History Tidbits

I just read an autobiographical sketch by one of my Facebook friends. I was impressed by the detail he shared about his life and the details of the people who impacted him. My life has not been as orderly as his. I think back over my 84 years and feel a little like a pinball at play in a pinball machine. To paraphrase another Facebook post, “I have worked hard to keep Jesus from loving me, but nothing has worked.”

I must admit to having engaged in some bad behavior over the years, but every time I fell short or abused the good order of the universe, someone filled with the spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation picked me up, dusted me off, and helped me to reorient my life. Over time and through a series of such interventions, I feel like I have become a reasonably decent person.

For several years now, I’ve been trying to pass something forward. I have been granted a number of opportunities to pass forward the blessings which I have received. I’ve been able to rescue people from burning cars, car accidents, assaults, burning buildings, and to give counsel to those who were grieving. I have been appreciative of every opportunity that was placed in my path. Still, I feel as though I have something to give, God, or whatever presence you are comfortable with leading and guiding you, has stimulated my mind through my studies. In the hope and with the assurance that there is still purpose in my life, I still have a great desire to share he understandings I have come to.

I am writing a book outlining how humanity got into the sorry state, my opinion, we find ourselves in currently and to provide some plain and simple steps we can take to extricate ourselves from our tragic reality.

I will be posting snippets from my work as I construct it. This is for the purpose of keeping my friends apprised of my progress and to receive such feedback as my friends feel motivated to offer.

There are many ways to evaluate the great movements of history. Two of these evaluative tools, theories, which have come down to us were written by Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosopher, and the 19th Century German philosopher Hegel. The genius of these two philosophers have given us the capacity to create meaning for our lives, both individually and collectively.

When I refer to the theories of Aristotle and Hegel, I will use the terminology they use to formulate their theories. First to Aristotle. He was a prolific writer, philosopher, and statesman. My interest in his writing is centered in his treatise on the metaphysic.

I will also be referring to the work of one of Hegel’s students, Karl Marx, to compare and contrast Hegel’s dialectic and the dialectic theory behind Marxian thought.

Talcott Parsons formulation of the unit act will also be used to demonstrate the applicability of the authors of the main theories.

I’ve been stimulated to create a set of explanatory themes for making the theories of these august thinkers accessible in the understandings of the great majority of everyday readers.

I am compelled by a force that I do not completely understand to share the understandings I have come to over many years of struggle with the constituent members of the nation I call home in the hope for a more just, more compassionate, and more peaceful arena of life.

Should I begin to drift into the destructive path of self-aggrandizement, I hope my friends will give me a gentle nudge back to the realm of public servitude.

Stable Economy 1

I have been hearing a lot recently about inflation. I have had some thoughts about the source of this menace to a rational economy.

Imagine that there was a commodity that could be purposed and repurposed to provide for every physical need for a society to include food, shelter, clothing, transportation as well as every other physical, social and emotional need.

For the sake of simplicity, let’s call this commodity the widget. If a member of society needs food, the widget becomes food. If one needs clothing, the widget becomes the article of clothing. If one needs a car, the widget becomes a car. Further imagine that the widget could be used for education, for childcare, for medicine, indeed for any human need. How then could we determine the value of the widget.

It is easy to see that nothing could become the source of all our needs. The use of the widget as a universal commodity is only for the purpose of making a difficult concept more understandable.

The issue at hand is the relationship between the value of commodities and inflation. By reducing commodities to a common element, we can more easily explore this relationship.

What, then, is the value of a widget? If we were to assess the natural value of the widget, we would be forced to admit that the value of the components of widgets in their natural state is zero. Here let me digress for a moment. Let us declare that sand is a component of the widget. Sand on the beach or in the desert has no value as a commodity. Let me make the further point that the value of the widget that becomes education before anyone has taken the first step to become a teacher or to write a textbook or build a school is zero. It is the labor that provides for the education that gives the education its status as a widget.

