Meekonomics and Meritocracy


Last Sunday while I was mentally preparing myself for the message and working through some of the implications of what I’ve been studying lately I had an interesting thought.  What does Meekonomics have to say to the notion of Meritocracy? 

The way I see it there are two over riding systems of governance in this world; a class based, elitist, hierarchy in which moving from one “band” to another is extremely difficult or an egalitarian and pragmatic meritocracy in which the mobility if individuals is based solely on their ability to perform specified tasks or “merit”.   The problem is that as I work through the implications of what it means to take a Jesus centered approach to economics neither system can stand up for very long.  

I have long held that meekonomics is a “third way” and nothing illustrates that point better than they way in which meritocracy and meekonomics diverge.

I’m a huge baseball fan and professional sports teams are the ultimate example of meritocracy at work.  The best pitcher, strikes out the most batters, wins the most games and generally ends up the end of the year with the Cy Young award.  The best hitter has the highest average, ends up on base the most, scores the most runs and generally ends up the MVP.  The best defender commits the least number of errors and ends up with a Gold Glove.  You get the picture.  These numbers are obvious, easy to measure and not open for debate. 

In theory, meritocracy is supposed to work the same way in the economy.  The brightest and best are supposed to rise to the top.  However we all know that isn’t always the case.  There is something else at play here that needs to be explored and understood.

Before there was meritocracy there was feudal society.  In a feudal society, there are levels or bands of opportunity.  You are born into a band; you are either, royalty, nobility or peasant.  Except in extreme circumstances it is next to impossible to move from one band to another.  Aesop’s fairy tales are full of examples of peasants becoming noblemen through extreme acts of valor and bravery but fairy tales are fairy tales and the actual documented cases of such things happening are practically non-existent. 

As much as we like to think otherwise in the democratic west, much of the developing world is still very feudal in nature and if you dig a little deeper into our own society we notice that the bands that separate the uber wealthy from the middle and lower classes are extremely difficult to cut through.  We don’t use outmoded language to describe it but really, is our system of economics that much different? 

The United States was arguably the first fully merit based society.  The Declaration of Independence begins with the famous lines – “We Hold These Truths to be Self Evident; That All Men Are Created Equal…”  What could be more merit based than that?  And on the surface it appears as though society does work well when opportunities are handed out based solely on merit.  But dig a little deeper and it becomes painfully apparent that many opportunities aren’t even offered to huge segments on society, based solely on some other socio-economic criteria.  The Declaration of Independence itself was written by an elitist group of men at a time when Women did not have the right to vote and slavery was legal in all 13 colonies. 

Meritocracy says in essence, work hard, get a good education and the opportunities will come.  But education costs money and what if you can’t afford it?  You may be the smartest kid in the room but without the money to go to school and get an education you may never have the opportunities that some wealthier families can give their children. 

At the end of the day it is simply not possible for mankind to set up and operate a true meritocracy.  There are too many other things at play here for it to even begin to work.  Meritocracy is thwarted by jealousy, greed, lust for power and a desire to see one’s own children better off than the rest. 

Nothing illustrates the failings of meritocracy more than a look at the public and private school systems.  The public school system is funded by tax payers and made available free for everyone but it is human nature to pay as little tax as possible so the system is chronically underfunded, teachers who aren’t paid enough are apathetic, buildings are crumbling, the newest and most innovative technology is simply not available and the quality of education suffers.  The private school system is funded by user fees and tuition that only the wealthier members of society can afford.  The teachers are paid better and therefore more engaged, the buildings are kept in top condition and everything is kept up to date, it’s no question then that the quality of education is better and children coming out of private schools have a leg up on the competition when they hit the work force.   

So what is a meekonomist to do? 

With everyone in a meritocracy obsessed with getting ahead, a meekonomist must be willing to pause and look behind.  The question on the lips of every meekonomist is not, “what can I do to get further up the ladder?” but “how can I help you to catch up?”  If you slip back as a result of laziness or some preventable action of your own doing, that’s meritocracy at work but if you can’t even get on the ladder through no fault of your own then every one of us should be ashamed and pause long enough to make sure you have an equal shot. 

Even though the authors of The Declaration of Independence themselves didn’t really get it, “all men (and women) are created equal.”

