∼Quotes About The Common Good∼

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Rep. Barbara Jordan, 1976

Fractal31“A nation is formed by the willingness of each of us to share in the responsibility for upholding The Common Good. A government is invigorated when each one of us is willing to participate in shaping the future of this nation. In this election year, we must define The “Common Good” and begin again to shape a common future. Let each person do his or her part.”  – Rep. Barbara Jordan, the 1976 Democratic National Convention Keynote Address

“When given the resources and opportunity, tradition-oriented Cherokee people will help each other and take on projects for the larger community good. Gadugi, or working collectively for The Common Good, is an abiding attribute of Cherokee culture.”   – Cherokee Chief Wilma Mankiller

“Decisions about morals and justice are the foremost of duties. To see clearly what is visible in the political world, one has first to perceive what is in the soul. That way it is clear that justice is neither the right of the strong nor the advantage of the stronger, but the right of the best and The Common Good of the nation.”  – Plato, circa 360 BCE

“The function of man is to live a certain kind of life, and this is to be an activity of the soul implying a rational principle. If the function of a good man is the noble performance of these principles, and if any action is well performed in accordance with the appropriate principle, then for a man, The Common Good is activity of the soul in accordance with virtue.”  – Aristotle, circa 310 BCE

“Politics appears to be the master art for it includes so many others and its purpose is the good of man. While it is worthy to perfect one man, it is finer and more godlike to perfect a nation, which has the purpose The Common Good of men.”  – Aristotle, circa 320 BCE

“A people or republic is not any collection of human beings brought together in any sort of way, but an assemblage of people in large numbers associated in agreement with respect to justice and a partnership for The Common Good.”  – Cicero, year 50 BCE

“Law is nothing other than a certain ordinance of reason for The Common Good, promulgated by the person who has the care of the community.”   – St. Thomas Aquinas

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Sen. Cory Booker

“Patriotism is love of country. But you can’t love your country without loving your countrymen and countrywomen. We don’t always have to agree, but we must empower each other, we must find the common ground, we must build bridges across our differences to pursue The Common Good.”  – Sen. Cory Booker

“Regarding health care for all, and every political debate, I appeal to the moral issue of ensuring The Common Good. This is a debate about the character of our country – about whether we can still meet the challenges of our time; whether we still have the guts and the courage to give every citizen, not just some, the chance to reach their dreams. We have to make sure we’re investing enough in The Common Good to be able to move our country forward.”   – Pres. Barack Obama

“Theories of The Common Good and social justice, over recent decades, have undergone powerful sociological changes in regards towards the attitudes of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, two-spirit, and transgendered (LGBTST) community. It has caused somewhat of an identity crisis for these justice theories to hold their truth, in our ever-changing society. How can we create a broadly accepted philosophy, created on moral principles of The Common Good, and also account for all the different individuals living within these social groups?”   – Audre Lorde, poet and feminist activist

“I practice an engaged spirituality that is active within the world to help heal injustice, hatred, oppression, fear and violence with justice, loving-kindness, equanimity, courage and nonviolence, to not cooperate with common evil and bring about The Common Good.”        – Mahatma Gandhi

“When it all boils down, it’s about embracing each other’s stories and maybe even finding that synergy to collaborate for The Common Good.”    Dhani Jones, NFL player

“Political civility is not about being polite to each other. It’s about reclaiming the power of ‘We the People’ to come together, debate The Common Good and call American democracy back to its highest values amid our differences.”   – Parker Palmer, educator

“We need to rediscover the idea of The Common Good and work together to build a home.”  – Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

“It is difficult for The Common Good to prevail against the intense concentration of those who have a special interest, especially if the decisions are made behind locked doors.” – Pres. Jimmy Carter

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Malala Yousztafi

“Islam means peace. I believe in peace. I believe in mercy. And I believe in the power of women and girls to change the world for The Common Good of all people.”   – Malala Yousztafi, winner of Nobel Peace Prize

“In a politically diverse nation, only by finding that common ground can we achieve results for The Common Good.”  – Sen. Olympia Snowe

“The life of the community, both domestically and internationally, clearly demonstrates that respect for rights, and the guarantees that follow from them, are measures of The Common Good that serve to evaluate the relationship between justice and injustice, development and poverty, security and conflict.”   – Pope Benedict XVI

“What are the American ideals? They are the development of the individual for his own and The Common Good; the development of the individual through liberty; and the attainment of The Common Good through democracy and social justice.”   -Louis D. Brandeis, Supreme Court Justice

“Politics, according to the Social Doctrine of the Church, is one of the highest forms of charity, because it serves The Common Good. I cannot wash my hands. We all have to give something. Politics is a noble activity. We should revalue it, practise it with vocation and a dedication that requires testimony, even martyrdom – that is, to die for The Common Good.”   – Pope Francis

“Providing for The Common Good, making people feel secure in their communities and homes – this is the central job of government. it’s why all of us are here serving our state and our people.”   – Gov. John Baldacci

“A flourishing, morally credible media is a vital component in the maintenance of genuinely public talk and argument about The Common Good.”   – Rowan Williams, Buddhist and activist

“That future depends on the values of self-government, our sense of duty, loyalty, self-confidence and regard for The Common Good. We are a diverse country, and getting more diverse. And these virtues are what keep this great country together.”  – Rep. Jeff Miller

“We have to grasp, as Marx and Adam Smith did, that corporations are not concerned with The Common Good. They exploit, pollute, impoverish, repress, kill, and lie to make money. They throw poor people out of homes, let the uninsured die, wage useless wars for profit, poison and pollute the ecosystem, slash social assistance programs, gut public education, trash the global economy, plunder the U.S. Treasury and crush all popular movements that seek justice for working men and women. They worship money and power.”  – Chris Hedges, activist and author

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Naomi Klein

“What for decades was unsayable is now being said out loud – free college tuition, double the minimum wage, 100 percent renewable energy. And the crowds are cheering. With so much encouragement, who knows what’s next? Reparations for slavery and colonialism? A guaranteed annual income? Democratic worker co-ops as the centerpiece of a green jobs program? Why not? The intellectual fencing that has constrained the left’s imagination for so long is lying twisted on the ground. A movement with a bold plan for humanizing and democratizing our common lives for The Common Good will feel like a path to an exciting, never-before-attempted future.”  – Naomi Klein, political writer

“When you’re fund-raising for schools, then something’s wrong. We seem to have lost some sort of sense of what The Common Good is, and if you don’t have a sense of what The Common Good is, then at least give to what you think your specific goods are.”
– Lewis Black, social critic

“Love of country, subordination of personal interests to The Common Good, concern and care for the helpless and the impoverished – these are among the lost and faded values that we seek to recover and revitalize as we commence our journey towards a better Philippines.”   – Pres. Rodrigo Duterte

“There is no higher religion than to work in service to The Common Good.” – Pres.Woodrow Wilson

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Malawi Pres. Joyce Banda

“I learned that leadership is about falling in love with the people and the people falling in love with you. It is about serving the people with selflessness, with sacrifice, and with the need to put The Common Good ahead of personal interests.”   – Malawi Pres. Joyce Banda

“There’s always a tension between those who would like to garner wealth, and they contribute a lot to society. There’s also those who say, ‘I believe in The Common Good,‘ and I want that to be enlarged to also include ‘They contribute a lot to society.’ The tension, the debate, between these two views is extremely important to our progress.”   – John Sulston, geneticist

“Some fine day, Democrats may figure out how to get on the right side of the value divide – how to define America as a place of The Common Good and not a playground of the strong.”   – Dr. Todd Gitlin, sociologist

“I believe economic growth should translate into the happiness and progress of all. Along with it, there should be development of art and culture, literature and education, science and technology. We have to see how to harness the many resources of India for achieving The Common Good and for inclusive growth.”   – Pres. Pratibha Patil

“Sincere and generous collaboration is the best way to fulfill the legitimate aspirations of each person and achieve great collective goals for The Common Good and the general interest.”   – King Felipe VI of Spain

“I believe Chicago is one city. We shall work as one people for The Common Good and our common goals.”   – Mayor Harold Washington

“Following the rise of the Labour Party it seemed reasonable, in 1927, to expect, or at least hope, that co-operation for The Common Good might gradually replace the competitiveness of capitalism.”   – Dora Russell, feminist activist

“Too many politicians are shifting the critical themes of our national conversations from a ‘big ideas’ American Brand Platform to narrowly focused, polarizing sound bites that put party philosophy before what used to be heralded as The Common Good. These ideas, more often than not, divide us rather than serve to bind us.”   -Alan Siegel, business consultant

“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

“Authority is mainly a moral power. Therefore, it must first call upon the conscience, upon the duty that each person has to contribute willingly to The Common Good.
– Pope John XXIII

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∼The 2017 Democratic Party Platform∼

Fractal31The 2017 Democratic Party platform is exceptional and an inspiring statement of values embracing The Common Good. This platform is truly the political version of The Golden Rule. The year 2017 is a good time to re-vision the party as :The Democratic Party, Serving The Common Good.”

