Friday, January 14, 2011

Complex Division

That America is a country greatly divided is being discussed in the papers since yet another madman has show us that we have more to fear from homegrown crazies than we do from foreign terrorists in our airplanes. In today's NYTimes Paul Krugman quotes part of Pres. Obama's eloquent speech about what Americans need to do: "expand our moral imaginations, listen to each other more carefully ... remind ourselves of all the ways or hopes and dreams are bound together." Krugman feels this is whistling in the wind for Americans are hopelessly divided in their moral imaginations and understanding of hopes and dreams. It seems to me that the majority of people do not want to listen more carefully to others ro expand their moral imaginations. Nothing is scarier to most people than giving up the moral imagination that guides their lives. What others are saying is terrifying as it implies we may have to give up some of the shaky certainties of our lives. Others are so different that we can demonize them and contemplate violence against them as the only way to allay our disatisfactions. It's a scary world out there.

The Atlantic
by Christia Freeland that not only quotes Fitzgerald but goes to considerable length showing just how different the super rich are becoming from all the rest of us. They so rich that one wife says $20 million a year is not enough [for the four houses, the jet and their life style]. Freeland points out that it is not only American super rich but those worldwide from Russia to Singapore to Abu Dhabi to Park Avenue. These people are unlike any super rich in the past. Most are self-made, not benficiaries of past wealth. Some are in fact, relatively young, in their 40s, even 30s. They relate to one another, not to the populace of their own countries. They DO practice philanthropy -- or at least many of them do. The gap between those super rich and the normal working person grows wider all the time. Most of the working people do not really know about the super rich; they think sports and movie stars with their income in the one digit millions a year are super rich. I invite you to click that link in the side bar and read the article.

Which is finally to say that we are not only a divided country, we are an increasingly divided world. Is there any point in reading widely as I do? Does knowing these things add anything positive to my life? Or is it all negative? I think knowledge is always positive, but that it's important to keep in mind all knowledge is partial and multifaceted. I don't have answers but I always have questions. And often astonishment at the pieces of answers I find.



June -- an excellent post on our divided culture. I agree with Krugman in some respects.

The only response to your post I can think of right now is a quote of Terry Tempest Williams -- "Finding beauty in a broken world is creating beauty in the world we find."

Your beauty is what creates beauty for you -- beauty in the larger sense. Perhaps that beauty is knowing part of the reality of the world with all its blemishes. You don't have to adopt those blemishes -- only know of them -- and create your own beauty sans the blemishes. I define beauty as truth and love.
Just some of my ramblings. -- barbara

June Calender said...

Barbara - I would love to sit down with you -- maybe on a front porch glider with a glass of lemonade on a summer day -- and have a long conversation. Thanks for comment, I'll think on beauty and how I'd define it.

Anonymous said...


I don't particularly like Krugman. He has flipped from one side to the other and apparently forgot what he knew on the "other" side. I agree that the world is divided, however. Even with that division, more people live better today, at least in the West, than did even 200 years ago. So much has been changed, so much is improved. And, sadly, many things seem worse than ever. The truth may be that things are just different, not worse.

I like to think of the glass as half full. What good does envy do? I can barely manage the house I have which by the standards of my neighbors is small.

We are average and have average fixed incomes (half of our income is Social Security) which grow relatively smaller every year, but we like to think of ourselves as "blessed." It is all in your outlook. How much is enough? All of my needs are met, although some of my wants may never be satisfied. I am for getting rid of want.

June Calender said...

Schmidley, thanks for your thoughts. Your talk about envy and want wasn't what I was talking about but it's pertinent anyway. You'd like to get rid of want, another word for desire -- this is the goal of Buddhism. The are in a different moral place than most Americans.

I think a lot about those who are not in first world countries and are not insulated from ongoing hunger, physical danger and devastating disease. I've traveled a good bit and have seen the disparity between countries where the average daily weekly wage is less than $20 and the people who are my neighbors [all in the middle class of America]. While that division in the world exists I find most wants [my own included] morally wrong.


June -- A glider on a porch with lemonade would make a nice setting for good conversation. Your topics are very thought provoking. Aging and beauty among the latest. Here is a link to a video that would, I think, give us lots of discussion material. It is from the TED site that contains
thinking videos. Hang with this video -- it pays off as it goes along. I won't disclose what it is about -- but I believe you will like it -- one needs to watch the whole thing -- it's about 10 to 15 minutes long.

-- barbara


June, the link address for the TED video did not copy in my past comment. Here it is again:

-- barbara