I ran across this article in Tikkun Magazine (A Bimonthly Jewish and Interfaith Critique of Politics, Culture, & Society). Now, my notion of divinty is not personal... in other words, I don't have "faith" in a particular god. My beliefs tend to lean more towards the Eastern Philosphies... that having been said, spirituality is a common thread to all ideologies.
Anyway, I'd love to hear comments on this article, political, religous... whatever. Although I agree with much of this article, I am able to seperate the political and religous content with the overall message.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
How the Bush Administration Has Diminished America's Spiritual Capital
Tikkun Magazine (Sep/Oct 2004 issue) - By Danah Zohar
America is not at peace with herself. Many people feel a sense of despair or even defeat. The issues at stake are far deeper than any candidate’s vision for the nations economy, job creation, import controls, or even the mess in Iraq. While neither President Bush nor Senator Kerry has articulated such, thinking (and worried) members of the electorate know that November 2004 will be a battle for the American soul.
A nation's soul is defined by it's spiritual capital: its sense of identity, its fundamental values, its deep sense of purpose, its shared vision, its relationship to the outside world, and its integrity as a nation. Spiritual capital is not concerned with any particular religion or belief system, but is instead reflected in what a nation believes in, what it aspires to, and what it takes responsibility for.
In the Oxford English Dictionary, capital is defined as "that which confers wealth, profit, advantage or power." Capitalism, the economic doctrine that underpins America's all-important corporate culture and much of its national identity (thus Herbert Hoover's famous, "the business of America is business"), gives the narrowest possible definition to all these terms. Wealth is taken to mean money, so the wealth that makes the world go round is material wealth and profit is material profit. Advantage is measured in money or in the power to manipulate people to maximize one's (usually money-based) interests. In this strictly material sense of capital, America is the richest nation on earth.
But lately we have also been hearing about "Social Capital," which Fraces Fukuyama writes about at length in his book Trust. It is defined as a combination of a nations material wealth and the social benefit it gains from having low drug and alcohol abuse, low divorce and illegitimacy rates, low litigation figures, high literacy, and high degree of trust. I would also add the benefit gained from a strong sense of social justice and an absence of gross inequality. All of these factors contribute to social stability and thus to social capital.
"Spiritual Capital" takes the broadening of capital a stage further, transcending the usual notion of capitalism altogether. It is the bedrock on which all other kinds of capital rest, defining the "commodities of exchange" in terms of meaning, inspiring vision, and the cherishing and implementation of fundamental human values. As such, nations invested with high spiritual capital act from a much broader context with attention to a wider array of concerns. They realize that when spiritual capital reserves are low, people become ill or stressed more often; there are higher rates of drug and alcohol dependency, depression, and suicide; more family and community breakdown; and more of the kind of alienation that leads to greater selfishness, crime, and vandalism. In other words, without spiritual capital, people lose heart.
America inherited rich reserves of spiritual capital from the vision of its Founding Fathers, which were depleted from time to time by the shame of slavery, the genocide of the Native Americans, the witch trials, economic rape by the robber barons of the nineteenth century, Vietnam, etc. but on the whole the balance sheet has remained positive. America has, for the most part, been a good nation among nations. However, the attitudes and policies of the current administration are squandering the nations spiritual capital so seriously that the deficit risks matching Bush's record-breaking and very dangerous budget deficit. Both could reach a point of no return.
There has always been a deep ideological split in America. In his article "The America We've Got," (subscription required) for the March 2004 issue of Prospect, Anatol Lieven succinctly described this historical division as that between the "Jeffersonians" - who advocated universalist principles of freedom, individualism, liberty, democracy, the rule of law (both national and international), egalitarianism, populism, civil liberties, and laissez-faire economics - and the "Jacksonians," who have represented a more narrow and jingoistic American nationalism. As Lieven wrote, the Jacksonians cultivate "not only specific national hatreds, but also hostility to all ideals, goals, movements, laws, and institutions which aim to transcend the nation and speak for the general interests of mankind." Jacksonians have tended to represent the values of white, Protestant America, but it is the Jefforsonians tradition that has predominantly defined America, giving it a foundation of transcendent values that could embrace and give common ground to the many ethnic and religious differences brought to America by its wholly immigrant population.
The Bush Administration is firmly rooted in the Jacksonian vision of America. It has promoted a narrow, nationalistic vision of America defined by bellicose self-interest abroad and the narrow self-interest of its own right-wing, largely Southern, white electorate at home. It has acted against diversity and egalitarianism and drawn from the wider Jefforsonian vision of freedom and democracy only when it can manipulate these principles to the advantage of its own, Jacksonian purposes.
