Jeffery L Nicholas
Philosophy and social theory
to building a society of flourishing people
united in common goods.
to building a society of flourishing people
united in common goods.
What is morality? What is law? Many might say, "it's the interest of the powerful." That is, the law or moral rules protect those who are in powerful. For everyone knows, it's better to wrong others and not be wronged, so that those who can get away with it will break the law every time.
You may not recognize it, but this position is the one Socrates argued against in Plato's Republic, the one that lies behind the story of the Ring of Gyges. And today, we see those with power--whether Democrat or Republican, Labour or Tory--proving Socrates wrong. It's a wonder that our society ever came up with the story of Superman, and perhaps the only way we can stomach the idea of an all-powerful being from another world being good and standing up for the poor--see the earliest comics written during the Great Depression--was to imagine a red kryptonite that made him turn bad.
These points raise the question of the relationship between desire and moral values, or happiness and morality. We often think that morality causes unhappiness. But Socrates wants to argue differently. Only the virtuous person can really be happy. This argument is echoed down the ages to Alasdair MacIntyre in an essay titled "Notes from the Moral Wilderness." You can ignore that part if you want; the important thing is to consider how deep in our politics--whether liberal democracies like the US and UK or state-run capitalism like in China--this separation of desire and morality goes. I'll ignore China for now. Let's just consider a few stories in the headlines today.
Brexit is as Brexit Does
The Guardian reports that if the Supreme Court of the UK rules against Johnson, he may ignore their ruling. Johnson, the Prime Minister of UK, has prorogued parliament for 5 weeks allegedly to prepare for the Queen's Speech in October when his government will lay out its agenda for its term. The problem is that such a long prorogue is unusually and it comes at a time when Johnson is trying to force through a no-deal Brexit against the will of the members of parliament. Where is desire and morality here?
One persistent human desire is to avoid chaos, to allow transportation of goods and resources so that needs are met. The government's own analysis (link here) suggests that these desires would not be honored in the case of a no-deal Brexit. Johnson's prorogue of government--whether considered lawful by the UK Supreme--would separate, therefore, desire from law as announced by the current PM. In short, like Stalin's 5-Year Plan which ignored the needs for food for millions in order to modernize Soviet agriculture as quickly as possible, Johnson's Tory government would ignore the needs for food, medicine, and other goods of his people in order to "get Brexit done" as he has sworn multiple times to do, come what may.
In similar news, Gretat Thunberg, the teenage activist from Sweden, appeared before the US Congress to testify about climate change. Instead of submitting her own comments to Congress per tradition, Thunberg submitted the latest IPCC analysis about climate change. "Listen to the scientists," she directed congress.
But at least some congressional members would not have it her way.
"Graves did gently spar with Thunberg over his repeated assertion that China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, should be the main target of activist ire. Thunberg, who arrived in the US in August on a solar-powered yacht, was asked by Graves what she would do if she saw another boat throw rubbish into the sea."
This argument, like others, attempts to substitute moral values over human desire. Obviously, one persistent human desire is the desire for clean air to breath, clean water to drink, and un-contaminated food to eat. Pollution makes that desire impossible to fulfill. Yet, rather than argue about how to make those persistent human desires real, Congressman Graves argued that "we aren't the biggest polluter; you should go speak to the biggest one." What matters in a situation like this one is how legislators, not only obscure or deny human desire, but use moral principles to manipulate others so as to avoid their own responsibility.
Similarly, President Donald Trump used his power to eradicate one law that helped honor those desires for clean air. California had been granted to set its own environmental standards for automobiles because of the polution in cities like LA. Trump denied them that power. Why?
""Many more cars will be produced under the new and uniform standard, meaning significantly more JOBS, JOBS, JOBS!""
Like everyone else discussed in this piece, Trump flaunts his Ring of Gyges while denying the persistent human desires we have.
