Part I: Amerca, Who Are We?
Part II: An Answer
Now go on to Quatrenal Part II
Part I: America, Who Are We?
Part II: An Answer
THE QUATRENAL (CO-CREATIVE) PRINCIPLE
21st CENTURY PHILOSOPHY
Theophilos (Terry) Green
America is the land of diverse cultures from around the world. We have grown from a small string of European colonies to become the world’s most powerful nation. Over our short history, we have struggled to live up to the values expressed within the documents that outline who we believe we shall be as a people; the Constitution of the United States, and the Bill of Rights. Nowadays, too many of us feel that we are a very long way away from the nation that these documents declare us to be. Our focus today is more centered on a hustle and bustle of changing phenomena flashed before us in glyphs on a rectangular viewing screen, and attended like an altar in a prominent place in our homes called the living room, than we are seeking to build a national identity. We must now ask ourselves, where are we going as a national culture, as a national society, as a nation of people? Is what we experience as a people destined to survive as classical phenomena; or, are we just biding our time, waiting for some monumental structure to evolve on its own that will give great meaning to our national efforts? Must we focus on a national meaning to our efforts or is it safe for now to ride the newest bandwagon that comes along until its popular tune is played out? Do we now need a national philosophy or a national purpose that unites us to compete with a new intensity on an international scale; or do we merely continue to react to stresses imposed upon us by external forces and events, influences and interests?
These questions are not new to us. They have even been asked repeatedly by several prominent political figures, from conservative Barry Goldwater to liberal Ted Kennedy, and many others in between the extremes of the political spectrum. Still, these questions go on un-addressed and unanswered. Now, there is a growing sense that we are losing something very basic to our survival as a strong and united people. We can no longer rely on the traditional rallying cry of negative reinforcements through negative campaigns from competing interests, or crisis manipulation from vested interest groups to mold our national consciousness. We have grown weary of that kind of prodding, insensitive to its purposes and distrustful of those who continue to package it for our consumption. Neither can we be easily motivated by pep rallies and campaign rhetoric because our requirements for inspiration have gotten too sophisticated. “We the people” are maturing politically. Therefore, the question still remains: to what or to whom do we turn to get us out of this growing sense of “lethargy of purpose” as we head into the 21st Century?
It’s a historical irony, as well as a constant theme in folklore and fairy tale, that teaches us that when the strong and powerful people can no longer solve the riddles of the age they are living in, the silent and forgotten may be more able to answer the call for great achievement.
In the fifties, when this nation found itself in the awkward position of being the greatest military and economic power on the face of the earth after World War II, we also knew that we were a long way away from providing liberty and justice for all of our citizens. But that time saw the emergence of men and women who stepped forward to meet those challenges and needs. Ordinary people, without traditional power and authority, grew to the tasks at hand – one of the most prominent of note being Martin Luther King Jr.
The sixties brought forth other challenges that called for new voices to speak out. Ordinary college students spoke out against war, while our fighting men bled in loyal service to their country only to return to unjust treatment at home. Ordinary people went off to fight and die in defense of our nation’s “national interest”, while those at home fought to refocus that “interest” for future generations. All the fallout from that time is still far from being settled.
The seventies saw a political crisis in the form of Watergate, and an “old-fashioned Southern Country lawyer” by the name of Sam Irving guided the Congressional Hearings – and the nation – through that storm and gave us confidence that our system of government is a sound one.
The eighties were a time of great rebirth for political conservatives. It was a time when many of their forgotten dreams were realized and their heroes were able to shine once more. However, a core element of conservative thinking was abandoned that has grown to plague us even to this day. The abandonment of fiscal conservatism by the nation’s conservatives in the eighties for the sake of thrashing their liberal opponents has shown us just how painful Watergate was to swallow for the conservatives in the seventies. Taking advantage of Ronald Reagan’s great oratory abilities, the new conservative movements made the common man feel like he was part of a national rebirth movement. However, as social programs dried up, and the cost of living skyrocketed out of control, more and more American’s begun to fall through the so-called safety net. For the first time in America scores of families began to find themselves facing the reality that homelessness was just a paycheck away.
