch us by surprise as a consequence of assumptions we did not realize we were making.  This can happen socially or politically.  It happens in science.  I have raised a variety of questions in recent blog posts about historical assumptions that I think deserve a closer look.

These included supposed promises that have long been accepted as inevitable by western society and by Americans in particular: The assumption, for example, that rational governance is possible if we simply trust the wisdom of experts, or that nature will eventually submit completely to human control.

Today we face an extraordinary series of interrelated crises that call these and many other assumptions into question.  Political dysfunction, social and economic disarray, and a nearly total lack of civility and cooperation, leave us enmeshed in frustration.

As regular readers know, I have been suggesting that local communities provide the only effective opportunity for Americans to seek local security in the midst of social disorder.

This is a very challenging proposition.  But, I do not believe we have a choice.  The lessons of civility, trustworthiness and cooperative problem-solving may have to be learned by force of necessity.  Our survival might depend on them.

Teaming up with a diverse group of neighbors to meet shared needs will not be easy.  It will require personal courage and initiative.  Understanding does not necessarily lead to agreement, but it lubricates and sustains working relationships.  It is the path to genuine trust.

The greatest challenge for building community in a disintegrating society will not be differences of opinion, but differences in our values.

We each have numerous values, perhaps more than we realize.  Values are not casual ideas or choices; many are deeply rooted in our interests and needs. If we are to live together, certain essential values must be shared; others might challenge our patience, but not our trust.

To find safety in community we will need to seriously examine our assumptions in the clear light of honest dialog.  I believe we will find more agreement than we expect, but we cannot delay. Dependable community will depend on genuine understanding.

We must never abandon our values, but rather control the manner in which we manage them.  Each of us carries a personal perspective that will contribute to the character and wisdom of the whole – as long as we refrain from allowing ego or emotion to overwhelm the context in which we find ourselves.

We must learn how to work with others, to influence one another little by little, and to live with grace and charity.

Tom

Note to regular readers:  Please watch for the next post on or about February 10.

The Will to Freedom

When America was first being settled by Europeans, the emerging identity of the new nation was characterized by a hopeful confidence in the future and a belief that freedom would lead ultimately to general prosperity and peace.

A new understanding of history had, in the words of political scientist and philosopher Michael Allen Gillespie, “opened up the possibility that human beings need not merely accommodate themselves to the natural world.  Instead they could become masters of nature and reshape it to meet their needs through the methodological application of will and intelligence. This new understanding of the relation of man and nature had profound implications for man’s own understanding of his place in time.”

The “will to freedom” as conceived by philosophers and treasured by American settlers and colonists, thus became the dominant theme on a continent that seemed unlimited, but for the noble peoples it displaced.

We have not been willing to tolerate anything that stands in our way, including those once proud and independent indigenous American peoples who, despite heroic resistance, were forced to give ground to the relentless advance of western expansion.

The contradictions hidden in the vision of absolute freedom and unlimited prosperity have remained largely unconscious and unresolved, whether they be social, economic, or physical.

Forced by extraordinary circumstances, our attachment to illogical assumptions and inflexible absolutes is today pitching us into a confusion of emotionally charged philosophical and political conflicts.

Several related questions were raised in previous posts.

Do we still think we can make ourselves “master and possessor of nature” without regard for the coherent balance that physical life depends upon?

Is absolute freedom even possible, given the complexity and destructive potential that science and technology have introduced into our lives?

What do we expect of technology?  What of the vulnerability of aging infrastructure we depend on for electricity and water every day, or the steadily growing impact of robotics on the economy and jobs, or swiftly advancing surveillance technologies that are capable of prying into every corner of our lives?

Finally, what do the changing realities we face today suggest about the practical meaning of freedom and responsibility – and the necessity for cooperative problem-solving?  Can we collaborate with one another to address these questions and retake control of our destiny as wise, creative, and courageous people?

The historic questions have taken on a contemporary quality, but they are essentially the same questions.  Earlier generations evaded these questions by exalting science and materialism above all else.  Consequently, the denial of a rational God and the suppression of a religious perspective diverted attention from a logical contradiction that transcended philosophy and belief.

