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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Mind and Morality for the New Economy


The Mind and Morality of the New Economy

A new more sustainable and hopefully more resilient economy is emerging.  It is racing to become established before the old economy destroys us.

The new economy has been announced by its prophets in their books, seminars, and symposiums.  But the new economy is not emerging from classrooms, think tanks, or media outlets.  It is not the product of philosophers, economists, political thinkers, or journalists.

It is emerging through hundreds of thousands of experiments in doing business and creating livelihoods that connect to building community while respecting the earth as the condition of human life in its fullness.

The new economy is a matter of neither reform nor revolution. Tinkering around the edges with a few more rules while preserving the old ones is not bringing in the holistic, systemic change in arrangements and institutions in our way of doing business. But neither would imposition of a whole scale change by force or fiat modify our personal and social habits.

The new economy, some call it “sustainable capitalism,” is resulting from innumerable on-the-ground efforts: new ventures in “earth friendly” manufacturing and agriculture, renewable energy enterprises to displace carbon-emitting producers, urban planning and development for sustainable communities and agriculture, public and private community-based financing and investment, community oriented businesses and cooperatives, experiments in liberating education that fosters innovation in science, art, and creative earth-friendly technologies, organization and development of voluntary organizations that promote a sustainable economy.

I saw many of these experiments in the Central Valley of California where I worked for fourteen years. My friend Randy the farmer and self-educated expert in renewable energy is planting fast growing trees and crops in uncultivated fields linked to three other enterprises in non carbon-emitting fuel production. Arnold is developing cork type roofing that will eliminate much of the need for heating and cooling of homes. Keith is working with city planners of fourteen cities to create new communities and remake old ones that will meet strong California air, water, and energy sufficiency goals building grass roots popular support as they go. John is using the dumped waste from Southern California and the Bay Area; and Courtney is pushing the development of wind and waste power that could make the Valley, and perhaps most of California, energy independent by 2025. I was also a part of a team of federal leaders that engaged with state and local officials to engage with and link up these experiments with public and private support.

I am now encountering experiments in the new economy on the East Coast where community development corporations are partnering with governments and businesses to shore up community banks, green housing in walkable neighborhoods, bicycle corridors, urban agriculture projects, cooperative food buying from local farmers, and so many more endeavors.  And interfaith and other community-based groups are pushing cities, counties, and states to support these experiments through tax and investment strategies.

The institutions of the old economy are resistant; so dominated are they by those for whom the old rules have worked so well.  Never mind the growing gap between them, the extremely rich, and the extremely poor with a dwindling middle class.  Never mind the numerous popping “bubbles” of boom and bust stressing families and neighborhoods. Never mind the depletion of earth, social, and political resources. Never mind the rapid warming of the earth and change of climate, the loss of localism in business and commerce, and the increasing concentration of power in transnational corporations with little allegiance to the community or nation of origin.

David Korten (Agenda for a New Economy) at a symposium I attended in DC spoke of the need for a new narrative or a new creation story that images God not as a Judeo-Catholic Royal Patriarch supporting feudal hierarchical organization. Nor as an industrial age Protestant CEO designing the machine universe and oiling it from time to time. He proposes an “Integral Spirit” made up of humans joining consciousness and action in connection with the Earth in a way that wealth is defined not as the accumulation of consumptive capacity measured by money, but as relationship with others and with resources of the planet measured by happiness.

So if, according to the first sociologist Max Weber, the old economy arose out of the cultural meme soup of Calvinism with its predestined divine plan, material reward in God’s grace, and commandment to subdue the earth, we need a new theology to support an economy that is founded on much different principles. Theologians inspired by the new physics and biology as well as drawing from mystic traditions and ancient earth religions are at work to provide that new Mind.

And political thinkers and philosophers, persuaded by neuroscience and evolutionary psychology and anthropology, are busily crafting an ethic that critiques the morality of a destructive economy and founds a morality for a more sustainable one. I call this ethics for the new economy “the Ethic of Integrity.”

The Ethic of Integrity is neither absolutist not relativist; but relational. It is based on the symbolic interaction model of human nature arising through environmental anthropology and neuroscience. This model portrays the human species characteristically adapting to its environment through symbols (metaphors, images, language, memes), giving rise to a consciousness of self in relation to other selves towards objects in the world in time and space on a background of unconscious memories, intentions, instincts, desires.

Human symbolic behavior operates between many polarities that are continually in tension. The imperative that arises from the fact of dynamic human being, the “should” from the “is,” is the imperative to integrate one’s self with oneself and with others. The human task is to act in the present, holding tension between the past and the future, between the interiority of thoughtfulness with the experience of the outer world, and between the real and the ideal.

It is the imperative of being fully human that founds a morality of an economy in which all the capitals--social, political, historical, ecological, spiritual, not just financial--are taken into account. The economy is the system of livelihood, achieving what will keep a person, a community, and a species alive. The old economy, by not assigning value to all the capitals or by separating them, is using them up by growing only the financial one. That is why it is destroying the very conditions of human life.

While the emergence of the new economy is in the hands of those who are actually taking on ventures based on the new Mind and Morality, the theologians, philosophers, economists and political thinkers can help. They can forge the link among the experimenters. They can interpret the importance of what they are doing. They can indicate the meaning they are weaving together in their ventures.  Most important they can articulate the new Mind and Morality that will push the new economy past the tipping point, before it's too late.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Better Angels

Our better angels are slain during this season of new birth and light.

Twenty first graders and seven of their caregivers in a place called Newtown. We may never know why; and as with many of the wrong questions the answer may be that there is none.

Now there is a lot of talk about guns and mental illness in America. Let's hope it is just the beginning of dialogue towards meaningful action, not just another pop-up to soon go underground. Again.

I am convinced with Joel Klein that no amount of policy related to guns would have prevented this shooting. But nevertheless we need to use the occasion to develop a strong anti-gun strategy. We need to see Obamacare as just a first step towards getting the almost half of us who have had an incidence of serious mental illness the assistance we all need.

My NRA cousin Vinnie dittoheads that "guns don't kill people, people do." Yes people with guns! People have guns to protect themselves from other people with guns who have them to protect themselves from people with guns. So add more guns, Cousin Vinnie says.  Arm the principals and teachers.

In earlier meditations, I have written much about the American culture and its religion and the way it reenforces our economy and politics and is in turn reenforced by them. I have shown how that religion is often carried by the organized religions and their scriptures and rituals.

You won't be surprised then if I think that to adequately deal with the issue that surfaced in Newport, we must plumb the depth beyond specific policies and consider the American Mind and Morality that conditions our public and private behavior.

