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The Big Answer


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Habits Of The Heart

a book by Robert N. Bellah, Richard Madsen, William M. Sullivan and Ann Swidler

(our site's book review)

Bellah's Take on The Lonely Crowd

Bellah has a better understanding of what Riesman’s classic The Lonely Crowd had to say than most authors, and he manifests this understanding in Habits of the Heart. Since Riesman’s ideas are vital and brilliant, let’s go there first: Riesman defines three types of “adjusted” conformists: tradition-directed, inner-directed and other-directed people. The first mostly relates, in America, to immigrants from peasant societies. The second relates to people who are guided and controlled by their superegos, which use guilt to enforce the person acting according to his upbringing.

Sometimes such a person is run by the pressures from authoritarian father figures, sometimes from the built-in father figure in their superego, and sometimes from simply following what a nonpressuring father figure seems to want. But guilt and fear keep this person in check. Inner-directed doesn’t mean a person is directed by his inner self—some people get confused about this. It means that when he chooses, the superego forces instilled by parents are what actually controls the decision.

Other-directed and tradition-directed people are similarly “adjusted” conformists, run by authoritarian forces. The latter is run by “that’s what we’ve always done.” The former is run by “that’s what my peers expect of me.” All three types are obeying extrinsic pressures. All three are at effect. Now think about what a democracy IDEALLY is. A carefully balanced political structure is set up to give citizens maximum freedom to choose whatever they want as long as they don’t infringe on others’ rights; this is all done in a context of expected good citizenship, political participation, and personal responsibility. Rights balanced with community responsibility empower democratic freedoms. None of these ideals are actualized by either politicians or citizens, however, mostly because they are all other-directed and tradition-directed people run by authoritarian forces. If we were all autonomous people, democracy would work like a charm. But few are. Sigh . . .

Other-directed people are 'adjusted' conformists, run by extrinsic social forces: 'that’s what my peers expect of me'
Other-directed people are 'adjusted' conformists, run by extrinsic social forces: 'that’s what my peers expect of me'

Riesman’s fourth type, the autonomous being, is the only type directed by his inner self, and is the only character type Riesman admires (we concur—we like all types but admire only autonomous beings). He’s also the type that makes democracy work best. He’s also the type that is at cause and really free—the other three types are at effect and not free. They choose according to what others (other-directed) think is best or “what we’ve always done” (tradition-directed) or what parents taught us to do (inner-directed), which means that these are forces for status quo.

With so few autonomous citizens and so many inner-directed and other-directed citizens, it’s easy to see why candidates dwell on promises to “take care of” citizens (with entitlements) who are seen as too irresponsible to plan effectively for themselves, promise to bring back the past with its good old family values (since the future is all about fear and uncertainty), and promise to give bigger “allowances” (this reaches the immature child in us who wants more money to buy candy and toys with). In this latter process, candidates promise to tax the group they’re talking to less but tax the greedy Others—the group this group dislikes—even more, which of course plays on immature emotions of sibling rivalry, as well as xenophobia and class warfare. See Culture Wars: The Struggle To Control The Family, Art, Education, Law, And Politics In America.

Political candidates promise to give bigger 'allowances'—(lower taxes, more entitlements); immature listener responds as if candidate was his parent
Political candidates promise to give bigger 'allowances'—(lower taxes, more entitlements); immature listener responds as if candidate was his parent

Gingrich and Toffler

The few autonomous candidates that can freely think about what is best for the country (like FDR did) have to couch their ideas in terms that are palatable to their inner- and other-directed constituents. And the few autonomous constituents have to read between the lines of the sound bites and rhetoric from candidates to find actual important new ideas and contexts. For example, Newt Gingrich came along and began specifically pointing out all the revolutionary changes the U.S. would need in order to be ready for the Third Wave, and Newt told people to read Toffler books (see Toffler books). The most informed, wise, autonomous of his listeners celebrated his openness to the new ideas our country will need to understand and prepare for the future. But, unfortunately, except for his insightful advice to read Toffler, the rest of his actions ranged from stupid to despicable. We cringed when he spouted hate at the other side, used dirty politics to “get” anyone who stood in his way, sold out to right-wing extremists because he saw Reagan succeed at that tactic, and support anti-abortion and school prayer rhetoric in a very anti-futurist display of political expediency.

