This conversation is closed.

Collective effort for common good

I agree by and large with what you say in the talk “Lawrence Lessig: We the People, and the Republic we must reclaim” [Filmed Feb 2013 • Posted Apr 2013 • TED2013], but your reflection on your son with a hypothetical brain tumor in composing a response to the woman who raised a question about the impossibility of doing anything about the current state of affairs, I wondered if we might not do well to go beyond thoughts of “our” children or “our” family. I wondered also if a better response might be not in “your” issues (environment or campaign finance or nonviolence, etc.); but the interrelationship of these and the collectivity of effort.

I think an underlying problem we have in the United States is that we compartmentalize, we segregate (we tribalize politically, socially, ideologically); and that segregation or tribalization is used by elite powers, by corporate interests against us and therefore against the whole republic, the public interest, the common good, the common defense and general welfare, as the Constitution’s preamble puts it.

What do you think? How can we Americans ─ or are we too much of the individualist in search of our own “happiness,” our own “stardom,” our own “wealth,” our own “consumption,” etc., that we cannot ─ come together in a broader and more sustaining effort?

Closing Statement from Carolyn LaDelle Bennett

Resent on activism and activism and conscientious objection -

I received an alert from your address today but not link or message and this reply I sent to you on April 30 might be a reprint. If so disregard.

I hear your comments and am not entirely in disagreement with you as relates to my own character or way of being. I am an activist writer. Writing is my activism or my instrument of activism, my instrument of response to the world. I’m a former professor, an “intellectual,” an independent thinker (in the best sense, an “educator” at heart) who likes to think, especially of ways that we can make our world a better world. I’m not an “on-the-streets” activist of a “Code Pink” or “Occupy” sort (my sense of activism for the greater good is smaller, more deliberative, under the radar, off camera, committed and unending). I think what ended the good work that happened in the 1960s and 1970s ─ though some good happened ─ was that the movement was (or movements were) fragmented, divisive, classicist, void of true and lasting commitment and the commitment to be true and lasting).

I publish a blog and I have a Facebook page. I haven’t been “blown up with emails,” as you put it; but to the extent that I can, I limit what enters my inbox and don’t tolerate or rather don’t respond to incivility; I don’t find bickering or “angry person” antics” useful.

To the extent that I can, I contribute to Pacifica and independent, publicly supported free-speech news radio programming in the United States. I was a Peace Corps teacher in the early years of the PC and my internationalist “activist” worldview ─ my care for human beings at home and abroad, my interest in domestic and foreign affairs and the interrelationship of these ─ was planted and rises from my service overseas.

I think we, all people, are needed “to make a better world”; we are stronger together than apart. The world needs all people, not just the “political elites” who hold and who buy and sell public office.

  • Apr 20 2013: PROPOSAL CONTINUED TO Nicholas Lukowiak and others:

    6. REPLACEMENT SEARCH for potential candidates in the public interest to stand for office in political campaign against officials targeted for recall, voting of office, de-selection, retirement

    Together with OPUP (OPERATION UPROOT), we must

    A. Work to get vested narrow corporate interest (money: the buying and selling of public office) out of politics, political campaigns, elections, office holding or tenure.

    B. Set limits on officials’ stay in office regardless to their chances of being reelected.
    [No official should be allowed to spend more than twelve years in office. Office is not “private property” as these people and their supporters seem to think. Some of these people have spent a 30, 40, 50 years in office ─ in itself is a corruption of democratic process ─ yet this longevity is celebrated by a lazy and deliberately ignorant voting public who appraise these people on the foolish standard of their hairstyle or whether they’d make good, basketball players, bowlers or beer-drinking buddies.]

    These are only draft thoughts cooked up on my walk this morning. What do you think?
    END/clb
  • Apr 20 2013: PROPOSAL CONTINUED TO Nicholas Lukowiak and others:

    6. REPLACEMENT SEARCH for potential candidates in the public interest to stand for office in political campaign against officials targeted for recall, voting of office, de-selection, retirement

    Together with OPUP (OPERATION UPROOT), we must

    A. Work to get vested narrow corporate interest (money: the buying and selling of public office) out of politics, political campaigns, elections, office holding or tenure.

    B. Set limits on officials’ stay in office regardless to their chances of being reelected.
    [No official should be allowed to spend more than twelve years in office. Office is not “private property” as these people and their supporters seem to think. Some of these people have spent a 30, 40, 50 years in office ─ in itself is a corruption of democratic process ─ yet this longevity is celebrated by a lazy and deliberately ignorant voting public who appraise these people on the foolish standard of their hairstyle or whether they’d make good, basketball players, bowlers or beer-drinking buddies.]

    These are only draft thoughts cooked up on my walk this morning. What do you think?
    END/clb
  • thumb
    Apr 12 2013: I wrote this paper a little while ago for a class, and feel as though you may like to read the scattered arguments and vague relative science theory.