“What for decades was unsayable is now being said out loud – free college tuition, double the minimum wage, 100 percent renewable energy. And the crowds are cheering. With so much encouragement, who knows what’s next? Reparations for slavery and colonialism? A guaranteed annual income? Democratic worker co-ops as the centerpiece of a green jobs program? Why not? The intellectual fencing that has constrained the left’s imagination for so long is lying twisted on the ground. A movement with a bold plan for humanizing and democratizing our common lives for The Common Good will feel like a path to an exciting, never-before-attempted future.”  – Naomi Klein, political writer

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Reprinted from 2016 Democratic Party Platform where you can read more detailed descriptions of this platform.

“Every four years, the Democratic Party puts together our party platform, the ideas and beliefs that govern our party as a whole. What follows is our 2016 platform — our most progressive platform in our party’s history and a declaration of how we plan to move America forward. Democrats believe that cooperation is better than conflict, unity is better than division, empowerment is better than resentment, and bridges are better than walls.”

CONTENTS


RAISE INCOMES AND RESTORE ECONOMIC SECURITY FOR THE MIDDLE CLASS

CREATE GOOD-PAYING JOBS

FIGHT FOR ECONOMIC FAIRNESS AND AGAINST INEQUALITY

BRING AMERICANS TOGETHER AND REMOVE BARRIERS TO OPPORTUNITIES

PROTECT VOTING RIGHTS, FIX OUR CAMPAIGN FINANCE SYSTEM, AND RESTORE OUR DEMOCRACY

COMBAT CLIMATE CHANGE, BUILD A CLEAN ENERGY ECONOMY, SECURE ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE

PROVIDE QUALITY AND AFFORDABLE EDUCATION

ENSURE THE HEALTH AND SAFETY OF ALL AMERICANS

PRINCIPLED LEADERSHIP

SUPPORT OUR TROOPS AND KEEP FAITH WITH OUR VETERANS

CONFRONT GLOBAL THREATS

PROTECT OUR VALUES

A LEADER IN THE WORLD

 

∼   ∼   ∼

 

∼Be Woke & Your Normal Self∼

Fractal31“If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear results of a hundred battles.” This wisdom was spoken by the Chinese warrior Sun Tzu, or “Master Sun” in his masterpiece, The Art of War, around 500 B.C.E.

Much thought has gone into winning elections in the US, which are quite like wars. Much thought by winning Republicans, by successful marketers, by helpful psychologists who understand how the voter’s brain works. Republicans have studied this for over 40 years, created numerous think tanks and policy institutes, and spent billions of dollars on research and development. Democrats need to dive in and start swimming – fast!

What did the winning Republicans learn? Why do they control the Presidency and the House and Senate and most state offices, too? Because they got woke about how the human minds works and how they could manipulate it for their own ends. They understand this very simple fact — 95% or more of communication with a voter, meaning how you can really get your message to her, is through the subconscious mind. Not the conscious mind. Not the mind that considers facts. Or uses reason. Or responds well to arguments.

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Rep. Maxine Waters

So we must all get woke. And stay woke. This phrase cut through to my subconscious mind sometime in 2016. Rep. Maxine Waters said “get woke and stay woke” in many interviews.  She also said, “Do not normalize. Do not believe lies. Do not get lost in confusion. And obfuscation. And distraction. Do not get overwhelmed or hypnotized with so many events and accusations and lies. Be aware. Know what is going on. Stay woke.” Maxine’s dramatic expressions of the words, in a time of great fog, finally got through to my soul. (Thank you, Maxine.)

So give this a go. If you are not already, get woke, and stay woke. Take a few minutes to read this. It might be all the time you need to make a seismic shift in your understanding and be able to withstand the onslaught of fog coming at you.

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To steal a metaphor from football, you need to go on the Defensive and then go on the Offensive.

First, the Defense.  

Defensive Move 1: Learn Who You Are.  The overwhelming majority of people are normal. By this is mean they generally try to live a good life and do the right thing, whatever that may mean for them. They enjoy a full range of emotions, have a conscience, feel other people’s suffering, try to make relationships work, and when they hurt someone or make a mistake, they feel sorrow and guilt. They want to have good intimate relationships with family and friends, and work at a job that will support them and their families and give them opportunities for fun and pleasure. Normal people believe that everyone has good in their heart and that really evil people do not exist – maybe that serial killer who killed ten women or that fund manager who stole millions from his clients or that politician who polluted Flint, Michigan’s drinking water had bad parenting and a lot of bad breaks as a child.

I used to think this way. Until I met up with a few psychopaths – truly evil people. And I realized that no, it is not true that everyone has some evil in them, and it is not true that everyone has some responsibility for creating the world’s problems.  No, that assessment of events is just not true. What is true is that normal people can occasionally have bad behavior or even be violent, but only psychopaths commit real evil. And the psychopaths are happy to remain invisible and escape culpability. Normal people may be neurotic and even psychotic, they may live messed up lives and hurt themselves and other people. But they DO have a conscience and are capable of empathy and the depth of human feelings – that’s what makes them normal members of the homo sapiens species

So here is your first defense: remember you are a normal human being who wants everyone to have a decent life and to behave themselves. About ninety percent or so of people are normal, just like you. And remember: your empathy is your greatest power. It is what led the social movements of Martin Luther King, Mohandas Gandhi, Malala Yousztafi, Mother Theresa, and Nelson Mandela, among others.

So when you hear someone say, “I could go out in the streets of New York City right now and shoot someone, and they’d still vote for me,” you KNOW that is not the statement of a normal person. So do not make it normal, not even once, because if you let it slide, you will soon become lost in the fog of confusion and doubt. So stay woke! Do not normalize abnormal behavior. Your first impressions, your gut reactions, are part of your normalcy, and are probably right. 

Defensive Move 2: Learn How to Deal with Bullies and Psychopaths. Recognize bully tactics and how to confront them. And on a more complex level, how to recognize a psychopath and to protect yourself from harm. Some psychopaths have a domineering, spell-binding presence. They Dominate everything and everyone in their environment. There is only one good defensive move here: RUN.

Read the page on this site on Psychopaths and Evil. And here are some classic works on the subject: Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go To Work, by Paul Babiak, Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of Psychopaths Among Us, by Robert D. Hare, and The Sociopath Next Store, by Martha Stout.

Defensive Move 3: Learn About Lies and Techniques to Confuse and Stop You. This includes fake news, spinning, distraction, and confusing massive propaganda. I’m still working on this one. Every day.

∼  ∼  ∼

Then you need to use the Offensive Moves.

Offensive Move 1: Know Your Enemy. Learn all you can about Psychopaths and Evil and the techniques they use to manipulate you. See page on Psychopaths and Evil for resources.

Offensive Move 2: Focus on Values, And Frame Them All as Serving The Common Good.  Focus on Values. Not Numbers, not Policies, not Arguments. Voters vote their values and whomever they think values what they do. All voters want to think they are good, moral people and they are casting their votes for good, moral people. They want to believe their vote will help their values manifest more in their world. This is why they can be very adamant in their beliefs and why they can sometimes even vote against their own best interest (like when working-class persons vote against raising the minimum wage.)

Offensive Move 3. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Say The Common Good whenever possible. Whatever message you want to get across, remember that constant repetition creates a larger impression in the subconscious mind. Vladimir Lenin said, “A lie told often enough becomes the truth.” Dick Cheney was fond of talking about the power of the big lie, and how the bigger the lie, the easier it was to convince people it was true. His big lie was, “Iraq has weapons of mass destruction,” which he used to convince the citizenry to go to war with Iraq.

But repeating a truth can make it more powerful, too, and make it more likely to create an impression in the subconscious mind. 

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Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers,” 1888

Offensive Move 4. Use Your Words, AKA Frame and Reframe.  Republicans often publish a long manual written by Frank Luntz or other propagandist every year that lists important political issues and describes the Republican logic of each position. It is distributed to prominent Republicans such as Congress people, Senators, Governors, Republican media outlets, and other significant Republicans. It also lists what the Democratic logic is, how to attack it, and what language to use. The language used is critical. Republican propagandists often put out manuals or memos about “talking points” whenever a new significant issue comes before the public. So you will notice that on a given issue, Republicans frequently say the same things in the exact same words – that’s because they all got a copy of the same “talking points” memo. Democrats are way behind in this strategy, but so need to do all this, too!

One thing the Republican strategists do well is framing, that is, use specific words to describe an issue that reflects their bias towards it. For example, the term collateral damage is a frame that sounds rather innocent and devoid of emotion, because it reflects wounds that, although probably not intentional, are still acceptable. But in the Democratic voter’s mind, the term really means “the murder of innocent civilians” or “the killing of your own soldiers” in friendly-fire accidents, or it means “damage to civilian property.”

Here is my favorite example of framing. Mahatma Gandhi was on trial for subversive activity against the British government. At one point, the judge asked him, “What do you think of Western Civilization?” and Gandhi answered, “I think it would be a good idea.” Of course, the British government framed “Western Civilization” in the most positive light, a benevolent empire that brought all good things to India. But for Gandhi, a more truthful frame evoked the word “civilized,” which to Gandhi meant courteous, fair-minded, humanistic, and respectful, which is not, of course, how Gandhi experienced the British.

Another favorite example of framing is “The Common Good,” which is the political adaptation of The Golden Rule. These two terms are both powerful phrases that capture people’s attention and keeps their attention.  The terminology and symbolism have been around for thousands of years, and they are meaningful memes for both the conscious mind and the unconscious mind. This is because our species, homo sapiens, evolved to live cooperatively, to help each other, and to care for others when they weren’t able to care for themselves. So we (the normal ones among us) intuitively and deeply understand the concept as a way of living that is quite familiar to us. 

