Author’s Note: Hi everybody! Welcome to a participatory diary. That’s right, participatory. I’m offering this up as an exercise for everyone to try. The original text is an explanation of the exercise and why I’m suggesting it, followed by a couple of examples. Then, it’s up to you to complete the diary. Add comments with your own examples and I’ll build out the diary with your content. Let’s see what the whole feels like when we make an attempt to respond to the State of the Union address together. When we make a conscious effort to dig into the principles we find buried in the speech and compare them to the principles we would like to live by, how aligned do they feel?
We’ve heard a lot of responses this week to President Obama’s State of the Union Address. What I find persistently frustrating with any US political speech the lack of unpacking the “capitalist”, “democratic” and “American Way” framework. Or rather, the lack of establishing the principles behind what is being said to see whether it’s fits with the principles and values that we hold.
I have not framed this diary as an “anti-capitalist” one. I am suggesting that regardless of how you feel about capitalism, you might find it useful to analyze what another capitalist is saying by setting aside the supposed common ground of capitalism and searching for what values are reflected in what is being said. Capitalism isn’t a value. It’s a type of economic system. When we identify as a capitalist, however, we probably attach a value system to that identity. What I’m wondering here is whether everyone attaches the same value system. Do you even know if the speaker has the same value system as you?
I am someone who gets frustrated when people try to make decisions or solve problems together without establishing their shared principles. “Capitalism” is not a principle. Principles are about values and beliefs. They are guides to how we behave, how we treat one another. You could claim to be a capitalist and believe that everyone has a right to food and shelter. You could claim to be a capitalist and believe that food and shelter are not rights, they must be “earned.” Those are mutually exclusive principles which two different people are claiming as part of the capitalist construct. If they simply greet each other as capitalists, it is possible for them to think they are aligned when they are not. This opens the door for misunderstanding, at best, and deception, manipulation and oppression, at worst.
Is that happening in this speech? The answer to that and the places where we feel it is happening may be different for each person. Hence, the participatory nature of this diary. What feels unaligned for me may feel aligned for you and vice versa. But, perhaps, we’ll find some common threads of values that we would like to see underpinning our governance and social life. Perhaps ….