Pareto Efficiency and Income Redistribution


 

This is a continuation of my last post when I introduced the economic concept of Pareto Efficiency. 

It is my assertion at our globalized economy is approaching the point at which it is no longer possible for one person to improve their lot in life without the necessity for someone, somewhere to lose ground.  That is the classical definition of Pareto Efficiency as coined by Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto in the 19th century.

Nothing raises the ire of right wing politicians and economists more than the notion of income redistribution.  “Communism!” they scream and point to the failed economies of the former Soviet Bloc, without realizing that the totalitarian Stalinist form of communism that gained influence in the latter half of the 20th century had about as much to do with the original ideas of Karl Marx as the NFL has to do with FIFA.  True Marxism was extremely democratic and goes beyond mere majority rule to the point of consensus.  Karl Marx himself famously declared;

“I do not know communism, but a social philosophy which has as its aim the defense of the oppressed cannot be condemned so lightly.”

That doesn’t sound much like Stalinism to me!  But I digress…

Before I go any further it must be noted that a discussion of Pareto Efficiency is not a moral one.  Pareto Efficiency is a mathematical concept and is about as moral is 2+2.  The fact that we are approaching Pareto Efficiency on a global scale assumes no moral imperative but it does have huge moral consequences.

The right wing argument is that if we force the wealthy, through taxation to give up some of their income to help the less fortunate the loss at the top of the ladder will be far greater than the gain at the bottom and there will be no incentive for those that at the bottom to strive for something better.  But as our economy approaches Pareto Efficiency the lie of that argument is exposed. The fact is that in a Pareto Efficient economy everyone, the wealthy and the poor, must run faster and work harder just to stay in the same place and the only way you move up is if somebody moves down.  Our resources are finite so for one to have more, someone must end up with less.    

In short the only way for the poor to move up is through some form of income redistribution.    That’s not communism and it’s not capitalism, it’s just first grade math.   2+2 =4 but so does 1+3 and 3+1.  Not to belabor the point but if 4 is all there is and you have 3, the only way for this to equal out is for someone to only have 1.   If the person with 1 wants 2 the only way for that to happen is for you to give it to him.

So where am I going with this? 

Honestly, I don’t know.  Since the Arab spring and the occupy movement of 2011 hardly a day goes by when we don’t hear about growing income inequality.  In my humble opinion that’s because the so called free market no longer works in a world that has reached Pareto Efficiency.  I don’t have any solutions.  All I know is that the rich need the poor to buy their goods and the poor need the rich to keep producing.  We are locked in a sort of symbiotic relationship and if we are to avoid conflict we need to recognize the situation for what it is.

 I’m not naïve to the fact that we will never reach true income equality.  I don’t believe that is any more practical or sustainable than a world in which 1% percent of the population controls 99% of the wealth.  But I am also not naïve to the fact that what we have now is nothing more than a giant pyramid scheme and we all know what happens to a pyramid once the people at the bottom figure out they’ve been duped.

The Problem of Evil


Animals can be brutal, but only humans can be rationally cruel… Only humans can be evil. – ­James Orbinski; An Imperfect Offering, Humanitarian Aid in the Twenty-First Century

I’ve struggled with the concept of evil a number of times in the past.  Recently I was confronted with the question again while reading James Orbinski’s “An Imperfect Offering; Humanitarian Aid in the Twenty-First Century.” 

Dr. Orbinski is the past president of Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders) and in the mid 1990s was one of the few westerners who remained in Rwanda during the most brutal and complete genocides ever recorded.  

For those of you who don’t remember or the details are foggy.  In the space of just a few months during the spring and summer of 1994, tribal warfare in central Africa claimed more lives than the Nazi death camps of World War II could claim in over 5 years.  Millions of men, women and children were simply slaughtered by whatever means seemed most convenient at the time.  The lucky were shot but most were hacked to pieces with machetes or burned alive.  Many were tortured and raped in the process.  Why?  For no other reason than an accident of birth, they were of the wrong tribe.

During his time in Rwanda Dr. Orbinski had a front row seat to evil on display and reading his book has been a very unsettling experience.  More than once I have had to stop and collect myself. 

I have long held that true evil is beyond human understanding.  It is not a human trait that is possible to understand from a human perspective.  Evil is a spiritual concept.   What makes a man do unspeakable things to another man?  It is the evil of the spiritual world that grabs a hold of him and takes over his conscience.  To put it another way, evil is not a human trait and contrary to what Dr. Orbinski says in the above quote, it is not possible for a person to be evil.