Socrates and others in his tradition offer us a different road. Our moral values and principles should be those that help us to realize our persistent human desires, to "make desire most effective" in the words of MacIntyre.
We have a responsibility to make our desires effective. We have a responsibility to bring desire and morality together. Until we realize this desire, we will be lost
This post is dedicated to those who've asked me, "what are you writing about?" Most have greeted my words with frowns, asking, "what do those have to do with each other?" (Claire) or "What do you mean?" (Rachel). One has smiled and said, "I'd be interested in reading that." (Maddy) Just being asked gives me a little more reason to write, and whether I'm explaining my ideas to the frowners or the smilers, it helps me to figure out what I want to say. So, this post is about what I want to say.
well, I don't mean "government." And I don't mean what passed for politics today, in the US, UK, France, and other places around the world. The only love in that kind of politics, the politics of elections and bureaucracy and the status quo, is the love of power and money. Government has nothing to do with love; in fact it's the opposite of love.
By "politics," then, I mean working together in our communities to figure out what we most want and how we're going to achieve it. This idea isn't new, of course. Aristotle, as far as I know, first articulated it. More recently, Alasdair MacIntyre has developed a notion of this kind of politics. Notably, it is different from every other political theory I know today. And it is scary, because it makes the community important; yet, we've been taught to fear community--no doubt in part because capitalism cannot countenance the idea of community built on shared sister- and brother-hood. I will then have to talk about what I mean by "community" in my book, and that might be a bigger challenge than talking about politics or about...
We use this word, "love," in so many ways and so often that it has lost a lot of its significance. We know, however, what we mean by love. I love chocolate does not mean the same as I love dogs, which doesn't mean the same as I love my dog, Mickie. None of those mean the same as I love my friend, my partner, my family. We have different words for love: brotherly-love, erotic love, agape.
What do any of these have to do with politics, even politics in the way I mean the word?
In simplest terms, love is acting on and for those desires at the deepest core of who or what we are. To use God as an example: If God is love, then God had no choice in creation. The deepest desire of Love is to love and be loved, to act for Love. God has no choice in loving each and everyone one of us. God must love even Lucifer.
Let me move from theology to our every day: Love is acting. It is not a feeling/emotion. It is not some evolutionary calculation to ensure the survival of the species or the genes. It is acting on deepest desire. So, neither is it acting to get the next fix or because this chance of sex is here or because the cake looks good. Deepest desires are things I'll have to explain in the course of my book, but it's not our everyday desires, even if those desires might express in some sense our deepest desire.
If politics is about members of the local community pursuing their desires together, then it must be an expression of love. Anything that falls short of that is not as good as it can be.
So why write about love and politics?
Our world is on the verge of collapse. We must eschew government and politics as we know them for the politics I'm trying to defend. It might be utopian in the negative sense--as impossible--but maybe we have enough time to change the way we do politics today. It will take all of us, require us to give up our everyday desires for longer-term desires. So, while I'm not writing a blue print for politics, I am painting a picture for what we need to do different.
On the other hand, again, not as a blue print, but as a a hope, I write this book for how the younger generations can grow communities after the collapse which seems imminent and immanent. In this sense, I write about love and politics in the sense of positive utopia. It's a hope that humanity continues and can build a better world for the future.
I've said for a while that democracy is dead in the US; today's hearings are just part of Nero's circus that we've become with Trump.
Few, if any, on the Judiciary Committee and in the US Senate came ready to change their minds, to listen for the truth, to understand what happened. And yes, I was and am more open to Dr. Ford than I am to Judge Kavanaugh's statements. Yet, I am and was willing to keep an open mind and to listen to what each said in order to find some truth.
So, here is what I would have liked to have seen especially from Kavanaugh to sway my opinion:
1. Sympathy. Kavanaugh made this process about him rather than about the millions of women who are sexually assaulted each year. Rather than discussing that problem, he defended himself the way white people did in the '60s. "I have a black friend." Kavanaugh said, "I have female clerks and female friends."
