A Wisdom Meme for Liberal Representative Democracies

A Wisdom Meme for Liberal Representative Democracies

The universal values are something along the lines of:
Aware, clear, honest, accurate, competent, compassionate, loving-kind, and joyfully-sharing.

None of our worldviews make sense to any of us except to the degree we understand and abide by the universal values.

But these values are asking for Absolute, not relative direction. We are seeking not “what I feel like is the case”, but “what is actually the case”.

But (1) feelings and ideas are essential aspects of our conscious experience & (2) the Absolute is wider and deeper than our feelings and ideas about It.
Therefore, we can hope only for imperfect insight into the Absolute — the kind of poetic (imperfectly pointing towards rather than perfectly capturing/defining) insight that requires constant whole-being effort, and constant self-observation, -critique, and -adjustment.

Furthermore, using religious tests for political power tempts people to lie to themselves and others about the most sacred things.

For these reasons (our non-Absolute and thus constantly evolving/self-observing/-assessing/-correcting relationship with the Absolute + the increased temptation to lie to ourselves and others about our relationship to the Absolute that accompanies tying religious purity tests to political power), as well as the general danger of concentrating power, combining metaphysical authority with political authority tends to corrupt leaders, followers, and the state.

If humans are to grow together in wisdom, they must be able to speak and work with one another meaningfully, and that means in a way that is fundamentally honest, and deep inside we all know that that means treating everyone as spiritual equals (recognizing the essential sameness of all humans, and the ability and responsibility of all humans to grow in wisdom — to get better and better at acting in and through and for Love). And that implies sharing values, power, and responsibility (note also that you can’t effectively share power without sharing responsibility; and you can’t meaningfully share responsibility without sharing power).

The best way to together prioritize the universal values (and the universal spiritual sense that we must each develop to more fully motivate, justify, and explicate the universal values) is NOT with a theocracy; but with a liberal, representative democracy where the focus is on abiding by the forms of meaningful conversation, decent communal behavior, and good government.

Good government is government that works to be clear, honest, fair, and representative by working on the nuts and bolts of government. Good government goals include fair elections with wide representation; honesty and transparency in government; clarity in political discourse and policy-making; a clear separation of facts from decisions based on said facts; freedom of speech and press; separation of powers and checks on the tendency of individuals and groups [be they political, ideological, and/or economic] to attempt to bend the rules in order to aggregate more power to themselves; and so on. Good government is about the form of government. Seeking good government policies is an implicit recognition that the systems that we use to collaborate within are very important because we need to think, feel, and act aware, honest, clear, accurate, competent, compassionate, loving-kind, and joyfully-together; and that means together building and maintaining structures that select for wiser ideas, feelings, and impulses. We are but human beings, after all. We often forget, but still it remains true that we are very influenced by those around us, by the prevailing norms, by the rules and standards of our situations. So a fundamental part of doing the right thing is working to make the systems we live, think, and work within more conducive to finding the way forward for everyone together, in a way that is meaningful to us humans — i.e: in a way that prioritizes the universal values.

We focus on the forms of wholesome collaboration rather than on religious tests because the former anchors us together in the spirit in a practical, manageable way; while the latter is likely to confuse, divide, and corrupt us. This is because the most fundamental spiritual Truth is not XYZ religious doctrine, but that which animates and gives meaning to all meaningful-to-humans ideologies: the sense that we are all in this together, bound in and through and for the Love that chooses everyone.

We choose a liberal representative democracy so that
(1) We the People can serve as a meaningful check on madness/corruption in government
(madness and corruption slide into one another: an individual, group, or nation states is more corrupt/madcap when more foolish ideas/feelings/impulses are more likely to gain and keep power/sway/interest than wiser ideas/feelings/impulses are);

While (2) simultaneously both
(2a) Building a shared vision
(by speaking meaningfully to one another, anchoring our behavior and discourse in the universal values)
(2b) Nudging our shared government towards the better and away from the worse
(by focusing on good government practices
together choosing representatives who accept our general visions for how to move the nation gently toward the better and away from the worse, and who we also have good reason to believe can implement these general visions in accordance with the universal values and good government practices).

We choose a liberal representative democracy rather than a direct democracy because we do not have the time, energy, nor inclination to go through the entire government process, and voting on X legislative detail without understanding how it intertwines with Y detail is often counterproductive.

We choose a liberal representative democracy (with guarantees for universal personal and economic freedoms, including freedom of speech and discourse, freedom of religion, the right to personal property and freedom from political persecution, and equality under the law) because we are trying to work better and better both alone and together to find better ways forward as individuals, groups, and as a nation; and that implies letting people figure things out for themselves — so long as they stay within the universal values, without which no human philosophy or religion is meaningful to any human, and thus without which we actively court the nihilism of living for whims rather than for Love. A fundamental motivation for liberalism is the sense that humans need to grow in wisdom individually and as groups, but no one can force wisdom on anyone else, and demanding doctrinal purity tempts people to lie to themselves and others about what is most important; therefore, we should prioritize the universal values and systems that help us keep to and select for them, while letting people find themselves: thinking and speaking openly, and living their lives as they see fit, so long as they are not harming others or our shared systems, resources, and spaces.

We share a liberal representative democracy:

Guarantees of individual rights like free speech and freedom from uncontestable imprisonment. Open debate and government. Separations of and limits on powers. Regular and fair elections to choose representatives beholden to, but not day-to-day by, the citizens.

With this tool, we can together gently evolve both our shared culture and our shared government. We can together safeguard the universal values while peacefully sharing thought and power. (To most meaningfully share either thought or power, it is best to meaningfully share both together.)

The good of individuals is the good of liberal representative democracies. Aware, clear, honest, accurate, competent, compassionate, loving-kind, joyfully-sharing discourse; decision-making; organization; and action is the way forward both for a self-governing individual and a self-governing people.

But we don’t have time for the minutiae of policy-making, nor the energy to clearly and carefully steer the details of government. What we must make time and energy for is to select for candidates who protect the integrity of our democracy and speak and work honestly, carefully, and competently to find what is best for all by abiding by civic and democratic norms, listening to others, finding win-wins and compromises, and otherwise performing their jobs responsibly and competently.

Our elected officials have a job to do!
Their job is NOT to make us feel proud of ourselves. Their job is to help us gently steer our shared ship towards the better, the wiser, the kinder, the more secure, sustainable, healthy, inhabitable, and life-overflowing for everyone.

To sustainably evolve a shared culture and government, everyone within the bounds of that shared culture and government must hear, understand, care for, and grow with each other — protected by and protecting the universal values and the right to the free spiritual searching and expression required to grow a meaningful relationship with the Love that alone Knows how to truly feel/think/act aware, clear, honest, accurate, competent, compassionate, loving-kind, and joyfully-sharing.

We are all in this together. An individual human conscious moment must remember that fundamental Truth to meaningfully organize its own feeling/thinking/acting. And a group of individuals must remain aware of the fundamental bond between all sentient beings if it is to organize itself in a way that is meaningful to its members and to what they share. The sense that “we are all in this together” is more fundamental to our experience than are any doubts, certainties, explanations, or extollations of it. We are all in this together and can only make sense to ourselves to the degree we acknowledge, accept, live, and treasure this key atom of human experience.

Author: BW/AW
Editor: AW/BW
Copyright: AM Watson

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