It is not until someone uses their labor to collect the sand from the beach or the desert that it becomes a value added component of the widget. The same holds true for all components of the widget. They have no value as a component commodity until labor is added to them.

Here is the source of the concept “labor added value.” At this point, I am going to assert that all value of a commodity is “labor added value.” I include all labor related to the production, administration, distribution, marketing and every other form of labor from the time a physical, social or any other form of commodity lies in its natural state to the time it reaches the hands of consumers.

When “labor added value” is used as the measure of the value of the widget, all of the workers involved in the processes would be able to buy all of the widgets produced. This seems to me to be a simple concept. What it does not account for is that is not what currently happens. It cannot happen when profit enters the equation. This simple, easy to understand model does not answer the question of what happens when profit enters the equation. Profit is not “labor added value.” When profit is added to the value of the widget, all the laborers who participated in the production, administration, marketing, distribution, advertising and every other human endeavor related to the widget as a commodity cannot buy all of the widgets they provide labor to create.

Several things happen here. The reason the workers cannot buy all of the widgets is that the combined rewards for labor is less than the combined value of the widgets. The value of the widgets is inflated beyond the “labor added value.” We can call the difference between the “labor added value” necessary to process the widget from the elementary form in nature to its final destination as a commodity, profit.

The chasm between the “labor added value” and inflated value comes as the result of profit.

The profit motive is then the driving force behind inflation. The question now is what happens to the widgets that workers cannot buy because their combined rewards for labor fall short of the inflated value of the widgets.

My reasoning has shown me that, in such instances, a class of self-proclaimed elite will find a way to enrich themselves by profiteering by valuing the widgets to create empty value based on an unmitigated greed.

This I will tell you, if every person was restricted to the rewards commensurate with their labor and the value of widgets was once again commensurate with “labor added value,” there would be an ample supply of widgets to meet the needs of all the people.

I cannot conceive of a rationale (rational set of beliefs) for individuals who do not participate in the development of widgets to reap the benefits of their use. The concepts are so elementary that they were the basis for the time honored children’s story “The Little Red Hen.”

The Little Red Hen

A Little Red Hen lived in a barnyard. She spent almost all of her time walking about the barnyard in her picketty-pecketty fashion, scratching everywhere for worms.

She dearly loved fat, delicious worms and felt they were absolutely necessary to the health of her children. As often as she found a worm she would call “Chuck-chuck-chuck!” to her chickies.

When they were gathered about her, she would distribute choice morsels of her tid-bit. A busy little body was she!

A cat usually napped lazily in the barn door, not even bothering herself to scare the rat who ran here and there as he pleased. And as for the pig who lived in the sty – he did not care what happened so long as he could eat and grow fat.

One day the Little Red Hen found a Seed. It was a Wheat Seed, but the Little Red Hen was so accustomed to bugs and worms that she supposed this to be some new and perhaps very delicious kind of meat. She bit it gently and found that it resembled a worm in no way whatsoever as to taste although because it was long and slender, a Little Red Hen might easily be fooled by its appearance.

Carrying it about, she made many inquiries as to what it might be. She found it was a Wheat Seed and that, if planted, it would grow up and when ripe it could be made into flour and then into bread.

When she discovered that, she knew it ought to be planted. She was so busy hunting food for herself and her family that, naturally, she thought she ought not to take time to plant it.

So she thought of the Pig – upon whom time must hang heavily and of the Cat who had nothing to do, and of the great fat Rat with his idle hours, and she called loudly:

“Who will plant the Seed?”

But the Pig said, “Not I,” and the Cat said, “Not I,” and the Rat said, “Not I.”

“Well, then,” said the Little Red Hen, “I will.”

And she did.

Then she went on with her daily duties through the long summer days, scratching for worms and feeding her chicks, while the Pig grew fat, and the Cat grew fat, and the Rat grew fat, and the Wheat grew tall and ready for harvest.