By the 21st century, some were seeing the G.O.P. extremists as an apocalyptic cult eager for the saving grace of the Rapture, dumping science and believing only in religion
By the 21st century, some were seeing the G.O.P. extremists as an apocalyptic cult eager for the saving grace of the Rapture, dumping science and believing only in religion


During the Rapture, we'll have angels taking people to heaven
During the Rapture, we'll have angels taking people to heaven

As a matter of fact, his ugly tactics were the start of a process of radically polarizing our country which has gotten obscenely extreme and politically mercenary since the early 90s. The politicos didn't have the good sense to reverse their slide into the mud of Culture War craziness which was killing democracy, rationality, and any chance of constructive political interactions or compromises. By the 21st century, some were seeing the G.O.P. extremists as an apocalyptic cult eager for the saving grace of the Rapture, dumping science and believing only in religion, disbelieving evolution, disbelieving climate change, rejecting women's right to choose about their own bodies, etc. Depressing as all this regression and alienation was, the most harmful aspect was how these radicals chose to deal with parenting. They stayed with thoroughly obsolete ideas of harsh discipline that was often just thinly disguised child abuse. And such foolishly misguided parenting created more bigoted, ignorant, closed-minded people like themselves, full of authoritarian ideas and beliefs and rejecting science in favor of religious dogma. So child abuse and criminal activities, as well as abuse of adults, are the legacy of bad parenting and inadequate nurturing.

Newt Gingrich
Newt Gingrich

Newt was totally at effect of his authoritarian upbringing by a military disciplinarian—hardly the autonomous leader we were looking for. Similarly, Ross Perot looked like a good alternative to business as usual (two corrupt parties with essentially the same tired agenda of selling out to special interests, lying to the public, slinging insulting and divisive sound bites at one another in ways that further polarized thinking and further alienated the public, and taking advantage of their positions to bend the rules for themselves and the special interests they were in bed with), but then we found out that he was more into ego than political dedication, he really wanted to recapture the past and was clueless about the future, and he was out to “get all the villains”—much like Newt. Another authoritarian casualty. We needed a leader with a good, moral, autonomous, free mind that could pave the way for the Third Wave via good leadership and wise persuasion. This didn’t happen, in the 20th century or the early 21st century. As a matter of fact, things went from bad to worse—much worse! See:


Bellah's Take on Riesman’s Autonomous Type

Bellah correctly points out that Riesman’s autonomous type is clearly related to Erich Fromm’s free, autonomous types that utilize the humanitarian conscience and manifest Maslovian being cognition (seeing clearly with no filter between self and reality, because one’s needs have been well filled and one is not in a need state which confuses one’s perceptions). The other three Riesman types manifest deficiency cognition (seeing foggily through a need-clouded filter because one’s needs have not been well filled in childhood so one has trouble seeing the truth, so one tends to see what one needs to see) and are run by the Frommian authoritarian conscience either as parental-conditioned conformists or peer-directed conformists.

An autonomous person is captain of her own ship; she is at cause, in control, and makes her own choices
An autonomous person is captain of her own ship; she is at cause, in control, and makes her own choices

Much confusion has evolved in conservative circles in which otherwise intelligent people not only misinterpret inner-directed as self-absorbed and selfish, but misinterpret autonomous as selfish, rebelling against both society’s and parents’ values, and disconnected from others in a delusion of total self-sufficient egotism. This is all 100% incorrect; wrong in every possible way, and is a misinterpretation that is of such a profound nature that it is actually very revealing.