It was hard to argue about the nation’s ills in the middle of the great patriotic struggle against the Soviet’s evil empire, especially when it appeared that we were winning that struggle; but at what cost? Those who tried to put a halt to the nation’s red ink, in the name of social justice just appeared too pessimistic and too liberal for that time. However, there had been so much pessimism and frustration dominating the nation in the late seventies that it was somewhat refreshing, even if only for a short while, to see it replaced by the figure of an optimist like Ronald Reagan.
The nineties were a time of great confusion and distractions. We started out winning a war in the Middle East. But the military war and even the political wars were overshadowed by the cultural war between the conservatives and liberals. The liberals would argue that the conservatives had been hijacked by the agenda of the religious right, and the conservatives would argue that the feminists and civil libertarians had hijacked the liberals. I am one American who became angry with both sides because I am a part of both sides. My heart may go out to the feminists and civil libertarians, but my soul belongs to the religious right. When I was growing up, my heroes were all right wing religious conservatives; but they let me down during the sixties and seventies. Few religious conservatives stood up for the needed changes during the Civil Rights struggle, and many of them appeared to object to the pace of social change. Few religious conservatives objected to the findings of the Warren Commission and many of them appeared to support it as the truth. Few religious conservatives questioned the war in Vietnam, and many of their children felt that they had to stop the abuses of a nation against its youth by protesting against that war. When the feminist movement began to show just how unequal women were in this country, and the civil libertarians pushed for more equality for all, I grew more and more uncomfortable because my father was a right wing religious conservative. I am strongly sympathetic to both sides. And I grow more and more upset by the uncivil exchange on both sides.
When I watched the impeachment of President Clinton on television in the late nineties, I just heard echoes of arguments over the war in Vietnam and more echoes of the Watergate hearings. There was also the faint echo of a President’s murder. When the President of the United States was murdered, and “we the people” were forced to swallow the findings of the Warren Commission, “we the people” lost our innocence but the nation lost its soul; and “we the nation” have been struggling to find our soul ever since then. When a democratic people know that their nation is lying to them, they no longer have faith in that nation, which means that they no longer have faith in each other. It also means that the nation then has to struggle for decades to understand what it has really lost before it can come to terms with itself, heal itself, and start anew.
Entering into the 21st Century, it becomes evident that we have been so preoccupied with fighting among ourselves that we have become extremely vulnerable to threats from external foes. Our cold war victory over the Soviet Union only peeled back one of the layers of opposition to our dominant presence in this world. Military and economic strength alone will not win us the respect and peace that we so desperately desire from the rest of the world. However, we will continue to be vulnerable to external threats as long as we are so divided at home. Therefore, we “as a nation of people” must come to the realization that something deep within our national soul and character is trying to reach the surface to address our vulnerability by seeking ways to find self-expression. Perhaps it is seeking out a spokesperson. Many will be called, but only a few will be chosen before that one person or group emerges to speak for the nation and define that which is struggling to emerge.
With more organizations being created to launch newer efforts to stop old abuses that we knowingly and unknowingly have been inflicting upon each other, we grow closer to the realization that as people of a nation, (like a child seeking greater self-awareness) we are experiencing national maturing pains. Therefore, as homeland security and anti-terrorism plus the world economy and outsourcing jobs versus protectionism and citizens’ rights advocacy become the new national passion, the challenge of the 21st century directs us towards a resolution of the past and a preparation for the future in unprecedented ways. And, as we begin to capture a vision of this nation’s emerging spirit in the 21st century, and become the people who that spirit will bear, that spirit will take us well into a purer destiny. Hopefully, an adequate number of us will have awakened enough to begin to understand the symbiotic relationship between that spirit, this nation’s greater purpose, and ourselves. With that understanding we will look back at these times and the past decades as mere adolescent steps towards the maturation of ourselves as a nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all; and be able to teach the rest of the world about how true democratic people treat each other and how their government treats its entire people.
