In today’s world the role of the citizen, in every country, in every community, takes on its greatest significance in all of history. Essentially, the work of every world citizen is to join a phenomenal force to work from the bottom up by using the most powerful ideal that comes from the top of the morality pyramid, down. Common citizens, large in number and powerful when collectively focused, will physically and emotionally force change on the power above them, by using the highest point of the moral compass, The Common Good, as their mightiest weapon, to trickle down spiritually and intellectually into everyone.
As Democrats, we value our life in community, the community of other people, other animals, and all other life. We must focus great attention on our responsibilities as each other’s care-takers and as stewards of all nature’s creatures with whom we share this beautiful world. Part physicist and all humanitarian Albert Einstein knew who we all are in relation to the universe around us:
“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
So how would this world work, how would the US work, if all of us widened our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and nature herself? If we widened our sphere of compassion beyond our small tribes and tribal instincts?
As citizens, each of us holds public office, a public trust to care for each other on the earth. Each of us is a separate, yet essential piece of the complex network, the US, and beyond that, the world. If we wish to live in deeper community, if we wish to develop an unbreakable ethic of care, we will need to embrace the cooperative efforts of many people. Just as keeping a city free of violence depends on each resident working hard for that ideal, so also maintaining the social conditions from which we all benefit requires the cooperative efforts of many citizens.
But these efforts pay off, for The Common Good is a good to which all members of society have access, and from whose enjoyment no one can be easily excluded. All persons, for example, enjoy the benefits of clean air or an unpolluted environment, or any of our society’s other common goods. In fact, something counts as a common good only to the extent that it is a good to which all have access.
Although an appeal for an ethic of The Common Good does face obstacles, appeals ought not to be dismissed. They force us to think about the kind of society we want to become and how we are to achieve that society. They also challenge us to view ourselves as members of the same community and, while respecting and valuing the freedom of individuals to pursue their own goals, to respect and manifest those goals we share in common.
We must also be aware that only mass social movements can save us now. This means we must lay out a collective view of the world of the world that competes directly with today’s view, one that resonates with the majority of people. And the majority of humanity does know this: that we are not apart from nature but of it. That acting collectively for The Common Good is for the good of everyone, and that common projects of mutual aid are responsible for our species’ greatest accomplishments.
What could we all do to become more active and participating citizens? To fulfill the responsibilities we share as members of our local communities, our state communities, and the American community?
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Citizens hold the most powerful office in our country. On our thousand mile journey full citizenship, here are a few good first steps.
- Live your best life. Be exemplary. What are your unique talents? The world, your family, your nation, needs you. This is how you contribute your best to The Common Good.
- Prioritize your life and those of your partner, your children, your parents, your siblings, your friends. through these intimate relationships, you can cultivate a lot for The Common Good.
- Learn more about the ethics of caring. Why don’t we teach this in every school? Why don’t we talk about this in political debates? One heart-opening exercise is to read about the Catholic Church’s Corporal Works of Mercy (to feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to shelter the homeless, to visit the sick, to release the imprisoned or enslaved, and to bury the dead). And read the Spiritual Works of Mercy, too (some of which I have edited to be more 21st Century) (to teach those who want to know; to rescue the oppressed; to confront the oppressors; to question the powerful; to forgive others and to ask for forgiveness; to comfort the suffering; and to offer kindness to everyone). And read about The interfaith Jewish-based organization Tikkun, whose purpose is to Heal, Restore, and Transform the World.
- As a corollary, learn more about evil. Americans especially need to learn about evil. Authoritarianism can happen here. A good start is to stop bullies wherever you see them. Protect children from bullies and teach them how to recognize a bully and nonviolently confront them. An active citizenry must find ways to recognize psychopaths and their gangs and find ways to keep them from power. Remember: you are a normal human being and many of those who hold political power are not: they are psychopaths who have no regard for The Common Good. And normal human beings are in the majority. Do not normalize psychopathic behavior.
- Learn to resist the deep unconscious pull towards tribalism, and expand the circle of people you consider your tribe. Respect the rights, beliefs, and opinions of others. Because of your 200,000 year evolutionary journey, this will be the hardest thing you will ever do. Respect your tribal heritage, which helped you and all humanity to become the unique, complex beings we are, but resist the urge to think you are special or better-than or entitled.
- Get woke. And stay woke. This means to learn how to recognize and accept truth and transparency, and how to recognize spin, deception, propaganda, and outright lies. It also means to DEMAND TRUTH from your political leaders and the media.
- Learn about why you vote the way you do. Read about how psychology is advancing the political process, how to spot a psychopath in political office, and how mass marketing techniques on the internet and on television are used to control how you vote.
- Participate in the democratic process. This means register to vote, learn about the current candidates and issues, and then VOTE. It also means to participate in local, state, and national issues.
