"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

Let's between us make the world a better place.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Towards A Wiser Politics

Let’s be honest.
Our political systems really don’t seem to be doing very much for us these days, if we can judge these by our happiness, by the many intransigent social problems seemingly endemic in our populations, by the harm we are doing to ourselves and the planet. Our patterns of consumption, our profligate use of food and water and energy, are unsustainable. Our policies and our behavior combined seem to conspire in racing us towards a totally bleak future for humanity.
What has gone wrong?

I have just finished reading a review copy of a splendid and important book, due out in April, called A Wiser Politics, by Jean Hardy. “For all those who have been looking for a new politics, this is it!” proclaims Satish Kumar, Editor of Resurgence, and I have to agree.

Here is a most carefully reasoned but also intuitive and feeling book. Although it is written around the history of British political philosophy, don't let that deter you if you are in the United States or indeed anywhere else.  It is of a far wider relevance, because Western economic and political values have become pervasive throughout the globe, affecting the lives of the vast majority of people now living. 

The problem seems to be that our whole political philosophy is rooted historically to a time when man ruled supreme, women had no voice, from a time when man was seen as inherently warlike and competitive, needing an authoritarian society, always chasing wealth and glory and power, owning and exploiting the earth as if it were there for our own sole use. Politics was largely secular and rational, and assumed the superiority of the white rich male, usurping all those others; the feminine, the indigenous, the spiritual, who in all probability held a deeper and superior vision of life.

In this well reasoned book Hardy argues for a more connected politics, that embraces the Cosmos (universe and earth), the Polis (Greek for political and social world), and the Psyche (who we are). She traces the history of modern politics through the last 400 years, exploring the lives and times of those who wrote it

We are missing in our politics the feminine (politics still being largely male dominated), indigenous wisdom, consideration of the earth and all its creatures, a sense of the spiritual and the holistic, and an appreciation that concepts of human nature and behaviour are subject to new knowledge and now understood differently. Most interestingly, and important in this respect, Hardy draws attention to the psychological effects on children of their upbringing. There is plenty of evidence now that we are shaped by how we are nurtured, that the empathy and love bestowed upon us in our earliest years is crucial to the way we behave in later years.

A pattern emerges of the childhoods of those men who shaped today’s political world, showing that they suffered discontinuance, trauma or uncertain childhoods by any definition, lacking in the security of emotional ties. Indeed, it would be legitimate to argue, and Hardy does, that the root of all war lies in the lack of time and perception given to children, and in the positive neglect, disruption and cruelty experienced by others. It is certainly easy to see that most if not all world problems can be traced to the agency of humankind, and could be solved by changes in our behaviour.

She calls for a new way of governance, that will embrace the conscious and unconscious, the dark and the golden, a greater breadth of knowledge across all disciplines. The separation of science from religion, person from universe, feeling from intellect, are now being questioned. Depth psychology is showing us a way to a kinder, wider and deeper way of relating to the world. We need more interconnectedness, relationship with the spirit in all things. We need to demolish the myth that success is measured by material wealth. Modern science, politics and economy between them are powerful, but unsustainable and even immoral. We don’t love the earth enough so we need legislation to protect it from ourselves – and so on.

The book concludes with a list of 14 proposals for the framework of a wiser politics, a list of truths that Hardy says we must live out if we are to survive the twenty first century. I will post these over the next few weeks.

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