2. Solidarity and Unity: someone who is, not only innocent, but committed to justice for women would not make claims about smear campaigns. Instead, he would ask for a search for the truth. I did not see that in his opening statement or his testimony.
3. Altruism: someone who says the following in this situation has missed the point. "You may defeat me in the final vote, but you'll never get me to quit. Never," This process is not about Kavanaugh. First, it is about American democracy, and Kavanaugh's claim should be, "I will not be part of a process to destroy American democracy and the Supreme Court. I want a solution that respects it." Second, it is about the privilege of men who have been in power too long, both individually on the senate and judiciary committee and in general. Kavanaugh could easily have said the following: "I feel badly for what has happened to Dr. Ford in this process. It was unfair of the democrats and the media to expose her this way. I call for a full investigation so she can receive the closure and help she needs."
Kavanaugh did everything he could to convince me that he was guilty. His stone-walling and failure to answer questions are the actions of guilty men, not innocent people.
Ford, on the other hand, gave a sincere testimony that answered all of the questions possible given our scientific knowledge in a situation she didn't want to be placed in.
Republicans as a group have rigged this situation by failing to give Merrick Garland a hearing. They, under the leadership first of Newt Gingrich and then Mitch McConnell have turned what was the last gasps of a democracy into a circus.
I pray for those of us who live here. I pray for the young that they will have the constitution and love to change it. And I pray for the world as we move forward in this divisive times.
Slightly over a year ago, Donald Trump was sworn in as president. And many of us--most notably Stephen Colbert--have been swearing ever since.
As I had mentioned on this blog before, I predicted he would win if the "choice" was between Trump and Clinton. Few believed me, so many were surprised on election night of 2016. So what? I was prepared because I speak to people, especially people in the south and in the working class. And I speak to Millennials. What these two groups share is a great frustration with the world as it is.
The Baby Boomers have been the largest voting block for the last forty years. They have created a world that caters to their belief system, a system that came to be for a generation that new peace and prosperity to an historically unparalleled extent. When the economy is growing, war seems non-existent or as something caused by "others" who bring it on themselves, and jobs flow with good money, it's easy to hide behind a veil of ignorance and choose a liberal democratic society that places freedom above equality.
Now, the Millennial generation outnumbers the Baby Boomers as a voting block. We could be in for a change politically. The question is, will we see change that is aimed at human flourishing.
We are coming up on the midterm elections. I hear over and over about how the democratic party is going to take over the senate and possibly congress. But that is not change. For far too long we've been dominated by a "choice" pre-chosen for us by those with money and power. If the Millennials and the poor want change, then they have to change themselves. They have to distance themselves as far as possible from the two dominant parties in the US and actually choose something and someone different.
Is Bernie the answer? Probably not. He speaks the right words. And his institution might have the right idea. But he is still part of an older system.
I know many will say that the Donal was different and we are suffering from it. But the Donald was different only in one way--he said what Republicans would not say in polite company. Which points to a radical problem fro democracy and for American society. At least 30% of our population believes that racism and sexism are okay. Republicans like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell will never say it in public, but they too are fine with it. Check their records on privatizing prisons and harsher sentencing. Check their reactions to a duly elected black man.
But of course, Obama was never the answer either, as one could tell from his pre-election speeches and from his choice of Hilary for secretary of state.
No, we need something and someone radically different if we are to save democracy. The Millennials and women have the greatest power in making this change. I only hope they wake up enough to realize that any vote for a democrat of republican is selling out the future.
I think Alfred Nobel would know what I mean when I say that I accept this award in the spirit of a curator of some precious heirloom which he holds in trust for its true owners - all those to whom beauty is truth and truth beauty - and in whose eyes the beauty of genuine brotherhood and peace is more precious than diamonds or silver or gold.
