Tuesday, April 4, 2023
#94 / In This Together
Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Leslie Lenkowsky tells us that "We're All In This Together." Lenkowsky is Professor Emeritus in Public Affairs and Philanthropic Studies in the Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University. We agree on that statement!
Lenkowsky's column in The Journal is actually a review of a recent book by Richard Haass. Haass is an American diplomat, who has been president of the Council on Foreign Relations since July 2003. Haass suggests that we need a Bill of Obligations (to accompany that well-known Bill of Rights), asserting that "we worry more about securing rights than promoting the duties of citizenship—civility, active involvement, a willingness to compromise." The book Haass wrote is subtitled, "Ten Habits of Good Citizens." He wants, at least according to Lenkowsky, to reinstitute what Haass thinks is our lost "civil religion." Ralph Nader, incidentally, gives the Haass book a rather mixed review.
To my mind, legislated "religion," civic or otherwise, doesn't really work. We can't very well legislate "habits," either. Our habits simply reflect what we repeatedly or usually do.
If we want a different kind of civil life (and both Lenkowsky and Haass are shooting for that), the way to get there is not by imposing requirements from the outside, from what might be called from "the top down."
We will form the "habits" of civic engagement only when we do, in fact, get involved and politically engaged "at scale," to use an expression that I have often heard from Zeynep Tufekci.
We are, as The Journal headline proclaims, "in this together." When we start realizing this - when MORE of us start realizing this - and when we start engaging in action to meet the challenges and opportunities that we ought to be able to see all around us, all those "good habits" will emerge!