When the constraints and limitations imposed by belief in an all-knowing and all-powerful God were disposed of with the cry of “God is dead!” they were immediately replaced by constraints and limitations imposed by belief in a supposedly mechanical natural world.

It was, of course, assumed that science would soon master nature, human beings would succeed in perfecting rational governance, and humankind would realize absolute freedom.

But, nature proved to be far more complex and unpredictable than was expected.  And, having rejected the God of traditional religion, humankind has found itself confronted with a severe discipline imposed by nature, and without the grace or guidance of a loving Teacher.

And “rational governance”?  Well, we have certainly witnessed in graphic terms the manner in which self-appointed leaders of “rational thought” led us into the totalitarian nightmares of communism, fascism, and Nazism.

Please make no mistake: This past is not far behind us.

If we are to reconsider the cataclysms of the first half of the twentieth century and the horrific consequences of the many bungled attempts to control human destiny – politically, economically, and scientifically – we might start to see the future more clearly.  Indeed, we might then avoid potential disasters before they befall us.

We cannot neatly sidestep such fundamental unresolved questions, which I would suggest have embedded themselves deeply in the American psyche.

Agreement concerning the details is not required, but taking responsibility for the practical consequences of our actions in the real world is of immense significance.

Tom

Next post: Transcending Our Limitations

A note to readers:  Please watch for the next post on or about January 13.  Regular readers can register for email alerts by clicking “Follow” on this page.

A Conflicted Legacy

What makes America different?  During the formative years of colonial America something extraordinary was happening in the world.  Beginning in Europe, new ways of thinking were breaking free from authoritarian institutions and belief systems.  A creative energy was released that came to America with a rising flood of immigration.

The new ethos was grounded in the belief that a rational humanity, freed to recreate the world through the power of reason, must be capable of discovering effectual truth.

From this conviction there arose a faith that humankind would, in the words of philosopher and political scientist Michael Allen Gillespie, ultimately secure “universal freedom, general prosperity, and perpetual peace.”

The idea of a promising future for humankind was powerful, inspiring confidence in the potential to free ourselves from the shackles of an oppressive past.  And, for the thousands of immigrants disembarking in the New World, a working knowledge of philosophy was not required.

Everyone knew what America represented, and the promise, however primal and unformed it might be, came to root itself deeply in the emerging American identity.

Europeans were fascinated by the self-assured confidence of the American character, and Americans were energized by their freedom from the fetters of an autocratic culture and restrictive social norms.

There were abundant crises and controversies, of course, to arouse and vitalize the new nation as it struggled to find its feet.  We did not agree on much.  The country was saddled with the unfinished business of its European past: the scar of slavery, the tensions between moneyed and working classes, and the prejudices of religion, race, and nationality.

Yet, a potent hopefulness prevailed as wave after wave of European arrivals powered the growth of a seemingly insatiable industrial economy.  Despite apparent contradictions, the new ideas continued to generate a confident vision on both sides of the Atlantic through most of the nineteenth century.

While much of the brutality perpetrated against Black and Native American people was ignored by Americans of European descent, the horrific violence of the Civil War shocked the Nation.  And then came the twentieth century.

Professor Gillespie describes what happened next:

“The view of history as progress was severely shaken by the cataclysmic events of the first half of the twentieth century, the World Wars, the Great Depression, the rise of totalitarianism, and the Holocaust.  What had gone wrong?  Modernity, which had seemed on the verge of providing universal security, liberating human beings from all forms of oppression, and producing an unprecedented human thriving, had in fact ended in a barbarism almost unknown in previous human experience. 

“The tools that had been universally regarded as the source of human flourishing had been the source of unparalleled human destruction.  And finally, the politics of human liberation had proved to be the means to human enslavement and degradation.  The horror evoked by these cataclysmic events was so overwhelming that it called into question not merely the idea of progress and enlightenment but also the idea of modernity and the conception of Western civilization itself.”

We have admired the generation of Americans who prevailed during the Great Depression and fought in World War II.  We like to call them “The Greatest Generation.”  They did not forget.

They remained proud and frugal for the rest of their lives, though many of their children failed to understand.

Most are gone now.  How many of us today know what they knew…?  We who have drowned ourselves in materialism purchased with debt.