We look no further than the past election to see what appeals to that Mind and Morality:

  • economic growth as increase in consumption capacity (money)
  • strength through capacity for violence
  • domination of earth and its resources
  • power over the weaker: working poor, women, aliens
  • individual rights over collective responsibility
  • corporate interests over public interests
  • money's influence in politics.
And consider our heroes: the skilled cowboy shooter, the rough tough marine, the meanest football cruncher, the cop who stops bad guys with superior force often outside the rules.

The Mind and Morality of the new economy and politics, as laid out by Speth, Korten, and Alperovitz, and which I have labeled the Ethic of Integrity is so different and in conflict with the dominant ethic.

My mentor Hannah Arendt (On Violence) concedes that violence is sometimes necessary. But that's it. Violence belongs to the realm of necessity and not the space of freedom. It can be excused, but never justified. People walking around with weapons is the antithesis of a civil society just as Cormac McCarthy depicted in the Blood Meridian (the story of our past) and The Road (the story of our future). Freedom does need boundaries, enforceable rules and laws. But freedom means active engagement in speech and action without violence.

So in the national dialogue that is hopefully just beginning, let's get to the depth. Let's accept our history of founding through genocide and development through slavery and war so we can let it go and create a new story and a new ethic that will issue into a new economy and politics.

If that were to happen then our slain better angels, in the season of new birth and light, will confirm the miracle of resurrection.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

What is Growth?

Yesterday I attended the Atlantic American Works Summit. Some smart and very respected people discussed the American economy, taxation policy, the debt and how to fix it: Alice Rivlin, Peter Peterson, Robert Hormats and many other experts in business, competitiveness, and innovation guided by the Atlantic's James Fallows and Steve Clemons.

Some common themes:

  • The partisan stalemate is terrible for business and the economy much more so than any particular policy or ideology.  Moreover the partisans are distracting attention from real issues.
  • The regulatory framework and process is antiquated and needs total revision for the fast moving global economy.  Right now it is impeding innovation and growth.
  • Long term debt will bring America down and curbing entitlements, especially related to health care, and tax reform are essential to deal with it.
  • Corporate tax rates should be lowered (even though effective corporate taxation is not much higher than the G7 countries) in order to be more inviting to companies to come and stay.
  • Returning tax rates to Clinton era rates or even higher won't make much difference to business decision making but will provide needed revenue to deal with the long term debt.
  • The most important investment need is in education, especially advanced education for the new higher level jobs; this includes investment in Research and Development.
  • Public investment in developing and maintaining infrastructure is both job producing and supports business and commerce.  We can do more smart spending to stimulate the economy at the same time we set a framework for reducing the long term debt.  
I saw no evidence of disagreement. This was indeed the sensible establishment singing in chorus on how to save the American and perhaps global economy. All were balanced in respect the public and private sectors. All saw the role of government investment and taxation policies, as well as defense to secure global commerce, in promoting a strong economy.

There was some talk of climate change and carbon taxes, alternative energy and energy independence, reduction of health care costs by seeing the major drivers (fee for service, end of life interventions, lack of budget, defensive medicine), but no real engagement in these issues. There was also talk about "all playing by the same rules," especially in relation to living wages and environmental production, but how these rules might come to be and what they are based on was not discussed.

There was universal talk of growing the economy and growing jobs. But there was no questioning of the meaning and measure of growth. This was simply assumed. There was universal talk of investment in education and growing the jobs we need, but the jobs we need were simply assumed to be those that would fill rennewing and new businesses, especially those in or using high tech.

And there's the rub!

It was clear to me that GDP is the standard and that financial resources or money is the measure of growth; and that any production that increased these financial resources was good no matter what its effects on human nature or the environment. Well, that's too strong. These folks do care about human being and the environment. But they assumed that people would decide in a free market, encouraged but not limited by the public working through their governments, by their choices and habits of consumption as to what is good for them. Or do they? The question never came up.

And that is my problem with the discussion of the new global information driven economy. There is little discussion of the values and principles which drive it except those that are given by some doctrinaire religion or ideology or simply assumed as conventional wisdom. It is at this level that we need an educated discussion--one that uses but goes beyond math and science, business and politics, law and accounting. Yesterday the experts said that it was important for the public to be informed. But there was no discussion of popular education processes by which citizens could discuss and act on the what they want beyond more money.

How about investment in this kind of education? That would be growth!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

In Praise of Canada

Those who know me know that I often describe myself as a cultural libertarian, economic socialist, and political conservative. I think it is important to distinguish those three dimensions of the social order to avoid confusion and delusion. I also think it is important to order them with economics taking precedence over culture and politics over economics but each exercising limits on the others. I think that this division and order is not arbitrary but based in the human nature to which our species has evolved.

Cultural libertarianism strongly supports diversity, non-discrimination, and a laissez faire approach to ethnicity, sexuality, sexual orientation, religion, artistic taste and expression and all other cultural values.   Cultural libertarianism requires strong government to protect diversity in taste and expression and stop any discrimination or injury to persons because of their differences. The limit to cultural libertarianism is the sustainability of life systems including the human right to the means to survive economically.

Economic socialism strongly supports the dignity of every human person and fairness in how people are provided the ways to achieve their life goals. This is founded on the conviction that every human being is born with the right to nourishment, shelter, health, education, and all things necessary to sustain life. Economic socialism also supports the primary condition of human life, i.e. the earth, the biosphere, the air, land, water, climate on which all humans depend. Economic socialism requires not only strong but efficient government to ensure that all persons have the means of livelihood and that the biosystem is protected from activities of economic self-interests. The limit to economic socialism is public space and its requirements.

Political conservatism strongly supports the development and maintenance of public space where people acting together can effectively shape their community, their nation, and their world. While cultural libertarianism demands strong government and economic socialism requires efficient government, political conservatism requires accountable government through a vigorous civil sector made up of interacting self-organizing associations or publics. Political conservatism makes room and protects local self-determination as long as it does not violate or fail to protect cultural liberty and economic justice.

The nation that I know which best, though imperfectly, embodies these principles is Canada in which we lived for over a year and which we have visited often. I think this is largely due to strong central government (beginning with constitutional monarchy), anti-slavery, dual language, and broad immigration mentality and the coalition of progressive labor and church groups that founded the New Democratic Party that led to a measure of economic socialism in a parliamentary form of government. The union and social gospel movement in Canada still seems quite vigorous while it has fallen on hard times in the US. Canada was not effected as much as the US by the housing bubble because it kept its banks from exploiting homebuyers and speculating in financial lotteries.