Let’s go through this, starting at the national level. When the U.S. declared its independence and became self-governing over 200 years ago, it was/is said that we became AUTONOMOUS. We were no longer governed by others. We wanted, and we got, freedom. We were no longer at effect. We were at cause. We became proactive, not reactive. We became responsible for ourselves, not the responsibility of a bunch of European oppressors or overreaching British lords. And we formed a nation in which we planned to stay free—we called this a democracy. At first it was a godsend to the U.S. and the world, where it became the preeminent example of wise, well-thought-out, politically mature government. That's the good news. The bad news is that in order to keep such a delicate system healthy and uncorrupted, we had to heed the wisdom of sages of the past such as Thomas Jefferson who said "eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." We did not. The U.S. is now a corrupt oligarchy controlled by warmongering, empire building neocons who act not for the republic but for their own private wealth accumulation and power.

Now, at the individual level: When adolescents become adults, they become responsible for themselves and if they have been brought up right they are now autonomous, mature and free to choose their lives. If they come from an enmeshed environment that holds back their maturity and independence, they will operate from deficiency cognition and be unready for autonomy. Likewise, if their needs are not well filled, they will operate from deficiency cognition and be unready for autonomy.

The more an environment is steep-gradient-nurturance based, the more likely it is that enmeshment and/or deficient need fulfillment will occur. And the more emotionally immature and deficiency-cognition-based the parents of an offspring are, the more likely the offspring will end up the same, or worse. The more the environment is negative, such as in a cult, in a gangs-and-drugs neighborhood, or in a family with people abuse and/or substance abuse, the less likely the inhabitants of that environment will be to attain independence, autonomy, and being-cognition. The more flat-gradient nurturance and good parenting precludes abuse and empowers the chances for sufficient need fulfillment as well as encourages choice and the habit of taking responsibility for one’s choices and being at cause rather than at effect, the more likely one is to attain autonomy.

Autonomy could possibly exist in a selfish, self-absorbed person, but this is not likely. Selfishness is much more likely to exist in other-directed and inner-directed types who are at effect, immature, and conformists and are more likely to feel empty because of a deficiently need-filling upbringing. Emptier people must be selfish and self-absorbed because of a perpetual concern with filling an inner emptiness with either relationships (they are possessive) or things (they are materialistic). An autonomous person is too full (his needs were usually filled well in childhood, or at least he later got them filled by wonderful friends, therapy, or via self parenting like Pollard teaches) and mature to be predisposed to the foolish time-wasting phenomenon we call selfishness. An autonomous person is likely to become self-actualized, like Maslow teaches, and from a context of a full self he will be more loving, understanding, empathetic, compassionate and wise than the other three character types Riesman has so insightfully described.


Self-Actualization
The self-actualized person doesn’t have an insecure self that needs to reassure himself by hiding behind a TV out of fear of relationships
The self-actualized person doesn’t have an insecure self that needs to reassure himself by hiding behind a TV out of fear of relationships

The self-actualized person doesn’t have the insecure self that the other types have. He doesn’t need to reassure himself by hiding behind his possessions, rationalizations, overeating, hiding behind a TV out of fear of relationships, forming dependencies and codependencies with others, trying to get others to mother him and father him, or submit to authoritarians from whom s/he will then expect love and protection. (This latter is what people with authoritarian consciences do—as Fromm outlined.)

The self-actualized person doesn’t have to pretend to be someone they’re really not in order to get indirect self acceptance (as described by Putney and Putney in The Adjusted American). See Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?.

Self-actualization is the high point of human psychological, characterological, sociological and existential evolution in that it epitomizes human potential. It is not a high point in some elitist, Calvinistic, superiority or more-intrinsic-worth type of way, any more than people with pretty brown skin are superior to those with boring white skin, or people with great bodies are superior to dumpy people or well people are superior to people with the flu.

Well people are in a better state of physical health that are sick people, just as self-actualized people are in a better state of psychological and ontological (being) health than are insecure, immature conformists who are at effect and feeling unacceptable, undeserving or both. Self-actualized people try to help others attain higher levels of being. They do not look down on others.

