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Postmodernism

Prodigal Politics

April 13th, 2011 // 8:25 am @

Right, Left, and Above

Sometimes the best political analysis is found in surprising places. For example, Timothy Keller’s excellent book The Prodigal God gives a deep and profound analysis of modern conservatism and liberalism–clearly and effectively showing the truth, as well as the glaring flaws, of each. James Redfield’s insightful book The Twelfth Insight does the same. Both are essential reading for anyone today who cares about the future of freedom.

Consider the following quotes from The Twelfth Insight:

Quote One: “I’m pretty sure the government will be declaring martial law pretty soon, and people need to be prepared. The first thing they’ll do is take up all the guns and many books.”

It was becoming pretty clear that I was talking to someone on the extreme Right politically.

 

 

“Wait a minute,” I said casually. “None of that can happen. There are constitutional safeguards.”

“Are you kidding?” he reacted. “One or two more Leftist judges, and that won’t be the case anymore. Things are out of control. The country we grew up in is being changed. We have to do something now. We think the Document is going to call for a real rebellion against the Leftists.”

“What?” I said forcefully. “I can’t see anyone getting the idea of rebellion from this Document–maybe a more enlightened Centrism. Have you read it?”….

 

 

“You better wake up,” one of them yelled. “You people on the Left are ruining this country, and we’re not going to stand for it much longer. We’d rather have the corporations take over than you idiots.”

 

Quote Two: “You’re one of those Right-wingers,” the loud man said, waving a finger at Coleman. “If you weren’t, you wouldn’t be talking like this.”

Coleman shook his head. “I’m only saying that it takes a balance. Some people want big government totally regulating everything and others want big corporate influence and very little regulation. I think the best position is right in the middle…”….

“Where are you going, Right-winger?” one of the other men shouted. “You aren’t going to win. If we have to install a dictator, we’ll do it. You aren’t going to win!”

Quote Three: This type of controlling is the chief characteristic of those both Left and Right, who have a primarily ideological approach to politics. They don’t want to debate the issues. They want only to shout down the opposition and win….

Both extremists were using the same tactic. If someone disagreed with them even slightly, they were simply pushed into the opposite extreme category–so they could be dismissed and dehumanized and not taken seriously. That way, each side–far Left and Right–could justify their own extreme behavior. Each thought of themselves as the good guys having to fight to save civilization from a soulless enemy….

“[C]ivility is the first thing that goes out the window. Those holding on to the old worldview often begin to cling to their obsessions with ever greater ferocity…”….

“The political Left and Right are both moving to the extreme because each thinks the threat is so great from the other side that extreme measures need to be taken. And of course, it’s all self-reinforcing.”

In addition to the competing views on the Right and Left, Redfield discusses those in the world who actually want conflict–for the benefit of their politics or positions of power. Hamilton discussed these same three groups in Federalist Paper number 1 (the effectual introduction to The Federalist).

A Parable for Our Time

One major problem with our contemporary politics was taught quite clearly two millennia ago in the parable of The Prodigal Son. The word “prodigal” means to be wasteful, which certainly applies to our modern government.  In this parable, a father has two sons.  The first son is obedient and orderly, follows the father and does what the father expects.  The second son asks for his inheritance early, then spends it in riotous living.

When the inheritance is all spent, the second son comes crawling back to his father, begging to be a servant if he can just live at home and have food to eat and a place to sleep.  The father throws a party, welcoming him home as a beloved son.

The elder son is livid.  He sees even more of his own inheritance being spent on his wasteful brother, and he is hurt that his father never threw such a party for him–despite all his years of faithful obedience.

The climax of the parable comes when the reader asks this question: “Why did Jesus tell this story?  What was his point?”  Anyone who has read the parable clearly sees that the point is not to chastise the younger son, but the older.  What does it all mean? Whatever your religion or beliefs, these are interesting and important questions.

Our modern politics fits very well within this parable.  Conservatives believe in standards, responsibility, morals, conformity and in those who do these things reaping the benefits of their orthodoxy.  Especially, they don’t want the father (government) taking their money to benefit those who haven’t taken care of themselves.
Liberals value the freedom to live as they see fit, pursue their own happiness their way, discover and seek and find themselves, not be tied down by dogmatic rules or outdated social customs, and they believe a higher authority (father/government) should always be there to help any who suffers.