The US political party that best embodies these principles, though very imperfectly, is the Democratic Party now since the New Deal and the Civil Rights movement. But before that, it was the progressive Republican party. But because political parties are so tied to elections to office in government, I do not think they can hold government accountable in the long term and ensure vigorous civil society that will critique and hold cultural, economic, and government institutions accountable. Hopefully my friend Arnie will prove me wrong here as he works with the Labour Party in Great Britain. The Obama Administration generally and its grass roots vehicle Organizing For America is terrific in campaigning for office and even on some economic issues, but not in building local political capacity.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

US Religiosity

While taking my jog today, I thought about the surveys newspapers are always quoting about the religiosity of America. Now I was never asked.  But if a PEW Research Foundation interviewer were to ask me if I go to Church regularly (e.g. once or twice a month), I would say yes.  But I don't consider myself religious. Nor do I belong to or affiliate with any religion.

If the researcher were to ask me if I believe in God and had to answer yes or no, I couldn't do it. I'd have to say: if you mean by God some outside entity beyond nature that can do things to the world and humanity, no. But I am open to mystery and have faith in love, so if you mean by God "Mystery" or "Love," yes, I believe in God.

To judge the religiosity of America, I think researchers need to ask what is a person's understanding or image of God. And why they go to church or synagogue or temple or mosque, if they do. Also they need to take into account that some people who do not attend religious services or belong to a religion can believe in a "Great Person out there" and be quite religious.

In judging US religiosity, e.g. compared with France or China, I would urge a question on what a person means if she says she believes or does not believe in God.  For example:

What approximates best your understanding or image of God.

  1. Creator and/or Sustainer of the world and humanity. 
  2. Divine parent (heavenly father, nourishing mother). 
  3. Great or Holy Spirit (outside matter).
  4. Supernatural being or super human personal entity involved in human life.
  5. Judge, Rewarder, Punisher.

     6. First Cause that is itself uncaused,
     7. Principle or Ground of all being,
     8. Being of all beings,
     9. Reason, Nature, or Universe
     10. Absolute, first beginning and last end of all things.

    11. Love
    12. Mystery
    13. Nothingness
    14. Integral Spirit
    15. Universal Consciousness

1-5 might be called the Gods of Religion (Personal Entity); 6-10 the Gods of the Philosophers (Rational Principle); 11-15 the Gods of the Contemplatives and Mystics (Experience of Wholeness).

In one sense, everyone is religious in the sense that they are part of a culture with a specific language, memories, rituals, and celebrations.  In this sense religion is identified with culture or at least a universal aspect of culture.  In that sense no nation or group is more religious than another.

But in the traditional sense of religious as opposed to secular or contrasting religious belief with rational explanation, I would argue that only those who say they believe in God and whose image of God approximates 1-5 are religious in the traditional sense. (Conversely we might infer that those who say they do not believe in God and whose image of God is 1 to 5, might indeed be believers of God in another sense.)

I would further argue that only those who identify themselves as belonging to some religion because of firm and constant adherence to that religion's belief system (creed, scriptures, organizational rules) should be considered religious in the traditional sense whether or not they attend religious services. Those who identify with a people socially or ethnically, but do not accept the creed, organizational rules, or scriptures as divinely instituted, should not be considered religious even if they participate in a religion's services, celebrations, memories.

So I suspect that the majority of Americans, though church-going and believing in God, are not religious. And combining them with persons who claim to be atheists or nonbelievers, religiosity in America is not as pervasive as social commenters say, much to the chagrin of those who are religious and think that the rest of us are bringing judgment and damnation on us all.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Meditations for a Sustainable Economy


Meditations for a Sustainable Economy
Rollie Smith, November 2012


Meditation 1: The Story

I have lots of insights from the Contemplative Alliance Symposium in which I participated a couple of days ago.

David Korten (Agenda for a New Economy, The Great Turning) presented the importance of changing our central narrative or creation story if we are to foster resilience and integration in our economic, ecological, and (I would add) political systems. And with this change of narrative comes a new metaphor for God.

We need to move past the agricultural age tribal story of a Distant Patriarch or (I would add) Nourishing Matriarch and past the industrial age story of classical science of a Starter God who makes and switches on the machine, maybe oiling it from time to time.

Korten articulates the new image for God as Integral Spirit. This is a Teilhardian image of Consciousness present, emerging, and guiding all elements and systems of the universe.  It is also Thomas Berry's notion of Nature in the fullness of Being and Becoming. And it is the notion of Reality as portrayed by the new science and contemporary art appearing through rational inquiry (scientific method) and phenomenology of consciousness (artistic and religious imagination).

This story and image, some of the participants of the symposium pointed out, is contained in and vies (usually unsuccessfully) with the dominant narrative in the scriptures and rituals of most of our religious traditions, e.g. the Cosmic Christ Spirit of Christianity, the Shekhinah of Judaism, the ruh of Sufi Islam, the Sunyatta or Annata of Buddhism.

Korten, citing some Pew Foundation studies, indicated that over 60% of the people have abandoned the patriarchal God of the fundamentalist Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim hierarchy but need avenues, language, and institutions to express the emerging imagination and narrative; and that is a contemplative imperative. Certainly this was the vocation that Trappist monk Thomas Merton took seriously (and also with great humor) as my friend Bob Toth points out.

The old, angry white, usually Christian, men and their women in America are trapped in their belief systems, their limited images, by their own institutions even against their own interests. Perhaps that is why they were so shocked by the last presidential election--much more than I would have been if it had gone differently (as I suspected it might). These Neanderthals will die out, as will I, hopefully leaving room for the young to bring in the new imagination to support the new economy, ecology, and polity which belongs to no one nation, party, or ideology.

Listening to and thinking about all this I penned the following prayer in my notes:

God, you do not love us. 
You are the Love we have for one another and the earth.

You do not tell us things.
You are the Word we speak to power with each other.

You do not answer our prayers. 
You are the Solution emerging through our contemplation in action.

You do not dictate truths to us. 
You are the Truth we discover in our cooperative inquiry.

You do not judge us.
You are the Good we intend in all creation.

You are not a person or thing.
You are Consciousness that we become in our selves, each other, and the universe.


Meditation 2: Meaning of Economy

Fiscal cliff crisis talk: Grand Bargain or Grand Betrayal? Austerity to cut the deficit or stimulus to create jobs? Give investors more to invest in what they think they can to make some money. Or take some money from them to invest in what we think the public needs to invest?

Everybody says let's just do what is best for the American economy. But which and whose economy? And what do we mean by "economy" anyway?