People who look down on others are immature, feeling empty or bad and trying to reassure their insecure selves, projecting their inner conflicts on others, expressing the anger from putting up with authoritarian experiences in a dishonest way by laying it on others (rather than confronting the oppressor). Such people are often conforming and denigrating others who either conform to a different standard or who are not conformists. People who look down on others are sometimes simply seeking a counterfeit catharsis because of inner tensions. Inner- and other-directed people (with a few tradition-directed people thrown in for good measure) are nearly always the ones who try to play the elitist game and look down on others, not realizing how it merely manifests to those of us who understand people that they are not liking themselves all that much. See Shadow Elite: How the World's New Power Brokers Undermine Democracy, Government, and the Free Market to see how the worst of the elites treat democracy, the USA, the middle class, laws, morality, our economy, and military power. After treating people this way, it is easy to imagine that they are not liking themselves all that much. "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?" is the way Matthew 16:26 says it in the Bible.

'For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?' is the way Matthew 16:26 says it in the Bible
'For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?' is the way Matthew 16:26 says it in the Bible

Democracy and Autonomy
Politicians expect conformity to emotional button-pushing appeals to status quo thinking from a public which are seen as mice in Skinner boxes or mazes, to be conditioned mindlessly with stock phrases since they are at effect, not at cause
Politicians expect conformity to emotional button-pushing appeals to status quo thinking from a public which are seen as mice in Skinner boxes or mazes, to be conditioned mindlessly with stock phrases since they are at effect, not at cause

You can see why—as Erich Fromm so insightfully perceived—democracy in general and the U.S. in particular needs autonomous people who realize that freedom is a function of vigilance and responsibility, and it must be maintained and nurtured. Conformists of the inner-directed and other-directed type love their country as much as anyone, but are more likely to get caught up in conformity pressures that hold back a country’s natural evolution and maturing, as well as being much more vulnerable to the mindless gut-reaction-targeted sound bite rhetoric of modern political campaigns. Politicians expect conformity to emotional button-pushing appeals to status quo thinking (with pre-calculated visceral responses from a public which is seen as mice in Skinner boxes or mazes, to be conditioned mindlessly with stock phrases, since they are reactive, not thoughtful and proactive, and since they are at effect, not at cause). But democracy and freedom don’t persevere in such an environment of conditioning and authoritarian father figures manipulating the public’s guilt, fear and ignorance. In fact, they didn't. See:

In U.S. politics, neither side listens to the other—they just talk AT each other using verbal punches
In U.S. politics, neither side listens to the other—they just talk AT each other using verbal punches

An immature, authoritarian family operates at this level and produces fearful conformists, in spite of the fact that science has known for many decades that authoritarian discipline not only works poorly but backfires. (But neither authoritarians nor the rightwing G.O.P. extremists believe in science, facts, logic, the Enlightenment, etc., believing that this stuff is all Satan's doings from the pit of hell.)

Neither authoritarians nor the rightwing G.O.P. extremists believe in science, facts, logic, the Enlightenment, etc., believing that these are all Satan's doings from the pit of hell
Neither authoritarians nor the rightwing G.O.P. extremists believe in science, facts, logic, the Enlightenment, etc., believing that these are all Satan's doings from the pit of hell

An immature system of politics operates this same authoritarian way and it manipulates fearful, insecure conformists. The authoritarian conscience prevails and the humanitarian conscience that the great humanist Erich Fromm so hoped for in our world is little heard from, except that a relatively small number of autonomous people actually do real thinking (and need no mindless, foolish talk shows to aid them), and vote for those who will either do the least harm or the most good.

Autonomous people need no foolish talk shows to tell them what to believe
Autonomous people need no foolish talk shows to tell them what to believe

These latter minds, often nurtured in a democratic home environment, are free and will do (like our Founders) the best democratic thinking and will best preserve our freedoms. They are a safety valve in the midst of mindless, thoughtless conformity and authoritarian mindsets reacting to other authoritarian mindsets. They are the proactive, at-cause, rational forces that are the best insurance policy there is to avert social, political and psychological disaster. And, of course, the best way to exponentially increase the value of this insurance policy—this watchdog of freedom and democracy—is to evolve more of the citizenry in the direction of autonomy and self-actualization (here's how: MCs). The bottom line: the free are the best at keeping us free, and the democratically minded and raised (authoritatively, not permissively or authoritarianly) are the best at keeping our great country democratic forever. The journalists that were supposed to monitor our leaders and politicians were bought and paid for a century ago, so go to online alternative sites like alternet.org or our site for facts and wisdom, since the mainstream media will hit you with mostly fluff and propaganda. See Freedom of the Press—an American Delusion. And keep in mind the U.S. is an oligarchy now with just the pretense of democracy. See Democracy—an American Delusion.

