Wednesday, September 17, 2014

More on Community and Character

More on Community
P. Schultz
September 17, 2014

Here is more from the previous postings on an email exchange with a friend.

On Sep 17, 2014, at 7:43 AM, MB wrote:

Dear Peter,
I like your speculations and here is a question.
Last month, I submitted that the world needs less lawyers and more educators.  I wonder, do you think that we need more builders and maintainers of community (men whose work is the city) or educators of members of the community (men whose work is the school) in our place and time?

My response:

That is a difficult question for me to answer, Matthew. I know that whatever you decide to do, you will do well. And I think you might make a wonderful teacher - and I say I think because sometimes getting in front of a classroom is not easy. Although I think with your flair for the dramatic, in the best of sense, you will do fine. 

What I think has to take place is a change in consciousness and how does one plan that? I mean these changes seem to come about slowly, as with Christianity, and are, eventually, ratified from the top down. Jefferson and Jackson did it, modifying to some extent the consciousness that prevailed with the framers. Or perhaps they just managed to rekindle something that was, momentarily as it were, displaced by the Federalists. Certainly, Lincoln worked on such a change but it is difficult to say he was successful, at least in the short run. The Progressives eventually seemed to succeed and we are still living with the consequences of that success, for better and worse. There are glimmers of change "out there," I suspect, but only glimmers and these are, more often than not, marginalized by the powers that be. And with Obama, et. al., crying "crisis" about ISIS and Ebola and god knows what other false apocalypses, I have little hope of any change real soon. 

I think that Voegelin's take on Plato is relevant here, as near as I can understand it. There are times when the corruption has gone so deep that it's cure is beyond political measures, that philosophic change is needed. 

From Skinny Legs and All, by Tom Robbins
            “She understood suddenly, and for no particular reason of which she was aware, that it was futile to work for political solutions to humanity’s problems because humanity’s problems were not political. Political problems did exist, all right, but they were entirely secondary. The primary problems were philosophical, and until the philosophical problems were solved, the political problems would have to be solved over and over and over again. The phrase ‘vicious circle’ was coined to describe the ephemeral effectiveness of almost any political activity.
            “For the ethical, political activism was seductive because it seemed to offer the possibility that one could improve society, make things better, without going through the personal ordeal of rearranging one’s perceptions and transforming one’s self. For the unconscionable, political reactivism was seductive because it seemed to protect one’s holdings and legitimize one’s greed. But both sides were gazing through a kerchief of illusion.
            “The monkey wrench in the progressive machinery of primate evolution was the propensity of the primate band to take its political leaders – its dominant males – too seriously. Of benefit to the band only when it was actively threatened by predators, the dominant male (or political boss) was almost wholly self-serving and was naturally dedicated not to liberation but to control. Behind his chest-banging and fang display, he was largely a joke and could be kept in his place (his place being that of a necessary evil) by disrespect and laughter. If, for example, when Hitler stood up to rant in the beer halls of Munich, the good drinkers had taken him more lightly, had they, instead of buying his act, snickered and hooted and pelted him with sausage skins, the Holocaust might have been avoided.
            “Of course, as long as there were willing followers, there would be exploitive leaders. And there would be willing followers until humanity reached that philosophical plateau where it recognized that its great mission in life had nothing to do with any struggle between classes, races, nations, or ideologies, but was, rather, a personal quest to enlarge the soul, liberate the spirit, and light up the brain. On that quest, politics was simply a roadblock of stentorian baboons.” (pp.405-406)
Now, Matthew, think about how our mindset would have to change to be able to "snicker, hoot, and pelt" a Hitler with "sausage skins" rather than taking him seriously, that is, either to support him or to see him as evil incarnate. Think how different our minds would have to be to be able to laugh at those "leaders" who are little more than "stentorian baboons" so they would not even get a hearing. I am probably wrong but I think this is the kind of change - if not the substance - Voegelin was talking about. 

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