Two definitions from the Oxford dictionary:

Economy: 1. the state of a country or region in terms of the production and consumption of goods and services and the supply of money.  2. careful management of available resources

But it is helpful to consider the origin of the concept from the same dictionary:
Late 15th century (in the sense 'management of material resources'): from French ├ęconomie, or via Latin from Greek oikonomia 'household management', based on oikos 'house' + nemein 'manage'. 

The household or home is the realm of sustaining life (Arendt).  Oikos is also the land and the earth, our first and basic home, the origin and sustainer of all life. And so the word "ecology" is from the same root. One of the tragedies of industrial modernity is the separation of economy from ecology; and thus the loss of the sense of a universal ecosystem.

Economy is distinguished from the polis or the civis--from which we get the words politics and civilization. In the city or state, free citizens step out of their private households to join with others in speech, decision, and action as equals to create and conduct the affairs of the commons.  This includes the protection of private households and personal life and happiness (economy/ecology): walls (laws) for defense of earth's resources and personal property, market places, safety nets, disaster centers, routes and centers of commerce, and police to protect them.

But action in the commons includes so much more than protection of personal life, by making space and time for public happiness: learning centers (universities), entertainment centers (arenas), cultural centers (theaters, museums, institutes, temples), parks and recreation centers, government centers, and above all centers for free speech and action.

Culture/religion belongs to both realms.  There are household gods, shrines, and rituals that give meaning to life.  There are public gods, shrines, and rituals that give meaning to common action. New thinkers question the gods and rituals, especially in the public realm, at considerable risk as Jeremiah, Socrates, Jesus, Giordano di Fiori, Galileo, Ghandi, and Martin Luther King demonstrate.

Economy, therefore, cannot be understood without its relationship to ecology, to the commons or public realm, and to culture or symbols of meaning.

But that is precisely what left, right, and center in the present conversation on the economy are trying to do. They neglect the intimate interaction of the systems of economy, ecology, politics, and culture.  They use the definition of the Oxford dictionary and as Korten points out, identify resources with money and wealth with the supply of money instead of using money as simply an accounting tool for true wealth.


Meditation 3: Sustainable Capitalism

Money is the capacity to consume, to use or use up things. And we do need to consume and so produce to live. Producing things for consumption and developing our technology to do so has brought tremendous advances to humanity.

Money is a wonderful tool for measuring production and consumption of things. Much better than trying to barter or bargain--since I am terrible at that; and I am getting too old to carry things to market. A unit of money is simply a piece of paper or an accounting entry that shows I owe or am owed something I need, want or value. The money system works because we all together through our governments give assurance for the note or accounting credit or debit.

Financial Capital is measured by the amount of money one has or the assets that can be traded or accounted for by money. So our condo in this market is worth about $250K.  I owe $125k on my mortgage. Unless the condo appreciates or depreciates, I can count on $125k to use to buy things if I sell our condo. However, we have to live somewhere and intend to keep our condo. So that $125k doesn't really mean that much. I'm just glad I don't owe the bank more. I am also glad that I can avoid paying some taxes on my other retirement income because I can declare the interest on my mortgage payment. My bank is glad even more because then I wouldn't be giving them money.

Some of us seem to need or want more than others. That's okay. I needed lots more financial capital when I was going to school or raising my children. I need and want a lot less now. I need and want transportation, nourishment, reading, writing, and education (primarily through libraries and internet), interacting with my family and friends and knowing they are and will be safe and happy, being of some use to others, running and walking on trails and in parks, nice weather, breathing clean air, drinking clean water, eating nourishing food, enjoying good health and health care, and some culture and fun (primarily through museums, institutes, schools, theaters, cafes and pubs). I do want to continue to explore through travel but mainly locally. So these are what I value, most of which cannot be measured in money. However, I realize that the goods and services that provide these are measured in money.

I do not measure my worth or success in terms of money, my capacity to buy and use (up) things. And I don't think most people do. So I am not at all concerned about gaining more or fearful about losing money. I think that makes me free in a very basic sense; i.e. in the sense that I think all people should be free from fear for or want of basic needs of life and pursuit of community and public happiness.

So I want an economy that is not based on financial capital. I do not want an economy that functions simply by increasing money or moving money around (usually up, to people who have the most) without fostering real capital--like a casino does, like Wall Street does, like housing speculation does, like buying, selling, corporatizing businesses does, or like commodifying and depleting earth resources does. I'm all for economic growth but not the kind that the big banks, the stock brokers, the financial fund operators, and the transnational (i.e. non-local) corporations mean.

I'm all for capitalism. But the capitals in which I am most interested are human, communal, earth, spiritual, educational, cultural capitals. These are the capitals I want to support, enhance, and protect. A capitalism that does not grow these capitals is a sham, unsustainable capitalism that will ultimately destroy itself by destroying its very life supporting system.

And this is just what we are seeing in earth change, fragmenting communities, fear and terror, non-renewable energy depletion, and plutocracy with loss of political engagement. By focusing on profit, by understanding profit as an increase in money not capital, by subordinating all capitals to financial growth, by measuring success of nations, cities, and persons by the accumulation of the private, individual ability to consume, we are on an unsustainable path as a species.

And I think that most of us sense this but react to it in different ways, some by building more solid walls, by burying precious metals, by buying weapons, by trying to take things away from others, by holding on to destructive dogmas. A better way is to redesign our economy into a sustainable capitalism.


Meditation 4: Strategy for a Sustainable Economy

There are three elements of a strategy for a new economy according to Korten: 1) the new story, 2) organizing local community, and 3) supporting policies for a sustainable earth.

The desired new narrative embodies a different set of values in line with contemporary science, a contemplative view of universal consciousness, and the imagination of postindustrial relational culture. This narrative is emerging through the weaving of many stories in the works of novelists, science fiction writers, movie producers, historians, philosophers, and citizens of diverse communities and backgrounds.

According to Biblical scholars, the central narrative of the ancient Hebrews, was the product of many tribes, each with its own gods, rituals, and customs, federating for strength in relation to dominating empires north and south by taking monthly turns at a common shrine in Shiloh and sharing their stories.  Amphictyony, the practice of tribes sharing a central place or worship to form a league or association, was not an uncommon occurrence in ancient times as the Delphic Amphictyony of Greece illustrates.

But the lesson I am taking is that the unifying narrative for a nation or a league of nations is an emerging and unfinished narrative developing through the listening to and sharing of many stories. A good community organizer is one who can listen to the stories of potential leaders, hear their interests, values, and affiliations, and establish a space where leaders can hear the others' stories to discover commonalities in affiliations, values, and interests. In this way leaders start writing a transcending, unifying story for a powerful community.

