Monday, June 06, 2011

Signs A New Generation Will Finally Shift Two Paradigms

Even as the 150th anniversary of the Civil War brings reflection on a time when our founding principles legitimized slavery, it is heartening to note the studies showing that African-Americans today are more optimistic about the future of the American Dream than other groups, even those who give it lip service.Capture

Another study reveals that African-Americans are also significantly more likely than Caucasians to value and be involved with causes -- meaning they “walk the talk.”

I’m going to dig next into a fascinating new book, The End of Anger: A New Generation’s Take on Race and Rage by Ellis Cose, but from what I’ve read this book gives hope even though many in my generation and the generation before me remain trapped in a “tangle of racial stereotypes” as clearly evidenced by radio talk show callers, whether it be national audiences like Rush Limbaugh’s or any afternoon that Durham is a topic on nearby Raleigh’s WPTF Bill LuMaye show.

According to Cose, for generations my daughter’s age and younger, born between 1970 and 1995, especially those who are African-American, “race is no big deal.” Maybe it will also take these younger generations to also shift another, but related, paradigm.

In his newly published book, The Social Animal, conservative commentator David Brooks makes a compelling case for the fact that over the last several decades, “whether on the left or right, we’ve focused too much on individualism to the exclusion” of what he describes as “society, social obligations, communal bonds” and “invisible norms.”

As an Independent voter, I can also see myself in his descriptions.

I think he’s right to describe the two major political movements of the last 50 years, one in the 1960s and the other in the 1980s as both being far too much about “individualism.” To paraphrase:

- Liberals have been obsessed with anything that threatened individualism in social areas such as the role of women and matters of life and death, marriage and family structure.

- Conservatives have been obsessed with anything that threatens individualism in economic areas such as lower taxes, privatization of things like social security and now Medicare and vouchers.

Brooks calls out both liberals and conservatives for gravitating toward “economic explanations for any social problems and generally coming up with solutions to this problem that involved money.”

In the book, he makes a solid case for the fact that both ends of the political spectrum have neglected matters of “character, culture, and morality.”

I didn’t realize it until Brooks pointed out that Adam Smith is not only famous for authoring The Wealth of Nations, but he also wrote The Theory of Moral Sentiments.

Brooks believes both liberals and conservatives have split Smith right down the middle giving too much attention to the first book and “not knowing what to make” of the second.

Including a citation of Phillip Blond, Brooks a truly dissects today’s political conundrum.

… “these two individualist revolutions did not create loose free societies. They produced atomized societies in which the state grows in an attempt to fill the gaps created by social disintegration…

…without healthy social fabric, politics become polarized. One party came to represent the state. The other came to represent the market…both neglected and ignored the intermediary institutions of civil life…

…Politicians, and media polemicists took advantage of the psychic vacuum and turned [political] parties into cultures, demanding and rewarding complete loyalty to the tribe…

…Amongst this partisan ugliness, public trust in government and political institutions collapsed…

…Instead of being bound by fraternal bonds and occasionally responding to a call for joint sacrifice, a cynical ‘grab what you can before the other guy steals it’ mentality prevails..

…Without social trust, the political system devolved into a brutal shoving match.”

This not only makes so much sense to me, but Brooks is equally eloquent and insightful about the road map back to the American Dream we all should seek to merit.

I’m very optimistic about future generations of leaders.

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