Journalists have been under attack in the United States—their first amendment rights have been violated and their status as the watchdogs of democracy, dismissed
Journalists have been under attack in the United States—their first amendment rights have been violated and their status as the watchdogs of democracy, dismissed


Mainstream journalists have been bought and paid for by the shadow government so they are NOT watchdogs—they are lapdogs
Mainstream journalists have been bought and paid for by the shadow government so they are NOT watchdogs—they are lapdogs

You can see why Fromm, Maslow, Steinem, Slater, and dozens of others over the decades of the 20th century have tried to preserve freedom, democracy and the dignity and the basic rights of mankind by doing what they could to empower the evolution of autonomy and self-actualization. If the character of the citizenry dovetails with its government, you get synergy.

If the character of the citizenry is undemocratic, you get demagogues and skinheads (both authoritarian symptoms), apathy, alienation, political father figures conditioning constituencies as if they were mice, a national capital full of parasitical lawyers constantly litigating everything, gridlock, and various forms of political corruption. What we’re saying is that good character and integrity are not the natural product of authoritarians propagating authoritarians. But we’re also saying that good character and integrity are the best foundations for good citizenship and responsible/responsive democracy and the preservation of freedom. Good character and integrity do not necessarily germinate in democratic home environments, but they are more likely to come from democratic environments than from any other type.

The U.S. has a national capital full of parasitical lawyers constantly litigating everything
The U.S. has a national capital full of parasitical lawyers constantly litigating everything

Remember, our country’s founders were able to show great character and integrity IN SPITE OF, not because of the undemocratic environment from which they arose—which makes their achievements that much more remarkable. But if a good, democratic home environment is combined with good communication, relationship, parenting and flat-gradient nurturance practices, the chances of good character and integrity arising are optimal. Therefore, the best way for America to preserve democracy and freedom—as well as have optimally happy and satisfying lives—is to build a strong foundation for democracy and freedom in our homes and neighborhoods: foundations composed of democratic home environments combined with good communication, relationship, parenting and flat-gradient nurturance practices. See MCs.


Bellah Misinformed

With the above as a touchstone by which to view Bellah’s (and his co-authors') book, one can see that he shares many of the above views with us, but is also misinformed in a few areas. For instance, he implies that self-actualization and caring are antithetical, that community-oriented is antithetical to self-interest, and that self-seeking and community support are a win-lose proposition. In truth, self-actualization is what empowers the highest quality caring, and his implication that self-sacrifice is essential to caring is simply a naïve throwback to erroneous 1950s Leave It to Beaver beliefs in which women were supposed to sacrifice themselves in all ways for the good of the family, and if they were to even think about their own needs for growth, friends, careers or achievements, they were selfish, neurotic, and needed to chill out with a couple of Valiums.

The 1950s housewife—self-sacrificing and Valium popping
The 1950s housewife—self-sacrificing and Valium popping

Bellah reveals an anachronistic win-lose context in the area of human relationships in which he assumes that when one gains, another must lose. Actual research findings have found all this to be totally wrong. Women with exciting, satisfying lives in which they pursue self-actualization make better and wiser mothers, and the more growth and awareness they experience, the more able they are to care for others. Self-sacrificing mothers often have self-esteem problems and an underlying current of resentment and depression that not only limits the quality of their caring, but leads to more serious psychological problems (that the 50s “cured” with pills) as well as unhappiness, abuse of substances and abuse of people.

