Category Archives: 21st Century Enlightenment

Pertains to issues of stewardship and the commons.

It’s about Vision and Fear

I’ve been pondering the motivations of voters who rally around each of the candidates, as have most of the wonks in Washington. talk aboutAn article in the NY Times examined the things candidates talk about in the debates and presents a  chart to illustrate the relative frequency each topic gets discussed.  Take a moment and click on this link so you can see the whole graphic: Which Issues Each Party Debates, or Ignores.

If you were asked to place the issues on the chart without seeing the article, I suspect you could replicate it by making the left side “visionary” issues and the right side “fearful” issues. I suppose I should not be surprised.  Those who ardently believe that government should be smaller and do less, find it hard to come up with positive ideas for action that will muster voter support. Fear is powerful substitute for vision.

The GOP has incited fear very effectively to manipulate elections. Newt Gingrich at the January 24, 2015 Conservative Freedom Summit set the stage for the present campaign with a veritable catalog of fear triggers the GOP could use.

For those who see the nation as a community that looks out for one-another aided by government, big ideas and grand visions abound. Bernie Sanders, the democratic socialist, is widely faulted for espousing issues and ideas that are unworkable and might wreck the economy if attempted. Hillary Clinton is accused of being too pragmatic, and practicing the tepid politics of the possible.

Trump’s authoritarian anti-establishment posturing plays to fears and resentments under a banner of “Make America Great Again,” an undefined goal that calls forth the sentiment that the establishment has disregarded and disrespected Americans with 1950’s values and sensibilities.  It’s not so much a vision as a retro-fantasy about how things were once better.

In a commentary in today’s NY Times Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson argue that Hillary actually is visionary.

Mrs. Clinton has put forth an ambitious and broadly popular policy agenda: family and medical leave, continued financial reform, improvements in the Affordable Care Act, investments in infrastructure and scientific research, measures to tackle global warming and improve air and water quality, and so on.

But voters and pundits alike complain that she’s a cold-eyed realist who hasn’t articulated what George H. W. Bush once wistfully referred to as “the vision thing.” Instead, it’s Bernie Sanders who has been cast as the visionary in the Democratic contest, an idealist brimming with inspiring (if often unrealistic) proposals.

The bulk of the article makes the historical case for government’s role in out national prosperity and individual well-being. It’s more about how the current political discourse ignores the facts of our past. In effect it implies that Hillary actually has the key to making America great, but keeps it hidden.

Our nation badly needs a dialogue that reminds Americans why a capable government is essential and how much we are paying for its erosion. Mrs. Clinton understands this, but she may have neither the opportunity nor the inclination to say it.

I think the authors are on to something.



Monica Lewinski – Compassion

Alexandra Schwartz Article
New Yorker on Lewinski TED Talk

New Yorker Magazine writer Alexandra Schwartz at first questioned, as may of us did, Monica Lewenski’s premise that cyber bullying represents a deficiency of compassion. But her article takes you through her own process of coming to appreciate what Ms. Lewinski is saying.

Personally, I think the deficiency is far more pervasive, and is certainly not limited to the internet.  Recent headlines have told of the excesses of college fraternities and many of the comments by those involved have revealed an astounding ignorance of what has made their exploits so sensational. From inside their self-centered world view they fail to see the problem.

If such attitudes are the norm among tribes of fraternity brothers at Ivy League colleges, is it any wonder that in later life they become CEOs and Investment Bankers who see no problem in dismissing social and societal damage as “externalities?”  Should we be surprised that they have no shame about gaming the political system by essentially bribing politicians with campaign support?

I suggest that we are living in an addictive, psychopathic society that has perverted the ideals of democracy. Our lack of compassion for large segments of our citizenry both present and future accounts for our lack of stewardship for the planet, and for the health of our own society. Could the rise of right and left-wing extremist groups, fundamentalist cults, and other aberrations be a consequence of narcissistic Americans dismissing compassion as wimpy and naive? If not psychopathic, how do you explain the opportunistic political exploitation of these wing-nuts?

Monica Lewinski is pointing to just one of the many glaring examples that support my assertion. God Bless Save America!


The RSA website is fascinating.  Chock full of great reading and visual material, it is one of those web destinations that you will want to bookmark and spend some time browsing.  But the jewel of the RSA experience won’t be found on the front page ( it’s tucked away here.

These YouTube videos are actually essays read aloud and accompanied by the drawings of what is known as a “graphic recorder.”  As the narrator reads, an illustrator draws.  Time-lapse techniques allow the white board drawing to keep pace with the words, and the overall effect is both entertaining and an aid to grasping and retaining the content. Check out the samples below …

Re-Imagining Work – ‎The Truth About Dishonesty – ‎The Divided Brain – ‎Videos