Saturday, January 5, 2013

Rebuilding our trust in reason and civic discourse.

Far too often of late I feel the solutions we (read: the politicans) are coming up with to fix problems and challenges we are facing as a society miss the point all together.

When I look around I see a lot of fear, distrust of political institutions, and nihilist disregard for the importance of a healthy functioning civil society.

A lot of what ails us as a society can't be addressed with quick fixes but through deep, long term, engagement with one another.  We have to rebuild trust, we have to reengage public discourse.  Rather than wandering off to our isolated corners to only talk to those who already agree with us we have to role up our sleeves and start to rebuild our democratic process.

There is a great book I've been reading right now by the Philosopher Michael Lynch called In Praise of Reason.  He hit's on a theme about rebuilding our civil society that needs to be echo'ed throughout our nation: 

The thought that everything is arbitrary undermines a key principle of a civil society: that we owe our fellow citizens explanations for what we do. Civil societies are not necessarily polite or homogeneous; but they are societies that value reason-giving, inquiry, questioning, and hashing out one’s differences with others. In so doing, they take seriously the idea that there are better and worse ways of doing these things. If you give up on the idea that there are standards of this sort, you give up on the idea that giving reasons has any real point. Deliberation becomes a game played for the joy of manipulation and the increase of power. Skepticism about reason undermines our commitment to civil society, and that is why it is important to understand its causes and answer its arguments.

Lynch, Michael P. (2012-03-16). In Praise of Reason (pp. 2-3). MIT Press. Kindle Edition. 

We have to begin long term efforts to rebuild trust in our capacities as a civil society to address the challenges we face.  Politicians and talking heads who start talking about quick fixes and never talk about the distrust and fear that is underlying so much of the political discourse in our nation don't really understand the crux of the very real challenges we are facing in 2013.

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