That’s a conservative way of defining liberalism. But let’s consider it from a liberal perspective: The older brother was just plain mean.  That’s often the problem with conservatism, or libertarianism, from the liberal view.  The father used the elder son’s inheritance to take care of the younger son because he needed it–help, love, dignity, some basic human kindness and respect.  Of course any loving father (or government) should do the same.

This is the old conservative-liberal argument, debated since Plato versus Aristotle.  A person needs help.  One side says: “Too bad, he did this to himself, he doesn’t deserve help, don’t help him.  You really have no right to use my inheritance for him anyway!  You might have the power, but it isn’t right!”  The other view argues: “But as a loving father (government), we simply must help him.  Don’t be so mean about it.  Why are you so selfish anyway? We all simply must help the most vulnerable among us.”

The two sides frequently refuse to understand each other.  They may say they understand, but then they launch immediately into a discussion of how their side is right and the other is wrong.  They even call the other side “stupid” or “evil” for not understanding.

The True Elder Brother

What is missing in our current politics is what Keller calls “The True Elder Brother,” the other brother who isn’t depicted in the parable but is clearly meant to be there. As Keller put it: “This is what the elder brother in the parable should have done; this is what a true elder brother would have done. He would have said, `Father, my younger brother has been a fool, and now his life is in ruins. But I will go look for him and bring him home. [Note that this occurs before the younger brother even comes home on his own.] And if the inheritance is gone–as I expect–I’ll bring him back to the family at my expense.’ [Note: he doesn’t leave it to his father’s/government’s expense.]”

This is leadership.  This is the example of a citizenry that handles things.  “Poor, hungry, in need of education?  We’ll help.  We won’t ask government to do it.  We will do it.  Now.  Without waiting, without questions.  Somebody needs help?  Here we are.  Send us.”  Or simply, “Give us your poor, your tired, your struggling masses yearning to be free . . .”

That’s what free people do.  The old liberal argument (“government should use its power and force to fix the problems”) is as bad as the old conservative argument (“it’s their own fault, so too bad for them–let them suffer, or let someone help them, but don’t you dare make me help!”).

But free people act like free people.  They see needs and they go to work helping.  They don’t turn to government (they know that this is a bad use of force) and they don’t ignore the needs (they know that this is selfish and wrong).  Such a society stays free, and if they ever stop being this way they know they will lose their freedoms.  Indeed, they won’t even deserve to be free anymore.

The great question of freedom is, will the people govern or will they politic? Will they lead or snivel? If the first, they will spread freedom; if the second, their freedom will be lost.

Our Job as Citizens

Problems will arise.  A free people handles them, leaving to the government only that which can only be done at the highest levels–like national security and fighting crime.

The problem is that in party politics, everything becomes about government. Liberals want government to fix everything, conservatives want the government to stick to national security, law enforcement, education and projects that benefit one’s own state.  This becomes the ends and means of the whole debate. Meanwhile, who is helping those in need? And who is watching the government to make sure our freedoms remain strong?

Both of these jobs are the roles of the citizenry–not the government–in free nations. But when politics gets involved, we forget and ignore both. When this happens, freedom declines. The solution is simple: as citizens we must stop getting caught up in political issues and give our time to two things: helping those in need, and understanding and maintaining freedom. These are acts of governance, not politics. The one great act of politics we need to do is vote, and elections will be much more simple if the citizens are doing their two great governance roles!

So, let’s test ourselves. Are we deserving of the title of free people, or are we something else? Let’s find out. In your neighborhood:

  • Several poor families need help
  • Immigrants come looking to make a living
  • The environment is being polluted
  • Several minority families can’t afford college for their children

Do you call in the government?  Many liberals and conservatives (along with many socialists and Democrats) would take this path.  It is what the father did in the parable.

In contrast, do you comment on how these people should “get off their butts” and fix their lives, and then do nothing else?  Then, when the government does something, do you throw up your hands in anger and frustration?  Many conservatives and liberals (and many extreme conservatives, libertarians and Republicans) are with you in this choice.