Community is a self-organizing process in which stories are shared and a transcending story emerges. In this way, a community shapes its own boundaries, i.e. sets policies, for its continuing development and power. Therefore, the three elements of the strategy that Korten articulates are in deed not different moments or parts, but three inseparable dimensions of what Jesuit Spirituality calls "contemplation in action."

Organizing community, as John McKnight (The Abundant Community) has pointed out, is neither top-down (hierarchical) nor bottom-up (populist), but inside-out. Vertical approaches focus on scarcity in which those who have provide charity to have-nots or victims force the haves to give up some of their possessions. Good community organizing focuses on abundance, the assets already in persons and their communities that when brought together can strengthen communities and their persons.

In a sustainable economy, existing human gifts are brought together for everyone to have. People with their talents come to the concert to create a great symphony. Or, another metaphor, by planting the seeds, laying the compost, and attending to nurture, the garden grows. Investment in a sustainable economy is not putting up money to get more money where the rich get richer and the poor don't, but putting in capital--real capital so that everyone gets wealthier.

One last note before I get specific and lay out my own plan.

Is it okay to get rich, like Gates or Romney or Wall Street bankers? Sure, I have nothing against riches. If money is what turns you on, go for it. I don't care how many cars or houses or wives or jewelry or yachts or art pieces you need, want, or have. Just don't screw the rest of us while getting them. And don't pretend that you are adding anything to the sustainable economy or well-being of the nation because you are rich and getting richer, especially if you are not adding anything to building community, enhancing life, advancing human knowledge, and fostering dignity and integrity in persons, among nations, with the earth. And please don't get rich in a way that is destructive to human and planet life and community and then, after you are rich, try to do good.


Meditation 5: Planning for A Sustainable Economy

After the presidential election, I identified three root issues that only arose in the campaign through surrogate sub-issues.

They are:

1. The widening gap between the rich and everyone else with the consequent domination of the superrich and their institutions. This means much more than tax reform or debt reduction but re-imagining the fundamental vision, mission, and structure of our national and global economy and its institutions. And it means the survival of a republican form of government.

2. The state of the planet with the consequent survival of the human species. This means more than preventing or adapting to global warming but re-imagining the fundamental vision, mission, and structure of technological progress in relation to the condition and future of humanity.

3. The development of cosmopolis and the threat to freedom in and power of communities, nations, and/or the whole of humanity. This means understanding and reviewing the structures that foster or prevent domination, war, and terror.

Each of these issues implies the others. Underlying them all is the vision, mission, and ethical structure or integrity of humankind: the notions of justice, of equity, of power, and of freedom. Organizing and planning for a sustainable and democratic economy is a tall, many-faceted, long-term endeavor that must engage hundreds of thousands of leaders from all sectors of human life and action in numerous experiments, critiques, and verifications.

I presented a mind-map of these issues to show their relationship with each other, the other sub-issues, and the ethical underpinnings.  

After the Contemplative Alliance meeting facilitated by David Korten and some discussion with colleagues, here is a tentative plan for experimental action that I am exploring. I present this plan to be critiqued by colleagues and by others who are interested in participating with me in this endeavor.

1. Listening and research. I intend to keep reading and studying about the issues. I intend to interview experts and leaders of NGOs that are tackling these issues, looking for "handles" or promising points of entry for organization and action.  Bill Gates recently at the Aspen Institute reaffirmed an adage I first learned from Tom Peters: "You get what you measure." So at this stage and throughout, it is important to come up with specific, concrete measures for a sustainable economy and successful humanity. If not GDP, if not "bottom line," if not accumulation of money, what are they?

2. Local experimentation. I think that my niche and handle to the new economy, based on my own expertise, relates to the local and worldwide sustainable urbanism movement. I am now facilitating a strategic planning process in a dynamic neighborhood of DC based in my participation in my church and its sponsored housing and community development corporation. I am in contact with leaders and organizers in other neighborhoods of DC doing similar work. We are articulating our vision for a livable, or what MLK called the "beloved," community. We are reviewing our mission and measures for getting there.

3. Sustainable Communities DC. Working with local neighborhood developers and organizers and City staff, I want to explore a metro DC sustainable communities initiative as we have begun to achieve in California’s Central Valley.  Working with National Community Reinvestment Coalition regional organizers, I want to explore the developing strategy for community banking as a part of that movement. This experiment includes the "breaking up" of the "too-big-to-fail" financial institutions by encouraging them to work through and build the capacity of local community banks.  This is much as national government works through local governments and NGOs to achieve our national goals; or as national and international foundations work through local community foundations to accomplish their mission. Or a radically new model of local neighborhood financing of commercial real estate. Or as certain franchise and cooperative organizations work. The key is building local capacity from the inside-out.

4. National/intentional connections. Linking to DC and East Coast based NGOs and using my relationships with the Sustainable Community organizing in California I hope to develop the story and build a national initiative that uses the California SB375/AB32 legislative and my local organizing experience in Fresno in reducing carbon emissions through sustainable, resilient communities as part of the new urbanism. I want to be in discussion with my former colleagues in HUD, EPA, USDA, Commerce, Transportation, and the White House in relation to the federal SC initiative. I want to contact representatives of the worldwide sustainable urbanism movement in other countries, as I have already done in Australia, to link our stories with theirs.

5. Emerging story. With help from my faith-based and contemplative friends, I want to keep nourishing the global emerging narrative, which includes the mission, values, and vision for a sustainable economy within a sustainable ecosystem.  I want to continually learn through more listening and research as in #1.

Help me, please. Tell me what you think and especially how to improve my thinking and my action.

A final note:

I read Ray Kurzweil and other thinkers about the Singularity and the technological "End of History and the Last Man." This would possibly be the new species towards which we are evolving. Francis Fukuyama following Hegel sees the Last Man coming through liberal, democratic political economy. My own choice (as outlined in my Ethicsof Integrity) is to never have the End arrived, but always arriving through our choices now. That is, we renew and celebrate human existence as the tension between past and future time, inner and outer space, self and world, personal individuality and collective community, reality and ideality that we indeed are at this and every moment here and now and with. Integrity with our self, with each other, with the world, and with our dynamically changing universe is the story of our existence and our most urgent challenge.  Let's go for it.

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Plan for a Sustainable Economy

After the presidential election, I identified three root issues that only arose in the campaign through surrogate sub-issues.

They are:

1. The widening gap between the rich and everyone else with the consequent domination of the superrich and their institutions. This means much more than tax reform or debt reduction but re-imagining the fundamental vision, mission, and structure of our national and global economy and its institutions. And it means the survival of a republican form of government.

2. The state of the planet with the consequent survival of the human species. This means more than preventing or adapting to global warming but re-imagining the fundamental vision, mission, and structure of technological progress in relation to the condition and future of humanity.