So one day the Little Red Hen chanced to notice how large the Wheat was and that the grain was ripe, so she ran about calling briskly: “Who will cut the Wheat?”

The Pig said, “Not I,” the Cat said, “Not I,” and the Rat said, “Not I.”

“Well, then,” said the Little Red Hen, “I will.”

And she did.

She got the sickle from among the farmer’s tools in the barn and proceeded to cut off all of the big plant of Wheat.

On the ground lay the nicely cut Wheat, ready to be gathered and threshed, but the newest and yellowest and downiest of Mrs. Hen’s chicks set up a “peep-peep-peeping” in their most vigorous fashion, proclaiming to the world at large, but most particularly to their mother, that she was neglecting them.

Poor Little Red Hen! She felt quite bewildered and hardly knew where to turn.

Her attention was sorely divided between her duty to her children and her duty to the Wheat, for which she felt responsible.

So, again, in a very hopeful tone, she called out, “Who will thresh the Wheat?”

But the Pig, with a grunt, said, “Not I,” and the Cat, with a meow, said, “Not I,” and the Rat, with a squeak, said, “Not I.”

So the Little Red Hen, looking, it must be admitted, rather discouraged, said, “Well, I will, then.”

And she did.

Of course, she had to feed her babies first, though, and when she had gotten them all to sleep for their afternoon nap, she went out and threshed the Wheat. Then she called out: “Who will carry the Wheat to the mill to be ground?”

Turning their backs with snippy glee, that Pig said, “Not I,” and that Cat said, “Not I,” and that Rat said, “Not I.”

So the good Little Red Hen could do nothing but say, “I will then.” And she did.

Carrying the sack of Wheat, she trudged off to the distant mill. There she ordered the Wheat ground into beautiful white flour. When the miller brought her the flour she walked slowly back all the way to her own barnyard in her own picketty-pecketty fashion.

She even managed, in spite of her load, to catch a nice juicy worm now and then and had one left for the babies when she reached them. Those cunning little fluff-balls were so glad to see their mother. For the first time, they really appreciated her.

After this really strenuous day Mrs. Hen retired to her slumbers earlier than usual – indeed, before the colors came into the sky to herald the setting of the sun, her usual bedtime hour.

She would have liked to sleep late in the morning, but her chicks, joining in the morning chorus of the hen yard, drove away all hopes of such a luxury.

Even as she sleepily half opened one eye, the thought came to her that to-day that Wheat must, somehow, be made into bread.

She was not in the habit of making bread, although, of course, anyone can make it if he or she follows the recipe with care, and she knew perfectly well that she could do it if necessary.

So after her children were fed and made sweet and fresh for the day, she hunted up the Pig, the Cat and the Rat.

Still confident that they would surely help her some day she sang out, “Who will make the bread?”

Alas for the Little Red Hen! Once more her hopes were dashed! For the Pig said, “Not I,” the Cat said, “Not I,” and the Rat said, “Not I.”

So the Little Red Hen said once more, “I will then,” and she did.

Feeling that she might have known all the time that she would have to do it all herself, she went and put on a fresh apron and spotless cook’s cap. First of all she set the dough, as was proper. When it was time she brought out the moulding board and the baking tins, moulded the bread, divided it into loaves, and put them into the oven to bake. All the while the Cat sat lazily by, giggling and chuckling.

And close at hand the vain Rat powdered his nose and admired himself in a mirror.

In the distance could be heard the long-drawn snores of the dozing Pig.

At last the great moment arrived. A delicious odor was wafted upon the autumn breeze. Everywhere the barnyard citizens sniffed the air with delight.

The Red Hen ambled in her picketty-pecketty way toward the source of all this excitement.

Although she appeared to be perfectly calm, in reality she could only with difficulty restrain an impulse to dance and sing, for had she not done all the work on this wonderful bread?

Small wonder that she was the most excited person in the barnyard!

