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John Stuart Mill Showed Democracy as a Way of Life - The New York Times
David Brooks JAN. 15, 2018

John Stuart Mill demonstrated that democratic citizenship is a way of life, a moral stance and a humanistic adventure.....Mill is famous for his celebration of individual liberty. But he was not an “anything goes” nihilist. He was not a mellow “You do you and I’ll be me” relativist.

In the first place, he demanded constant arduous self-improvement. In his outstanding biography, Richard Reeves points out that in “On Liberty,” Mill used the words “energy,” “active” and “vital” nearly as many times as he used the word “freedom.” Freedom for him was a means, not an end. The end is moral excellence. Mill believed that all of us “are under a moral obligation to seek the improvement of our moral character.”

“At the heart of his liberalism,” Reeves writes, “was a clearly and repeatedly articulated vision of a flourishing human life — self-improving, passionate, truth-seeking, engaged and colorful.”.... staged a lifelong gentle revolt against his father’s shallow intellectual utilitarianism.

Having been raised in this way and, as an adult, living in Victorian England, what he hated most was narrowness, conformity, the crushing of individuals under the weight of peer pressure, government power or public opinion.....Mill cures us from the weakness of our age — the belief that we can achieve democracy on the cheap; the belief that all we have to do to fulfill our democratic duties is be nice, vote occasionally and have opinions. Mill showed that real citizenship is a life-transforming vocation. It involves, at base, cultivating the ability to discern good from evil, developing the intellectual virtues required to separate the rigorous from the sloppy, living an adventurous life so that you are rooting yourself among and serving those who are completely unlike yourself.

The demands of democracy are clear — the elevation and transformation of your very self. If you are not transformed, you’re just skating by.
David_Brooks  democracy  Victorian  values  arduous  critical_thinking  tough-mindedness  rigour  discomforts  struggles  history  op-ed  profile  philosophy  utilitarianism  liberal  political_theory  John_Stuart_Mill  self-improvement  19th_century  liberalism  indivualized  self-actualization  individual_choice  autonomy  engaged_citizenry  intellectually_rigorous  moral_codes  way_of_life 
january 2018 by jerryking
How Covenants Make Us - The New York Times
David Brooks APRIL 5, 2016

there are four big forces coursing through modern societies. Global migration is leading to demographic diversity. Economic globalization is creating wider opportunity but also inequality. The Internet is giving people more choices over what to buy and pay attention to. A culture of autonomy valorizes individual choice and self-determination.

All of these forces have liberated the individual, or at least well-educated individuals, but they have been bad for national cohesion and the social fabric. Income inequality challenges economic cohesion as the classes divide. Demographic diversity challenges cultural cohesion as different ethnic groups rub against one another. The emphasis on individual choice challenges community cohesion and settled social bonds.....Strong identities can come only when people are embedded in a rich social fabric. They can come only when we have defined social roles...You take away a rich social fabric and what you are left with is people who are uncertain about who they really are....how do we preserve individual freedom while strengthening social solidarity?

In her new book “Commonwealth and Covenant,” Marcia Pally of N.Y.U. and Fordham offers a clarifying concept. What we want, she suggests, is “separability amid situatedness.” We want to go off and create and explore and experiment with new ways of thinking and living. But we also want to be situated — embedded in loving families and enveloping communities, thriving within a healthy cultural infrastructure that provides us with values and goals.

Creating situatedness requires a different way of thinking. When we go out and do a deal, we make a contract. When we are situated within something it is because we have made a covenant. A contract protects interests, Pally notes, but a covenant protects relationships. A covenant exists between people who understand they are part of one another. It involves a vow to serve the relationship that is sealed by love: Where you go, I will go. Where you stay, I will stay. Your people shall be my people....Tolerance, he said, means, “I’m going to stomach your right to be different, but if you disappear off the face of the earth I’m no worse off.” Patriotism, on the other hand, means “love of country, which necessitates love of each other, that we have to be a nation that aspires for love, which recognizes that you have worth and dignity and I need you. You are part of my whole, part of the promise of this country.”
David_Brooks  community  social_collaboration  social_integration  covenants  patriotism  books  Commonwealth  values  social_fabric  social_cohesion  social_contract  tolerance  autonomy  individual_choice  self-determination  college-educated  pay_attention 
april 2016 by jerryking
The Talent Society - NYTimes.com
By DAVID BROOKS
Published: February 20, 2012

The trend is pretty clear. Fifty years ago, America was groupy. People were more likely to be enmeshed in stable, dense and obligatory relationships. They were more defined by permanent social roles: mother, father, deacon. Today, individuals have more freedom. They move between more diverse, loosely structured and flexible networks of relationships.

People are less likely to be trapped in bad marriages and bad situations. They move from network to network, depending on their individual needs at the moment. At the same time, bonds are probably shallower and more tenuous.

We can all think of reasons for this transformation. Affluence: people have more money to live apart if they want to. Feminism: women have more power to define their own lives. The aging society: more widows and widowers live alone. The information revolution: the Internet and smartphones make it easier to construct far-flung, flexible networks. Skepticism: more people believe that marriage is not for them.

But if there is one theme that weaves through all the different causes, it is this: The maximization of talent. People want more space to develop their own individual talents. They want more flexibility to explore their own interests and develop their own identities, lifestyles and capacities. They are more impatient with situations that they find stifling.
quirky  JCK  talent  social_networking  solo  David_Brooks  self-determination  indivualized  self-actualization  individual_choice  autonomy 
february 2012 by jerryking
The need for fathers
Nov 29, 2005| The Globe and Mail pg. A.20 | Carol Richards-Sauer.

Your editorial rightly claims we need to admit that the absence of black fathers contributes to social alienation and violent behaviour among some of their sons. The silence that you decry, however, is not universal.

Recently, I have participated in a town-hall meeting and been in the audience at a round-table discussion about gun violence.

Each time, at least one brave black person from the audience spoke about the issue. Each time, their comments sparked little discussion or self-evaluation.

The topic is rarely addressed because too many community leaders, often self-appointed, have become too focused on blaming forces from without that we can't control as primary or sole causes of black disenfranchisement.

We need to recognize also those forces from within that we can control. We need to characterize ourselves not just as people to whom bad things are done (racism, police brutality, school suspensions etc.) but also as people who make choices that sometimes lead to bad results.

This is necessary to make any true change and to win helpful alliances
ProQuest  fatherhood  family  dysfunction  African_Canadians  disenfranchisement  silence  individual_choice  autonomy  violence  killings  family_breakdown  systemic_discrimination  systemic_racism  beyond_one's_control 
november 2011 by jerryking

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