Two important points. First, the subconscious mind responds best to an idea or symbol that is positive. Remember, to the Republican mind, “collateral damage” can be a positive consequence to a violent action. Second, as discussed above, repetition gives a symbol power. If you repeat the idea used by your opponent that you consider negative, even to oppose it, you strengthen the original idea and not your own. So, rather than repeating your opponent’s terms that to you are negative, the better strategy is to reframe your argument – in your own words and in positive terms.

Example 1. After the 2016 election, Donald Trump started calling journalists enemies, so journalists responded with #NotTheEnemy. This seems like an appropriate response, but it is not a good one, because it lacks the power of a positive frame. Remember that when you negate a frame, you still evoke the frame. So every time you use the words, Republicans can claim an advantage, because the voter’s mind still conjures up “the enemy”. A better response for Democrats is #ProtectTheTruth. If Democrats used this phrase, the voter’s subconscious mind would imagine the positive symbol of that noble ideal, the truth, that is important to the voter. When Democrats claim to be protecting the truth, they are the heroes, and they win the argument.

Example 2. Republicans often use the term “regulations.” This image constructs the frame that the freedom of a business is being restricted. It is therefore a derogatory term, with the business symbolized as a victim. “Protections” would be a better frame for Democrats to use. This word reframes the argument because it symbolizes Democrats as the heroes and points to the real victims – people and the environment – who are being hurt by the true enemy, the business under discussion.

Example 3. Trump identifies as a winner who won the 2016 election by a “yuge” margin. “Winner” is an extremely powerful symbol in Trump’s subconscious mind, and important for how he perceives himself. A better term for Democrats to use is “Minority President,” which changes the symbolism from winner to loser, and would cause humiliation for Trump. It is also a more truthful version of the election results, since Trump lost the popular vote. 

Eample 4. Republicans use the term “a riot in city streets.” Citizens here are framed as rebellious spoiled children, angry and dangerous without good cause, because, as Republicans believe, Americans have a government that is good and exists to help them. The reframe here for Democratics is “citizen action,” which symbolizes morally good and patriotic adults who are legally and non-violently confronting the powers-that-be about something that violates something they value. And they are exercising their Constitutional rights to legally protest and exercise free speech. Democrats could derive benefit from reminding the public, frequently and passionately, that is was through citizen revolts that the American Revolution was begun some 240 years ago. It was citizen revolts that sparked the creation of this country. 

Example 5. Republicans use the term “energy independence and security.” This, too, symbolizes a business that has its freedom curtailed, and seeks for economic reasons, to be independent of reliance on other countries for oil. It implies that if the US uses only its own sources of oil it is not relying on other countries for its energy needs, and is therefore more financially secure. A Democratic frame such as  “alternative energy use” would value the protection of the environment and value the use of other US energy sources such as wind and solar power. 

Example 6. When Republican Richard Nixon resigned the Presidency, he said “I am not a crook.” Unfortunately, this phrase reinforced his symbolic identity as a crook. Using the frame “I am an honest man,” although not true, would have been a better strategy.

Example 7. Republican George W. Bush began using the phrase “tax relief” in 2001, very early in his Presidency. The term is still used today in 2017, which is a testament to its symbolic power. The public uses it as if it were a neutral term, but it is not at all neutral. Cognitive psychologist George Lakoff says of this phrase, 

“First, you have the frame for ‘relief.’ For there to be relief, there has to be an afflicted party, somebody who administers the relief, and an act in which you are relieved of the affliction. The reliever is the hero, and anybody who tries to stop them is the bad guy. So, add ‘tax’ to ‘relief’ and you get a metaphor that taxation is an affliction, and anybody against relieving this affliction is a villain. For Republicans, taxes are an imposition, a punishment for being successful.”

But Democrats should frame taxes in a much different way.  Lakoff also says,

“Taxes are what you pay to be an American, to live in a civilized society that is democratic and offers opportunity, and where there’s an infrastructure that has been paid for by previous taxpayers. This is a huge infrastructure. The highway system, the Internet, the TV system, the public education system, the power grid, the system for training scientists – vast amounts of infrastructure that we all use, which has to be maintained and paid for. Taxes are your dues – you pay your dues to be an American. In addition, the wealthiest Americans use that infrastructure more than anyone else, and they use parts of it that other people don’t. The federal justice system, for example, is nine-tenths devoted to corporate law. The Securities and Exchange Commission and all the apparatus of the Commerce Department are mainly used by the wealthy. And we’re all paying for it.”

So taxes could be framed as an issue of patriotism. Lakoff suggests calling taxes “patriot dues.”  This phrase symbolizes membership in the country, and as a member,  claiming the benefits of highways and libraries, the voting booth and justice system, the police and fire departments, and national parks, public beaches and conservation areas. 

Taxes then evoke a very positive framing – fees that citizens pay in order to reap many rewards from The Common Good bequeathed to them by millions of US citizens that came before them. And subsequently, taxes are the fees that today’s citizens will contribute to The Common Good of millions of US citizens who will come after them.

Resources:
George Lakoff About Fact Checking
George Lakoff About How Talking About Trump Normalizes Him
George Lakoff Website

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“Islam means peace. I believe in peace. I believe in mercy. And I believe in the power of women and girls to change the world for The Common Good of all people.”   – Malala Yousztafi, winner of Nobel Peace Prize

∼Citizens Hold The Most Powerful Office∼

Fractal31In 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.”

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U.S. Declaration of Independence, 1776

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.

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US Constitution, 1788

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.

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US Bill of Rights, 1791

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?

  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights

    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
Derrick Jensen
Dr. Joanna Macy
Chief Wilma Mankiller
Chris Hedges

George Monbiot
Plato
Center for Building a Culture of Empathy
Rev. Jim Wallis

The Common Good
World Goodwill

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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

 

∼Psychology Is Advancing Politics∼

Fractal31Continued developments in the field of psychology are advancing political science. While we work on the goals of creating an ethic of care and advancing a political platform embracing The Common Good, there are at least four powerful dragons to slay, with which psychological breakthroughs can help.

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1.  The Dragon Named Psychopathy and His creation, Evil.  This dragon was discussed in the page Psychopaths and Evil. But it still deserves the number one spot in dragons to be slain. So how can psychological research help?

It is essential that a new academic field, Ponerology, be established to study the phenomenon of evil. Coordinated research should done by specialists in psychology, psychiatry, neurology, genetics, sociology, history,  anthropology, criminology, and political science, for a good beginning. Universities and Colleges should add this new field to their courses of study.

Once political science acknowledges the existence of evil, political psychopaths, and the horrendous consequences done to humanity by their evil behaviors, political science will undergo a revolution. And so will other academic fields. This new discipline will help us understand who psychopaths are, what conditions create them, what atrocities they created throughout history, what makes them do what they do, how society can help prevent or manage their behaviors, how citizens can recognize them when in political office, and how we can remove them from positions of power, just for starters.

And after we have acknowledged evil and learned to recognize psychopaths, we can study the darker human emotions: greed, jealousy, rage, lust, pride, hatred, and disgust. It will be interesting to know if and how these emotions differ in intensity or frequency when comparing the two populations, the psychopathic and the normal. It is past time for civilization to confront these issues head on. And once we do, think of the benefits that could be brought to all types of human relationships: intimate partnerships, family groups, parents and children, friendships, between leaders of nations, and between a nation’s leader and the citizens she or he represents. 

I do find it curious that humanity has never formally spent time or energy to investigate human emotions, especially the more positive of them like love, compassion, and empathy, and the behaviors they can elicit, like cooperation, sharing, and peace accords. Perhaps the reason why is as simple as this: the psychopathic structures that have framed our common lives have no interest in human emotions, except perhaps as they can be used to manipulate political campaigns and keep populations under their control.

Yet, there is no other field of inquiry more important to human civilization than this one. And no more powerful dragon to slay while we work on the goals of creating an ethic of care and advancing a politics of The Common Good. (But first of course, we need to convince a lot more people that evil exists and that political psychopaths rule the world.)

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2.  The Dragon Named Tribes. In a CBS This Morning News Interview a few weeks after the 2016 election, comedian Jon Stewart made some enlightening comments about tribalism in the US. He said that the US was an anomaly among nations, and it wasn’t supposed to work. The US is a multi-ethnic, multi-culture nation, and there is no other nation like it. He was amazed that the American experiment had lasted as long as it has, because essentially what we have done is put into one space many different tribes who do not know each other well but, according to the social contract, still have to try to get along and to work together. America’s Melting-Pot mythology works well when it comes to food (everyone likes Italian foods and Motown music), but not when it comes to much else, which constitute the seats of primitive conflict. (Among Stewart’s comments were that Trump won because he knew know to fan the flames of the resentments among the tribes, and to make his voters think he would speak for them.)