Self-sacrificing mothers often have self-esteem problems and an underlying current of resentment and depression that not only limits the quality of their caring, but leads to more serious psychological problems
Self-sacrificing mothers often have self-esteem problems and an underlying current of resentment and depression that not only limits the quality of their caring, but leads to more serious psychological problems

The truth is, the more a mother feels full from self-actualization and fulfilling emotional relationships with friends, the more she will have to give a husband and a child or two. (Working women often feel they are better mothers because working makes them happier. Research bears this out.) And Bellah’s idea that self-seeking and community support are a win-lose proposition fares equally as poorly in the cold light of logic. It’s true there exist foolish, naïve individuals who demonstrate by their actions that they define self-seeking as the pursuit of as many materialistic possessions as possible, as much conspicuous consumption as possible (in pursuit of impossible-to-achieve indirect self-acceptance), and always trying so see what they can get in relationships rather than seeing what they can give in relationships. But a possession is not a self.


Pursuits of the Self

Materialism cannot be, and is not, a “self”-related pursuit. And relationships aimed at getting (sex, love, mother-seeking, attention) are not “self” pursuits either, but expressions of immaturity and defensiveness in which one feels empty and attempts the hopeless task of filling one’s emptiness with whatever one can. Note that this is all targeted at filling an emptiness where one’s self should be, so it is ultimately anti-self activity, because it puts off indefinitely the essential activities of finding oneself, learning give-and take relationships, evolving compassion and empathy, and actually nurturing one’s self. See Is Facebook Making Us Lonely? and Social Networking and PSBs in MCs.

No amount of consuming will fill an empty self
No amount of consuming will fill an empty self

But actual seeking of self through genuine efforts at finding oneself, increasing self-awareness, and through serious human relationships is simply the most essential work of life, and anyone who believes that such pursuits are “selfish” or too “self-involved” simply don’t understand what a self is, and how critical it is that one find oneself in today’s world (which wasn’t true many centuries ago). This win-lose idea is propagated in the dogma of some organized religions, who came up with such ideas long before the modern era of individualism and identity formation came about, and in a time when such ideas made more sense.

Some people pursue religion and spiritualism and New Age quests simply because of a deep feeling of emptiness and self-dislike and lack of self-esteem
Some people pursue religion and spiritualism and New Age quests simply because of a deep feeling of emptiness and self-dislike and lack of self-esteem

Some people pursue religion and spiritualism and New Age quests simply because of a deep feeling of emptiness and self-dislike and lack of self-esteem. Do people who dislike themselves begin liking themselves because of religion? They may well like or even love the charitable and humanitarian things that they do, but this is activityism in the same way as the pursuit of possessions is materialism. It distracts from emptiness. It doesn't fill it.


Religion and "Know Thyself"

Both materialism and religion attempt the impossible task of filling an inner emptiness where the self should be with something besides a self. In truth, in many areas of life, it is so expectable that people will fail to have a full self, that it is taken as a given and expected. Religions and cults and sports will all show one how to have such a busy life that you don’t have time to know yourself and get to like yourself. Fromm, Maslow, and all those educated in the area of human relationships soon acquire the wisdom that ONE CANNOT LIKE OR LOVE OTHERS UNLESS ONE FIRST LEARNS TO LOVE ONESELF, and without love, one is too self-involved to care deeply for others, so this puts having a family on shaky ground.

But it also puts religion on shaky ground, because if one cannot love others, one cannot be spiritual. The bottom line here is that to engage in anything about relationships, family, religion, or even having a lover there is one, single unavoidable prerequisite: Knowing, accepting and loving oneself. It is the core from which all else springs.

People that escape or hide from themselves in religion may do good works or think good thoughts, and people who conduct their lives’ activities at the expense of their selves are doing no one any favor, but they are expressing the win-lose context so prevalent in authoritarian reality. What one does for others ends up being all about what one sacrifices (loses) for oneself. This applies to religious activity, the old motherhood definition which oozed sacrifice, and parent-child relationships in which matters are always settled in such a way as to produce winners and losers.