I realize that ‘s a pretty bold and inflammatory statement but hear me out … 

As a Christ-follower I strongly believe in the innate goodness of all creation.  Indeed in the creation story of Genesis God declares all things good not just once but six times.  Evil doesn’t enter the story until chapter 3 and the entire rest of the bible is a story about people bowing to the temptation of evil while God begs and pleads with them to return to his perfect example of righteousness.    

Christ followers are called to be peacemakers.  In that calling we need to look beyond the evil that people are prone to and see them with God’s eyes, as children of creation, deeply loved as only a father can love.  You cannot make peace with an evildoer but you can make peace with a misguided person and show them a better way, if you take the time to see them as an innately good human who has been led astray by the spirit of evil.  In acknowledging their humanity you can also help them to see your own humanity and the humanity in everyone else. 

I firmly believe that if the perpetrators of genocide could see the humanity in other people they would be incapable of killing simply due to an accident of birth. 

That being said if someone remains blinded to their part in all this we also need to be able to walk away and leave them to their own destruction.  But that’s a discussion for another time.  For now our job is to love with a heart of compassion both the victims and the perpetrators of violence, because all humans can be children of God if they turn from their evil ways and follow him.

And if I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ but they then turn away from their sin and do what is just and right— 15 if they give back what they took in pledge for a loan, return what they have stolen, follow the decrees that give life, and do no evil—that person will surely live; they will not die. 16 None of the sins that person has committed will be remembered against them. They have done what is just and right; they will surely live. [Ezekiel 33:14-16]

International Development, Chinese Style


There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about the growing influence of China on the international stage. As the world’s most populous country, (by some estimates over ten percent of the population of the entire planet is Chinese), embarks on a rapid industrialization their need for raw materials, natural resources and electrical power is unprecedented. Understandably much of the rest of the world is quite nervous about what an increasingly assertive China might mean for the rest of us.

China has always been an isolated country. They intentionally separated themselves from the rest of us centuries ago and hid behind a literal and metaphorical wall. It wasn’t until recently (in the past 50 years or so) that they began to immerge from behind that wall. Tentatively at first but ultimately out of necessity, once the process was started it was impossible to reverse.

The size of China makes a lot of people nervous. What happens when the world’s largest population makes rapid industrialization a priority and becomes the world’s largest economy almost overnight? To hear some economists and politicians speak, it’s as if a growing Chinese economy is a harbinger of the apocalypse.

However, from the very beginning China has had an over-riding policy on the way they engage in international trade, especially when dealing with less developed, resource rich countries. This policy was originally published in 1964 and is still referred to regularly by Chinese politicians and industry today when making their international deals. The so called “Eight Principles of China’s Aid to Foreign Countries” is not at all what you might expect from a communist country, especially one that is seeking to export not only its products but also its ideology. On the contrary China’s approach to international development is far more egalitarian and less confrontational than the United States and the major western donor organizations.

What follows is a complete listing of the eight principles as published in 1964, we in the west could learn a thing or two about mutually beneficial, no strings attached aid and market economics from the Chinese.

1. The Chinese Government always bases itself on the principle of equality and mutual benefit in providing aid to other countries. It never regards such aid as a kind of unilateral alms but as something mutual.

2. In providing aid to other countries, the Chinese Government strictly respects the sovereignty of the recipient countries, and never attaches any conditions or asks for and privileges.

3. China provides economic aid in the form of interest-free or low-interest loans and extends the time limit for repayment when necessary so as to lighten the burden of the recipient countries as far as possible.

4. In providing aid to other countries, the purpose of the Chinese Government is not to make the recipient countries dependent on China but to help them embark step by step on the road of self-reliance and independent economic development.

5. The Chinese Government tries its best to help the recipient countries build projects which require less investment while yielding quicker results, so that the recipient governments may increase their income and accumulate capital.

6. The Chinese Government provides the best-quality equipment and material of its own manufacture at international market prices. If the equipment and material provided by the Chinese Government are not up to the agreed specifications and quality, the Chinese Government undertakes to replace them.

7. In providing and technical assistance, the Chinese Government will see to it that the personnel of the recipient country fully master such technique.