    Abstract: There is a paradox that permeates our American culture which has been (and is) manifested: 1. when the American Dream interlaces in our education (media, schools and cultural history) and 2. our natural instincts of being socially altruistic - conflict in order to create primary values. By citing a literary theorist as well as an evolutionary sociologist, the (three part) argument will be made for: A. the paradox actually exist, B. where one can see active examples and C. how it can/does effect us in value forming. As the argument formulates, I will go as far as to suggest the reasoning of this paradox goes beyond our society's conscious control, and part of the said paradoxical problem may very well exist in factors which historically proven to be evolutionarily beneficial - which today, unreflected and uneducated on, proves the opposite.

    http://ezinearticles.com/?First-Step-to-Contemporary-Civil-Disobedience:-Identification-of-the-Paradoxical-Issues&id=7415922
    • Apr 20 2013: Nicholas Lukowiak and others:

      OPUP (OPERATION UPROOT)
      Uproot entrenchment and the status quo in Washington
      National nonpartisan, independent group project
      Every state, city, town, village, hamlet, reservation represented
      GOAL: To unseat elected federal Washington

      STARTER TOOL: Project Vote Smart, “a unique research center located high in the Montana Rockies and far from the partisan influences of Washington whose staff, interns, and volunteers work hard to strengthen the most essential component of democracy – access to information. Project Vote Smart is a non-partisan, nonprofit educational organization funded exclusively through individual contributions and philanthropic foundations.”

      1. PROJECT VOTE SMART (http://votesmart.org/) (http://votesmart.org/about/)-SEARCH every U.S. Senator, Representative and candidate, elected and aspiring Executive Branch official
      2. STUDY voting records and professional backgrounds
      3. CORROBORATIVE SEARCH more data at other “independent” nonpartisan sources such as Center for Responsive Politics Open Secrets and “credible” news and information sources, (http://www.opensecrets.org/pres12/index.php) and others
      4. SPREAD SHEET every official and record and related pertinent data
      5. TARGET pro-war officials; corrupt officials (such taking money or other gratuities from corporations or organizations whose work or business come before officials, e.g., gas and oil, genetically modified food); officials with conflicts of interests (such as family members or relatives in positions intersecting with proposed or considered legislation); officials in office more than 12 years; officials voting against the public interest, against the environment, against rational regulation (such as regarding food and prescription drugs and agriculture and water and energy and health and medical care and telecommunications); against civil rights and against human beings at home and abroad)
      6. REPLACEMENT SEARCH for potential candidates in the publ
  • Apr 10 2013: I think we must first understand individuality then understand our the diversity of individuals within a collective whole. Once we understand the diversity of individuals within a collective whole, we can then seek out the collective good for the whole group. Everyone goes through this process and some people may exploit this for their own personal gain. I see nothing wrong with this process because it helps us understand each other. See http://youtu.be/gFUBrQtZjrE for more info.
    • Apr 11 2013: Erik:

      I’m afraid my thinking is less complicated than your “first understand individuality then understand our the diversity of individuals within a collective whole.”

      My frame of reference or my beginning of thought on the question of problem solving within a nation or relative to broader world societies affected by how a powerful nation and its allies design foreign policy or guide relations with other relations is this.

      Every person needs earnings sufficient to support basics of life (e.g., food, shelter not tents and camps, clean air and water).

      Everyone needs or would like not only productive, but meaningful work (even a chance to create meaningfully).

      Everyone needs guarantees of human rights (these are defined in many conventions of international bodies and within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), and within the U.S. Constitution, among other documents.

      Over the course of history, there have been attempts to address the “public interest,” the “common good” of human beings.

      Our problems are when some use their power or abuse it in corrupt and or threatening ways; when some take more than their share; when some invest more in creating and entrenching poverty and “want” than in educating for society -- that is, in improving, helping, strengthening the whole.

      In my opinion, there is no down side to ensuring rights for all (education is part of or should be part of rights due to human beings AS human beings. And in this sense “diversity” is recognized, it enhances the whole; but it is irrelevant to the question of human rights. In the context in which I am speaking, there is a need to “accept”; but not to “define” or to “redefine” or to define “individually” (conduct a study or “understand” further) ─ except perhaps within the hallowed halls, ivory towers of academia ─ what is already evident. Diversity, as “difference,” is a fact (an essentiality) of nature in human beings and among all species.
      • Apr 11 2013: My stance is that of individual to individual relationship as the foundation and the process. We get educated by people, we work together with people, we are social beings. We are also ruled by perceptions and those perceptions are the creative juice that gets us going. Those perceptions guarantees our actions to other people. Therefore addressing perceptions is often needed and is the process to go by. We identified the "wrongs" or bad behavior and perceptions and we try to address them with actions like laws or education or through more violent means. Those "wrongs" can be identified as the people who abuse for their own personal gain. As a process, I see nothing wrong with this since it is evolution that is taking place. We are changing our perceptions in light of the darkness of humanity.