What happened?

I believe we have tried to walk away from the past with little understanding of what happened.  Both the fear of debt and the destruction of global war have been largely repressed and lost to memory.

The long history of degrading abuses suffered by immigrants and people of color is often forgotten and rarely addressed.  The promises of equality and freedom remain, but are only apparent through a haze of inconsistency and uncertainty.

The practical limits of freedom in a complex world have started to close in on our lives, unforgiving in the absence of clear thinking and moral responsibility.

Are we ready to reflect on where we have come from and to confront the oncoming confluence of crises with responsibility, and with our eyes wide open?

Tom

On New Years’ weekend:  The Will to Freedom

Note to regular readers: The blog will take a break until the end of the month.  To receive emailed alerts, please click the Follow button.

Cooperation or Collapse?

And what of our differences?  The diversity of views and perspectives that divide Americans in the early years of the 21st century are unquestionably the deepest that have existed since the Civil War.

Our differences are based on many things today: ethical and religious values, economic disparities and personal experience with hardship, our understanding of history, and our perceptions of the very real dangers facing the world.

The vitality of the American Republic has always been energized by the clash of differing opinions.  The national character is rooted in the fertile engagement of divergent ideas that test and expand our wide-ranging perspectives.  America has flourished on the principle of pluralism.

Our opinions, values, perceptions all deserve respect; yet we disagree vehemently on matters of fundamental importance. We have good reasons for holding our views. This is the way it is supposed to be in a healthy civil society.

And this begs a critical question: How can we find a way to live and work together in a time of maximum stress?

As sequential crises take hold, is the security of our families and communities important enough that we are willing to do what is necessary to build trust and dependability, meeting life-sustaining needs and working effectively with our neighbors – many of whom we have substantial differences with?

Are we prepared to struggle for this country shoulder-to-shoulder, indeed to be truly loyal to one another as Americans?

And, what is it really that makes this a cause worth fighting for?

I believe that such questions lead to the pivotal question I have described on this blog as a “severe choice” (June 24).

Many readers have expressed concerns about the imposing challenges these questions represent.  Indeed, we stand at a monumental turning point in the nation’s history.

The survival of the Republic will require certain virtues that Americans are not generally known for—moral responsibility, dependability, trustworthiness.  Our most fundamental challenge will be learning to view others – especially our opponents – in essentially ethical rather than political terms.

This is not about charity.  A level of civility is required that goes far beyond kindness and common decency.  If Americans are to turn the corner, it will be with a civilized and responsible attitude that appears unfamiliar at present.

Cooperation does not require compromising our principles.  Indeed, unexpected opportunities for influencing one another will surely come with working together to address common needs, especially in the face of crises.

Times of danger tend to open ones’ personal perspective, allowing us to see with new eyes and hear with new ears.

It is neither practical nor civilized to go to war with one another when our common interests depend on our ability to communicate clearly and to engage in rational problem-solving.  What is essential is not that we agree, but that we seek dependable cooperation in the face of serious threats.

Naturally, this will require more than a right attitude.  Practical skills will be necessary to help us work effectively in small groups, ensure food security, make consultative decisions and manage conflict, organize projects and start small businesses.

Together we will share and develop the necessary skills.

Under the present conditions of social disintegration, strident divisiveness, and dysfunctional institutions, I have encouraged Americans to turn aside from partisan politics, at least temporarily, to focus primary attention on practical needs in our local communities.

I am not at all opposed to effecting change by traditional means. However, as the crisis deepens I believe we will gain far more safety and control over our lives through community building. And, I believe this effort will impart many of the essential lessons that will lead to a decent future.

This is my message.  Dependable community is the ground of civilization.

However complex the problems we face, in the final analysis we are confronted by a single simple question.  Will we accept the destruction of civilized society, a rending of the very fabric of the Republic, and retreat into a state of siege?  Or, will we have the courage to begin anew?

Tom

A note to readers: Please watch for the next blog post on or about August 5.

A Severe Choice

The extraordinary depth and breadth of the many crises confronting the American people today represent a critical turning point and test of America’s place in history.