Another option: Do you visit the families, make friends, offer the father a better job or get him an interview with a friend of yours, start a scholarship drive for the college-age kids, get together a service project to clean the polluted areas, etc.?  These are the behaviors of people who deserve freedom.

“But the government won’t let us!” many will argue.  “But if we do the work, they just won’t value it.”  “But I’m too busy supporting my own family.” “But really fixing this would cost way too much.” “It’s their problem–why don’t they do it themselves.” “This really is a job for government, not for regular people.” But, but, but.  These are not the words of the free.  Governments can be negotiated with, projects can be structured to include the scholarship recipients, you can make time for freedom or lose it, concerns can be worked through.  Free people figure out how to do things right and do the right things.

The True Citizen

I once taught a college course on the writings of the American founders, and during the semester we discussed broadly and deeply the proper role of government and the need for limitations on government.  I invited a county sheriff, among others, to speak to the students.  He discussed a number of issues of law enforcement, dealing with people, and local government, then he mentioned that he had just written a grant to buy clothes for kids living in trailer parks.  The problem, he said, was that new kids moved into his cities, but since they were poor and could only afford one pair of pants they usually smelled bad to the “good” kids in school.

As a result, the only kids who would befriend them were those using drugs or excessive tobacco and alcohol.  He was very excited about his grant, which he felt would help the “trailer-park kids” make “better” friends and stay off drugs.

I found myself thinking that the so-called “good” kids weren’t really all that good. By that time my class was harassing the man for using government to solve private problems and wasting the taxpayers’ money.  I listened to their exchange for about twenty minutes.  In truth, the students had a good technical understanding of the founders’ writings. They understood that not everything is best run by government. I was glad to see this.  But I also found myself frustrated that they still didn’t quite get it.

Finally, the sheriff got frustrated himself and asked the class: “Okay, fine, I agree that private solutions would be better than government money.  But how many of you are running a private program that would help these kids? I have seven kids who need a new pair of pants right now, today, and our research shows that this one thing will keep six of them off drugs. I’ve got the pants sizes in the car. Who can help me?”

We sat in the embarrassed silence as hardly anyone volunteered.

The sheriff shook his head in dismay and said nothing. Finally, abashed, one student said aloud, “I’m a student, I don’t have any extra money.” Then, to my amazement, another student said, “It’s just not right for government to use money that way.” Others chimed in, and the debate resumed.

Afterwards, a number of students pitched in their money to help, and this experience left us with lots to discuss in later class periods. But I never forgot how quick we are to be the younger brother, the older brother, or even the father, but how slow we are to be the true elder brother.

On another occasion at a formal event in a state capitol building my wife and I sat with a nationally recognized libertarian leader. We discussed a number of topics, but somehow toward the end of the event this man and my wife got on to the subject of libertarianism versus both conservatism and liberalism. When the man said libertarianism was the only hope for America’s future, my wife told him that she hoped not.

“Why?” he asked.  She told him she thought conservatism, liberalism and libertarianism all had some good features and some real flaws, and that the great flaw in libertarianism is that it not only doesn’t want government to help needy people but that it seems to not want anybody to help them.

The man surprised us by trying to convince us that everybody in need got there themselves and deserves to be there, and that the only right thing to do is to leave them to their struggles. Period.  When my wife gave up appealing to caring and later morality, and made a convincing case for the self-interest of charitable acts, the man angrily pulled out his wallet and said, “Fine. Just name a charity, and I’ll write you a check for it right now!” She immediately named one. He angrily shoved his wallet back into his pocket and stormed out of the room. We just looked at each other.

Certainly not all who consider themselves libertarians or far-Right have this view. But far too many people, whatever they call themselves politically, seem to adopt the ideas of the younger or the older prodigal brothers–when we should all be seeking to become the “true older brother.”

Younger brothers turn to the government, elder brothers angrily complain and bluster. Fathers (governments) take from the rich and give to the poor–after using up the majority of the money on administrative expenses. This is the world of politics. No wonder David Hume was so against political parties, and no wonder the founding generation agreed with him on this.

But “true elder brothers,” those who are free and think like the free, choose differently. They see needs and take action. They wisely think it through and do it the right way. They actually end up solving problems and changing the future for good. They are the true progressives–because they actually improve things. They are the true conservatives, because they conserve freedom, dignity and prosperity.