3. The development of cosmopolis and the threat to freedom in and power of communities, nations, and/or the whole of humanity. This means understanding and reviewing the structures that foster or prevent domination, war, and terror.

Each of these issues implies the others. Underlying them all is the vision, mission, and ethical structure or integrity of humankind: the notions of justice, of equity, of power, and of freedom. Organizing and planning for a sustainable and democratic economy is a tall, many-faceted, long-term endeavor that must engage hundreds of thousands of leaders from all sectors of human life and action in numerous experiments, critiques, and verifications.

I presented a mind-map of these issues to show their relationship with each other, the other sub-issues, and the ethical underpinnings.  

After the Contemplative Alliance meeting facilitated by David Korten and some discussion with colleagues, here is a tentative plan for experimental action that I am exploring. I present this plan to be critiqued by colleagues and by others who are interested in participating with me in this endeavor.

1. Listening and research. I intend to keep reading and studying about the issues. I intend to interview experts and leaders of NGOs that are tackling these issues, looking for "handles" or promising points of entry for organization and action.  Bill Gates recently reaffirmed an adage I first learned from Tom Peters: "You get what you measure." So at this stage and throughout, it is important to come up with specific, concrete measures for a sustainable economy and successful humanity. If not GDP, if not "bottom line," if not accumulation of money, what are they?

2. Local experimentation. I think that my niche and handle to the new economy, based on my own expertise, relates to the local and worldwide sustainable urbanism movement. I am now facilitating a strategic planning process in a dynamic neighborhood of DC based in my participation in my church and its sponsored housing and community development corporation. I am in contact with leaders and organizers in other neighborhoods of DC doing similar work. We are articulating our vision for a livable, or what MLK called the "beloved," community. We are reviewing our mission and measures for getting there.

3. Sustainable Communities DC. Working with local neighborhood developers and organizers and City staff, I want to explore a metro DC sustainable communities initiative.  Working with National Community Reinvestment Coalition regional organizers, I want to explore the developing strategy for community banking as a part of that movement. This experiment includes the "breaking up" of the "too-big-to-fail" financial institutions by encouraging them to work through and build the capacity of local community banks.  This is much as national government works through local governments and NGOs to achieve our national goals; or as national and international foundations work through local community foundations to accomplish their mission. Or a radically new model of local neighborhood financing of commercial real estate. Or as certain franchise and cooperative organizations work. The key is building local capacity from the inside-out.

4. National/intentional connections. Linking to DC and East Coast based NGOs and using my relationships with the Sustainable Community organizing in California I hope to develop the story and build a national initiative that uses the California SB375/AB32 legislative and my local organizing experience in Fresno in reducing carbon emissions through sustainable, resilient communities as part of the new urbanism. I want to be in discussion with my former colleagues in HUD, EPA, USDA, Commerce, Transportation, and the White House in relation to the federal SC initiative. I want to contact representatives of the worldwide sustainable urbanism movement in other countries, as I have already done in Australia, to link our stories with theirs.

5. Emerging story. With help from my faith-based and contemplative friends, I want to keep nourishing the global emerging narrative which includes the mission, values, and vision for a sustainable economy within a sustainable ecosystem.  I want to continually learn through more listening and research as in #1.

Help me, please. Tell me what you think and especially how to improve my thinking and my action.

A final note:

I read Ray Kurzweil and other thinkers about the Singularity and the technological "End of History and the Last Man." This would possibly be the new species towards which we are evolving. Francis Fukuyama following Hegel sees the Last Man coming through liberal, democratic political economy. My own choice (as outlined in my Ethics of Integrity) is to never have the End arrived, but always arriving through our choices now. That is we renew and celebrate human existence as the tension between past and future time, inner and outer space, self and world, personal individuality and collective community, reality and ideality that we indeed are at this and every moment here and now and with. Integrity with our self, with each other, with the world, with our dynamically changing universe is the story of our existence and our most urgent challenge.  Let's go for it.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Strategy for Sustainable Capitalism

There are three elements of a strategy for a new economy according to Korten: 1) the new story, 2) organizing local community, and 3) supporting policies for a sustainable earth.

The desired new narrative embodies a different set of values in line with contemporary science, a contemplative view of universal consciousness, and the imagination of postindustrial relational culture. This narrative is emerging through the weaving of many stories in the works of novelists, science fiction writers, movie producers, historians, philosophers, and citizens of diverse communities and backgrounds.

According to Biblical scholars, the central narrative of the ancient Hebrews, was the product of many tribes, each with its own gods, rituals, and customs, federating for strength in relation to dominating empires north and south by taking monthly turns at a common shrine in Shiloh and sharing their stories.  Amphictyony, the practice of tribes sharing a central place or worship to form a league or association, was not an uncommon occurrence in ancient times as the Delphic Amphictyony of Greece illustrates.

But the lesson I am taking is that the unifying narrative for a nation or a league of nations is an emerging and unfinished narrative developing through the listening to and sharing of many stories. A good community organizer is one who can listen to the stories of potential leaders, hear their interests, values, and affiliations, and establish a space where leaders can hear the others' stories to discover commonalities in affiliations, values, and interests. In this way leaders start writing a transcending, unifying story for a powerful community.

Community is a self-organizing process in which stories are shared and a transcending story emerges. In this way, a community shapes its own boundaries, i.e. sets policies, for its continuing development and power. Therefore, the three elements of the strategy that Korten articulates are in deed not different moments or parts, but three inseparable dimensions of what Jesuit Spirituality calls "contemplation in action."

Organizing community, as John McKnight (The Abundant Community) has pointed out, is neither top-down (hierarchical) nor bottom-up (populist), but inside-out. Vertical approaches focus on scarcity in which those who have provide charity to have-nots or victims force the haves to give up some of their possessions. Good community organizing focuses on abundance, the assets already in persons and their communities that when brought together can strengthen communities and their persons.

In a sustainable economy, existing human gifts are brought together for everyone to have. People with their talents come to the concert to create a great symphony. Or, another metaphor, by planting the seeds, laying the compost, and attending to nurture, the garden grows. Investment in a sustainable economy is not putting up money to get more money where the rich get richer and the poor don't, but putting in capital--real capital so that everyone get's wealthier.

One last note before I get specific and lay out my own plan.

Is it okay to get rich, like Gates or Romney or Wall Street bankers? Sure, I have nothing against riches. If money is what turns you on, go for it. I don't care how many cars or houses or wives or jewelry or yachts or art pieces you need, want, or have. Just don't screw the rest of us getting them. And don't pretend that you are adding anything to the sustainable economy or well-being of the nation because you are rich and getting richer, especially if you are not adding anything to building community, enhancing life, advancing human knowledge, and fostering dignity and integrity in persons, among nations, with the earth. And please don't get rich in a way that is destructive to human and planet life and community and then, after you are rich, do good.

