Saturday, December 20, 2008

Our Moral Cultural Institutions Have Failed Us

“What do I mean by ‘democratic capitalism’? I mean three systems in one: a predominately market economy; a polity respectful of the rights of the individual to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; and a system of cultural institutions moved by the ideals of liberty and justice for all. In short, three dynamic and converging systems functioning as one: A democratic polity and economy based on markets and incentives, and a moral-cultural system which is pluralistic and, in the largest sense, liberal.”
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism

Our moral –cultural institutions have let us down. Even worse, they have diverted our attention from the important issues of our society. Like a con or scam artist team where one member creates a diversion that draws attention away from what the other members of the team are doing. Our cultural-moral system has drawn our attention away from what the polity and business interests were doing. Supported by media, we have focused on sexual, genital and reproductive behavior while the politicians and business people were robbing us. The media not only supported and encouraged the diversion, media entrapped us in “entertainment” – anything to keep us from perception and thought. Meanwhile, we are taught and encouraged by polity and business to consume, and make sure you borrow to do so.

Some “new age” philosophies and religions even teach that it is right to acquire wealth and possessions. The so called “Law of Attraction”, egocentric to the extreme, promises the individual anything they want can be theirs by use of this secret.

All three of our systems, and the institutions and individuals in those systems, have the duty or obligation to develop intentions and actions which are predicated upon right and wrong, virtue and vice. However, it is the role of our cultural-moral institutions to develop the rules, and model those rules, by which such intentions and actions ought to be directed. These rules should relate to the practice, manners, or conduct of people as social beings in relation to each other, as respects right and wrong.

The Moral Compass, developed by The Center for Defined Ethics, is a good place to start:

* Do no harm.
* Accept responsibility for personal actions and for the consequences of these actions.
* Accept a duty of care.
* Affirm the individual's right to self-determination.
* Put the truth first.
* Never use a person as merely an unconsenting means to an end, even if the end benefits others.
* Be honest.
* Honor agreements.
* Conduct relationships with integrity.
* Leave a positive legacy to future generations.

In order for a system of morals like these to work, the geosphere, biosphere and noosphere must be considered. As an example, “Do no harm within the geosphere, biosphere or noosphere.”

Isn’t it time we redefine the basic moral values of our society and get to work strengthening them?

Addendum 12/27/08

Since writing the original blog, Bill Moyers presented a new movie, Beyond Our Differences - a call to all religions to focus on what we have in common as opposed to how we are different. It's a moving piece that argues that we should begin the process by describing the precepts we share.

Read More

"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I'll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn't make any sense."

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