In Moral Tribes, Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them, Joshua Greene uses psychology and neuroscience to explore the roots of morality in an effort to understand why different groups of people embrace different moral values, and why there is often instinctive animosity and conflict among them.

tribes-2
Moral Tribes

“The human brain processes morality automatically, influenced by evolution, culture, and experience but with a capacity for deliberate reasoning that allows for nuance, much needed in our increasingly complex world. Greene, a philosopher and scientist, draws on research in psychology and neuroscience to explore the roots of morality, particularly the tragedy of commonsense morality, when people of different races, religions, ethnic groups, and nationalities share the same sense of morality but apply it from different perspectives in whose differences lie the roots of conflict. Us-versus-them conflicts date back to tribal life. This is a highly accessible look at the complexities of morality.” –Vanessa Bush

So how can knowing that tribalism speaks strongly to people help political parties woo voters and win elections?

georgeed-1
George Lakoff

Enter genius George Lakoff and his masterpieces about the differences between how Republicans and Democrats, think, feel and value things. The Republican and Democratic Parties are each a complex and unique tribe comprised of numerous smaller like-minded tribes. George Lakoff knows how they are alike, and how very different they are.

Among George’s most successful books are Moral Politics, How Liberals and Conservatives Think and Your Brain’s Politics: How The Science of Mind Explains the Political Divide.

The more each citizen understands about the in-depth psychological forces that drive tribalism, the more informed she or he will be, and the better decisions for The Common Good she or he will make in the voting booth. 

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3.  The Dragon named Lies, AKA Manipulation of Minds.  I want to include the manipulation of minds here because it belongs here. Certainly, developments in psychological research are advancing the way we do politics, and the more we learn, the more we can enhance The Common Good.

But I must admit that this is a time, April 2017, when the nation is reeling from a plethora of false news, lies, cyberwars, White House leaks, and massive deceptive propaganda from everywhere, as all citizens desperately search for the truth. And I confess, as I try to think in this fog, this is the hardest section of this site to write.

When I need something to cut the fog, I read articles by George Lakoff, Robert Reich, Rachel Maddow, Naomi Klein, and Noam Chomsky. Because they help me think. Clearly. We desperately need to slay this dragon, but that’s all I got for now.

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4,  The Dragon named The Pain of the World. Unless you are a psychopath who has no conscience and no mirror neurons and so do not feel the suffering of others, you cannot participate in today’s world without feeling horrified, depressed, guilty, ashamed, vengeful, sad, homicidal, suicidal, and my-hair’s-on-fire-I-can’t-take-this-anymore anxiety! Don’t turn on TV or the internet or you will be forever scarred by images of bombs dropping on houses and hospitals, skeletal starving children, young bleeding soldiers, terrified animals drowning in floods, beautiful Pacific Islands being swallowed up by rising tides, and rage-full, scorching forest fires burning trees, wildlife, squirrels, homes, and sometimes even firefighters. Normal people feel very outraged and very sad for the state of our world, and worse, we feel powerless to save it.

powertled-1Joanna Macy’s Despair and Personal Power in the Nuclear Age saved me from deep anguish and depression on two occasions. Once, when George Bush and Dick Cheney were waging war in Iraq and spewing hatred and cruelty, I read this book a few times and practiced some of the Buddhist meditations it contains, and I eventually came to deep sense of peace. Then again, after the election of Donald Trump, I spent a few weeks hiding under my bed, nauseated by the red-face rage and vengefulness of this man, the meanness he was happy to inflict on good and common people that are America’s most vulnerable, until I remembered this book. It has helped me for a second time to endure a most toxic and evil era.

What this remarkable life-saving book helped me with, and helped many thousands of other people with, is the acknowledgement that feeling the overwhelming pain of the world is a sign of a normalcy as a human being. It is not a sign of mental illness. Feeling the pain of the world is a component of mental health, and it’s hard to be mentally sane when the world around you, and the leaders who make all the decisions about your common destinies, are mentally ill themselves.

You can slay the dragon called the overwhelming pain of the world by acknowledging that you are a normal human being who feels, through your normal genetic inheritance that evolved during the past 200,000 years, the suffering of other people, of other animals, and the beautiful flowers and trees and ocean that are part of you.

Cherish your most human gift: compassion. It may force you to hide under the bed or avoid human contact at times. But it is also your greatest power – remember that without mutual cooperation and caring for each other, our human ancestors could not have survived or driven the course of human evolution for 200,000 years.

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“Politics, according to the Social Doctrine of the Church, is one of the highest forms of charity, because it serves The Common Good. I cannot wash my hands. We all have to give something. Politics is a noble activity. We should revalue it, practise it with vocation and a dedication that requires testimony, even martyrdom – that is, to die for The Common Good.”   – Pope Francis

∼A Psychopath’s World∼No Empathy, No Conscience∼

Fractal31The World Is Run By Political Psychopaths. It often occurs to me that we live in the best of times and the worst of times, to quote Charles Dickens. It is the best of times because the intellectual achievements advanced by humanity  hold some promise of solving many horrendous, seemingly intractable problems. It is the worst of times because the political climate is a tinderbox with psychopaths holding all the matches, while the dual threats of nuclear war and climate change could kill us all.

mirroeFrom the psychological sciences we have just begun to make huge advancements in the study of human goodness and empathy. Many books have been published about empathy and compassion as essential human traits. One book, Mirroring People: The New Science of How We Connect with Others 1st Edition, by Marco Iacoponi (right) describes a fascinating new discovery in neurobiology, in which humans, and apparently some other species, can sense what another being is feeling because mirror neurons instinctively reproduce the experience in our brains, so we can feel what another feels. Essentially, we have learned that normal people within our human species have evolved, through our genes and brain anatomy, to be empathetic and cooperative creatures. Mirror neurons may form the biological basis of empathy, morality, self-awareness, and the ability to connect deeply with others.

And just as humanity becomes aware of the true nature and power of goodness, we at the same time are confronting scientific evidence about the nature and power of evil. Many people are in denial about evil. I used to think, like many people, that basically everyone is deep down really good at heart. And I do think that is true, for about 90 to 95% of the population. But genetic, anatomical, and psychological studies have discovered that there are psychopaths among us. (I am defining a psychopath as someone who has no empathy for the feelings of others and has no conscience about what they do.) They make up about 4-6% of the population (with another 12-15% or so who have a genetic predisposition and can be converted to psychopathic behavior through early child abuse, domineering parenting, and a few other factors.)

ponerol-1 (2)
Political Ponerology: A Science on the Nature of Evil Adjusted for Political Pusposes 

In my opinion the best book about psychopathy in general and political psychopathy in particular, is the masterpiece Political Ponerology: A Science on the Nature of Evil Adjusted for Political Purposes, by Andrew M. Lobaczewski. The author of this book, a psychologist who witnessed the takeover of his homeland by the Nazi regime, calls for a new academic discipline to study psychopathy in the political realm. There is no other book like this one; it is not to be missed! It opened my mind, terrorized my heart, and changed my life. Although a hard read because of dense text and brand-new ideas that will cause your head to spin, it is well worth your time. I have read it four times and still not grasped it all.

Written by a psychologist about his experiences in Poland during the rise of the Nazi occupation before WWII, this book posits that there is an expanding global network of psychopaths who rule nations and subsequently ruin the lives of their people. According to the scientific studies carried out by Lobaczewski, about 1% of the human species are essential psychopaths, meaning that at birth their genetic and neurological structure is set for psychopathic behavior and nothing can prevent its development. Another 3-5% are psychopaths created through predispositions in genetics and neurology, combined with a mixture of these factors during childhood: abusive care taking, head injuries, exposure to certain childhood diseases, and exposure to dominant, psychopathic personalities. Together, these two groups comprise about 4-6% of the population. 

In addition to these groups, Lobaczewski claims another 15-18% of the population are willing followers, or easily manipulated to follow psychopathic leaders, who then remain forever loyal to him. This is an important thing to remember about political leaders, political parties and political campaigns. With 4-6% as true psychopaths who attempt to become leaders, and about 15-18% of people as the loyal cult followers of these leaders, about 20% of all the people in a given population can be true believers of a psychopathic regime. How terrifying! This means that approximately 1 in every 20 people you know, through family, friends, school, work, and the general public, is a psychopath (having no empathy and no conscience). How terrifying! (But do remember, also, that 85-90% or more are normal, having empathy for others and a conscience to guide good moral behavior. They do constitute the majority of human souls.)

In this book, the author examines causes and types of psychopathy. He also explains that psychopaths are attracted to positions of power, so rising up the political ranks is natural for them, and frightening for us. The only antidote to evil rising in nations is knowledge and citizen activism. 

So, if we are to believe Lobacjewski, for the past 10,000 years or so, since human have lived in cities, the majority of normal people, somewhere between 80 to 90% of a population, depending on child-rearing practices, the prevalence of disease, and many other variables, have been dominated by the 10-20% of people who are psychopaths or psychopathic followers of an evil leader. The psychopaths have included historical figures like Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, Vlad III the Impaler of Wallachia, King Henry VIII, Ivan IV the Terrible of Russia, Pol Pot, Idi Amin Dada, The Kim dynasty in North Korea, Mao Tse Tong, King Leopold II of Belgium, Stalin, Lenin, Mussolini, and Hitler, who ruled Germany with other psychopathic leaders like Heinrich Himmler, Hermann Goring, Adolph Eichmann, Martin Bormann, and Joseph Goebbles, and tens of thousands of other true believer psychopathic followers.

