Sunday, January 2, 2011

A new year, a new blog post.

It's a new year. Let's see how well the whole blogging thing goes this year. I have a resolution for this year, but it's not something I can easily list. So I'll try and explain what I've got in mind.

I have many roles in my life. Mother. Wife. Professor. I have many commitments in my life. Christian. LDS. Feminist. Political Scientist. Trying to juggle all those roles and commitments, to slot them neatly into an outline or schedule that I can point to and say, "This is me," is something that I struggle with daily.

What does it mean to me to be a feminist and an LDS woman? What does that look like? What does that act like? What does it mean to be LDS and a political scientist? To believe in revealed truth, but also suspicious of power and claims to power - how does one reconcile those competing claims to allegiance?

I have an intuition of the right answer, but part of my personality is to intuitively leap to an understanding of what is true for me, and then have to painstakingly figure out the path to get to and justify to myself what I know in my heart to be correct.

I was reading in E. F. Schumacher's beautiful Guide for the Perplexed,  and came across the following lengthy passage, which speaks to a lot of my commitments in a way that I haven't felt other work do.


I think we can already see the conflict of attitudes which will decide our future. On the one side, I see the people who think they can cope with our threefold crisis by the methods current, only more so; I call them the people of the forward stampede. On the other side, there are people in search of a new life-style, who seek to return to certain basic truths about man and his world; I call them home-comers. Let us admit that the people of the forward stampede, like the devil, have all the best tunes or at least the most popular and familiar tunes. You cannot stand still, they say; standing still means going down; you must go forward; there is nothing wrong with modern technology except that it is as yet incomplete; let us complete it. Dr. Sicco Mansholt, one of the most prominent chiefs of the European Economic Community, may be quoted as a typical representative of this group. "More, further, quicker, richer," he says, "are the watchwords of present-day society." And he thinks we must help people to adapt, "for there is no alternative." This is the authentic voice of the forward stampede, which talks in much the same tone as Dostoyevsky's Grand Inquisitor: "Why have you come to hinder us?" They point to the population explosion and to the possibilities of world hunger. Surely, we must take our flight forward and not be fainthearted. If people start protesting and revolting, we shall have to have more police and have them better equipped. If there is trouble with the environment, we shall need more stringent laws against pollution, and faster economic growth to pay for antipollution measures. If there are problems about natural resources, we shall turn to synthetics; if there are problems about fossil fuels, we shall move from slow reactors to fast breeders and from fission to fusion. There are no insoluble problems. The slogans of the people of the forward stampede burst into the newspaper headlines every day with the message, "a breakthrough a day keeps the crisis at bay."

And what about the other side? This is made up of people who are deeply convinced that technological development has taken a wrong turn and needs to be redirected. The term "home-comer" has, of course, a religious connotation. For it takes a good deal of courage to say "no" to the fashions and fascinations of the age and to question the presuppositions of a civilisation which appears destined to conquer the whole world; the requisite strength can be derived only from deep convictions. If it were derived from nothing more than fear of the future, it would be likely to disappear at the decisive moment. The genuine "home-comer" does not have the best tunes, but he has the most exalted text, nothing less than the Gospels. For him, there could not be a more concise statement of his situation, of our situation, than the parable of the prodigal son. Strange to say, the Sermon on the Mount gives pretty precise instructions on how to construct an outlook that could lead to an Economics of Survival.

How blessed are those who know that they are poor:
the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. How blessed are the sorrowful;
they shall find consolation.
How blessed are those of a gentle spirit;
they shall have the earth for their possession.
How blessed are those who hunger and thirst to see right prevail;
they shall be satisfied;
How blessed are the peacemakers; God shall call them his sons.
It may seem daring to connect these beatitudes with matters of technology and economics. But may it not be that we are in trouble precisely because we have failed for so long to make this connection? It is not difficult to discern what these beatitudes may mean for us today:
We are poor, not demigods.
We have plenty to be sorrowful about, and are not emerging into a golden age.
We need a gentle approach, a non-violent spirit, and small is beautiful.
We must concern ourselves with justice and see right prevail.
And all this, only this, can enable us to become peacemakers.
These are my commitments. To believe in the divinity of each person. To be a peacemaker. To see justice and right prevail.

2 comments:

Sarah said...

Yay. Happy to see you posting. I've missed you and the way you make me think about things.

Anastasia said...

love this.

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