Friday, March 5, 2010

Solidarity Again: Rabbi Lerner on Crafting a New Political Discourse and New Political Imagination


Rabbi Michael Lerner responding to Chris Hedges re: how progressives should assess President Obama:
. . . [H]ere is a basic truth about communication: if you are referencing ideas that are already popular in the culture, you can do so with a short slogan; but if you are trying to introduce new ideas that do not resonate with the "established wisdom" or "common sense" of the culture, it often takes a nuanced discussion that is longer-and hence the nuanced position may feel too long to people who have been accustomed to the dumbing down of popular discourse by the media and the politicians.

I’m struck, of course, by the recognition that we need a new cultural and political discourse that moves us beyond the stalemate in which we now find ourselves.  One that reaches for hope, even when hope seems far away.  And one that digs into the depths of imagination to craft new ways of talking about our shared humanity and the social and economic institutions we develop to express that humanity.

We’re seeing now the final playing out of a bitter battle between two dead-end philosophies of atomic individualism—neoconservatism and liberalism.  Both are forms of classic liberalism, which is premised on the notion that social spaces contain the interaction of competing, conflicting atoms, of interest groups whose individual goals are fundamentally at odds with the goals of each other interest group.

And so our two dominant political philosophies muse endlessly about how to manage the conflict, to allocate rights to one group while respecting the rights of the other. 

What our dominant political philosophies do not do is build strong imaginations of a world in which we are in it together, in which what I think and do affects what you think and do.  Our dominant political philosophies do not start with a recognition of our solidarity in the human community.

The world’s faith traditions do start with that imagination, however, and they challenge human communities to construct themselves around that imagination as their central understanding of what it means to be human and to live together in human community.  To this extent, the faith traditions of the world are fundamentally at odds with how the most powerful political groups in the world have chosen to view and talk about socioeconomic life in the modern period.

And we will not make headway either in our cultural life or in our religious life until we move beyond the atomic individualism that dominates our socioeconomic imagination and return to the vision of solidarity that is fundamental to our religious traditions.

The graphic for this posting is an etching entitled "Solidarity" by German artist Richard Grune, who was sent to Sachsenhausen concentration camp during the Nazi years because he was gay.  It is an etching from Grune's collection entitled "The Passion of the 20th Century."