So is the history of humanity one long story of psychopaths ruling over normal people?

The answer is “Yes,” according to Lobaczewski. In Political Ponerology, Lobaczewski adopts the term “pathocracy” to refer to “a system of government . . . wherein a small pathological minority [consisting of those he calls ‘pathocrats’] takes control over a society of normal people,” and details the process by which, over and over again throughout thousands of years, such evil governments have risen to power.

What about the US? In this land of near unlimited resources, has there always been here a ruling elite, a wealthy ruling class, who dominated with money and power, leaving the vast majority of normal people to scrape by?

What about today? Who really rules America? The GOP? The GOP and Democrats? The wealthy 1% elite who finance their campaigns? What do you think?

For a second excellent introduction to the topic of political psychopathy, I suggest the website The Systems Thinker. The author summarizes most of the best thinking on psychopathy and related topics. Don’t miss this site! Here is a sample:

“Throughout history, psychopaths have managed to dominate power arrangements and shape institutions – and possibly even entire social structures – in their own image. Theorists in the field of ponerology, especially its pioneer Andrew M. Lobaczewski (see above), describe how this relatively small number of people then used their positioning to exert significant control over a generally submissive population that tends to follow the lead of authority figures. Through these mechanisms, psychopaths – along with those with BPD, NPD and other personality disorders – have contributed to generating the seemingly endless parade of massive wars, man-made death, environmental disasters and other ruthless destruction that characterizes modern history. They continue to wield surprising levels of influence over events in our world today.

How is it that this relatively tiny minority has been able to achieve such a remarkable feat? The answer lies in a combination of the abilities made possible by the psychopath’s unique traits and talents and certain characteristics of modern society’s structure which they themselves may have helped create.” (See section below on characteriestics,)

One of the most hair-on-fire ideas the author presents is that some researchers of psychopaths believe that since normal people have a conscience and psychopaths don’t, normal people belong to the homo sapiens species, while psychopaths may be a sub-set of this species, or even a para-Homo Sapiens. As the author says, 

“Others have gone even farther, drawing the perspective out to its ultimate conclusion by classifying the psychopath as a separate subspecies of humanity – what Andrew Lobaczewski (see above), in one interview, termed “a para-Homo Sapiens.” For these thinkers, empathy and conscience are so fundamental to what it means to be a normal human being that a person without those traits represents a new evolutionary branch.”

As a third excellent resource, I recommend Systeevild-3ms Engineer Barbara Oakley’s exceptional book Evil Genes:  Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed, and My Sister Stole My Mother’s Boyfriend sets out on an exploration of evil, or Machiavellian, individuals. Illustrated by advances in brain imaging that have illuminated the relationship of genetics, emotions, and brain physiology, Oakley describes detailed case histories of famous evil psychopaths like Slobodan Milosevic and Mao Zedong, interspersed with a commentary on her own sister’s life. With evidence from genetic and neurological research, Oakley posits that they all had personality disorders, primarily antisocial personality disorder, often called psychopathy.

(Note: in this site I refer to political psychopaths as men. This is because the incidence of psychopathy is much smaller in women, and because the incidence of women as political leaders is also very small. So my wording is intentional but based on what I’ve observed and read.)

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What makes a psychopath? Here are some characteristics of particular note to politics. They are taken from a classic 1970 book on the topic, by psychologist Robert Hare. Note: A person does not need to possess all characteristics to be a psychopath.

The Hare Psychopathy ChecklistAbbreviated and Revised  (Reprinted from Sociopathic Style.)

  1. Lack of Conscience, Lack of Empathy, and Callousness — A lack of feelings toward people in general; cold, contemptuous, inconsiderate, and tactless.
  2. Glib and Superficial Charm — Tendency to be smooth, engaging, charming, and verbally facile. Psychopathic charm is not shy or self-conscious, or afraid to say anything. 
  3. Grandiose Self-Worth — A grossly inflated view of one’s abilities and self-worth, self-assured, and opinionated. Arrogant, believe they are superior human beings.
  4. Pathological Lying — In moderate form, they will be shrewd, crafty, cunning, sly, and clever; in extreme form, they will be deceptive, deceitful, underhanded, unscrupulous, manipulative, undependable, and dishonest.
  5. Cunning and Manipulative — Deceit and deception to cheat, con, or defraud others for personal gain; exploitation and callous ruthlessness, as reflected in a lack of concern for the feelings and suffering of one’s victims.
  6. Lack of Remorse or Guilt, and Failure to Acknowledge Mistakes — Lack of conscience, lack of feelings or concern for the losses, pain, and suffering of victims; a tendency to be unconcerned, dispassionate, cold-hearted, and non-empathetic. Often demonstrate a disdain for one’s victims. Never apologize or say, “I’m sorry.”
  7. Failure to Accept Responsibility for Own Actions — A failure to accept responsibility for one’s actions, an absence of accountability, antagonistic manipulation of others through this denial, and blaming others for one’s actions.
  8. Poor Behavioral Controls — Irritability, annoyance, impatience, threats, aggression, verbal abuse; inadequate control of anger and temper; impulsiveness.
  9. Promiscuous, Predatory Sexual Behavior — Brief, superficial relations, numerous affairs, an indiscriminate selection of sexual partners; inability to form long-term relationships; a history of attempts to sexually coerce others into sexual activity, taking great pride at discussing sexual exploits or conquests, possible sexual predatory actions, assault and rape.
  10. Early Behavior Problems — A variety of behaviors prior to age 13, including lying, theft, cheating, vandalism, bullying, sexual activity, fire-setting, alcohol use, and running away from home.
  11. Juvenile Delinquency  Behavior problems between ages 13-18; mostly behaviors that are crimes or involve aspects of antagonism, exploitation, and aggression.
  12. Criminal Versatility — A diversity of types of criminal offenses; taking great pride at getting away with crimes.
  13. Impulsiveness — Behaviors that are unpremeditated and lack reflection or planning; inability to resist temptation, frustrations, and urges; a lack of deliberation without considering the consequences; foolhardy, rash, unpredictable.
  14. Irresponsibility — Repeated failure to fulfill or honor obligations and commitments; such as not paying bills, defaulting on loans, performing sloppy work, being absent or late to work, failing to honor contractual agreements.

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putinled-1After reviewing these characteristics, there can’t be any doubt that psychopaths live among us. And there can’t be any doubt that political psychopaths live among us. In fact, they rule our world. Masha Gessen is a Russia- born journalist who examines the life and times of Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, a psychopath living in psychopathic culture, in The Man Without A Face, The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin. A NYT  columnist, Masha Gessen has said “Lack of imagination is one of our greatest handicaps as humans and as citizens.” Americans, she asserts, are in denial about the prevalence of evil in political and corporate arenas, and we also lack a catastrophic imagination. Perhaps that is because, she contemplates, compared to most other countries in the world, the US has not suffered on our own lands bombing raids, drone strikes, great hunger, authoritarian leaders. But she assures us that a psychopathic ruler and psychopathic culture can, and with some probability, will happen here, in the US. Indeed, it may be in process right now.

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In summary, these are my beliefs about psychopaths and evil, very simplified and condensed, as suggested by the brilliant sources listed above.

One, human civilization evolved for 200,000 years largely in small tribes of perhaps 20 to a few hundred people at most.  

Two, one in about 20 people, or about 5% of our population, is a psychopath or easily becomes a psychopath with the right conditions (a mixture of genetic predisposition, extensive child abuse, childhood exposure to psychopathic personalities, and childhood head injury or disease).

Three, psychopaths by nature gravitate to positions of power in whatever group they find themselves, and so become dominant leaders, or the alphas among powerful males.

Belief four, because about one in 20 people is psychopathic, because we evolved in groups of about 20 to 200, and because psychopaths gravitate to powerful positions, then it’s reasonable to assume the possibility that small tribal societies throughout human evolution may have been ruled by psychopaths. (And if this is true, perhaps the seeds of human civilizations were sewn from psychopathic cultures, structured by frameworks of autocratic leadership and hierarchical power structures).

Belief five, about 10,000 years ago, the mini ice age ended, climate became more predictable and people-friendly, and humans began agriculture. This led to the beginning of cities, as human tribes combined and collective systems began. The Biblical creation myth was imagined, written down, and made into strong customs and laws. All of this, of course, was done by the cities’ psychopathic leaders. In belief five, the creation myth conceived by psychopathic tribal leaders led their followers to the belief that they were their God’s “special” and “chosen ones”.  And worse, they were led to the belief that their God commanded them to exert control over everything on earth – animals, trees, plants, the oceans, drinking water, gold and emeralds and oil, and arable land – and to use all of it for their own needs and pleasure.

Six, populations grew, the hierarchical systems remained, and psychopaths retained power throughout time, cultures, nations, various revolutions, and even today, in 2017.

Seven, the history of humanity has essentially been one of psychopathic leaders dominating  everyone and everything around them. Their legacy has included the waging of wars over territory and resources, the theft of people and lands and oil, the genocide of groups in opposition to them, and other unspeakable evils. Their legacy has also included the suffering of the normal population, those people born with empathy and a conscience, who were forced to act as common workers doing the bidding of their psychopathic leaders’ – those masses who were wounded and killed as soldiers, stolen and sold into slavery, conscripted as heavy laborers doing the back-breaking work that made (and still make, today) their psychopath leaders wealthy and powerful. Uncountable men, women, children, and animals domesticated and undomesticated provided the labor needed to advance civilizations and great wealth for the few, all over the planet.