Next: A specific plan.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Sustainable Capitalism

Money is the capacity to consume, to use or use up things. And we do need to consume and so produce to live. Producing things for consumption and developing our technology to do so has brought tremendous advances to humanity.

Money is a wonderful tool for measuring production and consumption of things. Much better than trying to barter or bargain--since I am terrible at that; and I am getting too old to carry things to market. A unit of money is simply a piece of paper or an accounting entry that shows I owe or am owed something I need, want or value. The money system works because we all together through our governments give assurance for the note or accounting credit or debit.

Financial Capital is measured by the amount of money one has or the assets that can be traded or accounted for by money. So our condo in this market is worth about $250K.  I owe $125k on my mortgage. Unless the condo appreciates or depreciates, I can count on $125k to use to buy things if I sell our condo. However, we have to live somewhere and intend to keep our condo. So that $125k doesn't really mean that much. I'm just glad I don't owe the bank more. I am also glad that I can avoid paying some taxes on my other retirement income because I can declare the interest on my mortgage payment. My bank is glad even more because then I wouldn't be giving them money.

Some of us seem to need or want more than others. That's okay. I needed lots more financial capital when I was going to school or raising my children. I need and want a lot less now. I need and want transportation, nourishment, reading, writing, and education (primarily through libraries and internet), interacting with my family and friends and knowing they are and will be safe and happy, being of some use to others, running and walking on trails and in parks, nice weather, breathing clean air, drinking clean water, eating nourishing food, enjoying good health and health care, and some culture and fun (primarily through museums, institutes, schools, theaters, cafes and pubs). I do want to continue to explore through travel but mainly locally. So these are what I value, most of which cannot be measured in money. However, I realize that the goods and services that provide these are measured in money.

I do not measure my worth or success in terms of money, my capacity to buy and use (up) things. And I don't think most people do. So I am not at all concerned about gaining more or fearful about losing money. I think that makes me free in a very basic sense; i.e. in the sense that I think all people should be free from fear for or want of basic needs of life and pursuit of community and public happiness.

So I want an economy that is not based on financial capital. I do not want an economy that functions simply by increasing money or moving money around (usually up, to people who have the most) without fostering real capital--like a casino does, like Wall Street does, like housing speculation does, like buying, selling, corporatizing businesses does, or like commodifying and depleting earth resources does. I'm all for economic growth but not the kind that the big banks, the stock brokers, the financial fund operators, and the transnational (i.e. non-local) corporations mean.

I'm all for capitalism. But the capitals in which I am most interested are human, communal, earth, spiritual, educational, cultural capitals. This are the capitals I want to support, enhance, and protect. A capitalism that does not grow these capitals is a sham, unsustainable capitalism that will ultimately destroy itself by destroying its very life supporting system.

And this is just what we are seeing in earth change, fragmenting communities, fear and terror, non-renewable energy depletion, and plutocracy with loss of political engagement. By focusing on profit, by understanding profit as an increase in money not capital, by subordinating all capitals to financial growth, by measuring success of nations, cities, and persons by the accumulation of the private, individual ability to consume, we are on an unsustainable path as a species.

And I think that most of us sense this but react to it in different ways, some by building more solid walls, by burying precious metals, by buying weapons, by trying to take things away from others, by holding on to destructive dogmas. A better way is to redesign our economy into a sustainable capitalism.

Next: How

Defining Economy

Fiscal cliff crisis talk: Grand Bargain or Grand Betrayal? Austerity to cut the deficit or stimulus to create jobs? Give investors more to invest in what they think they can make some money or take some money from them to invest in what we think the public needs to invest? Everybody says let's just do what is best for the American economy. But which and whose economy? And what do we mean by "economy" anyway?

Two definitions from the Oxford dictionary:
1. the state of a country or region in terms of the production and consumption of goods and services and the supply of money.  2. careful management of available resources

But it is helpful to consider the origin of the concept from the same dictionary.
Late 15th century (in the sense 'management of material resources'): from French ├ęconomie, or via Latin from Greek oikonomia 'household management', based on oikos 'house' + nemein 'manage'. 

The household or home is the realm of sustaining life (Arendt).  Oikos is also the land and the earth, our first and basic home, the origin and sustainer of all life. And so the word "ecology" is from the same root. One of the tragedies of industrial modernity is the separation of economy from ecology; and thus the loss of the sense of a universal ecosystem.

Economy is distinguished from the polis or the civis--from which we get the words politics and civilization. In the city or state, free citizens step out of their private households to join with others in speech, decision, and action as equals to create and conduct the affairs of the commons.  This includes the protection of private households and personal life and happiness (economy/ecology): walls (laws) for defense of earth's resources and personal property, market places, safety nets, disaster centers, routes and centers of commerce, and police to protect them. But action in the commons includes so much more than protection of personal life, by making space and time for public happiness: learning centers (universities), entertainment centers (arenas), cultural centers (theaters, museums, institutes, temples), parks and recreation centers, government centers, and above all centers for free speech and action.

Culture/religion belongs to both realms.  There are household gods, shrines, and rituals that give meaning to life.  There are public gods, shrines, and rituals that give meaning to common action. New thinkers question the gods and rituals, especially in the public realm, at considerable risk as Jeremiah, Socrates, Jesus, Giordano di Fiori, Galileo, Ghandi, and Martin Luther King demonstrate.

Economy, therefore, cannot be understood without its relationship to ecology, to the commons or public realm, and to culture or symbols of meaning.

But that is precisely what left, right, and center in the present conversation on the economy are trying to do. They neglect the intimate interaction of the systems of economy, ecology, politics, and culture.  They use the definition of the Oxford dictionary and as Korten points out, identify resources with money and wealth with the supply of money instead of using money as simply an accounting tool for true wealth.

Next: Sustainable capitalism.



Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Story of Economy

I had lots of insights from the Contemplative Alliance Symposium in which I participated a couple of days ago. I will channel some of my reflections here and then gather them into an article.

David Korten (Agenda for a New Economy, The Great Turning) presented the importance of changing our central narrative or creation story if we are to foster resilience and integration in our economic, ecological, and (I would add) political systems. And with this change of narrative comes a new metaphor for God.