As we – who are the nation – mature and become more conscious of our past mistakes, we will seek ways to correct them. However, because we now identify so much with our international image as an economic and military giant among nations, a superpower, too many of the solutions to our national problems are based upon simplistic economic or law and order guidelines. We are under the false impression that we can either pay our way out of problems or legislate them away. We have even moved away from our traditional civil dialogue and discourse, and adopted the European style of tabloid “in your face” social exchange and discourse. While we are becoming more old Europe style Americans every day, European nations are moving away from their old antagonisms towards each other towards a “European Union” and adopting a more anti-American front. What we have overlooked is the human factor and the problems caused by the disorientation of the American people.
All the divisions that have isolated us into separate interest groups, exacerbated by the economic realignments of the eighties and nineties perpetuate the perception that we are unraveling as a people. The fact is that as a people, we are unraveling the mystery that is the United States of America.
This nation is evolving, and it is happening at the fringes of our perception; we can barely see the forces at work. As it evolves, the uncertainties that confront us, its people, are tearing at the fabric of our lives and not enough of us are prepared to cope with the emerging realities.
Long ago, we severed the ties of political domination by our European cousins. However, we have remained loyal to Europe’s old patriarchal philosophy of which the dominance of an elite “western man” over all other people is the natural order. It is not “western man” the person, it is only his patriarchal philosophy, and the institutions that have grown up to serve and protect the ideas which evolved out of that philosophy that are under attack in America. The once formidable institutions that held the underclass in awe are now under siege, and the philosophical base that supported the foundation of an elite patriarchal culture is slowly crumbling away. Ordinary people of these United States are scrutinizing the imperial nature of this patriarchal philosophy as never before, and it will not survive the light of their scrutiny.
After struggling for so long to belong, and seeing financial and legislative solutions fail to make them a part of the “American Dream”, more and more of America’s common people are seeking new dreams that address their own needs. The need for meaning and purpose, as well as the urgent need for personal creativity is the driving force behind a whole new struggle. Some describe this new struggle as a selfishly motivated backlash against all that is sacred in America; and say that it represents the forces of destruction. Others see it as the beginning of a “New Age of Awareness”. These two extremes describe where this nation now stands philosophically. One group, the "Old Guard”, is trying to keep the new group, the “New Age”, from gaining ground.
As stated earlier, I am the product of right wing religious conservative thinking, and I strive to see things through the eyes of that kind of thinking. Yet, I must give respect to the changing forces in this nation that challenges the thinking upon which I was raised. However, I still feel the need to protect those who raised me from the harsh rhetoric that is being thrown in their direction.
This document therefore tries to strike a balance and thereby tries not to argue unfairly for one side over the other, nor does it attempt to use the language of one side over the other. Rather, it tries to strike a balance between opposing forces and give strength to the best of those forces while avoiding the prejudices of both. Therefore, a new set of principles is explored, and a different approach to understanding “who we are” is attempted.
WHO ARE WE:
Historically, America has been the place of refuge for the rest of the world, the place of hopes and dreams, for starting over; the place for escaping oppression for the rest of the world; the place where there is rule of law rather than the despotic rule of man. But where do Americans go to start over, rebuild their lives, or escape forms of oppression? In the past, many Americans found refuge in “the West” and particularly in California. But “The West” and California’s golden image has faded dramatically due to overcrowded conditions and changing economic realities. Now it appears that many Americans have become somewhat nomadic as they wander aimlessly from one region of the nation to the other in search of “a better life for themselves and their children”. However, because Americans find themselves defined more and more by what they do to earn a living and less and less by basic principles they live by, the “better life” is often only a reference to financial interests rather than an outlook on cultural or social progress.