You have to love Dr. Martin Luther King jr. I think it’s a sign of humanity to do so. I’ve taken a moment this year to reflect on his Noble Peace Prize speech and discovered wonderful utopian moments in it.
He begins by reflecting on struggles of black people just days before accepting the speech. We could do the same ourselves, I’m sure, and not only harms done to blacks but to Native Americans, to the LBGTQ community, and to many marginalized people. But he continues with this:
After contemplation, I conclude that this award which I receive on behalf of that movement is a profound recognition that nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time - the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression. Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts.
A theme I am doing my best to develop—and I admit that this work is so hard today, in the Age of Trump, in the face of the rampant racism and sexism that drive US politics, and that drove much of the politics behind Brexit and what I know of politics in Poland—but trying to do my best to commit to the idea of non-violent peaceful resistance. And, of course, my doing so is easy—I’m a white (appearing), cis-hetero-normative male. I easily fit into the dominant culture.
But my role in the resistance has never been about violence or other physical resistance—it’s to use philosophy, theology, and social theory to support a vision of a better world and, when possible, to use my words, my writing, and my research to engage in local politics. This I am trying to do with midwives in the New England area.
The struggles that we face—we who are united in solidarity with the poor, the colored, the oppressed gendered—they are real, and non-violent resistance seems impossible. Yet, MLK speaks to us through the echoes of history.
I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. I believe that even amid today's mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of our nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men.
Justice is wounded and lies in the blood spilled from our black brothers and sisters shot by police for no reason than a broken tail-light. Justice lies wounded across the land ripped and torn and punctured for lust of oil—black money. Justice lies wounded in the dorm rooms, the strip-joints, and the bedrooms across this land in the violated bodies of our sisters and our queer brothers. But we cannot be cynical in the face of this violence. Our armor and our inspiration is unarmed truth and unconditional love. We cannot demonize those who oppose the right way. This path is the one that leads to the dark side, that turns us into the monsters we wish to free ourselves from. The orange-one is only the face of such monstrosity, just as Hitler was only the face of national-racism in the service of capital and commodity.
No, we cannot, we must not, demonize. For to demonize the other is to demonize ourselves—to become demons.
We have to believe, instead, in the positive, utopian vision that MLK jr. painted.
I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.
And in doing so, we must remember that Dr. King was executed, not because of his defense of the black person, but because he stood up for the poor.
I remember—I could never forget—standing outside the hotel where he was shot. I pray that we will never know such violence. And I pray more that a thousand-million Martin Luther King jr.s rise up and lead us on the march to justice.
Aristotle woke up, stretched, and rubbed his face. He wanted to go back to sleep, but his mind wondered, as it often did; and today it had more to wonder about. He stood up and made his ablations and dressed.
In the breakfast room, he sat next to Plato. They stared at each other a moment, both seeing red eyes staring back, both seeing exhaustion in the other. They shared a breakfast of oatmeal with fresh honey, blueberries, and flax. It was simple, but it was enough for the day.
"We better get to it," Plato said.
They cleaned out their bowls and set them aside to dry in the sun coming from the window. Aristotle smiled at the sunlight. It was strange, but it shored up the hope in his heart. Clearly, he was tired and frustrated and so sad... so very sad to have been right this one time.
Plato and Aristotle stepped out into the warmth of the new day and stared out at Athens. They could hear moaning coming from around them. Yesterday, Pericles had conceded to The Orange Haired Spartan. Her speech was conciliatory. But she also said that they had to give the Orange Haired Spartan a chance to lead. Pragmatic to the end, Aristotle thought. Pragmatism was what landed us here. "Paying the mortgage," he said to Plato. They both chuckled. It was their mantra for dealing with the last months. Everyone had to pay the mortgage; even they did.
"Living well," Plato said.
That was the only answer possible, Aristotle knew. You had to pay the mortgage, but you didn't have to sacrifice your life to it. That was the one thing that had defeated the Athenians... they sacrificed their life to paying the mortgage. Everyday. And then they made the final sacrifice that elected Pericles over Socrates.