Eight, throughout the evil terror of human history, even though normal humans were primarily dominated by psychopathic cultures and leaders, normal humans were still able to make life bearable, even at times enjoyable, by creating art, music, literature, romantic customs, good child-rearing practices, and attempts at democratic rule, such as in the US. The psychopathic rulers were busy creating conflict and war and suffering because of their inherent deficits in emotion and imagination, while the normal human beings, filled with intense emotion and imagination, created art, music, dance, romance, literature, and everything else that makes human life fun and fulfilled and enjoyable.

If we reread a section of the page The Common Good Party, we read that through our first 240 years, citizens of the US “were driven by The Common Good moral compass, and with the blood, sweat, and tears of residents and immigrants, achieved things certainly never even imagined in 1776.”

We must remember that psychopaths made none of these great things. Belief nine is that psychopaths are generally of average intelligence and possess only shallow emotions, so they do not have the mental capacity, emotional depth, and artistic creativity to create anything soulful, meaningful or of lasting value. They are foreigners to deep human emotion — they never feel the empathy, love, joy, romance, and intimate human connection that are essential to create peak human accomplishments.

Only normal people, who had tremendous empathy for the feelings of others and great talent in writing could have written The Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, The Bill of Rights and other Amendments, and embraced the Freedoms of Speech, Expression, and the Press. Only normal people, with deep empathy and for the lives of others, could have led the movements giving the right to freedom to slaves, the right to vote to all adults, and the right to safety and protections under the law to disabled and LGBTQ people. So belief ten is that only normal people have the intellect and emotional gifts necessary to create the peak achievements in science and technology, the natural sciences, the social sciences, the health care sciences, and innovations in architecture, business, and national defense, in the US and elsewhere. Only normal people in the US could have produced American culture in art, music, film, television, radio, and literature. Only normal people in any culture or nation can contribute positively to the development of human civilization.

As the eleventh belief, I am convinced that now in this momentous time in human history, a saturation point of psychopathy has been reached, so never has their influence over world affairs been greater. Due to the population explosion, due to the reality that psychopaths have been successful in manipulating their way into most positions of power in politics, business, and the military, and due to the fact that they have convinced us normal people that psychopaths or evil people really do not exist – that evil exists in everyone – the number of psychopaths is the highest it has ever been in history,  and the sphere of influence they control is the whole world. 

What can we do about this? Is there anything that we normal human beings can do?

Which brings us to belief twelve – it will be only the normal people, the non-psychopathic, empathy-filled, compassionate normal people, who will bring the changes needed to alter the lethal, self-destructive march of autocratic, capitalist culture. It will be the normal, love-your-neighbor-as-yourself-, I -am-my-brother’s-keeper, treat-others-as-you-want-to-be-treated human beings who will, through their millions of acts of defiant rebellion, through their withdrawal of consent, through their questioning of authority, through their writing and art and music-making and organizing and marching, through picking up their weary sisters and brothers along the way, and mostly through their voting in massively unheard of numbers – it will only be these passionate, conscious, loving, informed citizens who have any change to bring about the end of life as we know it and to someday manifest the promise of a real, truly human civilization.

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I was blessed with an idyllic childhood, loving parents, wonderful siblings, the beauty of nature, and lots of mirror neurons. I have always understood kindness and the Golden Rule. I have never understood evil, not in its purest form as I describe in these pages.

My early childhood seems to have included, more than anything, a series of questions: “Why is there so much suffering and why haven’t we stopped it? If there is enough of everything to meet everyone’s needs, why do some have more and others don’t have enough? Who organized the world this way and how can we change it?”

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Olive Tree in The Garden of Gesthemene in Jerusalem

Sometimes I have what I call a Gesthemene Experience, when I feel the pain of the world so strongly I cry. This is a picture of an olive tree in the Garden of Gesthemene in Jerusalem. Its roots are over 2,000 years old, so the tree may have been in the presence of Jesus when he wept there the night before he died. In the story I was told, Jesus wept at the evil done by psychopathic people and wept for the suffering it caused to normal people, for tens of thousands of years. And it continues even today.

I am still looking for answers. And sometimes I cry.

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Mahatma Gandhi

 

“I practice an engaged spirituality that is active within the world to help heal injustice, hatred, oppression, fear and violence with justice, loving-kindness, equanimity, courage and nonviolence, to not cooperate with common evil and bring about The Common Good.”  Mahatma Gandhi

∼Get Woke!∼We Face Extinction-Level Events∼

Fractal31The Common Good is a glorious and wondrous empathetic dream, the prime motivating force that drove the best that American has yet produced. But let’s get real. That’s only one part of the story. 

Here is why I created this site: I am making an appeal to the citizenry of the United States to develop an ethic of care in our political parties and platforms, in our laws and customs and ways of relating with each other in communities and states and nations. I include in this appeal the recognition that this ethic of care must extend to all living things and the planet, too.

An ethic of care, with its counterpart The Common Good, is not the prime motivating force in today’s US. And it has never been fully manifest in this country or any other of which I am aware. It has been discussed by the collective human mind for at least 2300 years yet it has never been fully manifest anywhere.

Why is this?

Because The Common Good has often reflected only the interests of people with citizenship standing, which is a significant power, and that means the interests of other people living in the country, those not classed as citizens, have been left out. When The Common Good of US citizens was considered at the signing of the Constitution in 1787, the term reflected the interests of only the 1.6 million or so males who were considered citizens then – men and boys who were white, free, or not indentured by slavery, and who owned land. But the interests of women, African slaves, Native Americans and non-land-owners weren’t included because they were not considered citizens.

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The US Citizenry, 2017

In sharp contrast, when The Common Good of the US is considered today, it (in the ideal sense) would include the collective experience of all citizens in the country – all 324 million of us – men and boys, but also women, girls, rich, poor, landowners, and the homeless, and thanks to an evolving definition of who were valued as human beings, The Common Good would now also (ideally) include those who are healthy, sick, able-bodied, disabled, heterosexual, homosexual, European, African, and Asian, Central American, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist, and so on.

This has significance because, for the first US citizens, the white, land-owning males, The Common Good embraced only their interests, which they believe made them an entitled class with the right to exploit others, which they did. First they stole the land occupied by Native American nations across the east coast, and eventually laid claim to the entire US, minus some small resource-poor areas they left for Native American reservations. Then, as they spread across the US, they used millions of miles of that land for roads, homes, farms, and businesses, many of which did irreparable, toxic, and life-crushing damage to just about everything – mountains, forests, shorelines, lakes, and any place rich with oil. They also laid claim to all wild animals, and consequently untold millions of foxes, raccoons, deer, and beavers were killed for fur trade industries, and millions of buffalo, coyotes, bears, whales, fish, birds, geese, and ducks were hunted for food and recreation.

But worst of all, during the first few hundred years of US history, an estimated 20 to 150 million (no one knows more exact numbers) Native American men, women, and children were killed through wars, turf conflicts, revenge raids, military massacres, starvation, death marches, measles, and smallpox. Even today, most remaining Native Americans live in poverty and ill health, and are still confronting the U.S. government for control of their lands. 

And between the late 1500’s to the late 1900’s an estimated 15,000,000 men and women were kidnapped from Africa, sold into slavery in the Americas, and died as slaves. Today their descendants and other black people suffer disproportionately from inequities in education, housing, income, and health care and suffer the cruelty of unlawful imprisonment and widespread corporate pollution, among other tragedies.

As the nation’s citizenry stole the land of the Natives and stole the backbreaking free labor of the slaves, they also exploited other classes of people for free labor, most notably the classes of all women and children in the US, and turned all they stole into great wealth, although even today enjoyed by only the few. Women acquired voting rights only about one hundred years ago, and children only acquired legal protections for their labor about that time, too.  

Since this site primary references events in the US, I will not address the immoral exploitation done by the US government outside our country, although no less serious violations of The Common Good.  I include only a summary of the evil atrocities committed against peoples of other nations and the natural world: wars, bombings, torture, false imprisonment, the wounding and killing of civilians, the toppling of dictators or their assassinations and the installment of new political regimes, the plunder of other nation’s resources, and the destruction of cities, farmland, waterways, and archaeological treasures. All of which caused misery and death to millions of people and the destruction or poisoning of millions of miles of land and rivers and oceans. All with no legal accountability or repercussions to the US. Just shameful. Just pure evil.

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If we are to embrace The Common Good, the principle that just might assist in the movement for meaningful changes, it’s important to acknowledge a few things.

First, The Common Good has benefited the class in power, and for a few hundred years that meant the white, male, land-owners who were the only people with citizenship status. It has never benefited everyone living here, and still doesn’t today. 

Second, The Common Good enjoyed by the few has always been enjoyed to the hellish detriment of everyone else. Throughout the nation’s history, The Common Good of the few came at great cost to the many – horrendous cost to millions of other people, other species, and the very land itself. The great wealth and peak achievements that were produced were only made possible by the gut-wrenching atrocities of genocide, slavery, the exploitation of women, children, and immigrants for their work, and many other evils. You could even say that The Common Good of the few came as a result of The Common Evil done to the many. Done even today, in the US and every other place on earth. 