Conservatives most value responsibility, morality, strength, and national freedom, where liberals most highly prize open-mindedness, kindness, caring, fairness and individual freedom. The thing is, both lists are good. They don’t have to be in conflict. Indeed, both are the heritage we enjoy from past generations of free people who at their best valued and lived all of these together.

If conservatives, extreme conservatives and libertarians would all just be nicer, more caring and open, more tolerant and helpful, American freedom would increase. If liberals and progressives would all work to provide more personal service and voluntary solutions with less government red tape, we would see a lot more positive progress and change.

Freedom works, and we need to use it more. Less politics, more freedom. America needs this. When it is time to vote, we should fulfill this duty. Before and after the voting, we should fulfill the other vitally important roles of free citizens: build our communities and nations, support a strong government that accomplishes what governments should, study and truly understand freedom, keep an eye on government to make sure we maintain our freedoms, and voluntarily and consistently help all those in need.

odemille 133x195 custom Quantity. Quality. Method.

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Oliver DeMille is a co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of Thomas Jefferson Education.

He is the co-author of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller LeaderShift, and author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 


Category : Blog &Book Reviews &Citizenship &Community &Culture &Family &Liberty &Postmodernism &Statesmanship &Tribes

The Declining American Dream

January 31st, 2011 // 9:55 am @

We still hear about the American Dream. But more and more it seems we’re in a Matrix-like dream state where our perceptions are being manipulated. It’s actually a pretty common plot in cinema: The Minority Report, The Sixth Day, Total Recall, Inception, The Adjustment Bureau and others riff on this theme. We’re living in a reality out-of-synch with some truth we’ve lost, and we don’t even realize it. Somehow our collective memory and our assumptions of “normal” are slowly morphing, and our definition of the American Dream at present is so far removed from the original concept as to be a pretty fair Doublespeak[i] idiom.

Back when the Cleavers[ii] and even the Bradys[iii] were the icons of American families, what was the definition of “The American Dream”? What did it mean to be “middle class”? There are some features of it that were fairly well accepted once upon a time:

1. Home Ownership I

Perhaps the most traditional measure of middle class and the American Dream is the ability for every man to be the king of his own castle. In this the U.S. was a beacon to the world, and other countries even began to adopt the value that every person might aspire to own his own dwelling. The historical and sociological significance of home ownership includes the moral and political empowerment of being “landed,” and affiliation with the natural aristocracy. Homeowners were believed to have a deeper sense of responsibility to invest in their property improvement, an elevated pride in and loyalty to their neighborhoods and communities, and a higher commitment to the good of society in general.

2. Home Ownership II

Now we have to dig a little deeper into our genetic memory. Home ownership a generation or three ago meant not only that you weren’t renting from somebody else, but after a maximum of thirty years in your home you weren’t renting it from the bank, either. A 30-year mortgage left the likes of Ward and June Cleaver without a house payment right about when the grandkids started showing up, and they were able to be a boon to their young married children as they were starting out. If the idea of Home Ownership I as a definition of “The American Dream” is still generally accepted (and I believe it is), the Home Ownership II definition has been deleted from our collective memory. Not only do we have a 30-year mortgage that gets refinanced ad infinitum, but we have seconds on our vanishing equity—and our seniors are living on the funds derived from reverse mortgages.

3. One Income

For the Cleavers and the Bradys, Home Ownership I and II were accomplished on one income. Dad had evenings and weekends for leisure; mom could volunteer with the PTA and community service organizations. Both could participate in book clubs, bowling leagues, gardening and other vocations. The Women’s Lib movement sent the modern woman into the workforce by choice; now Home Ownership II is entirely out of reach for the middle class, and Home Ownership I requires a minimum of two incomes—and often multiple jobs for an individual worker—in order to be a reality.

4. Two Cars

The family had a car—and later two. They were American made with pride, and they were built to last. Paid with cash from savings, or with a little help from the local bank, they were paid off long before they were sent to the salvage yard. Some families even scandalized the neighbors by giving each of their teens a car as soon as they were legal to drive.