A nations spiritual capital is reflected in the basic motivations that drive its people. Motivations lie behind a people's behavior, but they also determine its thought processes. The Bush administration through both rhetoric and policies, has encouraged the American people to act from the negative emotions of fear, greed, anger, and self-assertion. It has divided American against American, raised the levels of domestic fear and suspicion, built a culture of fear around the events of 9/11, stoked the nations anger (both internal and against "the evil men who are against us"), encouraged a culture of greed with its economic policies and loyalty to big business, and fostered a national self-assertion not seen since the Big Stick diplomacy of Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders.
Each of the three kinds of capital held by a nation is associated with one of three kinds of intelligence available to the that nations people and leadership. Material Capital (money) is built using our rational, "how-to" intelligence, or IQ. Social Capital requires the availability of Emotional Intelligence (EQ), which allows us to empathize with the needs and feelings of others, understand and improve our own motivations, and build trust. Spiritual Capital requires high levels of Spiritual Intelligence, or SQ. Our spiritual intelligence reflects our access to and need for deep meaning, transcendent vision, fundamental human values, and an abiding sense of purpose. Just as high spiritual capital is necessary to build and maintain material and social capital, high spiritual intelligence is necessary to use effectively our intellectual and emotional intelligence.
The twelve qualities that define high spiritual intelligence are: self-awareness, spontaneity, vision and value orientation, holism, compassion, celebration of diversity, field independence, fundamental questioning, ability to reframe, constructive use of adversity, humility, and sense of vocation.
The spiritual intelligence of America's Founding Fathers was high. They built the nations original reserves of spiritual capital with a vision of that inspired the whole world, and raised the sights and aspirations of humankind. But how does the Bush Administration rank in the area of spiritual intelligence? Let's put it to the test.
Self-awareness is knowing what we believe in and value, what motivates us at the deepest level, and how these beliefs and motivations affect us and others. Bush has an astounding ability to manipulate American public opinion, but he has shown neither emotional nor spiritual intelligence in articulating what his true motives are, nor in understanding the impact of American success and cultural hegemony on Islamic cultures. An America encouraged to lead through motives of fear, anger, greed, and self-assertion cannot but clash with an Islam reeling from shame, fear, anger and self-assertion. The Bush rhetoric (protecting and spreading freedom and democracy) is out of step with the Bush reality - either intentionally because he wishes to mislead the American people, or simply because the man does not know himself. In either case, he fails the self-awareness test.
Spontaneity is being able to live in and be responsive to the moment and all that it contains. It means being able to think and ac without all the baggage of habit, preconditioning, prejudice, or prejudgment. September 11th represented a new moment in American history. It could have been a great opportunity for America to examine itself and its role and image in the world, to answer honestly deep questions like, "why do they hate us so much?" But Bush responded to these attacks with assumptions drawn from his fathers presidency and with easy mantras about "evil men who hate us because they hate our freedoms." We know from the testimony of Richard Clarke to the 9/11 Commission that it took a great deal of pressure from the intelligence and security staff to dissuade Bush from his beliefs that Iraq had been behind the attacks, and from his still more lingering belief that there was at least a dangerous and active link between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's regime. Bush was so locked into the Iraq scenario that he ignored persistent warnings that an attack on Iraq would distract from the effort to confront the real terrorists, and that such an attack would actually increase the dangers of terrorism. The Bush administration is filled with dogmatists and neocon ideologues who came to office with set assumptions and agendas about the environment, tax cuts, Americans role in the world, who America's enemies are, and how to deal with them. Real events and experiences have not impinged on them. For this reason, they fail the spontaneity test.
Being vision and value led is to act from deep principles and beliefs and to live life accordingly. George Bush and his team would certainly describe themselves as visionaries (and indeed we would have to agree with them). They do have a powerful vision of a global American empire the will spread the values they serve ("what's best for America is best for the world"). The vision inspires leadership and informs their decision-making. But the downside is that visionaries can be so caught up in their visions that they lose touch with reality. This can lead to closed-mindedness, fanaticism, and dictatorial leadership style (The Patriot Act, the Homeland Security Bill, pre-emptive wars, etc.). Adolf Hitler was a great visionary, but he did not serve fundamental human values. Bush is no Hitler, but the values he serves are not the values that defined America as a nation, nor those that have kept her great for over two and a half centuries. They are not the universalist values of freedom and dignity for all, of respect for difference, and of support for international law and the right of national self-determination. His administration failes the true spirit of the vision and values test.
