“What we lack in the U.S. today is the confidence that is generated by solving one big, hard problem… together.” — Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of General Electric
“The fundamental problem that we’ve got in America today – apart from the economics – is that conflict makes good politics. Sharp ideology and all this stuff that’s been very successful politically, but it’s lousy for economic policy making. If you look at the places that are really successful in America today – look at Silicon Valley, look at the computer simulation boom in Orlando and lots of other examples – those places without exception you have cooperation between a vibrant private sector and a smart government. And cooperation is great for the economy, but it doesn’t work as well politically. So we’ve got this big disconnect between politics and economics and until we close it, we’re going to have a hard time coming back.” — Bill Clinton, Meet the Press on Sunday. (Check out this great essay by Lea Marshall on “The Power of And” on our We the Wiki)
Doing a little Village Square-ish reading with True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society by Farhad Manjoo, who writes for Salon.
I’m intrigued by his distinction between 2 cognitive methods we use for forming our opinions: A central route – which undertakes a direct investigation of facts – and a peripheral one where you rely on the evaluation or even social cues of experts or people you trust. We tend to choose a peripheral route to save time or when the information is too complex for us to understand on our own. It’s when we use Consumer Reports. And we’re living in a world with increasingly complex information and increasing hyper-specialization. Read all »
“… right now, with the stock market floundering and our credit rating downgraded and millions of Americans stranded in unemployment and Washington frozen in confusion, the temptation to look for one summary prescriptive” for certainty, even miracles” is strong. We’d be wise to resist it. To get us out of this mess, we need a full range of extant remedies, a tireless search for new ones and the nimbleness and open-mindedness to evaluate progress dispassionately and adapt our strategy accordingly.” –Frank Bruni, The New York Times (read the entire article HERE).
“It’s a comforting game many of us like to play, to insist the American people are the font of all wisdom and our politicians are nothing but knaves and fools. Perhaps they are; but if they are, it’s worth at least a moment’s self-reflection on the part of the public, which after all elects (and often re-elects) our public officials. We may not like the political jars of clay that have been produced. But in America, it is worth recalling that the people are, in the end, the potters.” — Peter Wehner
Read the whole profoundly (and sadly) true article from Commentary Magazine’s Peter Wehner HERE. Thanks to Bill Mattox for pointing us to it.
THIS CNN VIDEO is well worth a watch. As much as we read up on political division, he mentions factors new to us. If you’re a Tea Party devotee, please watch past his initial premise as he develops it intelligently.
(Check out TEDxFSU HERE.)
It came to me one day while applying antibiotic ointment to my young daughter’s scrape. With similar wounds to my daughter’s in my own childhood, out came a rectangular amber glass bottle of Merthiolate or Mercurochrome. The pinkest liquid you’ve ever seen – over the top pink, pink on heroin. There are lots of different kinds of pain, but two childbirths later I dont t’hink I’ve ever felt more burn than was delivered by that little bottle.
At my house, the Merthiolate ritual was the same every time. Mom or Dad would lift us along with our newly cleaned ï»¿[insert appropriate body part here] to sit on top of the kitchen counter. Some quorum of family members would stand around us poised to assist, cheeks poofed out with a lung full of air, pointed at the wound. On cue, after the medicine was applied, all the helpers would immediately start blowing (lots of new germs, I can see all these years later) on the carefully cleaned wound to make that infernal sting stop. Read all »
A British study released Thursday in Current Biology further supports theories that there far more to political difference than just who we vote for. It’s already been shown that there are differing levels of brain activity in the amygdala and upper brain cortex in liberals and conservatives, but apparently there is also a difference in the size of each part of the brain. Conservatives have more brain mass in their amygdala, the region of the brain associated with fear. Liberals have a larger anterior cingulate cortex which is associated with managing uncertainty and conflict. It’s anybody’s guess as to whether the political bent affected the size of the brain region or if the brain differences started the whole shebang. It continues to be our assertion that it’s understanding where people are coming from – differences in brain and all – that makes all the difference in having a constructive civic dialogue with them. Read all »
“You and I ought not to die until we have explained ourselves to each other.” So began the late-life correspondence between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the founding fathers described in the epic HBO mini-series “John Adams” as “the north and south poles of our revolution.” Once friends, differences in opinion and political competition had taken a toll. They, like others in the founders’ generation, had deep philosophical disagreements. But as they went about Read all »
Since syndicated columnist and co-host of CNN’s new prime time Parker Spitzer mentions us from time to time, it seems only right for us to return the favor (although must admit we have a few less readers). Here Parker makes some insightful points about how we find ourselves on opposite sides of the partisan divide, more akin to city mouse vs. country mouse than anything to do with party politics:
This is fundamentally where Democrats and Republicans face off. At what point is the common good bad for people?