We need to move past the agricultural age tribal story of a Distant Patriarch or (I would add) Nourishing Matriarch and past the industrial age story of classical science of a Starter God who makes and switches on the machine, maybe oiling it from time to time. Korten articulates the new image for God as Integral Spirit. This is a Teilhardian image of Consciousness present, emerging, and guiding all elements and systems of the universe.  It is also Wendall Barry's notion of Nature in the fullness of Being and Becoming. And it is the notion of Reality as portrayed by the new science and contemporary art appearing through rational inquiry (scientific method) and phenomenology of consciousness (artistic and religious imagination).

This story and image some of the participants pointed out is contained in and vies (usually unsuccessfully) in the scriptures and rituals of most of our religious traditions, e.g. the Cosmic Christ Spirit of Christianty, the Shekhinah of Judaism, the ruh of Sufi Islam, the Sunyatta or Annata of Buddhism.

Korten, citing some Pew Foundation studies, indicated that over 60% of the people have abandoned the   patriarchal God of the fundamentalist Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim hierarchy but need avenues, language, and institutions to express the emerging imagination and narrative and that is a contemplative imperative. Certainly this was the vocation that Trappist monk Thomas Merton took seriously (and also with great humor) as my friend Bob Toth points out.

The old, angry white, usually Christian, men and their women in America are trapped in their belief systems, their limited images, by their own institutions even against their own interests. That is why they were so shocked by the last presidential election--much more than I would have been if it had gone differently (as I suspected it might). They will die out, as will I, hopefully leaving room for the young to bring in the new imagination to support the new economy, ecology, and polity which belongs to no one nation, party, or ideology.

Listening to all this I penned the following in my notes:

God, you do not love us. You are the Love we have for one another and the earth.
You do not tell us things. You are the Word we speak to power with each other.
You do not answer our prayers. You are the Solution emerging through our contemplation in action.
You do not dictate truths to us. You are the Truth we discover in our cooperative inquiry.
You do not judge us. You are the Good we intend in all creation.
You are not a person or thing. You are the personal, collective Consciousness that we become in our union with our selves, each other, and the universe.

Next: Redefining Economy.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Three Issues and the Ethic of Integrity and Resilience

In yesterday's Blog, I identified three major issues hardly, if at all, mentioned in the election campaign, which I think are paramount, relate ton one another, and include all other issues including those that were mentioned in the campaign.  I also indicated the underlying ethic behind these issues which I think is a choice that embodies both threat and opportunity for humanity.

Earlier in my examination of the ethic of integrity, I spoke about the choice between faith and belief, between the me/mine mentality and the together mentality, the holding in tension both personal self and communal other, past expressions and imagining the future, relationality over both absolutism and relativism, living and acting in the murkiness of changing reality.

Recently I read Andrew Zolli's book Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back.  He defines resilience as: 

continuity and recovery in the face of rapid change


A good working definition, particularly in an urban planning context, is: the ability to maintain core purpose, with integrity, under the widest variety of circumstances. More broadly, it’s the ability to recover, persist or even thrive amid disruption.

Among other things, resilient systems sense and respond to their own state and the state of the world around them, compensate or dynamically reorganize themselves in the face of novel shocks, decouple themselves from other fragile systems when necessary, fail gracefully, and have strong local self-sufficiency.

But we shouldn’t get too hung up on the specific language. Any definition will only ever be a first approximation, because there are countless kinds of systems, countless ways for them to be more or less resilient, and countless things for them to be resilient to.

Therefore resilience implies integrity and I think that integrity implies resilience and indeed is the primary path to resilience.  I will reflect much more on this.

Here for my own contemplation is a mind map of the three issues and the Ethic of Integrity and Resilience:

Sunday, November 11, 2012

After the Election

I've been reading lots of postmortems and postvivas.

On the R side: the range is between a sensible Michael Gerson, a true conservative in the Edmund Burke and John Kekes tradition, and a grumpy Charles Krautheimer in the angry right white male populist, nativist tradition. Gerson recommends that the GOP take responsibility, learn, include, and promote real republicanism. Krautheimer recommends holding the present path (except maybe giving in a bit to the Latinos), while blaming the moral fiber of the nation, the takers over the makers, or anyone else who doesn't see the world the way he does.

On the D side: Krugman is recommending that Liberals hold tight and don't make a deal on the fiscal "cliff"; others are pushing an expanded social issue agenda. Single issue organizations are rightly pushing their agenda in immigration reform, limiting the fossil fuel industry, expanded gay and women's rights, and jobs through public infrastructure spending especially smart growth and public transportation. (Whoops! This just in. Santorum blames the "homosexuals.")

But I am not so interested in what the Parties or the President need to do. I want to consider what I want to do with others in the aftermath of this election.

As I have confessed before, I am a socialist in economics (i.e. for social justice), a libertarian in culture (i.e. with so-called social issues), a conservative in politics (e.g. for true republicanism). As such I will support resources for the working poor to assist them achieve greater equity and political power. I will strongly support the expansion of the rights and true wealth of people who have been left behind in our system. I will support scientific inquiry and tolerance; and I will fight religious dogmatism and bigotry. I will also support self-organizing communities for achieving understanding, for creating or reorganizing their own institutions, and for having collective power in relation to the monied people and institutions who are now shaping their environment and future.

I think that the biggest issues that face our humanity were not much discussed in the recent electoral campaign.

They are:

1. The widening gap between the rich and everyone else with the consequent domination of the superrich and their institutions. This means much more than tax reform or debt reduction but re-imagining the fundamental vision, mission, and structure of our national and global economy and its institutions.

2. The state of the planet with the consequent survival of the human species. This means more than preventing or adapting to global warming but re-imagining the fundamental vision, mission, and structure of technological progress in relation to the condition and future of humanity.

3. The development of cosmopolis and the possible loss of freedom and power of communities, nations, and/or the whole of humanity. This means understanding and reviewing the structures that will prevent domination, war, and terror.

Each of these issues imply the others. Underlying them is the vision, mission, and ethical structure or integrity of humankind: the notions of justice, of equity, of power, and of freedom.

So what do I intend to do?

1. I will continue to work with my church, nonprofit housing corporation, and metro-wide community organization to advance affordable housing, community organization, and development in Columbia Heights and DC. This keeps me grounded in a diverse neighborhood community with many others of similar values and interests.

2. I will explore developing new or working with existing NGOs that will educate, organize, and advocate in relation to these three interrelated issues.

  • I will continue to read, discuss, contemplate, and write on these issues and their underlying ethic.
  • I will meet with leaders in public and private organizations to identify gaps, pressure points, and a place where a committed group of leaders might best make a difference.
  • Working with colleagues, I will organize and develop a thoughtful response through an organization based in DC but involving people and organizations with as much reach as possible.

Click here for a Mind Map of the three issues and see next blog.