People that escape or hide from themselves in religion may do good works or think good thoughts, but when it's at the expense of their selves are doing no one any favor
People that escape or hide from themselves in religion may do good works or think good thoughts, but when it's at the expense of their selves are doing no one any favor

As an alternative to all this anachronistic sacrifice nonsense, there is the life context in which one finds oneself and then learns to love oneself, and then has a full life that is the expression of this full self, and then compassion, love, spirituality all backed by insight and life wisdom are the major avenues of this self expression. This is what Riesman, Fromm, Maslow, Louise Hart, Thomas Gordon, Wayne Dyer and everyone else that understands human relationships has in mind when they have as their ideal the autonomous, self-actualized being. Compare the two life contexts above and see why the wise are unanimous in their acceptance of this ideal, an ideal in which win-win is the basic math of life and relationships. See Flat-gradient-Nurturance to understand how win-win can evolve.


Bellah and Authoritarianism

It should now be plain what has gone amiss in Bellah’s sociology and social critiques. He’s subscribed to an anachronistic authoritarian, win-lose, anti-self ideology without realizing it, taking sides in the Culture War. He sides with Orthodox Culture as against Therapeutic Culture rather than staying balanced and open-minded, and it has led to many misinterpretations and misunderstandings. His book overflows with the text and subtext of self-interest versus community interest, and the twisted idea that people who care about themselves and how they feel about themselves are selfishly ignoring community. (See On the Wings of Self-Esteem to learn how self esteem is critical to human happiness.) But, other than this fundamental flaw, he has lots of good ideas:

“Community is a context within which personal identity is formed, a place where fluent self-awareness follows the currents of communal conversation and contributes to them.

“When therapists see the family, and particularly the parent-child relationship, not only as the context in which external standards are imposed on the child, but as one in which a person is formed and a character takes shape, then there are resources for a deeper understanding of what it means to be part of a group in general.”

Character is more than self-esteem—it also relates to how one values and acts toward others.

A good therapeutic goal is reconnecting people with families, and these may or may not be blood relations, but we must also keep in mind that isolated families will not be enough unless there is also community connectedness. This systems-thinking-based insight is shared by Louv and most of the psychologically and sociologically trained professionals in today’s world.

Religious and community ties are not just useful entities to make individuals feel good, as some therapy professionals seem to think, but also vital and beneficial for the community and for mankind.

Friendships are not just utilitarian and expressive opportunities to get; they are also an opportunity to express oneness and a commitment to the common good.

Without civic virtue, the public will deteriorate into factional fighting and authoritarian rule, so we should strive for this virtue to remain a free people.


Bellah's Wisdom

“WE NEED TO LEARN AGAIN FROM THE CULTURAL RICHES OF THE HUMAN SPECIES AND TO REAPPROPRIATE AND REVITALIZE THOSE RICHES SO THAT THEY CAN SPEAK TO OUR CONDITION TODAY.” [emphasis ours] (The MC movement epitomizes this approach, combining the best and most successful cultural riches of yesterday with the wisest and most effective new-paradigm, Third Wave scientific knowledge of today regarding relationship, community, and parenting. See Why Register for an MC?.)

Registering for MC search and match
Registering for MC search and match

He wants to repair the social ecology (Louv calls it a “web”) before it degenerates to the point where we destroy ourselves. Without the slightest doubt, the best book ever written on that subject is—believe it or not—a novel: The Forest Through The Trees.

He considers (as do our nation’s founders) it a cardinal sin to put the good of individuals or groups over the common good of mankind as a whole.

“If there are vast numbers of a selfish, narcissistic ‘me’ generation in America, we did not find them . . .”

“Our experience together has confirmed for us one of the central arguments of our book, that the individual and society are not in a zero-sum situation; that a strong group that respects individual differences will strengthen autonomy as well as solidarity; that it is not in groups but in isolation that people are most apt to be homogenized.”

Bellah says if there are vast numbers of a selfish, narcissistic ‘me’ generation in America, he did not find them
Bellah says if there are vast numbers of a selfish, narcissistic ‘me’ generation in America, he did not find them