Friday, May 28, 2010

Call for a Progressive Story

Last week’s Nation carried an important article by Amitai Etzioni. Leaving communautarian theory aside, Etzioni calls on progressives to adopt what he calls a common narrative. To agree on what brought us to this point, what or who will save us, and what is the end state we want to bring about: “What is our shining city?”

Etzioni believes that it is the fact that each group has its own priorities that prevents progressives from uniting. I am not sure that is true, be-cause the emails I get from a variety of “causes” seem to reflect the same concerns, even if the primary focus is on different aspects of our civili-zational crisis: war, poverty, health care, women’s or minority rights. However, I think Etzioni’s focus on communautarianism has given him a valuable insight into the left’s failing: we need to agree on the main lines, or what could be called a big picture.

His examples of what might have brought us to this crisis are enlighten-ing: “Is it the military-industrial complex”, he asks. “Wall Street? Capi-talism? The Christian right? Or...?”

I would suggest: Selfishness, greed, over-consumption, due to lack of education and information. Greed and selfishness result from a lack of education about others, which leads to over-consumption by one part of the population and underconsumption by the other.

In the end, it’s always about equity. We cannot escape that reality. And perhaps the overriding problem of the American left, is its belief that it can more safely talk about discrete aspects of that problem without organizing behind it.

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