8. The experts dispatched by China to help in construction in the recipient countries will have the same standard of living as the experts of the recipient country. The Chinese experts are not allowed to make any special demands or enjoy any special amenities.

Mercy


Peace Without Justice is Oppression.


Several years ago I wrote that statement on a napkin and started to build a worldview of Peace and Social Justice around it.  Those of you who have been following my writing for some time might remember one of my first published articles that expanded on that exact statement.  If you like you can see the original postings here

 

My original thought centered around the fact that most Peacemakers and Peace keepering forces around the world are focussed on the belief that peace is simply the absense of violence and when the shooting stops they’ve done their job.  But when we take a closer look, a state of war and oppression can often continue long after, only to flare up in violence again at a later date.  Often times, what appears to be peace is not peace at all and just because the fighting has stopped does not mean the war is over.  In order to have a lasting peace we need to engage directly with those who may disagree, spend some time actively listening to their concerns and work towards justice.

 
At least that’s what I thought. 

 
Recently I was challenged in that belief by a friend of mine who pointed out that what Jesus taught wasn’t justice in the traditional sense, but mercy.  If we recognize our own sin and brokenness in everything and are really honest with ourselves about it what we really want for ourselves isn’t justice but mercy.  Justice says “you do the crime, you do the time” but mercy says “forgive and forget.”

 
In the teachings of Jesus this point is driven home in what has been called The Parable of The Unmerciful Servant.  Most people remember what Jesus said when Peter asked how many times he should forgive someone who sinned against him.  Seven times?  No Seventy-times seven!  But what we forget is that Jesus then went on the tell the story of the unmerciful servant.

 

Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.  At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.  But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’ But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened. Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart. [Matthew 18:23-35]

You see, the servant couldn’t pay his debt and he knew that the just thing to do would be to sell al of his possessions (including his family) and give the money to the master.  It wasn’t that he didn’t have the assets that he could liquidate and cover his obligations, the text is actually pretty clear that he did but the justice the situation required would have been quite painful.  I don’t know about you but I think selling my wife to pay off a loan would be pretty devistating for everyone involved.  So the servant asked for and received mercy, not justice.

 
The challenge for me, and hopefully for you, in this passage is this;  knowing how much I fail to show mercy on a daily basis, do I really want to follow a God that is only interested in justice?  Is it a good idea to only concern myself with what is just?  Or should I instead be focussed on mercy?

 
As a result of looking at this passage I’ve modified my original cocktail napkin scribble to read; Peace AND Justice without Mercy is SIN. And pray daily that I continue to show mercy, just has God has been merciful to me.

Definition of a Christ-Follower


Every once in a while I get asked why I don’t call myself a Christian anymore.
In the past I’ve given long explanations about what a Christ-Follower isn’t in contrast to what people traditionally associate with the Christian Religion.  The following is a the best description I have ever come across of what a Christ-Follower is.
I must confess that I didn’t write this and when I asked permission to share it here the author asked to remain anonymous for reasons that I think will become obvious as you read through the definition…  Enjoy!

 

I am a member of an ancient tradition. I am a part of subversive movement. Where I live is not my home country. I am resident alien. I don’t get absorbed in politics. I am a citizen of a different kingdom.

I expect life will be hard. I am willing to pay the price. I am not interested in a privileged life. I am not climbing the corporate ladder. I have abandoned a life of comfort for a higher calling.

I am not a pleasure seeker. I don’t get drunk. I don’t get high. I live a sexually pure life. I take care of my body. I keep my standards high. I know a different joy than my culture is selling.

I am not motivated by pride or popularity. I don’t stress about what others think of me. I know who I am. I know what I have to offer.

I travel light. I keep it simple. I choose to consume less so I have more to give. I may look like I have little but I have far more than anyone can see.

I have time to truly get to know others. I listen to people’s stories. I am not into appearances. The heart is what matters most to me. I am quick to apologize. I am quick to forgive. I like to keep it real and honest.

I live in community. I am committed to my relationships. I follow through on what I say. I put others first. I am loyal. I have many brothers and sisters.

I am always looking to make new friends, especially with those who live on the fringe. I know the poor will always be with us. I also know that I can make a difference. I share what I have with those in need.

I am connected globally. I help the poorest of the poor. I take care for the earth. I invest in tackling the world’s biggest threats.

