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The Big Answer


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New Options for America: The Second American Experiment Has Begun

a book by Mark Satin

(our site's book review)

Satin points out that California State Assemblyman John Vasconcello has claimed that self-esteem, not economic growth or ideology, is going to be the key political issue in the 21st century. Health and happiness will supplant materialistic and Culture War concerns as Americans focus on what is important in life. He is fully advocating the new, ecological-holistic paradigm to replace the old, mechanistic-reductionistic one.

Toffler criticizes the American politicians for hanging on to Second Wave smokestack era attitudes and beliefs and not changing with the times to accept the realities of the Third Wave. (He compares them to passengers fighting for possession of the deck chairs on the Titanic.) Satin, for his part, criticizes these same politicians for their assumptions about infinite economic growth, materialism, valuing paid work over more valuable childcare work and community work, prioritizing our wants over the rest of the world’s needs, etc. He promotes Green values in step with the ecology, as does Al Gore (who would have had to soft-pedal such things if he had chosen to have an optimal political future—we're glad he didn't).

The two political parties are, metaphorically, fighting for possession of the deck chairs on the Titanic
The two political parties are, metaphorically, fighting for possession of the deck chairs on the Titanic

Satin has been a liberal activist that did good work in the 60s with regards to the civil rights movement and the environment. He wonders, in this 1991 book, how to incorporate his 60s ideology into the modern political debate. If he updates this tome, he'll probably figure out that although the profitable 90s weren't really that suitable for 60s-style protests, 2014 seems ripe for just such methods. Since the 21st century began, marches have focused on anti-war, Tea Party complaints, gay rights, IMF and World Bank complaints, anti-Scientology, comprehensive immigration reform, anti-GMO, Occupy Wall Street about the Bush tax cuts continued under Obama, action on Climate Change, etc. Based upon his book's contents, Satin could conduct marches about Green causes, parenting training, and self-esteem development.

We need a solution that satisfies both sides, that empowers both responsibility and compassion, that transcends the right-left continuum, and that comes from individual choice, not tax-and-spend social engineering
We need a solution that satisfies both sides, that empowers both responsibility and compassion, that transcends the right-left continuum, and that comes from individual choice, not tax-and-spend social engineering

He concurs with Vasconcello’s contention that “. . . every prospective parent ought to be prepared to become a presence that nurtures the self in the child. And every teacher ought to be prepared to do the same.” Vasconcello then asserts that all of us should be given parenting training in school, and training teachers should always include the subject of promoting self-esteem. And this isn’t the liberal-permissive type of self-esteem that—in the opinion of the conservatives—is only about feeling good about oneself regardless of whether one has good character and should feel good about oneself; it’s about feeling good about oneself because one has good character and is a good person. It’s not superficial “feel good” stuff which taking a pill can do; it’s the type where a person is responsible for himself and his conduct—with which the right totally concurs. (For more on parenting training, see Authoritative and Democratic Parenting Programs.)

Feeling good about oneself because one has good character and is a good person
Feeling good about oneself because one has good character and is a good person

There are many who feel that people shouldn’t feel good about themselves unless and until they’ve accomplished something. Satin looks over that argument. If a person convinces himself he is something that he isn’t, this is delusion. If a person uses self-talk to promote egoism and irrational self-aggrandizement, that is unhealthy. But if a person who was put down when growing up tries to neutralize those put-downs later in life because he is feeling bad about himself for no reason and wishes to exercise his right to feel good about himself, this is good, healthy, helpful, just and wise.

Becoming a mature, autonomous person in a world of neurosis is a major accomplishment in this win-lose world; (pictured: a neurotic)
Becoming a mature, autonomous person in a world of neurosis is a major accomplishment in this win-lose world; (pictured: a neurotic)

People should naturally develop self-esteem because of the supportive environments in which they live as they’re being raised. Self-esteem should have no link to accomplishment. For being a decent person with loves, hopes and humanness, one should feel good. But when it gets to accomplishments, one should feel good about them only if there are some. Becoming a mature, autonomous person in a world of neurosis and dysfunctionality is an accomplishment of major proportions in this win-lose world. Being, as Satin would say, is more important than having and getting.