5. College for Kids

Part of the understanding for middle class families was that they would be able to pay for their kids to get a college education. Now all that’s left of that understanding is the guilt for failing to live up to it. No one seriously expects one-income families to be able to pay off the house and cars and simultaneously send several kids to the University. Scholarships, loans, grants and lingering debt into the career years are now the means for those who want a college education.

6. Discretionary Income

With all of the above, it was still an expectation that a married couple could live within their means and have savings, investment, yearly vacations with the whole family at some destination spot, and still have a few dimes to rub together at the end of the month.

7. Retirement

Ah, and after all this came the golden years. The Cleavers could now spend their expanded leisure time, afforded by an empty nest and the retirement from the company (complete with gold watch honors), in community service and nurturing the rising generation. They had savings, investments and retirement income to fall back on, a house and car paid free and clear, and the greatest resource: Leisure Time. They were elders in their community, and relied upon for wisdom.

The percentage of families enjoying these luxuries shrinks every year. Where did our American Dream go? Somehow, point by point, it has slipped away from us, and taken with it our definition of “middle class.” Would that we could wake up and reclaim the best of that dream; instead, we’ve awakened to a reality where our elusive American Dream is just out of reach; and these seven points that were once considered the legacy of any hard-working family are being deleted from our list of aspirations. If they are middle class expectations, the majority of America is no longer middle class.

[For a follow-up article on the how and why the middle class is shrinking, and how to reverse the trend, read Oliver’s article, “The Rule of Leisure,” featured in the February 2011 monthly newsletter for The Center for Social Leadership.


[i] See Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-four.
[ii] From the 1950 – 60s classic sitcom about the traditional nuclear family of Ward and June Cleaver, “Leave it to Beaver”.
[iii] From the classic 1970s sitcom about the non-traditional nuclear family of Mike and Carol Brady, “The Brady Bunch”.

Category : Blog &Community &Culture &Economics &Entrepreneurship &Family &Generations &Politics &Postmodernism &Producers &Prosperity

Beyond Liberal & Conservative: Independents, Postmodernism, & How to Really Understand the Issues

October 1st, 2010 // 4:00 am @

If you want to understand and profit from the political, economic and cultural forces at play in today’s world, you must understand two things:

  1. The evolution of pre-modernism, modernism and post-modernism.
  2. How independents view and are shaping the world.

Armed with this understanding you’ll be able to see through the superficial and misleading “liberal versus conservative” debate portrayed by the media. Furthermore, you’ll be able to harness our current societal transformations to your advantage.

The most fundamental question in the Great Debate of how society should be organized is “Who (or what) will save us?”

Pre-modernism, modernism, and post-modernism all have different answers.

Pre-Modernism & Modernism

Modernism is defined in many ways. One of the most enlightening is discovered by comparing modernism to the pre-modern and post-modern worlds.

In a nutshell, pre-modern societies believed that some supernatural being or at least super-powerful entity would save mankind. Man is flawed and weak (so the narrative went), and if we are to be saved it must come from something greater than man.

The three main branches of this view ⎯ one God, many gods, and shamanic energy powers ⎯ all agreed on the basics.

For example: man needs saving, he can’t save himself, a higher power must save us, and we should therefore live in a way that pleases or avails us of the benefits of the higher power.

That’s a simple version of pre-modernism.

Modernism began when societies changed these assumptions. The modern era adopted the following beliefs: man needs saving, he can’t save himself and it seems no godlike power is inclined to step up (for whatever reason), so man must build institutions which can save him.

In short, modernism rests on the belief that man-made institutions can and should save us.

The early modernists built on their pre-modern religious roots and turned to churches as the institutions most likely to fix the world’s problems. Those who were dissatisfied or impatient with this solution turned to governments as the answer.

If there are any problems in the world, according to this view, government should fix them. If a government won’t fix a problem or allows any suffering, it is bad and should be reformed or replaced. If a government tries but can’t fix problems, it is too weak and must be given more power.

After all, we humans like our higher powers incredibly strong and always benevolent.

Government v. Markets

A third major branch of modernism arose when governments repeatedly failed to solve the world’s problems. This school of thought believed that big business was the answer.

