In God ??? We Trust

I read an intriguing story in Citizen Renaissance the other day about the upward trend in trust for institutions in the UK, but not in the US. The shift of Trust in institutions from West to East continues, as the emerging economies of Brazil, China and India begin to translate their economic strength and authority into tangible Trust numbers. Meanwhile, the US – now officially a sceptical nation – dips to a new Trust low, pretty much alongside Russia. Together with the UK and Ireland, the US sees a (not unexpected) freefall in Trust for its Banking Sector since 2008 (with Ireland scoring an all-time Barometer low of 6% in… Read More

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Reflecting after the SOTU Speech

The themes of the President’s State of the Union speech that stood out most for me were: we can win the future and many references to the American Dream. I voted for Obama and am a loyal Democrat, but I cannot accept all this rhetoric as a positive steps toward the goals I believe I share with him. I appreciate the need to tread lightly upon the steps of political correctness, and offer a positive image at the same time. But “win the future” is a very poor rallying cry. Ontologically and grammatically, it is doesn’t work. We might be able to win in the future, whatever winning means. It… Read More

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Still Trying to Go One Up On Nature

The Boston Globe carried a story yesterday about a the efforts of a group of scientists working to release the secrets of plant genomes. The aim, says the author Carolyn Johnson, is to figure out what makes dark chocolate so good and solve other mysteries of taste and flavor. > “We can breed potentially for types of plants with higher levels of a certain kind of flavor — fruity notes, raisiny notes, nutty notes . . . it will help us to understand the genetic basis of flavor,’’ said Mark Guiltinan, a professor of plant molecular biology at Pennsylvania State University. “Especially the gourmet, high-end chocolate manufacturers are interested.’’ Not… Read More

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Unfulfilled Promises

Picking up from the last post, the second question David asked a few blogs ago was to clarify my statement, “Sustainability, based on flourishing, is a vision rising from a world of unfulfilled promises.” I need to lay out a few premises underlying this statement first. One clue comes from this famous verse from Robert Browning’s poem “Pippa Passes” that I used to lead off the first chapter in my book. > The year’s at the spring > And day’s at the morn; > Morning’s at seven; > The hill-side’s dew-pearled > The lark’s on the wing; > The snail’s on the thorn; > God’s in his Heaven – >… Read More

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Domination Keeps Flourishing at Bay

David commented on the last post asking me to expand on two statements: 1) Flourishing needs a non-dominating culture to appear. 2) Sustainability, based on flourishing, is a vision rising from a world of unfulfilled promises. I’ll take on the first one today. Flourishing, as I have been using it, refers to a state of Being in which the individual realizes a sense of wholeness or completion or perfection. The cares of the world recede for a moment or more. The positive psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihali defines it as “flow,” a condition of “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action,… Read More

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Anger, Violence, and Shame

Matt Bai, writing in the NYTimes today, asks a question that is on many minds in the aftermath of the Tucson tragedy, “Is the Anger Gone?” For anyone who hoped that the tragedy in Tucson might jolt the political class into some new period of civility and reflection, suddenly subduing all the radio ranters and acid bloggers, the days that followed brought a cold reality. He, like many others, is referring to the superficial tone of all public, not just political, rhetoric. If it were more civil, it would enable a wider range of responsiveness, but the apparent civility would only hide the angry tone of life in the US… Read More

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So Much for CSR

I often write about the failure to move towards sustainability in spite of the best intentions of the actor. What is advertised as some kind of greening activities or a form of corporate social responsibility (CSR) turns into greenwashing whether intended or not. Muhammad Yunus won the Nobel prize for creating and providing microcredit, a rare and outstanding example of the business sector providing a model with the primary goal of alleviating poverty, one of the most critical steps in moving towards sustainability. Yunus’s model, which was build on a new form of bank that he founded in Bangladesh, was not only a pure form of corporate social responsibility, but… Read More

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Free Will and Violence?

The aftermath of the Tucson shootings continues to demonstrate that our [public] understanding of why people do what they do still rests on an old model. To say that people’s actions are entirely internally motivated is to ignore much evidence to the contrary. I am not writing this to take aim at the specifics nor partisan aspects of the discussion, but to argue that all are off target. To say that one is not responsible for the consequences of some action is not the same as saying that societal norms play no part. Anthropologists and sociologists have long noted that community norms are very strong motivators of private acts. In… Read More

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Why are we so angry?

David Brooks argues today that it’s a mistake to attribute the shooting in Tucson to political vitriol. The shooter, he writes, shows every sign of being a violent schizophrenic, motivated by something other than the current angry political rhetoric. Thus, it is a case of overkill (intended) to blame one’s political opponents and their spokespeople in the media for the tragedy. He writes, In short, the evidence before us suggests that Loughner was locked in a world far removed from politics as we normally understand it. Yet the early coverage and commentary of the Tucson massacre suppressed this evidence. The coverage and commentary shifted to an entirely different explanation: Loughner… Read More

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