I don’t judge. I don’t hate. I don’t try to hurt people with my words. I don’t carry a weapon. I am willing to die but I am not willing to kill. I love my enemies because they are just like me. I do what I can to restore broken relationships. I am a peacemaker.

I am far from perfect but I am changing. I have a long way to go but I feel free inside.

I don’t follow a religion. I am not climbing a stairway to heaven. God fills my life here and now. Love moves me. I know where I am going. I know my message. I know my mission.

I know my life sounds crazy to most. I accept I am in the minority. My spiritual ancestors were called the Radicals. You can simply call me a disciple of Jesus.

Can You Picture That?


The Muppet Movie (1979) contained one of the greatest theological moments of my young life.  I now see the New Age under tones but being raised in a Christian home all I could see at the time was the emphasis on community and believing in yourself.  The fact that Dr. Teeth first sang this song in a church only adds to its message.

My favourite line? – “Even Santa Claus believes in you!”

Enjoy the video…

For Immediate Release….


When someone starts something new they usually send out a press release and hold a media event.

The official announcement always starts with the phrase “For Immediate Release” and proceeds with a clear and concise description of who you are, where you came from and what you are about to do. Once the reporters gather to hear you speak it’s also a good idea to leave room for Q&A so you can expand upon your core message.

When Jesus started his ministry that’s what he did too. Of course in His day He couldn’t just send out fax and invite all the reporters from the local newspaper down to the town square. Instead before He had any followers or had performed any miracles, Jesus went down to the synagogue and spoke to the elders.

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” [Luke 4:16-22]

He starts by repeating the opening verses of Isaiah 61. This is a passage in which Isaiah gives a vivid description of what will happen when the messiah comes. He didn’t need to read the rest of the chapter, His intent was clear and by stating that the scripture was now fulfilled everyone present knew that He was claiming to be that messiah. The elders where at first very impressed and no doubt proud that the long foretold and awaited messiah was a home town boy.

All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” [Luke 4:22]

However during the Q&A session that followed Jesus said some shocking things that nearly got Him killed and no doubt planted the seeds of resistance that would do just that three years later. How did He go from home town hero to zero in what seems like only a matter of minutes?

While the elders were congratulating themselves for finding such a great prophet within their midst Jesus reminded them of a scandalous point of history that they had conveniently forgotten and did not want to be reminded of; the message of healing and hope the messiah was to bring wasn’t just for the Jews but available for everyone!

I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian. [Luke 4:25-27]

To a modern reader the significance of those two events is lost until you realize that the region of Sidon and the Syria were not Jewish areas. Jesus was in fact reminding the elders that when God moves He often does so by first revealing himself to gentiles, and those on the outside of the covenant, while good Jewish men and women die of starvation and leprosy.

What scandal??!

The elders in the synagogue did not want to be reminded of that. They were the chosen people. The Messiah was to be their saviour and no one else’s. The good news for the poor, freedom for prisoners, recovery of sight, and anything resembling the Lord’s favor was assumed to be only for the Jews and cursed be anyone who suggested otherwise.

All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. 30 But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way. [Luke 4:28-30]

While it is obvious today that Jesus’ press release was intended for far more than just a Jewish audience there is still a challenge in this message for us. For a modern reader the poor, prisoners, blind and oppressed that need the Lord’s favor now are no more Christian today than they were Jewish two thousand years ago. We can never forget that He showed mercy to a widow from Sidon and a leper from Syria long before He made his presence known to us.

Therefore the Christian message can never be used to point to any kind of hierarchy or to oppress other faiths. Our messiah was a lamb led to the slaughter and a wounded healer who opened his ministry by preaching freedom for the oppressed, not so that they could turn around and seek revenge but so that ALL could be free, regardless of gender, race or even religion.

The Kingdom of heaven is now, and this is what it looks like.

A Timeline of Passive Resistance


So I asserted the other day that Pacifism was a weapon, when deployed properly, against which there is no defence.  Allow me to illustrate what to my mind is the typical timeline of passive resistance.

Phase 1: Invasion/Takeover – A strong army invades or otherwise takes over the territory of a weaker party.