She did not know whether the bread would be fit to eat, but – joy of joys! – when the lovely brown loaves came out of the oven, they were done to perfection.

Then, probably because she had acquired the habit, the Red Hen called: “Who will eat the Bread?”

All the animals in the barnyard were watching hungrily and smacking their lips in anticipation, and the Pig said, “I will,” the Cat said, “I will,” the Rat said, “I will.”

But the Little Red Hen said,

“No, you won’t. I will.”

And she did.

In the history of the faith community I belong to, one of the early economic principles was succinctly stated as “The idler will not eat his bread in Zion”.

All of this leads me to the conclusion that the only stable value of a commodity is “labor added value”. But this is just the beginning of an exploration of the relationship between the stable value of a commodity (the widget), inflation, and the value of labor. More to follow.

Sacrifice

The invasion of the nation of Ukraine troubles me greatly. When I hear of rocket and missile attacks on hospitals, nursery schools and sacred historic locations, I am moved to what I hope is righteous indignation. I pray for the people of Ukraine. I also pray that my righteous indignation not be turned into unreasoning anger.

The unwavering dedication of those intrepid souls who stand in the path of tanks, who take their wives and children to safety then return to the struggle for what they hold dear inspires me.

They remind me of Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death” pronouncement. They remind me of Nathan Hale’s “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country”. They remind me of the heroism of Joan of Arc. They are entering into a pantheon of heroes who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for principles that are reminiscent of the God given self-evident truths which Thomas Jefferson referred to in the Declaration of Independence which are reminiscent of the august words of the Polish political philosopher Goslicki in his treatise “De Optimo Senatore (The Ideal Senator).

I ask myself, “What am I willing to do beyond prayer to align myself with the heroes of Ukraine? I am too old and infirm to take up arms in defense of liberty. I am too far away to provide caring support for the dispossessed. I still have in my possession ration cards from World War Two. They are a reminder to me of a time when my co-citizens were willing to sacrifice for the interest of our brave soldiers, sailors and airmen who stood in the breach to prevent a totalitarian from his evil designs.

Since restriction on the movement of crude oil and natural gas seems to be an issue in the struggle to halt the Russian invasion of Ukraine, I am committing myself to reduce the amount of gasoline and natural gas I use. I will reduce the number of miles I drive. I will increase the temperature setting of my thermostat in warm weather and decrease it in colder weather by five degrees. If enough of us take these small self-imposed rationing steps, we will provide our government with the opportunity to impose the sanctioning of  Russian oil exports which fund the brutal war effort in Ukraine.

Although I am too far away to provide succor and relief to the dispossessed, I will send the money I save from these minor sacrifices to those brave souls who are stepping forward and providing those supports.

I invite all peace-loving individuals to join with me in doing whatever we can to support the front-line warriors in this struggle against evil.

Transportation

I have some thoughts about transportation. I suspect that some will consider my ideas unrealistic or too costly.

For that reason, I intend to begin my proposal with a quotation from George Bernard Shaw “You see things; and you say ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say ‘Why not?’”

Shaw was quoted by President John F. Kennedy in 1963 in an address to the Irish parliament. The same sentiment was shared by Robert Kennedy in his 1968 presidential campaign. “Some men see things as they are and say, why; I dream things that never were and say, why not.” His younger brother, Edward, echoed that query in Robert’s eulogy later that year.

Each of these men were visionaries. The thread that connected them with each other and with visionaries across time and space is the refusal to accept the reality of what is, and to, as Cervantes so poetically expressed it “To reach the unreachable star.”

I was fortunate to be born into a nation founded on principles that included the voice of the people in government, of the equality of every person from birth endowed by the act of creation, and of the responsibility of government to guarantee those rights. What good is an inalienable right that is beyond the reach of the individual?