Huge, powerful businesses, as Keynes argued, reach a size where they care less about profit and more about taking care of their employees and society in general.

This view has business provide insurance, benefits and other perks to help the people live happily. It tends to ignore small business and even large “greedy” businesses, and instead promote more power to the biggest corporations.

In recent years we’ve witnessed the debates between all three branches of modernism, from faith-based initiatives (church as central institution) to health care reform (government as central institution) to executive bonuses (corporation as central institution).

But since the media usually couches all these and many other issues in “Conservative versus Liberal” terms, few people realize what is actually going on in these controversies.

The church-as-savior belief lost most of its influence in the last century, leaving governments and businesses to jockey for first place in this race to be the central institution helping mankind.

Many participated in this debate: Marx, Darwin, Bastiat, Nietszche, Freud, C.S. Lewis, Andrew Carnegie, Ayn Rand, Solzhenitsyn, Keynes, Kinsey, Milton Friedman, Mao, Reagan, Clinton, Bush, Obama, several Popes, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and others.

Most recently, Ralph Nader has argued that the only solution to our current problems is for the super-rich to use their influence and power to reduce corporate power in the world and let governments save us.

Government offers the most hope to mankind, this view argues, and corporations are the problem. Greedy corporations caused the economic downturn, according to this view.

In contrast, the famous Shell Oil Global Scenarios have made a case that government cannot and will not solve truly global problems like energy, environment, transportation, economic ups and downs, communication and education.

Their solution is for corporations with experience planning across borders to be given the power to make and follow a “blueprint” for global success.

Leaving it to governments would cause a mad “scramble” toward more war, poverty, depression and suffering, according to this view.

After all, the corporations say, when the economy fell it hurt most companies and nearly all governments. Only the biggest corporations remained strong ⎯ so they should govern us!

Both sides (“Government Should Fix It” and “Big Business as Savior”) see the other as a dangerous utopian scheme.

Consider, for example, the issue of health care (or energy policy, unemployment, boosting the economy, or any other national issue). Most officials and media personnel see the debates as political, between conservatives and liberals.

To a certain extent ⎯ votes in Congress ⎯ this is true. But the real debate is much deeper and broader than politics.

It is about who we are as human beings and where we’re headed as a society. While there are still some supporters of pre-modern or modern views, governments and businesses have so far failed to deliver heaven on earth or even ideal society.

The End of Conservative versus Liberal

For most people today, neither of these institutions are the answer.

When conservatives talk about faith-based initiatives or Republicans tout trickle-down economics, most people are skeptical. Likewise when liberals emphasize anti-corporate measures or Democrats roll out the latest government program.

The result of this growing skepticism characterizes the rise of the independents.

A few independents are anti-government and a few are anti-corporation, but the large majority just want government to do its job, do it well, and stop trying to do everything else.

While there is heated debate over what, exactly, is the government’s job, most independents would settle for good national security, good schools, fiscal responsibility, social equity, and a high-opportunity economy.

While the Left hopes to create a good economy through government programs and the Right through big business initiatives, most independents want both ⎯ along with less regulation on small business.

But this tectonic shift in American society is much bigger than politics. Most Americans, and indeed many around the world, have lost faith in modernism itself, in the promise that big, powerful, man-made institutions⎯be they church, government or corporation⎯can solve our problems.

Indeed, there is a growing sentiment than most big institutions tend to increase the world’s problems.

Business, church and government all have a place in society, the independents say, but none are the “higher” powers we once hoped for.

Postmodernism & Independents

Enter post-modernism. While nearly every person who writes about postmodernism defines it differently, one thing is clear: The fastest growing worldview is not modernism.

That is, postmodernists are of many stripes, but they don’t believe that government or business will save us. Period. And they are the new majority.

Independents are likely to read and champion ideas from both Milton Friedman and Ralph Nader, vote for both Barack Obama and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and quote both Ted Kennedy and Ronald Reagan.

Neither liberals nor conservatives understand them.

What is the cause of this social/cultural/political earthquake?

At least part of it is that independents no longer have a basic faith in the infallibility or fundamental goodness of government or the market. They see a role for both, and feel that both must be limited.

But the biggest shift of all may be that postmodernists and independents have a new faith: “We must save ourselves, at least as far as this world is concerned.”