Author Neil Postman outlines how the printing press transformed the minds of ordinary Europeans from an oral based philosophy, with its myths and superstitions, to a typographical based philosophy in his book, Amusing Ourselves to Death. Within this typographical based philosophy, written ideas became rules of law that were tested and improved over time. Public opinion took time to form and the public’s opinion of what constituted celebrity status was based primarily on long and tested achievement. It appeared as if everyone was a dreamer, if not for themselves then they had dreams for their children. In America, as in Europe, the typographical based philosophy created a sense of historical perspective for those who turned to books to find meaning and purpose; the Bible becoming the most published reading material.
However, Neil Postman also writes that contemporary America has adopted a totally new philosophy. This new philosophy was provided to us by what initially appeared to be a very benign and innocent image presentation technology. Today, the technology has become the master, and we have become its servants.
The ordinary American now watches more television per year than participate in any other activity. We are losing our ability to dream for ourselves and are adopting images of life, love, and truth from television as our own. But television is not the message, it’s only the medium, and the images provided are primarily to entertain and sell products, not to educate and enlighten. Mr. Postman describes how the resulting Philosophy of Amusement has created an “Age of Show Business” where the basic format for almost all-public exchange has become one of entertainment.
In light of such revelations it is small wonder that the necessary attention to detail required to sustain public institutions and private industry on the cutting edge of development can no longer be maintained. Middle America, the bedrock upon which this nation stands firm or stumbles miserably is squeezed and milked every day for its continued loyalty and support for a value system that is so dysfunctional that almost all middle income families no longer see the future offering a better life. More and more Americans see life as a big gamble, where quirkiness and irreverence is required of unknowns to get attention; the lucky ones end up as entertainers while the unlucky ones end up in jail. Thus the basic question still remains. Who are we? Or better still, who or what are we becoming? And to whom do we make our appeal to be rescued from our condition? …
The only answer to these questions nowadays is that we are becoming a nation of entertainers who preach the Philosophy of Amusement, because we are becoming more concerned about mere images and appearances than substance and knowledge. An example of this today is that whenever an issue of world or national importance is presented via the news media, an army of “Spin Doctors” emerge from all sides of the issue at hand to re-shape the images implied by such information as it relates to their image as a special interest group. Therefore, since we cannot trust the image worshippers enough to let them lead us forward, we must turn to today’s silent and forgotten people for help. We need to look to those who seek knowledge for and of themselves above amusement, and who are not bored by the work requirements of self-discovery and self-improvement through self-discipline.
These silent and forgotten people know that what is required of them today is not to feed into the unrealistic expectations of those who package heroes, role models, and celebrity status based on images or romantic infatuations, fashion statement, sex appeal, and artistic flair. They will not follow the image maker’s interpretation of what an American “National Philosophy” is supposed to look and sound like. They know from personal experience that growth takes time and growth and maturation on a national scale cannot be artificially induced into a population by images designed to work like simple commercial ads that operate through suggestive persuasiveness.
The ability to step back from one's own existence and observe the hand of Creation in everything: to see a role for oneself within Creation; to be co-creative.
To take an active and responsible role within Creation: seeing one's role as an extension of the Trinity, with awesome responsibilities towards the Creator, towards others, and towards oneself. To live a life as if it is the seed from which the Creator calls forth His/Her Angels.
Upon the fringes of perception, a new awareness is emerging that better describes the maturing American consciousness. The truth is, as we mature so does our nation's conscious awareness. Therefore, our nation's well-being depends upon the health of "we the people" individually as well as our relationships with each other, because "we the people" are the individual cells that make up the body of this nation; just as the individual souls of "we the people" make up the spirit of this nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
The best that can be done is to graphically outline the different stages of development that today’s silent and forgotten people have evolved through, by constructing “An Answer”. This graphic answer will give a definitive name to their unique level of understanding, present a historical/dimensional context to that level of understanding, and attempt to show theoretically how this group’s level of understanding can benefit our nation’s future’.