Many so-called Everyday Americans who live in the oft-maligned red states essentially are people who live in more-open spaces and, therefore, see little need or benefit for government management of their lives. The frontier may be nearly gone, but the person who prefers wider horizons will have little use for bureaucrats bearing the latest government how-to (or how-not-to) document.
Those who have opted to live in densely populated blue areas need third-party authorities to maintain order and figure they’ll trade a little freedom for the convenience and cultural riches of city life.
These are completely different orientations toward life in general and the role of government specifically, and I’m not sure the two can be reconciled. City dwellers will never understand the folks who prefer the company of trees, and country folk will always resent the imperious presumptions of urbanites who think they know best.
Read the whole article HERE.
I had a wonderful meeting last week with a member of my board who parenthetically commented that he loved the name “The Village Square”. For him, it conjured up an experience from his travels to a small Italian village. At night, the people – from all walks of life, young and old – would find themselves congregating in the town square. They’d talk about their day, their life, their dreams. This struck me with particular force because in our meeting was the intern he had randomly assigned to help us who – through some lucky stroke of small world chance – happened to be a lovely young woman who was one of my daughter’s best friends as a child. It made the meeting and the image of his “Village Square” unusually hauntingly beautiful. I just couldn’t shake it as I went about the rest of my day that was distinctly lacking in another similar experience.
At the end of my day, I came home to my family in the suburbs. I was thinking about what it might be like if instead of gathering in the living room and pulling out our laptops, we ambled down to the local town square. There I would find my family and my neighbors families, completely unexpected conversations, a food vendor or two, a few kids kicking around soccer balls, pets following behind. The connections that naturally exist in the town square form a natural support for the civil society (including civic and political decisions) that must rest on it.
A town square at sunset becomes a melting pot, its humanity stirred into a swirl of colors and directions and ideas. In it is an implied compromise: I walk away just a bit from “me” to become “us.” Yet this is so vanilla compared to the bold individual colors we’ve become used to painting with in our lives. The uber-individualization of our times encourages us to boldly pick the direction of our own lives, down to an exact compass degree. Just to our left and our right in the spinning of our lives are other people existing just one degree off our path who we don’t necessarily feel compelled to make into an “us.”
With all of the wonderful individual muscles we flex in service of our own unique life goals, I think we know we have lost something profound, that we know in our very core that we need more people in our lives, even if they’re people infuriatingly unlike us.
My friend Lea just sent me a blog post that made this same point from a Christian perspective. But for my rhetorical purposes, I’ll borrow just a snip from author Donald Miller about the biology of our need for people:
What is most important to heart health, according to [extensive research performed by heart surgeon Dean] Ornish, is community. Thatâ€™s rightâ€¦other people. Patients who suffered from a heart attack were more likely to recover if they had a dog, and also if they were in a good marriage, and then also if they were part of a close-knit community. They could also take medicine, but the medicine helped about as much as the community, Ornish found.
As our human connection goes high tech and twitter, our loss may be incalculable.
I think conservatives understand this intuitively better than liberals do. And conservatives, particularly religious conservatives, have more “town squares” in their lives than a typical liberal. Maybe that’s part of what intuitively concerns conservative Americans – that the fabric is coming unraveled. And, as Jonathan Haidt astutely observes in his Ted.com lecture on the differences between liberals and conservatives, conservatives know that order is so much harder to build than it is to destroy.
It’s simply an unalterable fact that our new town square is partly online. We’ll strive to humanize it, we’ll probably even succeed now and again, like at Purple State of Mind. But unless we can find an occasional evening in our lives to venture out into the village square, we’ll be forever poorer for it – possibly in ways too profound to fully grasp.
(Photo credit: Paolo Margari)