        Now since its a question as to how we interact with these perceptions, its up to the people interacting with other people's perceptions that can guarantee an appropriate response. Its up to the movement of the individual's mind. What is the collective experience of the individual that brought him/her to the current situation? How does that collective experience allow the individual to respond?

        I guess what I am trying to say is that we are all human with different perceptions that defines our diversity. Until you acknowledge that, nothing can happen. Now, from this we can enlarge the picture to groups of individuals (or into nations) and we can see the same processes are taking place.

        We are selfish beings first and if we suffer far enough we will respond in that appropriate manner. If the quality of life goes up, we have more room to respond for the collective good. Our understanding of the human experience (i.e. our story) is the bridge to the gap between individuals. Therefore, the more we interact the more chances we have to change our perceptions and run towards the collective good. And all of this energy will compound with interest into our future.
      • Apr 11 2013: I also want to say it take a lot of inner work to process through our own personal issues before we can be ready to tackle bigger issues revolving around the group mind unless those personal issues are aligned with the collective good. That is up to the individual and you cannot rush them.
        • Apr 12 2013: Erik:

          It is “up to the individual and you cannot rush them,” you say. You make some interesting points and I suggest to you that we have had hundreds of years to “evolve,” gradually; however, what we have done in our mental and emotional and sensibility, in ethics is to regress, trend backward. We are a lazy people. A “let-god-do-it” people and as I see it we are in a state of regress. If we fail to progress, fail to move constructively forward; if we maintain status quo, for whatever the reason, and for whomever’s benefit (the masses or the few), we as a society writ small and large ─ from families to neighborhoods to towns and cities to nations to the world, human beings all – trending backward.

          I take issue with some of your absolutes and I want to say first: I believe in the human being; I believe we do not fulfill our potential, the potential for the great good we can do in the world. For example, to be a peaceful instead of a war-making people, to be a cooperating people instead of a plundering people ─ potential unfulfilled!

          Having said that, let me get to what I see as questionable absolutes in your discussion and say that at the end of your missive, you came to what I had been thinking throughout my reading of it: one word: conversation. You used the world “interact”: “The more we interact,” you said, “the more chances we have to change our perceptions and run towards the collective good” (I am not sure either that “collective” good is the same as the words I used “common good.”)

          I agree with the “conversation” part but the “perceptions” you mention, I want to address. You said, “We are also ruled by perceptions.”

          I do not agree that we are “ruled” by our perceptions. I believe we are “bound and we are free.” We choose; we always have a choice and we can make choices. Though people often use the phrase, there really is no such thing as “had no choice” or “have no choice.” There always are options.
        • Apr 12 2013: You said “We identified the ‘wrongs’ or bad behavior and perceptions and we try to address them with actions like laws or education or through more violent means.”

          I don’t believe “wrongs” and “bad behavior” and “perceptions” can be lumped together as if they are synonymous. They aren’t. Perceptions rise from people’s experience and how they internalize that experience (one person might have the same or similar experience as another but not the same perception that colors or guides actions or responses).

          I also don’t believe wrongs (this is individually defined; what is “wrong?”) or bad behavior (this too is individually defined: what is “wrong” to one person might not be “wrong” to another) or perceptions are changed by “law” or “education” and certainly not by “violet means.” I don’t believe “perceptions” are right or wrong – they just are.

          You say, “its [it is) up to the people interacting with other people’s perceptions that can guarantee an appropriate response.” I don’t believe the purpose of discussion or interaction or conversation is to “change” people or to “‘guarantee’ an ‘appropriate’ response.” Conversation should not be “manipulation”; I leave that to television, mass media and various sources, makers, and agents of propaganda (I don’t watch television).

          If we agree that killing, for example, is wrong, why are there offensive and preemptive wars or targeted assassinations, why do people imprisoned for “wrongs” return to “free society” to do the same “wrongs”? What is the correction in law or under law or by application of law?

          You defended “process” and said, “As a process, I see nothing wrong with this since it is ‘evolution’ that is taking place. We are changing our perceptions in light of the ‘darkness’ of humanity.”

          Again, I don’t understand “darkness of humanity” (I don’t believe in “original ‘sin’”, I leave that to the religionists) and I certainly don’t believe there is such a thing as “darkness of humanity.”
        • Apr 12 2013: If we believe there exists a “darkness of (or innate to) humanity,” then we can’t at the same time (contradictorily) believe in a process or “evolving,”; I read that word as changing for the better.

          Finally, in my view, we human beings understand or come to understandings through conversation (this is far more, in my mind, than online “virtual”, anonymous chatter). In conversation, we exchange our perceptions (without judging them right or wrong) and, individually, if we are open enough, we clarify and/or affirm/reaffirm our individual perceptions.