Holism is a sense of the system or of connectivity, an ability to see larger patterns, relationships, and connections. It confers a strong sense of being part of a larger whole. Holism is an ability to look at a problem from every angle and to see that every question has at least two sides, and usually more. It is also a perception of, and loyalty to, a deeper common reality that underlies most differences. Bush is a simple black and white man: "You're either with us or you are with the terrorists." He is also a short-term thinker who does not see America as part of a larger global community nor does he see today as linked to the well-being of tomorrow: "I will not sacrifice American jobs now and endanger the American economy to sign this treaty [Kyoto]." It is as if America were not a part of the world that will suffer as our environment deteriorates. Bush invaded Iraq ignorant of the Iraqi reality, blind to long-term consequences, and with no apparent consideration for what he would do after the war was "won". His administration has refused to consider the consequences of their budget deficit, the weak dollar, the Patriot act, preemptive wars, or Guantanamo. There is no doubt that they fail the holism test.
Compassion is an ability to "feel with" and to have deep empathy for others, particularly for those different from ourselves. It requires that we feel the common humanity of our neighbors even if their views are alien to, or opposite from, our own. Compassion is not mere pity, nor does it make us weak. WE are far better placed to defeat an enemy we understand than one who has us flummoxed. Americans as a whole have never been very good at feeling or understanding others who are different from themselves, but the Bush Administration has brought this failure to a point where it is a threat to America's (and the Western world's) security. Bust does not understand his enemies and he has made no effort to do so. By defining the Axis of Evil and then branding Islamic terrorists as "Evil Men" at every turn, he has turned his back on what really drives the hatred for America in today’s world. The terrorists do commit evil acts, but that does not make them evil men. They are ashamed, alienated, angry, desperate men ready to die to destroy what they see as a threat to their culture and values. Bush's "war on terror" creates more of the same, which will inevitably continue for generation after generation. Bush fails the compassion test, and both America and the world will continue paying for it.
Celebrating diversity means valuing other people, lifestyles, cultures, and opinions for thier differences, not in spite of them. It is a recognition of and sense of gratitude towards life's differing, even conflicting, possibilities and the ways that these can enrich us and broaden our point of view. It thrives on dissent and difference rather than simply tolerating it. The Western mind has never been good at celebrating diversity. We are the culture of one God, one truth, and one way - of either/or rather than both/and. This thinking runs through both Christianity and Islam, with their vocations to convert or conquer (the Jews recognize that other people have other gods, they just want nothing to do with them). Newtonian science (absolute space, absolute time, universal laws of nature) falls into this pattern, and Bush is Newtonian leader. American values, and the American way is the only way and must be exported to all the world, at gunpoint if necessary. Bust does not surround himself with men and women who disagree with him or who make him question his assumptions, no has he inspired or encouraged a national conversation that would lead the American people to question theirs. He fails the celebration of diversity test.
Field independence is a psychological term meaning an ability to stand against the crowd, to know one's own convictions and to live by them, even if they result in isolation or unpopularity. More subtly, it implies an ability to stand apart from the paradigms, assumptions, or habitual patterns of one's own mind, to see when we are in error or thinking in a box. It requires a high degree of self-awareness and critical thought. Without these capacities, field independence is just self-delusion or bullheadedness. Nietzsche pointed out that "convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies." Men or women of uncritical conviction can be fanatical, unreceptive to reality, obstinate, and closed to other points of view or to diversity. The Bush administration stood firmly against world opinion on Iraq, but that was only because they did not think the world opinion important. Blinded by their conviction that whatever is best for (their) America is best for the world, and that the only opinion that matters is domestic opinion, they have ruthlessly manipulated events for the sake of increasing popularity at him. Bush panders to his electoral base with every word and gesture. Every member of that administration, with the possible exception of Colin Powell, reeks of sanctimonious self-belief. They fail the test of self-critical, disciplined field independence.
A tendency to ask fundamental questions reflects a desire to understand things, to get tot he bottom of them. It is accompanied by a tendency to refuse to take anything for granted, questioning the reasons, foundations, and inner workings of everything and asking whether it could be different. Questions are subversive and often undermine smug assumptions and prejudices; asking them requires both humility and an openness to to the diversity of truth. Bush is not a man who asks fundamental questions. He knows what he believes and that what he believes is both right and best for everyone (or at least for his America). He was unwilling to brook any questions about Saddam's complicity in 9/11, nor later the wisdom (and likely aftermath) of invading Iraq. He has given no indication of questioning more deeply what fuels Islamic hatred for America, nor what deeply motivates the followers of Bin Laden. He has discouraged the American media (and thus the American public) from asking fundamental questions with accusations of unpatriatotic reporting, and has leveled the same charge at members of the American intelligentsia. If not a fanatic, he is at least a zealot and a proselytizer.