The third point is the most important – we must acknowledge that evil exists and that it shapes the lives of most of humanity. And of most other living creatures on this planet we all shareThe Common Evil has never been acknowledged anywhere at any time of which I am aware, and yet it characterizes the living conditions of most people throughout all history. I define evil here as war and the suffering of the men conscripted to fight war and the families they left behind, and slavery, poverty, hunger, homelessness, inadequate health care, child abuse, sexual abuse, gross income inequality, animal neglect and abuse, pollution of the natural world, and about a hundred other toxic things. Its what defines your life if you are most people in the world, and most other life on earth. How heinous a thought.

Fourth, after we acknowledge the evil done by our country and confront its horrible consequences, we must learn more about why humans do such cruel things, why evil exists, and what we can do to stop it. Most important, we must learn more about psychopathy and psychopaths who hold political office and the damage they have done and continue to do. We must engage neurologists, geneticists, psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, historians, and political scientists to prioritize this task.

Fifth, we must now work towards caring about The Common Good in our present and future politics. The ideal of  The Common Good, which, as stated earlier, is the political version of The Golden Rule, could be a powerful motivating force for change.

Finally, sixth, if we consciously work towards The Common Good in our shared political lives, we may be able to confront and possibly even solve the deadly problems currently staring humanity directly in the face.

I believe this may be possible because all the best peak achievements the US people have created they have come as more and more people were added to the power roles as citizens. Most of our best contributions to human society occurred after slavery ended and after women were added to the citizen class. So it seems that as more people became citizens, what The Common Good entailed changed. For the early US settlers, The Common Good involved procurement of land, resources, and wealth. But a few hundred years later, as all the qualifying people were recognized a citizens, The Common Good took on a more expansive meaning to include peak achievements in the sciences, technology, medicine, higher education, literature, art, music, and much more.

So a fully conscious and well-orchestrated effort by the majority of US citizenry, with The Common Good as our moral compass, just might possess enough innate imagination and genius to find solutions for the most difficult problems ever encountered by our species in our 200,000 year old lifespan.

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I started this site to propose an idea that just might assist in the movement for meaningful changes, changes in how we think and act and relate with others. Hopefully, these changes will not be made too late, because this may be the most dangerous time in the history of the US, indeed of all human civilization.

Many people are terrified by the horrific problems confronting human beings at this moment that have a good chance of causing our extinction, or at least, a dramatic end to civilization as we know it. Many of us are terrified by the rise of psychopathic leaders and authoritarian states, by the potential decline of America in domestic and foreign affairs, by nuclear war and radiation, and by the man-made destruction of the natural environment and climate change.

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But before we address these horrific extinction-causing events, it would help to take a look at what may be the most important reason we have arrived here. 

It is my opinion that the main reason for the horrible state we are in is this: humans built a culture based on obedience to God’s first commandment. The deep story, the driving force that pushed human beings to create our world civilization, is this: in the Genesis myth of creation, God gave man the status of entitled child for whom all living things were his possessions to do with as he pleased. Because of the belief in this creation myth, the human species became the most dangerous predatory monster the world has ever known. 

As Derreck Jensen says in his new book, The Myth of Human Supremacy

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The Myth of Human Supremacy

“Humans exploit their surroundings. Human needs are in opposition to the natural world. Otherwise, why would politicians say we need to balance the economy against the environment? Balance implies opposition. Whether it’s a God-given right or an evolutionarily ordained mandate, humans chop down trees, deprive all others of their habitat. It’s what we do.

But to believe this is to mistake civilization for humanity, an unforgivable and fatal error. One of the central myths of our culture concerns the desirability of growth, a parasitic expansion to fill and consume our host. This was manifest from the beginning, as Genesis says:

‘And God blessed them and God said to them, be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth, and have dominion over the fish in the sea and over the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves upon the ground.’

From its opening to its endgame, civilization has been nothing if not consistently narcissistic, domineering, and exploitative.”

After a few thousands years of belief in its predatory entitlement, and a few thousand years worth of predatory behaviors that resulted from it, humanity is faced with the most precarious situation it has ever faced. Belief in this story and in the superiority of people over other creatures may well be driving us to our extinction. So if we are to fully embrace the ideal of The Common Good, we have to confront one of our deepest myths – the myth of human supremacy. Because the two are just not compatible. 

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I can think of four potentially extinction-causing problems directly caused by this creation myth.

1. A Concentration of Psychopathic Leaders. Political ponerology, that is, the study of evil in political systems and leaders, is a new field of study. There are no experts to consult on what countries today are ruled by psychopathic leaders and what countries are ruled by normal, or non-psychopathic leaders. We do know about a number of authoritarian regimes which include Russia, Cuba, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, China, North Korea, and a few dozen others. Important features of these psychopathic authoritarian regimes are that rulers or a small hand-picked group make all decisions, control the media through approved propaganda, command obedience through laws, imprisonment, or physical coercion, and place severe limitations on civil liberties, individual freedoms, and political elections. 

What may be of equal importance in studying political ponerology is how many authoritarian leaders are complicit with psychopathic corporations and mega-wealthy people who invest heavily in selected authoritarian governments. We may not have precise information about these yet, but we can say that there are many psychopathic, and therefore evil, men in power who have access to all the money they need to run the world as they wish. And evil men in power are complicit with the two most dangerous problems humanity has ever faced. One is nuclear weapons, and two is environmental destruction and climate change, which are fatally changing the home we live on – the earth, with the land, water, air, forests, mountains, and oceans we need to live. The tumultuous conditions in our earthly home are now ripe for a perfect storm. 

Any psychopathic political leaders or corporate CEOs would thrive in cultures steeped in the human supremacy myth. Leaders would by their genetic engine gravitate to the top of a hierarchy structure. Such cultures would be conservative and fundamentalist religious and political organizations. The morality systems advanced by these groups would be miles apart from any supported by The Common Good.

2. Big Money and Failing Empire. In 1816, Thomas Jefferson said that the great American experiment in democracy, and the defeat of the US, will come when the government falls into the hands of banks and big business. Democracy cannot thrive where capitalism persists.  Jefferson showed such prescience with his wisdom! And here we are today, as big money, big banks, and big corporations frame America’s political parties, elections, laws, and judicial practices, shaping the lives of all 324 million of us.

And with America’s demise, what would become of the conditions merging towards the perfect storm? Could a massive surge of US citizen activists generate the will and power to stand up to corporate interests and the Congresspeople they have lobbied, enough to make some real changes? Enough to end The Citizens United Bill, gerrymandering, and restrictive voter suppression laws? Enough to increase the minimum wage to a livable wage? Enough to take on, with the aid of the Judiciary Branch, the corruption of Wall Street and Big Banks?

Is it too late to have any hope that these changes, or any others, could really happen?

I think not, it may not be too late. But this hope holds on to one caveat. No matter what other supplemental forces may be fighting for change – the media or the internet, the ACLU and other Human Rights Attorneys, the Federal House or Senate, the State Governors or Congresspeople – unless there is a massive group of US citizens, informed, awake, passionate, and committed activist citizens – who are willing to push the movement from below and pull the movement up, up to the very top – unless there exists this massive activist group, then, I am afraid there is no hope.

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Water-bears survive radiation.

3. Nuclear War and Radiation. Nine countries in the world possess a total of 14,900 nuclear weapons. The United States and Russia account for 93 percent of them. Thirty-one countries possess 435 nuclear power plants. Sufficient radiation leakage from even a few of them would last many thousands or even millions of years. All life on earth would be severely damaged or killed.  Some bacteria, viruses, cockroaches, and water bears (tiny micro-animals) would survive. Maybe they would jump start new lines of evolution, long after humans are gone.

What would the water-bears descendants look like in 2 million years? Would they have psychopathic genes and develop psychopathic leaders and destroy themselves eventually, too? Or would genes for mutual cooperation and empathy drive them to form societies serving The Common Good?

4. Man-Made Environmental Destruction and Climate Change.  Destructive human behaviors are raising the planet’s temperature, changing world-wide weather patterns, increasing extreme weather events, causing the Arctic and Antarctic sea ice to melt, and destroying the air we and other animals breath by increasing pathogens and pollutants like natural waste, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and ground level ozone just to name a few evil life crushing things. The most dramatic climate change scientists claim we have maybe 5 years, maybe 10 years, before the human species is extinct or drastically reduced in numbers, with human civilization, the sum total of 200,000 years of genius and toil, wiped out. 

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Will we be on time? Will we be too late? Will enough normal people, that is, people who have respect for The Golden Rule and The Common Good, in the US and across the world, bond together to get woke, stay woke, disobey authority and stop these cascading evils before humans and other living creatures become extinct?

Contemplating the potential effects of these four conditions is terrifying and sobering. Human civilization is on a collision course with time. How much time is anyone’s guess. Maybe 10 years. Maybe more. Maybe 5 years. Maybe less.  Is this prognosis too dramatic? How would you assess the future after breathing in the air of the times?

Living conditions including adequate supplies of healthy food and water and air and land will become less sustainable in coming years. There will be further migrations of climate change refugees and local infighting for resources, then more conflicts will develop as people try to get what they need for themselves and their families.

