(originally written as a list of discussion points concerning why the national Coffee Party Movement should incorporate my model of “the politics of reason and goodwill” into their platform, on request after a long and robust dialogue on CPM’s “shared purpose website,” http://sharedpurpose.net/home/index.cfm?tq=579379&login=100803, mostly on the “plenary forum” page: http://sharedpurpose.net/groups/forum.cfm?tq=579379&login=100803, from March 16 to March 23, 2011)
1) The ultimate political battle field is the human mind. We are all, ultimately, fighting over what people believe and don’t believe. The salience of money in politics is due to its influence on what people believe (which is what the campaign contributions go toward influencing).
2) It makes sense for a political movement to zero in on that ultimate goal, rather than get lost in the various means of addressing it, or attempts to circumvent it. Attempts to circumvent it (e.g., pass legislation without popular support) only have lasting success to the extent that they ultimately affect what people believe. Awareness of the means of affecting popular opinion should not displace a focus on the ends those means serve.
3) Nothing is taken off the table by focusing on the struggle over what people believe. It merely is the ball we need to keep our eye on. All of the ways in which it can be affected are relevant and salient.
4) We can attempt to affect what people believe on an issue-by-issue basis, or we can attempt to affect what people believe by focusing on underlying values that underwrite support for all of the positions on issues we advocate for.
5) If we ask ourselves, “what qualities must a position have for it to be a position that I support?” hopefully, the answer we ultimately arrive at if we peel back the layers is “reason and goodwill.” We support policies that serve humanity rather than particular individuals at the expense of other individuals (“goodwill”). And we support them because they effectively serve humanity rather than ineffectively serve humanity (“reason”). We are really, when you get to the core of the matter, advocates for reason and goodwill. (Those of us who aren’t, or when we ourselves fail to live up to that ideal, are the ones in error. If and when our commitments are not defined by reason and goodwill, then it is our commitments that are in error.)
6) Since the postions on issues we hope to support are all defined by the degree to which the positions are recommended by reason and goodwill, then, to the extent that we can successfully advocate for reason and goodwill themselves, we have invested in the cultivation of popular support for the entire array of positions we advocate.
7) The political ideological landscape is dominated by competing substantive certainties, which, if charted on a graph defined by the axes “reason” and “goodwill,” would not lead us to conclude that we, as a people, are doing a particularly good job of aligning our certainties to those ideals.
8) Each adherent to each ideological certainty knows that his or her certainty is not to blame; it’s everyone else’s certainties that are not in accord with his or hers that are to blame. But reason itself informs us that this belief, held by virtually everyone of every ideological stripe, is the problem. If this chaos of conflicting substantive certainties is a major factor in reducing the salience of reason and goodwill in our political landscape, then we should work at diminishing the breadth and depth of our commitment to substantive certainties.
9) Reproducing this error by creating just another point source of such political ideological certainty does not contribute the kind of evolutionary/revolutionary change to the political ideological landscape that we, in the CPM, are aspiring to contribute.
10) To the extent that acting on conclusions about which policies are preferable is a necessary component of responsible citizenship, even when one is wise enough to recognize their conclusions as tentative and fallible, there are already plenty of vehicles for doing so. Adding another that repeats the work of larger and better funded movements advocating the same positions on the same issues is not a significant improvement on the current political ideological landscape.
11) Advocacy for focusing our efforts on something other than the substantive certainties subsets of us currently hold is not an argument to “do nothing,” but rather is an argument to “do something different.”
12) That “something different” includes establishing networks of community organizations whose purposes are to a) do good works in the community (e.g., tutor and mentor local kids, organize volunteer services and events that benefit the community in various ways, etc.), b) create a context for improved civil discourse among community members of all political ideological inclinations, and c) create bridges among these community organizations, to create a transpartisan political network steeped only in the commitment to reason and goodwill.
13) These community organizations and networks should not be political advocacy organizations, but rather simply organizations and networks committed to the principles of reason and goodwill. Again, to the extent that a commitment to these principles can be cultivated, popular support for the positions we favor can be marginally but significantly (perhaps, over time, dramatically) increased.
14) In conjunction with this network of community organizations, we should work at establishing a data base, or internet portal, which provides easy access to concise and accessible summaries of all policy arguments and counterarguments, including all arguments and counterarguments concerning what interests are being served or harmed by the proposed policy or position. This includes conservative arguments, “monetarist” economic arguments, and so on. It excludes “messaging,” all of the political noise produced by the marketing techniques that are designed to manipulate people and cultivate support for positions by circumventing reason and goodwill.
15) The community organizations can then sponsor community forums on issues of public concern, referring community members to the data base, or internet portal, through which they can access all arguments on the topic to be discussed.
16) The clearly expressed purpose of the community organizations would be that they are intended to be vehicles for civil discourse, for listening to one another, and for challenging our assumptions together to do a better job of governing ourselves wisely and compassionately. Those who do not agree with this purpose are free not to join or participate.
17) Despite the large number of people who reject this premise, in my experience, the vast majority of Americans consider themselves reasonable, and believe in the values of reason and goodwill. Those who explicitly reject these values will always exist, but we don’t have to continue to let them dominate a national discourse among a polity that overwhelmingly rejects the notion that it is better to strive to be irrational people of ill-will than reasonable people of goodwill.
18) In conjunction with this synthesis of community organizations and facilitation of rational and well-informed discourse on matters of public interest, we can also engage in meta-messaging in support of the values of reason and goodwll. An old and revered example of such meta-messaging is Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Few people watch “A Christmas Carol” believing that one is better off by being Scrooge before his transformation, and worse off for being Scrooge after his transformation. The transformation itself is effected by reaching into his own frames and narratives, and drawing on his formative past, incomplete present, and foreboding future to persuade him that he would be better served by acting with a greater commitment to universal goodwill.
19) The story itself is an example of meta-messaging, reinforcing the commitment to goodwill itself, rather than to any particular policy informed by goodwill. It is also a representation of meta-messaging, imagining spectral ministers who are able to reach into the minds of the most hardened among us and find the frames and narratives on which to work in order to effect such a transformation.
20) Modern cognitive science offers some insight into how to attempt to do the work of Marley’s Ghost and the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Future on a societal wide scale. Making it a part of a social-political movement to generate and broadly communicate, continuously, messages that have the effect of beloved Christmas stories on people’s feelings of goodwill, helps to build the bridge between organizing in mutual goodwill within our communities, and instituting public policies that are motivated by the same spirit on state and national levels.
21) As such, the three components of this proposal combine to comprise an integration of thought (the data base or portal), communication (the meta-messaging), and action (the community organizations), all mutually reinforcing various aspects of a commitment to reason and goodwill.
22) By creating a social-political movement committed specifically to this goal, to increasing the popular commitment to reason and goodwill as motivating values, we “soften the ground” for all of the other substantive political advocacy that we and others might engage in, promoting policies in service to reason and goodwill. It also focuses on the purpose of political advocacy, helping to keep the advocates themselves on track, and supporting substantive policies which actually are informed by reason and goodwill.
23) Such a movement does not have to catalyze dramatic changes in a large number of people to be dramatically successful. Very slight shifts in attitude among a very small minority of the population could have enormously significant effects on our political landscape.
24) Furthermore, the large, silent, moderate majority is looking for an attractive, sane, reasonable and goodwilled political alternative to which to flock. This proposal provides precisely that.