The ability to reframe is an ability to stand back from a situation or a problem and to see the bigger picture, and an associated ability to be flexible in ones thinking. Reframing can be both spatial - taking in a larger geographical perspective or wider set of situations or people likely to be influenced by a decision - or it can be temporal - noticing how different a strategy looks if viewed over a longer time frame. The practice naturally tests assumptions and values rooted in a more narrow perspective and usually takes us into our discomfort zone. Bush won the presidency with less than half the popular vote and his controversial victory divided the American electorate. He promised to come to office as a moderate Republican serving all the people. Yet his leadership has grown more one-sided and extreme over these past four years. He has followed a narrow and short term vision on energy and environmental conservation, his economic policies have impoverished and weakened state and local governments, his record budget deficit serves the needs of the moment at the expense of the future generations, his tax policies favor the well-off at the expense of low-income families, his rush into Iraq failed to consider the aftermath of depositing Saddam Hussein and ignored the likely (and now certain) backlash in the Arab and Islamic world. His insistence that American-style democracy is the best form of government for all nations shows an ignorance of the social dynamics, complexities, and sensitivities in many of the world's societies, and his commitment to global empire is entirely America-centric, thus thwarting a wider process of global cooperation. Bush seems locked into a narrow perspective on nearly every issue with which he has dealt, and this fails the reframing test.
The positive use of adversity means an ability to own and learn from mistakes and to run problems into opportunities. We recognize our limits and work to surpass them. We grown and learn from suffering or failure and make gains from our setbacks. Perhaps the quality is best summed up by a line from Kiplings famous If: "If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two the same... they you be a man, my son." Lacking a positive perspective to adversity, we can become self-pitying and bitter, feel victimized, or place the blame for our troubles on scapegoats. Americans have never dealt well with adversity, particularly that which has any tragic dimension. It flies in the face of a national optimism and a faith that every problem has a quick and easy solution Yet America today is facing greater domestic and foreign adversity than at any time since the Civil War or the Great Depression. Its values, life-style, self-image, and sense of security (both physical and economic) are all being questioned. It needs a great conversation, a great reflection, a great self-examination. The Bush leadership has not led or encouraged this maturing process. Many in the Bush administration encourage the view that weaknesses within American society are due to lazy and/or immoral underclass, often contaminated by 1960s values, who live dishonestly on welfare, undermine the American way of life, and make life difficult for "good, ordinary Americans" who read the bible and pay their taxes. None of this has brought any healing to America, nor enabled a positive response to adversity.
Humility requires a sense of being a player in a larger drama, a sense of our true place in the world. A sense of humility gets us beyond the isolation of and preoccupation with our own self-importance. It opens up the possibility of learning from experience and others. People or nations who think of themselves as God's gift to the world and of their values as superior to all others have little motivation to listen and learn. Humility is the necessary basis for critical thought and judgment. Its absence can lead to poor strategic thinking. To use a favorite American term, it is a "no-brainer" to ask whether Bush or his administration have a sense of humility. Their arrogance and self-certainty have been overwhelming. Their domineering and grandiose style of global leadership has isolated America perhaps as never before.
A sense of vocation involves being "called" to serve something higher or larger than oneself, called to make a positive difference. It is usually accompanied by a deep sense of gratitude toward those who have helped us, or toward life itself, and a wish to give something back. By their own criteria, the senior members of the Bush administration have a great sense of vocation about building a strong, safe, "patriotic" America that is the center of global empire. But then Osama bin Laden has a strong sense of vocation, too: to destroy the West, to restore the honor of Islam, and to build a global Islamic empire. Both are distortions of true vocations based on self-serving ideology or fanaticism and show poor judgment about their own limitations. Neither is linked to humility or self-awareness and neither serves the larger good that transcends and unifies differences. Both serve a tribal and jealous god. In truth, bin Laden is the Jungian shadow of the Bush vision of America. They are two sides of the same coin, each locked into an exclusive perspective that necessitates conflict with the other. Both fail the vocation test.
From the analysis presented here, George W. Bush and his administration fail every one of the twelve criteria for possessing spiritual intelligence. This presents a grim picture for both America and the world. But we need not leave the building of spiritual capital in the hands of the politicians. To live our own lives on the scale of epoch making, it is not necessary to be president of the United States, CEO of a vast global enterprise, or even an aid worker in South Africa. We just have to stay true to our own deepest ideals and values and make what difference we can, at whatever level we operate in life.
The article, which is not online yet (I hand typed this whole thing), will be located at the following link