The survivors, after initial shock, destruction, and death will have some choices to make. Will they disintegrate into fierce competition and conflict, and give rise to the same mistakes that led civilization to its end in the first place?

Or will they form into small tribes, much like we did early in our evolution, and band together and work cooperatively and make a new civilization based on common need and caring for each other?

Will they continue to believe in the myth of human superiority or will they create a new creation myth to frame a new civilization?

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“Politics appears to be the master art for it includes so many others and its purpose is the good of man. While it is worthy to perfect one man, it is finer and more godlike to perfect a nation, which has the purpose The Common Good of men.”   – Aristotle, circa 320 BCE

∼Re-Visioning The Democratic Party∼

 Fractal31The Common Good refers to whatever is shared, valued, and beneficial to members of a community. It is a metaphor that could serve as a revised mythos for the Democratic Party, newly envisioned as “The Democratic Party, Serving The Common Good.”

The idea of The Common Good originated over two thousand years ago in writings by Aristotle, Plato, and Cicero. Although the term does not exist in the US Constitution, the Preamble does state that the US government should promote “the general welfare,” which, to the framers, probably meant the same thing.

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US Constitution

“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” 

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Here are three thought-provoking meanings for The Common Good metaphor. 

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Meaning 1. Our shared Physical, Economic, and Practical Commodities  Here, The Common Good metaphor emphasis is on physical components of our way of life that sustain or enhance our shared life. It includes the physical things the general public has imagined, organized, built, maintained, repaired, updated, had shared access to, and uses every day to keep the country moving. It includes our public highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals. It includes our public waterways, beaches, drinking water, and the air we breathe. It also includes areas of publicly owned and maintained lands, such as Central Park, the Boston Commons, Yellowstone National Park, and the Grand Canyon. These physical items belong to all of us, and we all have responsibility to protect them.

The Common Good also consists of our public health care and safety networks, public police and fire departments, and the system of intelligence and military forces that defend the country. It also consists of health care provisions offered to citizens by the government. All of us depend on the complex of public systems and institutions working cooperatively to benefit our people, our communities, and our way of life.

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Meaning 2. A Reflection of How We Can Best Live Together, or A Strong Moral Compass. Another metaphor of The Common Good emphasizes a strong moral compass.  This implies a deep sense of caring for each other and for all those things that enhance our shared life.

Sharing our country’s common goods and services has always been the core Democratic value. It would be timely to now state that clearly, and to re-brand it as “The Democratic Party, Serving The Common Good.” 

It would benefit the evolving Democratic Party at this historical moment to emphasize this as the key difference between the two parties. Americans are becoming more conscious that the core value of the Democratic Party is community, or caring for one another. And that the core  value of the Republican Party is individual responsibility for one’s life and fate. Obviously, these differing values cause vast differences in the policies and platforms of the parties.

The Common Good is often in conflict with separate interests held by individuals or corporations. Sometimes these citizens or businesses are called upon to make sacrifices for the good of the larger group, which isn’t always to their liking.

Robert Reich, a Democratic leader who served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, recently addressed this in a powerful statement, 

“If patriotism means anything, it means sacrificing for The Common Good. Childless Americans pay taxes for schools so children are educated. Americans who live close to their work pay taxes for roads and bridges so those who live farther away can get to work. Americans with secure jobs pay into unemployment insurance so those who lose their jobs have some income until they find another.

And under the Affordable Care Act, healthier and wealthier Americans pay a bit more so sicker and poorer Americans don’t die.

Trump and House Republicans aren’t patriots. They don’t believe in sacrificing for the common good. They don’t think we’re citizens with obligations to one another. To them, we’re just individual consumers who deserve the best deal we can get for ourselves. It’s all about the art of the deal.”

Senator Elizabeth Warren also recently expressed her opinion about this very conflict.

“There is nobody in this country who got rich on their own. Nobody. You built a factory out there – good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory . . . Now look. You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea – God bless! Keep a hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay it forward for the next kid who comes along.”       Sen. Elizabeth Warren

These two respected American leaders understand that serving The Common Good is the engine that drives the Democratic Party, and always has.

Three other visionary people who have made The Common Good the moral compass of their life work are social activist Rev. Jim Wallis, Cherokee Chief Wilma Mankiller, and human rights activist, attorney, and author Riane Eisler.

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Rev. Jim Wallis

“A commitment to The Common Good could bring us together and solve the deepest problems this country and the world now face: How do we work together? How do we treat each other, especially the poorest and most vulnerable? How do we take care of not just ourselves but also one another?

The Common Good is also the best way to find common ground with other people—even with those who don’t agree with us or share our politics. Both liberals and conservatives could affirm the moral standard of The Common Good

The Common Good should impact all the decisions we make in our personal, family, vocational, financial, congregational, communal, and yes, public lives. It is those individual and communal choices—from how we raise our own children, to how we engage with our local communities, to what we are willing to bring to our elected officials—that will ultimately create the cultural shifts and social movements that really do change politics in the long run. Only by inspiring a spiritual and practical commitment to The Common Good can we help make our common life better.”     Rev. Jim Wallis

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Wilma Mankiller

“When given the resources and opportunities tradition-oriented Cherokee people will help each other and take on projects for the larger community good. Gadugi, or working collectively for The Common Good, is an abiding attribute of the Cherokee culture.”    Wilma  Mankiller, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation

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Riane Eisler

“We need an economic system that make it possible to have healthy food, good housing, enriching schools, natural and recreational space, and a sense of community. Study after study shows that what people truly find most valuable are relationships, meaning, service, and a sense of purpose. But the current economic system does not support or give value to caring for people, starting in early childhood, and caring for our Mother Earth. We can, and must, change this! We can have an economic system that meets everyone’s material needs and makes it possible for us to have time and energy for The Common Good of our children, our communities, and ourselves.”     Riane Eisler, JD

One more point. Thankfully, due to the genetic inheritance of normal people, empathy, cooperation, and respect for The Common Good bond most people together during times of crisis and catastrophe.  Witness the kindness of strangers after extreme weather tragedies like hurricanes, earthquakes, and floods. This genetic gift will be of great consequence in coming years when, as signs and signals now scream at us, economic and environmental forces will combine in a perfect storm, and civilization will crumble. Human beings will need each other, in small tribes and communities, to share food, water, homes, and specialized skills in order to survive.  More on this in future pages.

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Meaning 3. The Best That Can Be Built, or The Rewards of our Common Work Through our first 240 years, US citizens have embraced the ideals in the Declaration of Independence – Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – and worked in community to manifest them in astonishing ways. We used The Common Good resources, were driven by The Common Good moral compass, and with the blood, sweat, and tears of residents and immigrants, achieved things certainly never even imagined in 1776.

Perhaps the most incredible gifts that The US Common Good gave to civilization are the political documents and freedoms written into law and protected for hundreds of years. These are The Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, The Bill of Rights and other Amendments (which include the Freedoms of Speech, Expression, and the Press), the system of three-part government (with Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches) and the Checks-and-Balances principle that guarantees equality of power among them, Birthright Citizenship (which is still rare in the world), openness to Immigration or The Melting Pot custom, and hundreds of thousands of federal and state laws and protections. Of equal importance to these are rights, gained through years of courageous marches and demonstrations, and even violence and death –  such as the movements that gave the right to freedom to slaves, the right to vote to all adults, and the right to safety and protections under the law to disabled people and LGBTQ people. Together these achievements embody the pinnacle of political wisdom.

Other peak achievements from The US Common Good are through Science and Technology: NASA, the Moon Landing, the Hubble Telescope, public health care programs, immunizations against disease, the Internet, and the personal computer. The US inspired innovations in the natural sciences Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Psychology, and Sociology, the social sciences History and Political Science, and the health care sciences Medicine, Surgery, and Pharmacology. US citizens created Universal Public Education for K-12, and innovations in architecture, agriculture, aviation, business, manufacturing, engineering, and economics, and also developed powerful Military, Defense, and Intelligence systems.

Through the The Common Good of US citizens also emerged an American culture in art, film, television, radio, and literature. And of course, American music: blues, jazz , country, popular, folk, gospel, rock-and-roll, pop, hip-hop, and rap. 

If US citizens continue to band together for The Common Good, we will make our country better, make the lives of our citizens better, and further contribute to the development of human civilization.

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Geometry, Art, Chaos Patterns in A Sunflower

Ending this essay with a few quotes from Aristotle, who began the discussion thousands of years ago, seems appropriate.

“Politics appears to be the master art for it includes so many others and its purpose is the good of man.While it is worthy to perfect one man, it is finer and more godlike to perfect a nation, which has the purpose The Common Good of all men.”    Aristotle, circa 320 BCE

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Repeat, often and loud, the words “The Common Good” and stress that it reflects The Golden Rule alive in politicswhenever an opportunity arises. Stress that it is the driving force of The Democratic Party.

(Note: This is only part of America’s story. The inspiring, happy, good part. Now please read Get Woke! We Face Extinction-Level Events.)

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∼ “The function of man is to live a certain kind of life, and this is to be an activity of the soul implying a rational principle. If the function of a good man is the noble performance of these principles, and if any action is well performed in accordance with the appropriate principle, then for a man, The Common Good is activity of the soul in accordance with virtue.” ∼   Aristotle, circa 320 BCE