Sunday, February 20, 2011

What are the values that matter?

What are the values that matter these days, that you can stake your politics on? Any answer quickly runs up against the terrible slipperiness of our favorite big-idea words – freedom, peace, truth and the like. Everybody defines them as they like. The question is, which bundle of definitions is claiming the most adherents? So as I offer my list, I too am working to claim these grand-narrative terms:

Freedom: democratic values and open possibilities

Peace: nonaggression despite risks

Compassion: active care for those less well-off than you

Innovation and tradition: the evolution of new things, married to the continuing influence of collected wisdom

Common truth: current science, and collected peaceful wisdom, combined as the best guide to reality as we know it

Equality: our rights equal, and our different stations in life earned by merit

Renewability: earth’s dynamic and living systems allowed to sustain us without their permanent degradation

Justice: applying collected wisdom compassionately to guide matters responsibly

If we want to end by dipping our toe in the waters that, all things considered, I see as in the realm of spiritual belief, we could sum it up with:

Love: care for all.

Relative to the Arab freedom movement of 2012 – the Arab 1776:

I’m not sure what the current thinking is in Tel Aviv and Washington, but it occurs to me that if Israel’s foreign policy senses the strangely emerging freedom of Arab peoples primarily as a threat, it’s time for Israel to get a new foreign policy. If Washington is inclined to share that view when thinking on Israel’s behalf, it’s time for Washington to get a new foreign policy. After all, nothing matters more than democratic values. Right?