They walked down the street and came to Aristophanes lying in his own vomit. They picked him up and carried him to his house. As Aristotle cleaned vomit from Aristophanes, he recalled some of the funny parts in The Clouds, even the ones that had made fun of Socrates. They play was funny, but it was sad that so many people had used it as a reason to reject Socrates. He was the only one that could have united the Athenians to defeat Sparta. Best not to dwell in the past.
They left Aristophanes to his own devices and continued down the way. As they went along they picked up trash in the street and put it in the correct bins. When they came to a homeless person, they invited him to join them. After an hour's walk, they came to Diotima's house. Aristotle could feel the nervousness of the men and women behind him. Diotima was a witch, and a midwife to boot. She knew the secrets of the world, secrets she had shared with Socrates. Since Socrates had drank the hemlock and passed his cloak over to Pericles, Plato and Aristotle had come to sit at her knee. Aristotle was not used to being around so many women, or around so much discussion of love. It put Plato's Symposium to shame.
Diotima invited them into the house. She did not hesitate when she saw the large number of people. instead, she smiled. They needed people now, now more than ever. She gave each homeless person some grapes, olives and cheese. When they were refreshed, she led them out into her garden where they met the other midwives and witches, witches and midwives, and midwife-witches.
"Let's ground ourselves," Diotima said. She struck a song bowl, it's clear note hanging in the air for an infinite moment. Then they learned to breathe, to feel the breath enter the body, fill it up with hope, and take away all the fear when it left the body. The ending note stayed with Aristotle the rest of the day.
Then they walked out into the fields around Athens and began to tend to the garden.
"We begin here," Diotima said, "where we are closest to nature, where we can feel the love pushing up from the ground and reaching for the sun." She took an old man's hands and pushed it into the cool dirt. "We begin where we remember that life comes round every year, that even in the coldest, darkest winter, the soil lives." She moved to the next one, and the next one, working her magic.
When she was finished, she walked over to Aristotle. he was bent down in the dirt, his dark hands covered with soil and a smile on his face. She placed her hands around his face and lifted it to her. Their eyes danced a dance with each other.
"It's time you began talking about love as well as friendship, is it not?" She had been working her magic on him for months now, and he was beginning to understand her secrets.
Aristotle was not sure he was up to the task, but then Diotima would remind him that it just takes a little every day. That was another reason they worked in the fields. Every day they could make a little change, and with their prayers, and their love, they might change the world. If nothing else, they would leave a little piece of it better than it was before.
This story began here.
Now is not the time for blame. Now is not the time to wallow in our misery. Now is not the time to become depressed. Now is not the time to throw in the towel or wash our hands of politics. Now is not the time to sit back.
Now is certainly not the time to listen to pundits: how did we go wrong on the polls? What mistakes did Hillary's campaign make? What about the third party vote? Was it because Hillary was a woman?
All of the questions that you will hear on television and in the news media over the next days and weeks will not be the right questions. The Fourth Estate is part of the disease it's trying to diagnose. Self-diagnose is usually not the best.
So, we, the people of the United States must wake up to what we have wrought, just as the people of the United Kingdom had to wake up to Brexit the day after, just as so many have had to wake up in the past to what they had wrought. Now is the time to begin asking the serious questions that we have avoided for so long. Questions about labor and employment, yes, and questions about misogyny and racism, yes. But also, and more importantly, questions about fear, questions about the future, questions about who we are?
The Left has a greater share of burden in these questions. For too long, the Left has ignored the proletariat. The Fourth Estate has already begun placing the blame there: white men without a college degree swung for Trump at 67%. This fact should not cause us to disparage those not educated in college. It should, instead, cause to ask, what are we doing in elementary and secondary educational systems?
Humanity faces a question every generation, and sometimes that questions becomes more dominant, more demanding of attention, than at other times. Each of us must face this question over and over in our lives.
