The dangers of an unchecked Pursuit of Happiness

In this world, gratitude to the past and obligations to the future are replaced by a nearly universal pursuit of immediate gratification: culture, rather than imparting the wisdom and experience of the past so as to cultivate virtues of self-restraint and civility, becomes synonymous with hedonic titillation, visceral crudeness, and distraction, all oriented toward promoting consumption, appetite and detachment. As a result, superficially self-maximizing, socially destructive behaviors begin to dominate society.

Why Liberalism Failed, by Patrick J. Deneen, pg 39

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“The leader who dislikes investigators is a potential tyrant”

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From On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder; presented without comment on a day in which the President of a nation that preserves the freedom of the press in the First Amendment to the Constitution continues his crackdown on and disrespect for any journalist who tries to hold power to account:

“What is truth?” Sometimes people ask this question because they wish to do nothing. Generic cynicism makes us feel hip and alternative even as we slip along with our fellow citizens into a morass of indifference. It is your ability to discern facts that makes you an individual, and our collective trust in common knowledge that makes us a society. The individual who investigates is also the citizen who builds. The leader who dislikes investigators is a potential tyrant.

The better print journalists allow us to consider the meaning, for ourselves and our country, of what might otherwise seem to be isolated bits of information. But while anyone can repost an article, researching and writing is hard work that requires time and money. Before you deride the “mainstream media,” note that it is no longer the mainstream. It is derision that is mainstream and easy, and actual journalism that is edgy and difficult. So try for yourself to write a proper article, involving work in the real world: traveling, interviewing, maintaining relationships with sources, researching in written records, verifying everything, writing and revising drafts, all on a tight and unforgiving schedule. If you find you like doing this, keep a blog. In the meantime, give credit to those who do all of that for a living. Journalists are not perfect, any more than people in other vocations are perfect. But the work of people who adhere to journalistic ethics is of a different quality than the work of those who do not.

Go Vote

img_1015It’s Election Day in America. You should go vote today.

As I said the other day, I voted early, and in spite of my general pessimism about the good that can be done politically for the needs of the world.

But I still think you should go vote. And when you do, here’s what you should be thinking about.

Think about voting for the person who wants to really help other people, in actual, material ways.

Avoid voting for the person who thinks helping people means hurting them, demonizing them, taking something away from them, or restricting them.

Vote for the person who centers compassion, mercy, justice and love.

Avoid voting for the person who centers economic growth, profit margins, and the building up of worldly treasures.

Vote for the person who speaks positively of our communal life together, as a society and as people dependent on relationship and community for thriving.

Avoid voting for the person who promotes a “go it alone” ethos, who touts rugged individualism and every-man-for-himself type ideas.

Vote for the person who demonstrates sympathy and concern for the hurting, the sick, the immigrant, the stranger, the weak, and the destitute.

Avoid voting for the person who encourages envy and emulation of the powerful, the strong, the rich, and the ruthless.

And most of all, remember that your duty to your fellow human beings doesn’t end when you walk out of the polling place. In fact, it’s just beginning. As John Howard Yoder once wrote, “(Voting) is one way, one of the weaker and vaguer ways, to speak truth to power.” Challenging entrenched power, and building a better world that works for everyone on it, involves so much more than your vote. It involves you building relationships, practicing love, desiring justice, and working in any large or small way you can for the world you want to see.

Go vote today.