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Posts Tagged ‘Glenn Greenwald’

Reading this article about US Senate majority leader Harry Reid today, I was reminded of Glenn Greenwald’s analysis of how politics currently operates in Washington, D.C.

In the face of such a political culture, perhaps Mr. Reid will listen, as he drafts his bill, to the exhortation of Baha’u’llah, Whose choice of metaphor is remarkably apt in the current crisis.

O YE the elected representatives of the people in every land! Take ye counsel together, and let your concern be only for that which profiteth mankind, and bettereth the condition thereof, if ye be of them that scan heedfully. Regard the world as the human body which, though at its creation whole and perfect, hath been afflicted, through various causes, with grave disorders and maladies. Not for one day did it gain ease, nay its sickness waxed more severe, as it fell under the treatment of ignorant physicians, who gave full rein to their personal desires, and have erred grievously. And if, at one time, through the care of an able physician, a member of that body was healed, the rest remained afflicted as before. Thus informeth you the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.

We behold it, in this day, at the mercy of rulers so drunk with pride that they cannot discern clearly their own best advantage, much less recognize a Revelation so bewildering and challenging as this. And whenever any one of them hath striven to improve its condition, his motive hath been his own gain, whether confessedly so or not; and the unworthiness of this motive hath limited his power to heal or cure.

That which the Lord hath ordained as the sovereign remedy and mightiest instrument for the healing of all the world is the union of all its peoples in one universal Cause, one common Faith. This can in no wise be achieved except through the power of a skilled, an all-powerful and inspired Physician. This, verily, is the truth, and all else naught but error…

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David Brooks dedicates his column in today’s New York Times to an encomium for Irving Kristol, a founder of the neoconservative movement and, as Brooks tells it, a participant in most of the important philosophical debates of the twentieth century. I don’t know enough about Kristol and his legacy to comment on the accuracy of Brooks’s description, though I do note that Glenn Greenwald has been less than laudatory of some of Kristol’s positions.

Still, two trends that Brooks cited struck my interest: (1) the purpose of liberty in the Anglo-Scottish Enlightenment; (2) the tendency to think that moral and civic problems can be solved by economic means.

The leaders of the Scottish environment hoped that progress might come gradually and organically — if individuals were given the liberty to develop their own responsible habits and if they themselves built institutions to guide them on their way.

Kristol argued that this was the great seduction of modern politics — to believe that problems that were essentially moral and civic could be solved by economic means. They can’t. Political problems, even many economic problems, are, at heart, ethical and cultural problems. And improving the attitudes and virtues of a nation is, at best, a slow, halting process.

(In the first quotation, I assume that Brooks means Scottish enlightenment, rather than Scottish environment, as he has it.)

In its 1985 statement The Promise of World Peace, the Universal House of Justice addressed the issue of achieving peace on a global level.

The primary challenge in dealing with issues of peace is to raise the context to the level of principle, as distinct from pure pragmatism. For, in essence, peace stems from an inner state supported by a spiritual or moral attitude, and it is chiefly in evoking this attitude that the possibility of enduring solutions can be found.
There are spiritual principles, or what some call human values, by which solutions can be found for every social problem. Any well-intentioned group can in a general sense devise practical solutions to its problems, but good intentions and practical knowledge are usually not enough. The essential merit of spiritual principle is that it not only presents a perspective which harmonizes with that which is immanent in human nature, it also induces an attitude, a dynamic, a will, an aspiration, which facilitate the discovery and implementation of practical measures. Leaders of governments and all in authority would be well served in their efforts to solve problems if they would first seek to identify the principles involved and then be guided by them.

The House of Justice here clarifies an underlying dynamic that Brooks touches on in focusing on individuals’ developing “responsible habits” and in noting that many political and economic problems are, “at heart, ethical and cultural problems.” Indeed, for society to flourish, it is necessary that individuals develop responsible habits, and as the House of Justice indicates, “peace stems from an inner state supported by a spiritual or moral attitude.” The House of Justice goes on to explain that the focus on and use of “spiritual principle” is necessary to resolve economic and political problems. Thus, Brooks (or at least his language) doesn’t go quite far enough in attributing political and economic problems to “ethical and cultural problems.”

If we are to make progress, we must imbue ourselves, our communities, and our institutions with spiritual principles, those moral values that will enable us to avoid disastrous pitfalls and to tackle seemingly intractable problems. If we are to have peace, the ultimate end of social progress, we must cultivate the inner state of peace in the soil of a spiritual attitude.

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