Monday, April 20, 2009

Senator Eric Schneiderman - Integral Activism

Senator Eric Schneiderman (D-NY) wrote a memo on integral activism that you can upload - the word doc is here:

He's basically arguing that a progressive agenda is based in the view that our basic nature is characterized by connection, compassion, and courage (Our 3 C’s) - which stands in opposition to the conservative outlook, resting on Their 3 S's: human beings are separate, selfish, and scared.

Very cool. Here's some of the text.

To: ID Project Participants
From: Eric Schneiderman
Date: April 19, 2009
Re: Integral Activism

I. The Problem

Contemporary conservatives have built an extraordinary political, social and cultural movement on the powerful view of human nature most famously promoted by Thomas Hobbes. Human beings, according to this resonant analysis, are naturally inclined to a “war of all against all.” If you listen to the speeches of the conservatives, and if you review their political ads, it is clear that, at the root of their programs, policies and principles is a core view of human beings as separate, selfish and scared—the three S’s of the contemporary conservative moment. All of their programmatic themes—from the irrational worship of neo-classical economic theory to the promotion of a patriarchal, imperial presidency—are based on this “darker view of human nature.” [1]

Many people sense that the conservative view of humanity as irrevocably separate, selfish, and scared is leading us down the wrong path as a nation. They also sense that this Hobbesian vision condemns each of us to a pretty miserable, anxiety-filled personal life. But few people see any real alternative being offered by Democratic public officials, or by the issue-oriented activists that dominate what passes for the left in America.

Progressives, by definition reject the conservative vision of human nature. After all, we cannot truly believe that mankind is capable of fundamental progress if we think that our basic nature inclines us to a “war of all against all”.[2] Yet very few progressive activists are willing to engage on this issue. It is time for some honesty about the reason for this failure to challenge the conservative movement at its core.

The ugly secret of the American left is that millions of moderates, liberals and even “progressives” -- in their most private moments -- believe that Hobbes was right. Their own personal experience of life tells them that human beings are naturally separate, selfish and scared.

[1] For a remarkably candid admission that Hobbes’ “darker if more realistic view of human nature” provides the philosophical platform for contemporary conservatism, see “Human Nature Redux” by David Brooks in The New York Times on February 18th, 2007.

[2] The modern idea of societal “progress,” defined as the “greatest good for the greatest number” emerged in Europe in the wake of the enlightenment. It evolved to form the core of the political movements in the early 20th century that came to be identified as “progressive.”

Read the whole memo.

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