Tuesday, March 24, 2015

What About the Common Good?

Once upon a time we (humans) worked and lived for the common good. At least it was understood that we should strive for it and that this common good would in some way or another be the framework for the wellbeing of us as individuals. There was no way we could be fine when our surrounding were not fine. But things have changed, we now have gated communities, exclusive clubs and societies where only members are allowed and a fake sense of security and wellbeing is nurtured, but is this situation sustainable?

For many years I lived in Mexico, in Mexico city in particular where about 20 million people (no body really knows how many) go about their daily lives. There over those many years I was able to witness a change in philosophy from a religious communal to an individualistic "pragmatic" and egotistic. Gated neighborhoods sprung all over the place and private policing and security became the norm. Even streets were closed to the 'public' and made in a way private to those living on it. In a way you could say this was a success for private enterprise and initiative, but the problem of insecurity was not resolved and in some way exacerbated as a more sophisticated delinquency developed and prevailed. Late news about 43 students that disappeared in the state of Guerrero is a clear indication that impunity is prevalent and insecurity is even greater now.

Not only personal security in terms of direct crime is a problem today in our society but a more tenuous, subterfuge, and deceptive face of environmental degradation. This environmental degraded situation goes beyond the physical arena of clean water, air, soil, and natural resources but includes our human society. We live in communities that are glued by policies based on ethical values and principles that are changing rapidly. These ethical values in many ways came to us through religions and in some cases from the "enlightenment" period in Europe (eastern and western.) That is how basic principles engraved in the United States of America's "Declaration of Independence" and "Constitution" relate to a "Common Good."

When considering environmental issues one thing is clear: all is connected. Some things are more complicated connected than others but the bottom line is that everything is connected. One can't thing of a single issue that can be resolved by itself. Thing for instance on 'transportation'. Once we set the issue we immediately see that you get into a complicated terrain as you try to define.

In his recent book "The (Un)Common Good", Jim Wallis explores in a wonderful, clear, and profound way how "The Gospel Brings Hope to a World Divide" exposing the realities that the pursuit of individual gain, of individual security, of individual wellbeing in general is completely blocked by the fact that there is not way that one can accomplish those without, as the Gospel indicate, being your brother's keeper.
Today is Tuesday March 24, 2015 and I am on my spring break. Catching up with preparing classes I am reading, taking notes, and thinking. Specially for our Earthkeeping course. This class brings human nature to the forefront of analysis and is a wonderful platform for exposing to our students the needs and challenges faced by our society. The class brings to the attention of students the connections and paradoxes within our society and outside with the rest of the world. We talk about connections and contradictions of our actions and our desires, we see how human nature is basically the context of our situation, our aspirations and of course our problems and their solutions.

Clearly, or maybe not, we must understand the paradoxical relationship between the "oneself" and the commune, between the individual needs and the needs of the commons. Great philosophers like Kierkegaard in his "Concluding Unscientific Postscript", and modern thinkers like Parker Palmer in his book "The Promise of Paradox" have articulated how the mere existence of the "oneself" is through and by the "other." One only is based on the relationship one has with others: the purpose of being is to be to others. As the paradoxical statement in the Gospel when Jesus said (Mathew 10:39): "Who ever find his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." What this means to me is that for the sake of Jesus is for the sake of the other. Being your brother's keeper then become the way to life.

Is there any other way?