          Miriam Webster defines thusly: conversation-, conversatio, fr. conversari means “to associate with.” Conversation includes “oral exchange of sentiments, observations, opinions, or ideas”; also “informal discussion of an issue by representatives of governments, institutions, or groups.” Oral exchange of information or ideas; SYNONYMS: chat, colloquy, confabulation, converse, dialogue, parley.

          I began this exchange earlier by talking about the public interest and the common good. While I will allow that ─ setting aside mass media and/or political manipulation and narrow agendas rising from self-interest ─ honest perceptions do enter into the issue, I go further by saying that we human beings will move toward concern for the “common good” through interactions, conversations (as equals) among human beings toward understanding. This is a process, an engagement that is far more substantive, my mind, than what may be included within what is called formal education or law or other formal institutions. It does not require a long “evolutionary” process; it requires the will of human beings to engage as equals: “I Thou”: I am one among (not more or less than) my fellows.
        • Apr 12 2013: Setting aside the religious and sensing the “humanity,” this is how Martin Buber (philosopher b. 1878- d. 1965), whose thoughts I studied years ago, put it (separate quotes):

          “Inscrutably involved, we live in the currents of universal reciprocity.”

          “Love is responsibility of an ‘I’ for a ‘You’: in this consists what cannot consist in any feeling.”

          “[While] dialogic is not to be identified with love, love without dialogic, without real outgoing to the other, reaching to the other ─ the love remaining with itself is [as a] Lucifer [Diablo].”

          “There are three principles in [the being and life of humankind]: the principle of thought, the principle of speech, and the principle of action. The origin of all conflict between me and my fellow[s] is that I do not say what I mean and I do not do what I say.”
  • Apr 8 2013: Avi:

    I think it (ending inertia and indifference, uprooting the status quo, corrupt systemic entrenchment and consequential regression) starts or could start in small groups.

    I once put a notice in a local newspaper where I live asking people to come together for conversation on issues (social, political, international topics). The response was dada, zip, zero.

    I think there is a sense of insularity together with paranoia, an “us and them” and “me-mine-and-my-stuff-vs.-‘other’” mentality that’s tough to break through.

    But I think if we could just begin conversations in small groups, we might begin a significant movement. Gradual, yes, but gradual if continuous work is a good start. America's civil rights and abolitionist movements of 1800s and 1900s were such gradual, effective, powerful movements. We lost an essential progressiveness which I believe needs to be restarted.

    Only thoughtful, sensible, open-minded (nonbiased, nonpartisan, nontribal) people together can do this. No politician or orator, savior or Santa Claus will.
  • Apr 8 2013: Fritzie:

    I wish this were true (and no doubt it is the writer’s observation or experience), i.e., that “as a species, we have moved toward valuing and expending effort not only for our own individual gain but in the direction of broader social interests.” However, the statement does not reflect my observation, view, or experience ─ and I’m a fairly “objective” (nonbiased, nonpartisan, nontribal) observer.
  • Apr 8 2013: George;

    I think WE are the hope, we together united are our country’s hope. There is no savior or Santa Claus or incorruptible or uncorrupting politician. We must sweep all of them out of office and restart a movement that was lost a long ago or start for the first time a truly progressive movement in the public interest, under law, for the common good.
  • Apr 7 2013: Collective Effort for Common Good is a very important subject and neglected in USA in my experience on the community level. where "collective efforts" can make a lot of difference if people are able to feel a sense of ownership to the community where they live. But under the current protocols, often people in a community and subset, a neighborhood do not feel a sense of ownership to the community to make even a small investment of time and effort event.

    This is particularly true in an urban community where most Americans live. If one does not feel a sense of "ownership" to help improve their own community , then its nearl impossible to define "common good" on a community level.

    Yea, on a national level, or even a state level where government officials are there to inspire and even excercise legal authority, "collective" good can be done that way for common good to protect people from crime for example. But that's not enough.

    It's a serious issue, and I want to thank you for bringing this topic up and hope can be examined in the context of a local neighborhood and local community rather which is neglected when compared to "nation" or "state" levels as definition of "collective" and "common good".
  • thumb
    Apr 6 2013: I listened to the Lessing talk a few days ago, but I thought the point of the metaphor about his son was precisely to argue as you do that that this is how we should view the effort to solve pressing problems affecting society.

    One of Dennett's TED talks addresses the interesting development that as a species, we have moved toward valuing and expending effort not only for our own individual gain but in the direction of broader social interests. I think it is his talk that has the word "meme" in the title.
  • Apr 6 2013: There are wealthy, powerful, and important people who are very happy with the system. I wish the advertising/propaganda aspects of the system could be controlled.Hopefully his ideas can work, but bubbles like these tend to rupture horribly