For more than two hundred years the United States has stood before the world as a beacon of hope and an unparalleled model of political freedom, social diversity, and economic vitality.  People from throughout the world have been attracted to the vision it represents.

In the midst of upheaval it can be easy to forget the unique stature of the United States and the role it has played and will continue to play in the progress of an ever-advancing civilization.  Yet, our confidence in its’ social coherence, its’ economic well-being and generosity of spirit has faltered.

This blog, and the forthcoming book it represents, is addressed to those who are interested in understanding lessons from the past, and who recognize that failures of responsibility and foresight have led us to the brink of disaster.

Do we possess the resolve to join with one another in rebuilding the United States based on its core values and ultimate meaning?

In redirecting our attention and redoubling our commitment, it might be wise to consider those aspects of the American character and cultural attitude that have influenced the downward slide from responsibility to turmoil.

A self-indulgent materialism and thoughtless disregard for the consequences of our actions has placed the future in jeopardy.

The fragmented way we have perceived the world and led our lives may have origins in our immigrant past, but it will not serve us well in reconstructing a stable, coherent, and economically viable future.

There is much to think about.

However, my message is brief.  It will be short on analysis and will forego blame.  There is more than enough blame to go around and we all know about it.  Rather, I will focus on the essentials of mind and attitude, of human character, and of our relationships to one another that will be required if we are to turn despair into courage and failure into triumph.

We will address areas of concern that I believe to be central to realistic solutions.  Most importantly, we will consider the manner in which we relate to one another as individuals when we have very great personal differences.

I submit that the safety and security of our families and communities can only be assured if we unite around the structural order provided by the Constitution, which has anchored the American Republic from its inception, and to the principles of mutual respect and moral responsibility that give strength and resiliency to all civilized societies.

The United States has entered the fiery test of a crucible in which the forces of crisis will burn away the self-centeredness and sloppy thinking of the past to forge an American identity we can respect and feel good about.

If we fail to rise to our calling, however, the social violence generated by failing institutions and human suffering will threaten to incinerate our children’s future and turn a great vision to hopelessness and anguish.

At a time of extraordinary existential threat we are confronted with a severe choice.

Will we return to the founding ideals and principles of these United States as the bedrock on which to build a free and ethical future?  Will we defend and protect two hundred years of commitment, hard work, and sacrifice by generations of Americans who have given their lives to this unprecedented vision?

Or, will we give way to the emotions of uncompromising partisanship – and allow a great trust to shatter and vanish?

Infrastructure, systems, and services we have long depended upon are going to fail in the coming years. Problems will have to be solved without many of the tools and supports to which we are accustomed.  We will need to depend on one another in our local communities.

So, let’s set aside partisanship and sectarian differences when it becomes necessary in the interest of stabilizing and rebuilding the nation. Panic neither serves nor becomes us.

Tom

A note to regular readers:  Starting in July, I intend to post on alternate weeks.  This will allow me more time for completing the book.  I hope to post the next blog entry on or about July 8.  Have a good summer!

The American Idea

Coast 1

The integrity of the American Idea is founded upon honesty and the strength of diversity. This nobility is the desire of the world. It will live on – generous, tolerant, and fair – long after foolishness and irresponsibility have been left to the dregs of memory.

–Tom Harriman

American Crucible

The extraordinary challenges confronting the American people mark an unequivocal turning point and, indeed, impose an unambiguous test of America’s place in history.

For more than two hundred years the United States has stood before the world as a beacon of hope, a source of creative vibrancy, imagination and ingenuity, and as a singular model of political freedom, social diversity, and economic vitality.

In the crush of crisis it is easy to forget the historic stature of the United States, and the role it has played and will continue to play in the progress of an ever-advancing civilization.

Yet, our confidence in the future is shaken by abandoned responsibility and collapsing institutions. Our economic well-being and social coherence as a nation have been weakened, and the generosity of spirit for which we have long been known appears dimmed.

In observance of Independence Day, and in honor of the many new readers who have joined the blog in recent weeks, I am stepping away from the current topic to revisit the central theme of the forthcoming book.

Blog posts usually appear each Friday, both here and on the Facebook page. You will find a proposed table of contents here, an introduction to the book, and full drafts of several chapters. This post is adapted from Chapter One, “American Crucible.”