On one extreme, this means becoming truly self-made, like an Ayn Rand hero, building yourself and your family at the expense of all others.

At another extreme, it includes those who still believe God will save us, but feel that we must live in a way that we deserve to be saved — or at least become worthy to live in a God-made world.

Most postmodernists adopt neither of these — believing instead that we should become our best selves and help the people around us in the process.

“Humanity needs saving, so do your part,” is the growing mantra. If you are in government, do your part and do it well. If you are in business, likewise.

Be a great parent, grandparent, doctor, coach, teacher, policeman, nurse, business owner, fireman, mayor, friend. Whatever your role, do it better.

Some postmodern thinkers, like James Redfield (author of The Celestine Prophecy), promote teams of spiritually-awakened people praying down power from the universe to improve the world.

Others, such as intellectual Ken Wilber, suggest learning the truths found in all fields of knowledge and from all cultures and philosophies⎯ and then integrating them together.

Marianne Williamson says to trust our inner greatness and also in miracles, and many recommend manifesting our personal power to build entrepreneurial wealth and use it to help others.

Nearly every nation and industry has its prophets of manifesting success, from Miguel Ruiz and Carlos Castaneda to Anthony Robbins, Brian Tracy, Peter Senge, Ken Blanchard, Paulo Coelho, Guy Kawasaki, Seth Godin or Steve Jobs.

In retrospect, it probably shouldn’t surprise anyone that the “self-help,” “how to,” “new age,” “success,” “skeptic,” “green” and “secularist” genres would eventually impact the philosophy of modernism. All of them share a faith in self over institutions.

After all, an unproven belief in government or big business is referred to in both “success” and “skeptic” literature as “the victim mentality.”

Even atheistic secularism is now turning its back on blind faith in big government and big corporations, replacing it with a “get ahead together” ethic.

And the debate between national sovereignty and globalism is being replaced with the growing concept of glocalism ⎯ local sovereignty with widespread economic ties.

The Issue Behind the Issues

Where liberals and conservatives are talking about things like health care reform, insurance companies and needy patients, independents are talking a lot about living healthier lifestyles, improved community structures, organic foods, and fresh water.

They want reform, and they want to make healthier choices in their personal lives as well.

Of course, not all independents are postmodernists or “success literature” readers. But few independents now believe that the way to get ahead ⎯ personally or nationally ⎯ is to turn to government, corporate or other institutional answers.

To say it another way: Many independents are postmodernists and don’t even know it yet.

Perhaps surprisingly, most independents want to simultaneously:

  • Succeed economically
  • Help others
  • Heal and protect the environment
  • Keep their nation strong
  • Build friendlier relationships with other nations
  • Expand the freedoms of the marketplace
  • Take care of the needy and the sick
  • Greatly improve schools

They want government to do its part in this, and corporations too, and they believe that they personally can have a significant positive impact on their little corner of making the world much better.

The media will probably continue to describe health care and other issues in modernist “conservative versus liberal” terms. After all, media is a big institution too.

But the reality is incredibly powerful: In the 21st century, faith in big institutions is beginning to wane.

Conservatives routinely label independents as “leftists,” and liberals call them “right wing.” The truth is that most independents are centrists, postmodernists and pragmatists.

More to the point, while almost everyone else is pointing fingers or turning to government or corporations for leadership, independents are quietly and consistently increasing their personal education, holdings and influence.

How to See What is Really Happening

It remains to be seen how all this will play out, but for years to come the real issue behind the issues will be the rising power of independents, most of whom do not have much faith in big institutions.

When they side with a government program, liberals will claim they won with the support of the American people. When independents prefer a market approach, conservatives will claim victory.

In reality, however, winning policies will be those that gain the support of independents.

If you want to know the future of any issue, find out how independents view it. And if it appears that a big-institution issue is winning, find out why independents support it ⎯ they usually support a certain reform, not the institution behind the reform.

Through all the politics and media reports, if current trends continue, faith in and deep support for big institutions will slowly dwindle.

It is unclear exactly what will replace it, but that replacement will be the biggest story of the 21st Century.

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Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

Category : Economics &Featured &Government &Independents &Politics &Postmodernism

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