- Engage in community help programs. They say all politics is local. How can you contribute to The Common Good in your community? Can you volunteer? Mentor someone?
Read the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution and the 27 Amendments. An informed citizenry is essential for the whole system to work. You will find the words dramatic and inspiring. And be aware of this wondrous fact: this is the first comprehensive blueprint for a complex democratic government in human history. And it is an unparalleled blueprint for enhancing The Common Good. And then read the document that reaches even further than these, The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Proposed in 1948, it stands as a light beacon of the most advanced proposal for the human rights of all people, yet remember also that eighty years later, it has not only never been seriously considered anywhere, it’s existence is not known much beyond legal scholars and human rights activists.
- March. Be part of an organized non-violent resistance movement; they help build resolve and community. Above all: stand up to power. This might be harder for women than men, but don’t let that stop you, and the experience will make you connect with your own power. A good resource is The Indivisible Guide. When an issue speaks to you, contact your representatives in the Senate and House of Representatives. And support the ACLU, the US’s relentless freedom fighters.
- Pay income and other taxes honestly, and on time, to federal, state, and local authorities. A good citizen willingly supports the taxation system because The Common Good that taxes pay for, like police and fire departments, roads and bridges, political elections, public libraries, public education, recreational parks, clean water, and the salaries of Senators, Congresspeople, and Presidents, and thousands of other things.
- Most important, be good to children, always. How hard it must be for abused, neglected, hungry children to grow into happy and healthy adults, and to live their best lives. A nation of well-cared-for children will grow up to end inequity and war, create wondrous gifts for all living beings, and reach potentials heretofore unknown. Because they will have been appropriately nurtured as they developed their view of the world and their cerebral cortex, they will live their lives with fulfillment of The Common Good as a primary instinct.
- Let me end with a dream. If I could have one wish fulfilled, it would be this: a revolutionary addition to our schools. My wish is that a comprehensive program on “Life Skills” would be included as a standard course in every grade level, every semester, just like other courses, from Kindergarten through high school. The goal is to introduce concepts like The Golden Rule and The Common Good, meaning the course would emphasize an ethic of care, empathy, and cooperation. Each grade level would offer a 2-semester course on “Life Skills” that are age-appropriate for students in that class. The “Life Skills” courses would be included in every grade in school.
As an example, the “Life Skills” student in Grade 1 might study Making Friends, and issues discussed could be How to Make Friends, How to Be A Good Friend, How to Communicate Well, Rules for Playing Fair, and so on.
Grade 2 might offer the “Life Skills” course on Bullies and cover topics like How to Spot a Bully, Are You a Bully?, How to Deal With Bullies, Telling Teachers and Parents, and so on.
Other “Life Skill” topics for courses for older students could be Romance, Sexuality, How to Create Good Relationships, What do femininity and masculinity mean?, Choosing Your Career, How to Manage Money, What are Good Business Ethics?, and Being an Independent and Responsible Adult.
One or two courses in high school could be devoted to the “Life Skill” of Citizenship, to address topics like The American System of Government, The Responsibilities of a Good Citizen, Picking a Political Candidate, How to Vote, How To Debate, A Review of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and The 27 Amendments, What is Political Propaganda and What is Good Journalism, How to Spot Fake News, Lies, and Spinning, What Other forms of Governments Run Other Nations, How Can IT Tools Influence Politics, and Federal Politics, State Politics, and Community Politics.
On your thousand mile journey to full citizenship, the above are a few good first steps.
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This is is list of inspirational articles, books, citizen movements, websites, and organizations. They embrace the theme The Common Good. Spend an evening reading them, perhaps to someone you love.
Indivisible Guide to Citizen Activism
Markkula Center for Applied Ethics
Dr. Noam Chomsky
Dr. Riane Eisler
Rep. Barbara Jordan
Dr. Naomi Klein
Dr. George Lakoff
Dr. Joanna Macy
Chief Wilma Mankiller
Center for Building a Culture of Empathy
Rev. Jim Wallis
The Common Good
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Contact these Democrats with your ideas about The Democratic Party, Serving The Common Good.
DNC Democratic National Committee
430 South Capitol Street Southeast
Washington, DC 20003
DNC Chair, Tom Perez (MD)
DNC Co-Chair, Keith Ellison (MN)
Sen. Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer (NY)
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (CA)
Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT)
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA)
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI)
House of Rep. Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi (CA)
House of Rep. Maxine Waters (CA)
House of Rep. Eric Stalwell (CA)
State Atty. General Kamala Harris (CA)
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“Reflection is only a partial understanding of truth if it does not translate itself in practice into commitments to The Common Good and justice. Truth is not mere abstraction but something to be done and is only apprehended when this is realized.” – Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Argentine human rights activist