Do we possess the vision and resolve to join one another in rebuilding the foundations of the United States based on its’ core values and ultimate meaning? Are we prepared to rise above our differences for the sake of “the American idea?”

I believe this is a time to consider our identity as a people.

My message is brief. It will be short on analytical detail and will avoid blame. There is more than enough blame to go around and we all know about it. Rather, it will focus on the essentials of mind and attitude, of moral character, and of our relationships with one another that will be required to turn things around – to turn despair into courage and failure into honor and self-respect.

The book will acknowledge some of the basic errors of the past that must be avoided if we are to forge a realistic course into the future. We will briefly consider the manner in which Americans have given up control of our lives and made ourselves vulnerable to the present circumstances.

However, we will do so not to fix blame, but for the purpose of understanding the steps to securing a free and stable future.

We all yearn for a less partisan and more civil national discourse. Let us accept that diverse views are needed, however divergent they may be, if we are to correctly identify effective solutions. Practical problem-solving best occurs with input from varied perspectives. And, I must point out that in the present dangerously fragile context, priority must go to ensuring the safety and well-being of our families and communities. This will depend on loyalty, cooperation, and teamwork – despite our differences.

There can be no freedom without trust. And, we cannot begin to address the larger issues in our future without first securing stable local forums in which to engage with civility.

Is this really possible? Yes, but only with great patience and a capacity to envision the end in the beginning.

The United States has gained its vitality from our diversity and the creative engagement found in the clash of differing opinions. Our differences must never be permitted to subvert the unity of purpose that secures the identity of the nation. This immense energy can only be productive if disciplined by civil discourse, steadfast commitment, and a shared vision.

At a time of extraordinary existential threat we are confronted with a stark choice.

Will we return to the founding principles of these United States as the foundation for building a free, ethical, and prosperous future? Will we defend and protect two hundred years of commitment, hard work, and sacrifice by generations of Americans who have given their lives to this unprecedented vision?

Or, will we give way to the emotions of uncompromising partisanship – and allow a great trust to disintegrate?

Tom

Next week: A Confluence of Crises

Stability and Constructive Action

Security concerns for families and communities will grow with instability. Our safety and well-being will depend, as I observed in the previous post, upon the stability and trustworthy conditions we put in place around us.

Stability and security are mutually reinforcing, but without stability effective security is futile. Stability makes our efforts to create security possible, and it benefits from those efforts.

Security should be a consideration in our choice of a place to live and who to live with. It is a broad measure of the quality of community life. And, please keep in mind that the stability of neighboring communities is of nearly equal importance.

At the risk of belaboring a point I have already repeated, the first priority of any stable community is the strength of interpersonal relationships. These form the basis for trust, for good communication and decision-making.

Everything we do, whether it contributes to personal well-being, cooperative problem-solving, or our efforts to construct a viable future will depend on trustworthy relationships.

Most Americans are accustomed to thinking of security as the responsibility of trained professionals who are expected to deal with emergency situations. That is because in the past most of us have been accustomed to social stability.

We cannot expect this luxury while the old order is breaking down. We may be on our own for a time.

Things we have taken for granted in the past may threaten to become emergencies, if we are not prepared. Food security, for example. Typically, supermarket distribution centers only keep a three-day inventory on hand. If their supply chain is disrupted, if the trucks stop running, we are in trouble.

Unless we use our imagination, the interruption of systems we have taken for granted will catch us off guard. A systemic disruption could be caused by an Ebola-type epidemic, a cyber-attack on the national grid, a banking crisis, or any collapse of civil order regionally or nationally. These are reasonable possibilities.

In addition to food security, we would be wise to consider such essentials as emergency medicine and public health concerns, the potential for violence, the importance of gun safety, our ability to create and sustain a cash economy, group decision-making and interpersonal conflict, and the imperative for dependable networks of support among neighboring communities.

We are quite capable of preparing ourselves to address all of these issues, if we stay calm and are open to learning.

Security in a free society depends on mature citizenship. This means taking responsibility for bringing everyone together “on the same page,” getting ourselves organized, and keeping the peace.