We have risen to the challenge numerous times when the potential for greatness presented itself. Just a few examples are:

Grand Coulee Dam

Farragut Naval Base

Tennessee Valley Authority

The Interstate Highway System

I was raised with the understanding that nothing, except refusal to accept our shared desire for excellence, could hinder our progress. I was at the site of Grand Coulee Dam in Central Washington near the time of its inception. The families that had gathered there from my hometown of Hagerman, Idaho came out of desperation during the years of the great depression. During the era of the Grand Coulee experience, they shared everything, which made them communalists. Since I was an infant, I have no direct recollection of the events. My understandings are based on the stories I have been told over the years. I suppose that I should record those stories for posterity, as I am one of the few remaining participants in that communal period.

That being an aside, let me move on to the main point. Americans came from all over in response to their government’s call to put their collective shoulders to the wheel and to restore the vibrant economy of this nation. My father took on work as a “high scaler,” perhaps one of the most dangerous jobs in history. If you want to get a description of what that entails, google the term.

My point is that our nation came together, both government and governed, to impose our collective will on the problem at hand. The result is electricity for most rural households in the country.

In 1941, my family was living a relatively comfortable working-class existence in Enumclaw, Washington where my father was building on Mud Mountain Dam. Then came the attack on Pearl Harbor. Our nation came together again to meet the challenge of a national emergency. We moved to Athol, Idaho where we lived for a time in a tent house while permanent housing was being built at Farragut Naval Base on Lake Pend Oreille. The base was built with astonishing speed, a tribute to the American spirit at work.

I believe that same spirit still exists among my fellow Americans. Now is the time for us to come together. We have the vision and foresight to construct a transportation system for the present and to continue to dream of possibilities for the future.

I envision an addition to the transportation system of the United States that would make significant improvement in the way we travel and the way we distribute resources. I would begin with a network of high-speed rail lines across the nation one hundred miles apart (as nearly as possible) both east to west and north to south.

I further envision both freight terminals complete with distribution warehouses and passenger terminals at the connection points.

I envision a fleet of small trucks designed to carry merchandise and produce to end point of delivery destinations. I would also allow for a fleet of rental cars at each terminal to meet the needs of rail travelers. With terminals intersecting at 100-mile intervals, all freight and passenger traffic would be within 70 miles (as the crow flies) of any destination.

What, one might ask, benefits would accrue from such a monumental project? I would begin by pointing out the few that come quickly to my mind:

  • Truckers would now be driving for delivery from terminus points to delivery destinations in smaller trucks during daylight hours for fewer miles allowing them home time.
  • Wear and tear on existing highways would be significantly reduced along with the cost of upkeep and repair.
  • The delight of rail travel would be restored.
  • I believe the delivery cost of goods would decrease, although I must leave that calculation in the hands of others more knowledgeable about the relative costs involved.
  • Safe travel during periods of inclement weather would be increased.

I also think that such an arrangement would allow for research on the application of alternative forms of energy. Here again, I yield to the expertise of those more conversant in the field of electrical engineering.

From a personal point of view, I would really like to be able drive my own vehicle from my home to junction point, board a high-speed rail car, travel in comfort to a terminal close to my destination of choice, rent a car to make the short drive to my destination or ride a bus rested and ready for whatever awaited my pleasure.

I just heard reference to an expression that has been used frequently during my life experience. It is, “the cold hard truth.” In thinking about it, I opine that the truth is not cold and hard. The truth is warm, gentle, and comforting. What is cold and hard are lies, particularly those lies that are designed to bring harm to others, to demean others, to restrict the right of others, to interfere with the empathic fellowship of either community in particular or society in general. Give me the warmth of truth over the malicious designs of the lie any day.

The year was 1946. I was just a innocent nine year old. The country was going through a massive transformation from a wartime economy to a peacetime economy. Formal rationing had just ended. I still have some of my ration cards from that time. Only two people participated directly in the story I am about to tell.