Phase 2: Victory/Defeat – Due to their superiority the invading army achieves rapid and decisive victory and moves to…

Phase 3: Domination/Subjugation – The invading party establishes its power base by setting up institutions it can control; government, business etc.  At this point it is no longer prudent to kill or torture innocent civilians because they need them in order to run those institutions.  The dominated party is now a quasi-slave to its new master.

Phase 4: Resistance – The pacifist at this point slowly begins to erode the power base of the aggressor through passive and subversive acts such as avoiding work that helps the aggressor, refusing to purchase goods and services from the aggressor and even direct sabotage.  The aggressor’s only hope in defeating the pacifist is in recognizing the power of this resistance early and negotiating a settlement.  If the aggressor responds with more violence and oppression they will only drive the pacifist further underground and prolong the process.

Phase 5: Critical Mass – Sooner or later the pacifist cause will begin to be seen as a viable alternative for the oppressed masses and more and more people will be won over.  By now it is too late for the aggressor; any attempt to suppress the pacifist opposition will be seen as bullying.  If a pacifist leader is arrested or killed at this stage they will instantly become a martyr.  I don’t have scientific data to back this up but my best guess is that critical mass is achieved when the pacifist cause attracts somewhere between 20-30% of the population leading to…

Phase 6: Uprising – With roughly a quarter of the population rallying to the cause protests erupt spontaneously throughout the country.  At this point it is critical for the pacifist leader to keep his followers on message and prevent violence from erupting within his ranks.  It is critical to remember that even with a large number of followers you are still the weaker party in terms of fire power and entering into violent conflict will likely send you all the way back to phase one.  The aggressor will likely try to bait you into a violent encounter but if you have done a good job in phases 4 and 5 this will fail.  Your support will swell to well over 50% of the general population and finally lead to…

Phase 7: Overthrow – As the aggressor realizes they can no longer control the population through intimidation and the time to negotiate from a position of strength was three phases ago they will have no choice but to cede to your demands or leave the country altogether.

Now the real work begins, criticism and resistance is the easy part, governing is hard.

 

Watch Your Mouth!


FYI: Nothing turns me off your blog, twitter or facebook page faster than the gratuitous use of profanity or name calling!

Recently I unsubscribed from a blog I was following because the author called President Obama a “f__king asshole” and his liberal base a bunch of whiners.  Honestly I think that everyone involved in the recent fight over US monetary policy, including the president have been less than perfect in recent weeks but that is no excuse to stoop to name calling!

Similarly a few months ago I got into a heated argument and ultimately lost a friend because I chose to defend a person that I felt he was unfairly attacking.

It’s not that I disagree, it’s not about that.  My position on any one political issue is irrelevant here.  But when you use name calling and foul language to get your point across, you’ve lost something far more important that the argument itself, you’ve lost your dignity and your credibility walks out the door right on its heels.

I started to think about writing this post long before I heard that Standard & Poors had downgraded the US Credit Rating.  One of the reasons cited for the downgrade was the “three ring circus” atmosphere of the political system.  Democratic politics is supposed to be about debating good ideas to find the best one.  Not creating a polarized system of us versus them where people are branded as either bleeding heart liberals or cold and calculating conservatives.  Nothing gets done in an environment like that.

In a weekly news roundup a British commentator for The Economist said that the members of the Republican Party in Congress have spent that last year shooting down every single proposal put forth by the Democrats and thus made the country “un-governable”.  Heading into a presidential election next year the strategy for the Republicans will be to point to the chaos and say that Obama and the Democrats are incompetent.

But the question isn’t about competence.  It’s about co-operation.

The American political system is based on checks and balances that prevent one branch of government from becoming too powerful and imposing its will on the country.  But when the branches refuse to work together it’s as if the two parties are standing there with guns pointed at each other, neither one willing to give an inch for fear that the other will blow their head off.  That’s not a political debate, that’s a civil war!

Funny thing about civil wars; no matter who wins, the country itself is always destroyed.

I cannot stress this enough. When you disagree with someone, don’t just automatically brand them as one of those people, write them off or call them names.   Take a second to listen, try to understand their point, maybe do a bit of reflection and then respond.  And always, I repeat always, remember they are people just like you, who have looked at the same evidence you have and come to a different conclusion.  That doesn’t make them wrong any more than it makes you right.

When you start calling people names it only proves that you’re out of answers yourself.  Maybe you just need to shut up and listen.