Being, as Mark Satin would say, is more important than having and getting
Being, as Mark Satin would say, is more important than having and getting

But the American value of materialism—still on a pedestal—puts things first. He wants there to be a political faction that challenges this. He wants people to look not only at what they’re getting in keeping the economy growing like it is, but also what they’re giving up to keep it going like it is. Satin wants a Second American Experiment that adopts the new paradigm and has goals that replace growth for once—goals like health, vitality, community, regeneration and sustainability.

All of this shows serious thought and high ideals, but it includes, unfortunately, the old liberal saw that democracy necessarily needs economic equity to work fairly, and it assumes social engineering methods will actualize some of its purposes. The more a nation is burdened by welfare state practices and socialistic ideals, and the more it relies on tax-and-spend Big Government policies to socially engineer its Utopian goals, the more it gets dragged down into the swamp composed of: lack of responsibility, lack of motivation, lack of economic health, lack of incentive, lack of character, and eventually lack of morals and benevolence. Last century has been clear testament to the truth of this assessment. To his credit, he tries to minimize the social engineering needed, and he realizes that throwing money at problems is no solution.

Throwing money at problems is no solution
Throwing money at problems is no solution

Happily, when it comes to education, liberals and democrats alike are taken to task for not seeing that when Republicans want to spend less for education and Democrats want to spend more (the NEA is under their wing), they’re both missing the point. In the last 25 years the amount we’ve spent on education has grown shockingly, while the test scores have gone down the whole time—education is worsening and so are our schools. So more money just isn’t going to cut it. We have to change the way we educate kids, not feed the ravenous education bureaucracy. See these articles and books.

The NEA has a choke-hold on American education that only the MC movement could alter
The NEA has a choke-hold on American education that only the MC movement could alter

He wants foreign aid programs to be revamped so they’re not about big projects, but about empowering individuals for independence and self-sufficiency. The new paradigm that needs to be put in place, according to Satin, is the concept that development is not about money—it’s about people. You can no more throw money at an undeveloped country and expect development than you can throw money at a Harlem ghetto and expect development. You work with the people in an inspiring and empowering way, or you may as well stay home. You must involve the people, not bestow upon them; you must engender independence, not dependence on the program or project; you must use knowledge to empower; and you must have projects of the appropriate scale for maximum, sustainable benefits.

If you educate the poorly educated and civilize the poorly civilized, you undermine the very roots of terrorism—which germinates in ignorance.

Satin urges us to drop the collective individual mindset of the Democrats and the rugged individual mindset of the Republicans and adopt the caring individual mindset, with a balance between “I” and “us,” and a balance between rights and responsibilities.

Democrats' collective individual
Democrats' collective individual


Republicans' rugged individual
Republicans' rugged individual

He realizes that the “poor black” problem isn’t about money but about helping disadvantaged minorities become caring individuals who begin to have something to like themselves for and thereby develop self-esteem.

The author hopes that the “societally” conscious or “integrated” of our society and the “caring individuals” (these categories mostly overlap) have the makings of a political agenda, that they’ll form a movement, and that they’ll act in wise ways. Like all the best social change advocates, he realizes that heroic individuals, rugged individuals, collective individuals and governments with policies can’t engineer social change in an acceptable and benevolent and effective manner. It takes grassroots movements. Now if only Satin would lose his “New Age” vernacular and liberal remnants (his transcendence of the liberal-conservative continuum seems incomplete) and find a way to evolve caring individuals from today’s citizens. [The MC movement can and will do this; the caring will be a natural result of such a benevolent lifestyle, and they’ll be more constructively activist relative to their neighborhoods, communities and world than any people he’s ever encountered. See Why Register for an MC?.]

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