The story was related to me by my mother. The local newspaper in Nampa, Idaho where we lived published an advertisement that the J. C. Penney store in town had received a shipment of nylons which were to be available for purchase at their local store.

On the specified date, my mother, and my grandmother, eager to return to the realm of high fashion, made a pilgrimage to the J. C Penney store. My mother described the scene to me. “There was a mob of women inside the store beating on each other, scratching, and pulling each other’s hair in a mad scramble to get to the tables where the hosiery was displayed. Your grandmother simply said, ‘Minnie, this is no place for ladies, and we left.’”

That story has stayed with me for 75 years. I think it has informed my approach to civility, responsibility, and inner peace and harmony. Anytime I become aware of a mad scramble for anything, I am brought back to the memory of my mother and my grandmother turning away from that event with their dignity intact.

I am now of an age which neither my mother nor my grandmother achieved. I also have more than one physical ailment which make me more susceptible to the ravages of Covid-19 than most of the population. I do, of course, have the ability, thanks to those who care deeply about me, to isolate myself. Nonetheless, I will not engage in a mad scramble to push forward to be the first to get a vaccination. Yes, grandmother, that would be no place for a gentleman.

Power and authority

Recently I have been aware of statements regarding the power of the Presidency and the power of Congress. Those statements have directed my mind to the relationship between power and authority.

Power is the capacity to make another do something whether they would ordinarily do it or not. Every society, in fact, every social system, has a power structure. Over the centuries, the two most frequently examined social systems have been authoritarian oligarchy and democracy. When a society is small, power can be expressed directly. In such a circumstance, power and authority are the same.

I have heard it said that pure democracy is only possible in small groups. You may have heard the same expression. Upon deeper examination, I have concluded that pure authoritarian oligarchy is also only possible in small groups.

Herein lies the relationship between power and authority. When a social system grows to the point that one authoritarian oligarch can no longer force obedience because of what is called “span of control,” authority must be delegated into an authoritarian hierarchy. In a democratic society, the power lies with the people. In such a system, authority is granted to representatives to act on behalf of the people.

The two systems are diametrically opposite each other. In an authoritarian oligarchy, the power is at the top and authority to represent the oligarch is granted downward. In a democratic society, the power is in the hands of the people and the authority is granted upward.

In the United States of America, the structure is very mixed. Sometimes it seems as though the power is in the form of money. Money grants authority to whoever holds it. A person can exercise considerable authority based on their control of financial resources. A sudden turn of “fortune” might cause the individual to lose control of their financial resources, in which case, they would also see a reduction of their authority.

It is sobering to think that money, which was originally only a useful device to simplify trade, is now the purveyor of power. Sadly, even those political leaders who claim to have power in United States society, only have second level authority, the primary level of authority being in the hands of the holders of wealth.

Then, there is the issue of political parties masquerading as democracy. In a pure democracy, each individual would have a voice in selecting the person, someone they have access to, to exercise authority on their behalf. Instead, at periodic intervals, the people who are supposed to have the power, are given a choice between two candidates. Many eligible voters are so disenfranchised that they do not even exercise their right to vote.

I know that we can do better than this.

What is America?

What is America to me? There are two Americas. The first America is the land of my hopes and dreams. It is the land of my youth. It is the land I was introduced to by my parents, my grandparents, my church, and my community.

This America I have envisioned is a place where the worth of all persons is a guiding principle. It is a place where I learned that common respect enabled me and my school mates to work together and play together in spite of the differences that existed between us.

This America is the land that my forefathers struggled to bring into existence. It is the land whose promise is expressed in the lofty words of our founding document. When I read “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” my spirit soars.

When I read of the patriotic resolve of my distant relatives such as Mansfield French who founded several colleges and was deeply involved in the Freedmen’s Bureau and Captain John Higley who was responsible (according to family history) for keeping the Connecticut constitution safe from the prying fingers of the King’s Governor of Connecticut Colony.