As I suggested in the previous post, security will require that we develop dependable, trustworthy relationships regardless of our differences. And, I referred to John W. Gardner’s notion that, “The only stability possible is stability in motion.”

These three essentials: trust, dependability, and constructive action (motion) will be the critical components in our endeavor. I hope the importance of trust and dependability is clear to everyone. But, motion?

Why is constructive action an indispensable component?

Think of it this way: Keeping our balance while riding a bicycle requires forward motion. In a community, activities guided by a sense of purpose serve a similar function.

Shared purpose is a lens through which the challenges of necessity can be brought into focus. The efforts of diverse personalities can be coordinated. Purpose provides a standard by which to determine priorities and judge progress.

In short, forward motion is essential, yet impossible without unity of purpose.

Engaging with one another to test our ideas, to assess problems and determine rational courses of action will facilitate effective problem-solving. We can learn how to do this. Indeed, this is the only way to build security in difficult and unpredictable circumstances.

It is also the means by which to focus our vision and unleash our creativity in the great enterprise of rebuilding the foundations of the American Republic.

Tom

Next week: Hard Realities and Practical Necessities

A note to readers: You can support this blog and the book project by suggesting that your friends and associates take a look.

Liberty: With Integrity and Responsibility

In the previous two posts I have suggested that the defense of liberty depends on justice, because justice serves as the foundational order of all things. Knowing this provides us with the potential for wisdom and effectiveness. However, the potential can only be realized through personal responsibility.

Responsibility is the necessary action that gives meaning and order to our lives. It is the partner of liberty, which cannot exist without it.

A dear friend once pointed out to me that the implicate meaning of “responsibility” can be found in the compound word, “response-ability.” Without this ability, justice cannot be realized and freedom has no meaning.

We heard from Viktor Frankl several weeks ago in a post entitled: “The Realization of Inner Freedom.” Dr. Frankl emerged from his World War II ordeal in a Nazi death camp with the firm belief that freedom can only be secured with responsibility.

Freedom,” he wrote, “is not the last word. Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth. Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness. In fact, freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness.

For many of us, seeking freedom is a gradual process of maturing, letting go of dependencies, and trying to make a go at life with what resources we have at hand. This is meaningful for a time. But, eventually we begin to recognize that both the character of the society in which we live and the material limitations of our lives impose themselves on us in uncomfortable ways.

Do we then decide to simply indulge ourselves, if we possess the material means to do so? Or, do we seek freedom in the nobility of asserting control over our personal vices and limitations, and by engaging with life in constructive ways?

In the world where we now find ourselves there is really no escape from the necessity to construct the lives we wish for from the wreckage of past mistakes, our own and those of others, and to do so in unity of purpose with friends and neighbors.

We cannot wait for things to change, all the while complaining about what should be different. We each have the ability to reach for self-sufficiency in collaboration with others. We are each capable of taking responsibility for the conditions we face in life.

Accepting responsibility can mean many things, depending on the circumstances. Usually we think of responsibility as the act of responding to whatever needs to be done. We wash the dishes not to help in the kitchen, but because the dishes need to be washed. I suggest, however, that there is a core responsibility which underlies and guides all others. This is the responsibility to build and ensure trust.

Without trust, the fabric of this nation will continue to disintegrate. Trust is the substance of integrity and the single most essential ingredient making it possible for us to build the future.

By integrity is meant a way of thinking and being that is fully consistent with the foundation of justice we have been discussing. It is foundational to all human affairs in the same way that a sound physical foundation is required before one can raise any material construct.

Integrity is integral to our character as individuals, and it can easily be squandered in a moment of carelessness. A principled integrity must gain primacy in our very identity, our way of being.

So, there you have it: Integrity is the quality of being; trustworthiness is the substance of that quality; and, responsibility is the action with which we make it so. And, finally, justice is the beginning and the end, the structure that holds it all together.

Responsibility follows immediately from integrity and is the expression of it. Stability and order depend upon this. When responsibility is understood and applied to the challenges we face, progress is possible. Otherwise the integrity of intention is lost.

There is no middle ground. Either integrity and responsibility are wholly present or they are compromised. Without them no true civilization is possible.

Tom