Thinking Citizen Blog — Saturday is Justice, Freedom, Law, and Values Day
Today’s Topic: Four Big Principles: can not can’t, we not “us versus them,” now not then, focus upstream
Progress comes from focusing on the shared, the positive, and the future. Some posts are reporting posts — often summaries of articles that caught my eye with the excerpts reorganized into a standardized format of digestible chunks — others try to distill vast amounts of research and thought into a few nuggets. This is one of the latter. To read The New York Times and the Boston Globe daily as I do is to be overwhelmed with lamentations over the state of the world and invectives against the evil doers and the selfish bad guys. So what else is new? If it bleeds it leads. Well, today’s post is about remembering four things that are of primary importance. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
CAN, NOT CAN’T — the deprivation of agency and the toxin of dependency
1. In the story of Heidi, a young girl, Clara, is kept in a wheel chair by the strict house keeper, Fraulein Rottenmeier, because if Clara was able to walk on her own, she would no longer need Rottenmeier’s services. Heidi, a young girl Clara’s age, breaks the house rules and teaches Clara to walk.
2. Self reliance was a huge theme for Frederick Douglass, the great black abolitionist. Leave us alone. We can take care of ourselves. That was in the late 19th century.
3. It has also been a major theme of black nationalists from Marcus Garvey to Elijah Muhammed to the Black Power movement in the 20th century.
NB: But, equally it has been a theme of those who have pressed for a focus on economic advancement rather than political action such as Booker T. Washington. And for the black economists Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams. And our only black Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas.
WE, NOT US VERSUS THEM — in unity, there is strength, hope, love
1. Focus on the 99.9999% that we share not the .0001 we don’t.
2. Race is not a scientific concept. Who is in? Who is out? This is a rabbit hole leading to very dark places.
3. Universality and reciprocity are the twin pillars of justice.
NB: Respect, like life and justice, is a two way street.
NOW, NOT THEN
1. Learning from the past is healthy. Holding individuals today responsible for wrongs committed in the past by others who had the same skin color is not.
2. Obsessing about past grievances leads to places like Verona in the 14th century described by Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet or more recently by the slaughter of the elite Tutsis by the majority Hutus in Rwanda.
3. In Rwanda, today, it is illegal to talk about ethnicity. This may be going too far. But when is enough, enough? Does affirmative action have a statute of limitations or not? If not, really? What could be more disempowering?
1. The classic public health parable is to go the source to stop a problem. Focus on prevention. Intervene sooner.
2. The best graphic to associate with this idea is the Heckman Curve. The earlier an intervention in a child’s life the higher the return on investment.
3. Parental education is absolutely key to equality of opportunity for children. Parents are the most important teachers and they teach by example. The paradox: to put kids first is to put parents first.
NB: The purpose of the “What Matters” project can be seen as an exercise in the education of parents and future parents — to distill for them the wisdom of past generations so that they can pass that wisdom on to their children.
A LINK TO THE LAST THREE YEARS OF POSTS ORGANIZED BY THEME:
Please share the coolest thing you learned in the last week related to justice, freedom, the law or basic values. Or the coolest, most important thing you learned in your life related to justice, freedom, the law, or basic values. Or just some random justice-related fact that blew you away.
This is your chance to make some one’s day. Or to cement in your mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply about something dear to your heart.