Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Foundations I: Interdependence

[Originally posted at Speak Out California, 3 May 2006. Crossposted on dailykos.]

About a year ago, I came across a couple of references to conservative thinker Russell Kirk. His ten conservative principles, first published in 1957 and last updated in 1993, was reportedly a great influence on the thinking of Barry Goldwater and others at the dawn of movement conservativism.

Apparently, no one on our side ever wrote a response. I'd like to be proven wrong, but if someone did, it isn't showing up on google.

I've drafted the first part of such a response, a ten progressive principles approach that answers Kirk point by point. But I want to start with just one principle...

...because I think it pulls together a lot of progressive thought and action, and that is the principle of interdependence.

Interdepence is simply the state of being both apart from something and connected to it simultaneously. It seems simple but it's an extraordinarily powerful spiritual/philosophical idea, and thinkers as diverse as Martin Luther King, Jr., M. Gandhi, Jesus and business consultant and author Stephen "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" Covey have made both general and specific references to it. The link just above is to a wikipedia entry that I've been editing to include some of these quotes.

Interdependence is a spiritual idea with serious political consequences. One of the most powerful of these is that it yokes together two of the largest issue-driven parts of the progressive movement: social justice and environmentalism. Interdepence is found everywhere in ecosystems; as John Muir put it, "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe." It's also the idea behind the vision of social justice that MLK expressed in his 1963 letter from Birmingham jail:

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

The added emphasis there is to illustrate how this idea points to the kinds of real policies that progressives need to be supporting. The current battles over immigration throw this in a clear light: injustices visited upon these new arrivals to our country affect all of us. This feeling of mutuality was powerful, almost overwhelming at the marches; even the pictures seem infused with it. We will be continuing to work out the exact ramifications of this for our economic and immigration policies and further establish this idea as a foundation of the progressive worldview.

In Stephen Covey's approach, independence is a good thing, and a stage that people, and by extension, societies, need to go through. But further growth requires an awareness of the reality of interdependence. The future of our state and country depends on it. There is no way forward except with all of us working together. ¡Sì se puede!

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