Getting Along Nicely
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Getting Along Nicely • Posted: Jan 22, 2013 12:10:31Comments WelcomeVote CoolPhotoblogsPurchase a PrintShare

Yesterday's second inauguration of U.S. President Barak Obama was impressive, the kind of pageantry and celebration one might associate with coronation. But it was not a coronation. It was the ritualized installation of a democratically elected leader, our top manager and decision maker for the next four years. Spoken of many times during the proceedings as "the peaceful transfer of power". Not by coup or civil war or conquering invasion or assassination. But by free and fair election. And in our collective wisdom, we have all agreed to trust for the coming four years. However, whether that trust will last the week is not a certainty, given the divisive rancor of the preceding two years and the fact that little has changed in the balance of power within the U.S. Congress, despite numerous appeals during the inauguration proceedings for the finding of common ground in order to promote the "common good" and establish "a more perfect union".

But, what is "the common good" and what is "a more perfect union"? They are, as I more fully discussed in a previous post, emergent properties. They are what emerges when our collective actions have consequence beyond what consequences we might imagine for ourselves as a result of our individual actions. For instance, as I described in that previous post, if too many of us individually decide to turn on our air-conditioners at the same time, the result could be the emergent property of an electrical brown-out. Financial bubbles and busts, climate change, species extinction, and the loss of productive farmland through pollution and erosion are all emergent properties resultant from the cumulative consequences of our individual actions, individual actions that seldom take account of what emergent consequences might result. That situation has to change. Despite our cravings for individual freedom and power, it is not the case that our individual actions will have no consequence beyond ourselves. What we do affects not only our neighbors close by, but our neighbors around the globe. More and more we are becoming so interdependent that any single nation or even person risks catastrophic social irresponsibility if they fail to see and act beyond their own self-interest.

May the coming four years see a renewed interest within this country and around the globe for acting wisely and responsibly for the common good.

Monday, January 21st, 2013