Do we choose love or fear?
I predicted Trump would win, not because i believe in fear, but because I knew that the pundits and the political machines, especially the political machine of the democratic party, does not recognize how fear can make people vote. Maybe pundits and democrats cannot do so because it would require them to recognize their own fear--fear of the white, non-college educated, fear that to do so would question their own values and beliefs in free-trade, fear that maybe they cannot rationally control the fear, fear of their own misogyny buried deep beneath beliefs about what it means to be liberal.
Did Hillary lose because she's a woman. Yes.
But only because she is a woman with the name Clinton.
We know that when women run, they tend to win elections. Clinton couldn't do that because she's a Clinton. Yes, the Right and the Fourth Estate, which in the end is only a pawn of the Right, have vilified Hillary for 30 years because she's a woman. The real issue though, that cost the election, was not that she was a woman, but that she was a Clinton, and that came with two strikes. First, people simply do not want to see dynasties in the White House--they would require them to face the reality which they fear: we are not a democracy, but an oligarchy. If we keep changing persons in the White House, we can still pretend that we are a democracy. Second, because the Clinton name stands for center-right liberalism combined with a hate of the poor and unemployed and an abuse of blacks.
If the Left truly wants to know what to do now, then it has to begin by thinking about these issues more carefully and thinking about how to overcome that fear.
In short, it must turn away from fear and into love. Just because fear has won for the moment does not mean that all is lost.
Now is the time to breath in love, and let fear slide away.
Now is the time to ask, what does love require of me in this moment for my community.
Now is the time to look with love at those who disagree with us and ask, what have I failed to see, what do I fear seeing?
Now is the time to rid ourselves of the love of money, the love of self-indulgence, the love of fear.
For now is the time to build a community. For it is always the time to build community. For always, we ust answer the question of fear with the strength of love.
It is characteristic of work that it first and foremost unites people. In this consists its social power: the power to build a community. In the final analysis, both those who work and those who manage the means of production or who own them must in some way be united in this community. In the light of this fundamental structure of all work-in the light of the fact that, in the final analysis, labour and capital are indispensable components of the process of production in any social system-it is clear that, even if it is because of their work needs that people unite to secure their rights, their union remains a constructive factor of social order and solidarity, and it is impossible to ignore it.
Read that first line again: labor unites people; its social power consists in building a community.
I agree with you entirely, Rod. It is time to rebuild. There can be no more pretense of a culture around us that is Christian or that is even content with Christianity being in its midst. We must be for the world by being against the world: Athanasius contra mundum. The world is leveling every cultural institution in its path — we must save them or rebuild them from the dust, for the world’s own sake, and for God’s.
A week ago, I wrote on two blogs published in Crisis magazine by a fellow colleague, Dr. Tony Esolen, in the English Department at Providence College. Just yesterday, I became aware of an interview published in The American Conservative of Dr. Esolen regarding the persecution he feels he has suffered at PC because of his blog posts.
I could say much about the interview, but I want to focus on one particular issue in this blog post: love, or more specifically, its absence.
Professor Esolen claims that it is time that we rebuild the world, and that we must be like Athanasius against the world. Athanasius argued against the Arians in the early history of the Church. (Arianism is a heresy that Jesus is not one with the Father, but separate and subordinate to God the Father.) This rhetoric mirrors Professor Esolen's rhetoric in his blog: the world is against us, the truly faithful, and we must stand strong in our faith in God. This view leads to Professor Esolen's rejection of "diversity" because one cannot, on his account, be diverse and share the same faith in the same God.
Thus, much of Professor Esolen's rhetoric, as well as the rhetoric of the interviewer, pits us against them, and insists that diversity opposes the Gospel message.
Nowhere in Professor Esolen's writings on diversity, however, do we encounter the Gospel message of love.
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.
If we are going to call ourselves Christian or Catholic, then we must do our best to ground all words and actions in love.
