The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt

The Righteous Mind
This year for Christmas, I gave my son-in-law Dan and my wife Sheila a book entitled “The Righteous Mind:  Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion” by Jonathan Haidt.

I’ll be honest, the title intrigued me and I was interested in discovering the secret of connecting with many “good people” on all sides of the political and religious spectrum.

Mind you, a little “love” and empathy is sorely needed at this time of great political and social upheavals.

Furthermore, I was intrigued by people’s reaction to the following situations (Dan pointed these out shortly after opening his present):

“A family’s dog was killed by a car in front of their house.  They had heard that dog meat was delicious, so they cut up the dog’s body and cooked it and ate it for dinner.  Nobody saw them do this.”   Or . . .

“A man goes to the supermarket once a week and buys a chicken.  But before cooking the chicken, he has sexual intercourse with it.  Then he cooks and eats it.”

Now, I do not intend to spoil this “good” but challenging read on morality, but you can rest assured that logic and common sense are vastly overrated in trying to unite “good people”  divided by politics and religion.

For those that can’t resist to getting to the punch line, Mr. Haidt concludes with the following:  “Morality binds and blinds.  It binds us into ideological teams that fight each other as though the fate of the world depended on our side winning each battle.  It blinds us to the fact that each team is composed of good people who have something important to say.”

His key recommendation (also at the end of the book for those who can’t stomach a moral philosophy read) is this:   “Our politics will become more civil when we find ways to change the procedures electing politicians and the institutions and environments within which they interact.”  He suggests the following website:   www.CivilPolitics.org

For those who want to explore moral philosophy, test your own moral compass at YourMorals.org

Support Lawrence Lessig for President

I am often singled out by close family as being a “grumpy old man” when it comes to politics.  I’ll admit that I find Russell Brand’s compelling argument “Not to Vote” in line with my current thinking about politics, but I am concerned that it demonstrates more cowardice than conviction. (Editor’s Note: Also, I will admit that I still listen to DWM (“Dead White Men”) music even though iTunes continues to tempt me with promotions of pop or rap artists I have never heard of before.)

In any event, I was thrilled to learn that Lawrence Lessig, the Harvard professor and democratic theorist, might run for president as a Democrat. According to the recently published New York Times article, Mr. Lessig’s goal is to restore ownership of our government to the people.   His central point – and one I fully agree with – is described in more detail in the short TED Talk  Video further below:

“The reason I’ve been driven to this is the constant ’emperor wears no clothes’ feeling about this election,” said Mr. Lessig, who will also campaign against gerrymandering and restrictive voting laws. “We need a plan for unrigging the system first, and none of them have given us that plan.”

He added: “You want to rail against Wall Street, as O’Malley does or Bernie Sanders does? Great” But, he continued, “unless you fix the way we fund campaigns, we’re not going to take on the largest funder of congressional campaigns in America.”

While Mr. Lessig political beliefs may be a bit too liberal for some readers of Gourmay, his articulate analysis of how corruption has a stranglehold on our political “process” certainly resonates with me. Unless we can break the Gordian Knot of partisan political corruption, it is unlikely that true representative democracy will emerge from this morass of hypocrisy.

Thank you Mr. Lessig for saying what needs to be said. I guess the question is: Is anyone listening?

Dining with Lobbyists and Politicians

I realize that they don’t teach political dining etiquette in civics class, but doesn’t this useful video explain how our government actually works?  Isn’t it naive to believe that the dreadful political leaders who got us into this mess in the first place are the same ones capable enough to figure a way out?    When common sense and an open mind are needed to stimulate effective governance, all I see is finger-pointing and intolerance.    It certainly doesn’t inspire a great deal of confidence.

As in nature, politics abhors a vacuum in leadership.  I do hope that the “enlightened” leadership that emerges will not be as polarizing and destructive as the many historical despots that preceded them who faced similar political, economic and social despair.

Could someone please pass the lobster tails? The video has made me hungry.

For those into civil disobedience and activism, consider this position:

“Hope” arrives 13 minutes into the video. Has the “real” revolution actually started?