I am certain that many of my friends have similar stories of patriotism and daring exploits in their family history. Let me state without equivocation that such acts on the part of family heroes must not be taken as a measure of nobility. They do not afford us any right to privilege. Rather, they place upon our shoulders a greater responsibility to live up to the example they have set for us. They had a vision of what is possible in the dream of a more perfect union. A desire for what might be. This is the America of my vision, a nation where patriots strive to bring the noble principles of equality, unity, and respect for others to fruition.

And yet, there is the America that stands in opposition to all that I envision. That too is my America. It is the America in which my ancestors “found” a land inhabited by others and claimed it as their own in the principle of white supremacy. This is an America who enslaved proud people from Africa, stealing not only their labor and freedom, but trying to violate and diminish their very humanity. This is a sordid America. This is not an America of our past only, but of our present.

And so, we are embroiled in a great struggle between the America our founders sought but were not capable of bringing into existence and the America they did bring into existence. The vision of a just America where equality, unity, and respect for all still awaits us beckons.

I pledge myself to the arduous work of creating the philosophical and structural framework for that America, the America so many have prayed for, worked for and died for. I encourage all my friends to take upon themselves this “great and marvelous work.”

Pride

Civic pride is a concept that has occupied an increasing part of my thoughts for some time now. I have reached two conclusions. Civil society is inherently divisive. Community is inherently unifying. I am basing these two conclusions on my reading of the work of prominent sociologists and social anthropologists.

Civic pride is an expression of tribalism. I am going to address this more fully in a series of essays that I am just beginning to write. For now, I want focus on one aspect of civic pride, that of sports.

This Sunday the Kansas City Chiefs will try to maintain their position as the most successful team in professional football. The metropolitan Kansas City area is awash in Chiefs Mania. I must admit that I find myself swept up in the excitement of living in a city whose team has the best record.

I find myself speculating on what other parameters could be used to advance feelings of civic pride. Could I transfer my feelings of pride from sports onto being proud that my city had the lowest poverty rate of any city in America? Or perhaps having the lowest homicide rate of any city? Then again there is the issue of homelessness. How proud could I be if Kansas City had shelter for everyone within her boundaries?

Since I live in Independence, could I be comfortable if the problematic issues listed above were nonexistent in my city because they had just been chased across the city boundary to Kansas City or another suburb? If the problems listed were solved across the entire Kansas City Metropolitan area, would my pride be justified if other cities in Missouri still struggled with the same issues? Is civic pride just an expression of tribal dominance? Is pride always divisive?

If, as I believe, community is unifying, is it possible to replace the divisiveness of tribalism with the expression of co-unity in mass society? How might mass society be structured to effect the emergence of community in lieu of tribalism?

Unity

I grew up proud to be an American. When I was in my childhood, I paced emphasis on the word United when I referred to the nation my ancestors fought for and built. When I recited the Pledge of Allegiance, the phrase “one nation, indivisible” stirred me.

Over the years I have become increasingly aware that we are not, in fact or in deed, united. The divisions between us distress me. I am uncertain what, if anything, I can do about the sorry condition we find ourselves in. I cannot, however, stop trying.

I have been giving thought to what it is that divides us. My conclusion is that our disunity arises from two distinct sources. The first of these sources is cultural and finds expression in beliefs and attitudes. A common manifestation of divisive beliefs and attitudes are feelings of superiority and inferiority based on physical characteristics.

These beliefs and attitudes reveal themselves in the form of racism, sexism, and ethnocentrism, although phenotypical discrimination can also be the source of such disunity.

The cultural sources of these divisive beliefs and attitudes would, in my opinion, be best addressed by increased contact and interaction between disparate groups. Acceptance arises out of understanding. These divisions have been with us for centuries and are quite embedded in our cultures. They are most difficult to address and to overcome.

The second source of our divisiveness is social structural. I have concluded that the two biggest impediments to our national unity are political parties and states. I will try to have more of my thinking about this in the next few days.