Athanasius stands against the world. Like him, Professor Esolen identifies "THE GOOD GUYS" who will defend him against the "secularists," the faculty who "despise the Catholic Church," and the Persecutors." and "radical professors who have adopted politics as their god."
Yet, one wonders whether we can really side with Athanasius contra mundum.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
God did not stand against the world. Rather, He came to be part of the world, took on flesh, and dwelt among us. As He did, He identified God as Love. Love, of course, cannot be divisive. It cannot tolerate a divide between us and them. Rather, it calls us to an I-Thou relationship with each other, grounded in the diversity of the Trinity.
Not only is love absent overtly from Professor Esolen's interview, the underlying message is one of hurt and pain--a message which Professor Esolen cannot see. How else could he and the interviewer approve of words like the following, if they were aware of the obvious racial denigration involved in it.
Take a look at the specific "demands" the black faculty, students, and their allies are making of Providence College’s leadership. It is shockingly illiberal, and amounts to a thoroughgoing politicization and racialization of every aspect of campus life.
What does it matter that the faculty and students are black?
The answer is that it does not matter unless one has already grounded one's reaction in the race of the persons making "demands." Indeed, one wonders if Professor Esolen sees himself as making "demands," or whether he sees himself as defending something good.
My point here is that we cannot fall into the trap of speaking without love. To demonize Professor Esolen is to act as Professor Esolen. We must not re-act to Professor Esolen. Rather, we must act always from love and always with an eye to conversion--conversion of ourselves and of all others.
Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend
On 9 November 2016--if we're lucky--we will wake up to a clear presidential winner. If a miracle occurred, we'd wake up to President Sanders through a massive voter write-in across 50 states. Most likely, we will wake up to a President Clinton or possibly a President Trump.
Whatever the result, we still have to face the greatest threat ever to human life: climate change. Yet, human driven climate change is merely a symptom to the greatest threat to humanity ever--the lack of political agency and the domination of fear in our lives. This fear and the lack of agency today leads to repeat the mantra over and over: "paying the mortgage."
Paying the mortgage, as I have emphasized before, stands in for all those decisions that we take out of some self-imposed necessity: to drive the cheapest car we can buy rather than living closer to work, to refuse to pay taxes that build a mass transport people will use or to build schools that actually help people, to major in business or some other major we think will make us money rather than pursuing our passion, to refuse to hold accountable a congress that guts regulation because we believe freedom lies in making a profit selling things that aren't healthy for us: coffee and honey that aren't coffee and honey; etc.
And of course, the reason we are voting between Hillary and Trump is because of paying the mortgage: we believed Bernie had no real path to winning the White House; we believe that only two parties ever can win the White House; we believe that if it isn't us, then it's the end of the world.
So, the real miracle that has to take place, the real path forward, is for us to take a deep breath and remember that paying the mortgage has led us to the situation we now face. The path forward begins by looking our neighbors and co-workers in the eyes and saying we have to change.
We can change.
If we work together.
Jeffery L. Nicholas (Ph.D philosophy, University of Kentucky) is an associate professor at Providence College and an international scholar on ethics and politics. He serves as research associate for the Center for Aristotelian Studies in Ethics and Politics at London Metropolitan University and a foreign research associate at Universidad Sergio Arboleda in Bogotá Colombia. Dr. Nicholas is co-founder of and executive secretary for the International Society for MacIntyrean Enquiry. He is the author of Reason, Tradition, and the Good: MacIntyre's Tradition Constituted Reason and Frankfurt School Critical Theory (UNDP 2012), as well as numerous articles. Dr. Nicholas writes on midwifery and birth, the common good, friendship and community, practical reason, and Native American philosophy. He aims to develop a philosophy of integral humanism that synthesizes the philosophical traditions of Alasdair MacIntyre, Frankfurt School Critical Theory, and Feminist Care Ethics.