by David Eide .

America puts its greatest lovers in a perilous state from time to time. That is, what comes first the principle or the institution? If I believe in justice as a principle of life and I perceive that an institution is not just do I have an obligation to my sense of justice or to the institution? I think that is what people are called on to decide. Justice meaning, "the awarding of what is due" or, "having integrity." Integrity meaning, "entireness or wholeness- the unimpeded state of anything." That state is hardly reached except in our distant desires but nonetheless. I take all of this to mean the ability to see objectively, the ability to see a situation without subjecting it to prejudice or self-interest.

A lot depends on how much awareness exists in the people. Mechanisms of every sort are set up to publicize a problem, argue about the problem and then pressure the powers-that-be to solve the problem. We see this every day. Sometimes the problem lingers on and on and so a political movement is developed around it, sometimes the problem is ignored by the powers-that-be and the resources of those who are pointing out the problem dries up.

This certainly is not the perfect situation because it ensures that a form of injustice will be carried forward into the future. Often the process makes people grow up and get smart but other times ignorance is passed on to the next generation.

There is no real national culture or national common sense. Problems are dealt with in relation to regions and interest groups. It is assumed that the President and Congress develop a national sense of things but that hardly exists until the vast majority feel threatened by outside reality such as World War II. Even then, no permanent culture was erected on the solidarity created by the threat. There was a society erected, based on America's emergence as a world power and its need to sustain a powerful economy. A competitive and fragile type of structure developed that was dismantled by the next generation. Perhaps it wasn't dismantled but it was changed. The change was good for the most part but the penalty for that change was that confusion came to dominate until the ship was stopped in the middle of a great ocean while everyone on board cannibalized each other for the privilege of pointing it in the right direction.

Is there an overarching quality that could pull the country together? It's a senseless question to ask hundreds of millions of people. When they feel threatened collectively there is a kind of circling the wagon and pitching in. All other times the common bond is the ambition to make as much money and surround oneself with as many baubles as is possible and so becoming hyper-sensitive about all people who you figure want to take it away. No doubt that is an exxageration but does have considerable play here in the USA. And on one level there's no problem with it but when it comes to deciding on questions of justice it makes a difference.

As itself, the ambition to get rich is one of the overarching problems since there are only so many big paying jobs, only so much capital available for financing, only so much of everything. Not only that but you have conspicuous consumption that attempts to convince people that they do not exist unless they have certain levels of material objects. And that attempts to organize the mainstream population around a life-style that celebrates the items and the fact that no one exists but those who have the item. It becomes a battle between the ambitious and the demoralized since ambition itself can create a state of demoralization.

What that tells me is that America is out of some unique phase of its development when the communal sense was strong. When wealth was scorned and shamed into doing big things for the communal self. But the ambition is always rationalized as the need to ensure the strength of the economy and, by extension, the political strength of the nation-state. It can't change. It either maintains the level of ambition it has reached or declines.

About all a citizen of integrity can do is follow his course and adjust when he see's some mistake in thinking that he has made, and cultivate the central organizing principle of liberal democracy without getting corrupted in the process.

The citizen of integrity can probably see the blind spot when looking at the intelligent crowd. They confuse abstraction with reality. They confuse the ability, through research and techniques, to objectify anything with a sense of power over this "anything" and with the automatic response that the "anything" must be changed. This is a mania that the citizen is greeted with early on and should be thoroughly ignored.

To take in experts and immediately color the perception of reality with it is a bad mistake. The mistake comes when the ideas are not allowed to fully mature. They need to spread around a bit to find as many angles of attack as they can. But then to take the ideas and develop them into ideology or a weapon without it coming under further development, is a crime against thought and the cause of a good many problems. There is always the missing piece that needs to be discovered.

Many things should be changed. However, in a democracy change is in the hands of the complex multitudes. It is the people that need to get strengthened so that they know how to deal with ideas and knowledge and experience rather than destroyed by these things or taken away by the first strong-willed individual that comes along. And the only way that that can come about is by renewal of the core principles, renewal of the fuel cells of the liberal democracy, renewal of the sense, renewal of the language. That last item is uppermost. Certainly, a renewal of the sense of responsibility to liberal democracy. You can reject it but you can't disturb it. Better to understand it, respect it and offers the ways and means that improves it

To simply attack the obvious, this is the mark of revenge. A mark that idealism has dancing on its obverse side.

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There are other and better realms than the one that is structured by politics and economics. These institutions exist out of necessity and are soon enough filled with a variety of ambition. Nonetheless, they exist and one must be in relation to them.

But at the same time, the citizen must never forget that there are truths and idealisms and aspirations that have nothing to do with the temporary state of things. These are much more likely to take us out of the subjectivity of our own time and gives us perspective. That is, if they contain that mysterious quality called truth.

We must be involved in the structure of things, this is our fate. We leave the structure at a risk. And like others I am of two natures. On the one hand I desire to have as objective a view of the institutions as is possible. I want to know the best thought that is being applied to the quality of decisions. I do not want to be fooled by power but I expect it to try and convince me of its rightness. Sometimes, in relation to this structure, I am pessimistic and at other times I am optimistic. These feelings wax and wane through some mysterious process. At the same time I am a man, a citizen, a political creature who must have a point of view, who must decide who is telling the truth and what exactly the truth is. I am a creature, then, compounded by the levels of relation I have with the universe of power; whether it is local, regional, national, or global. As a political creature I must act. I must show myself and what I believe in, I must be bold enough for that. I must be knowledgeable enough to keep in front of me the whole operation. I must be conscious of my experience that has shown me all kinds of life and all kinds of difficulties and opportunities, hardships and luxuries.

I have a private life. The private life entails certain responsibilities and restraints. Every action that I take can be, pushed hard enough, related to politics. I drive the freeway; the freeway is clogged with traffic. The freeway and the traffic are responsibilities of some level of government so, as I steam in the freeway traffic I am a political creature and am brought into the realm of the political universe. It is neither good nor bad. It simply needs my relation.

There are human qualities that I want to survive such as tolerance, curiosity, imagination, creativity. They too subject the political universe to certain judgments and the person and party who ensures that these qualities survive is the person and party that I will support.

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