Meaning

What do you do when the world is “evacuated of meaning”? This is the wicked problem Walker Percy concerned himself with.

The search is never over.

The Common Good versus the Greater Good

The “Common Good” refers to the collective well-being, interests, and benefits of a community. It emphasizes the importance of community values, resources, and goals that contribute to the overall well-being of the community. Decisions and actions that promote the common good are those that consider the needs and rights of all members of the community and seek to create a fair and just society. A city council, for example, allocates funding to improve public infrastructure such as roads, schools, and parks. This benefits all residents of the city and contributes to the common good by enhancing the quality of life for everyone.

In our latest book, we define the 9 domains of the Common Good, tied to the essential freedoms they provide:

The “Greater Good” refers to a perspective that makes decisions and choices that might require sacrifice or compromise on an individual or smaller group level in order to achieve a greater benefit for a larger number of people. The concept of the greater good often involves ethical considerations and the idea that certain actions are justifiable if they lead to significant positive outcomes for a larger portion of society, even if they might negatively impact some individuals or smaller groups.

The problem with the greater good is that the decision-making for the sake of achieving significant positive outcomes – is left to an elite. And this elite may not be serving the interests of the common good.

Authoritarian regimes – both on the extreme left and the extreme right – have used the idea of the “Greater Good” to justify imposing strict controls on society, limiting personal freedoms, and suppressing opposition. This is done in the name of maintaining social order (harmony?!) and achieving national unity. 

Fascism and Communism both focus on nationalism, a strong centralized government and strongman leader, and often promote the supremacy of a particular race or nation. These regimes historically have justified their actions by claiming to pursue the greater good of the nation or the state, often at the expense of individual rights and freedoms. 

Thus, authoritarian ideologies can lead to exclusionary policies that discriminate against certain groups deemed as threats to the nation or its interests. The “Greater Good” might be invoked to justify these policies, claiming that they are necessary for the security and prosperity of the dominant group. Such regimes use propaganda to manipulate public perception and present their actions as necessary for the greater good. This can involve distorting information and suppressing dissent to create a unified narrative that supports the regime’s goals. 

At its worst, interpretations of the “Greater Good” have been used to advance ideas of racial or ethnic superiority, where one group is deemed as inherently superior and entitled to privileges at the expense of others.  It is the rational behind hate-based politics – leading to separation – apartheid, institutional injustice, and genocide.

Don’t get fooled by the Greater Good – or long-termism, another form of greater-goodism.

As we destroy the Common Good, we build a Zero-Trust Society.

What the fossil fuel industry doesn’t want you to know

Just because you don’t like Al Gore, doesn’t mean he isn’t telling you the truth:

“…the climate crisis is a fossil fuel crisis. The solutions are going to come from a discussion and collaboration about phasing out fossil fuels. And there’s only so much longer they can hold this up and tie us down and keep us from doing the right thing.”

Fight. It’s time to regenerate this world.

Regeneration: The Future of Community

So our book is finally here. At one point – when we were at 500 pages – I almost gave up. But then I remembered Gail Mazur‘s advice: “anything worth doing is worth doing badly,” and decided to carry on. Now, at 320 pages, this book tries to cover the various angles and sights and buzzwords we see creeping into the regeneration ecosystem (pun intended).

The book’s original title was Regeneration: The Future of Community, but as we went on, it ended up becoming Regeneration: The Future of Community in a Permacrisis World.

What’s the big idea? Actually we think there are several.

Climate change is the greatest market failure in history. Its costs are not priced into market transactions because third parties overwhelmingly bear them – they are euphemistically called “externalities.” There is a fatal misalignment between what is in the interests of the economy and the incentives of the companies that comprise it. Nature, and the communities we live in, are nowhere part of the equation!

 Regeneration means regenerating the Common Good. Our position is this: The Climate Crisis and the Collapse of Society are both symptoms of the same fatal sickness: the destruction of the Common Good.  We cannot compartmentalize the climate and separate it from the rest of society or our activities. 

Here are the questions we – Philip Kotler, Enrico Foglia, and myself, asked ourselves:

The choice is clear. It is regeneration, or extinction.

Learn more at the Regeneration Marketing Institute >>

Cettina Martorana on Politics and Regeneration

This week I interviewed Cettina Martorana, a candidate in Sicily’s regional elections on the subject of regenerative politics.

Can politics be regenerative at all?

Martorana is a professional business woman who finds herself in an election because she was drafted by Caterina Chinnici – the candidate on the left for president of the Sicilian Assembly.

Cettina Martorana asks: “What kind of Sicily do you want?”

Here are five points I got out of our discussion:

  • Nature must be at the heart of all future decisions.
  • The climate crisis is an economic crisis and a social crisis.
  • Regeneration is an alternative to polarization
  • Regenerative politics is beyond left vs. right
  • Regenerative politics is based on problem solving

If our politics don’t engage the youth, what’s the point in politics at all? Martorana’s idea is simple: ask the students what they want and find ways to create opportunities for them. She does this through an old media format – comics!

But her message is serious.

Here is Martorana’s tree of regeneration – a symbol to capture the interconnected nature of all things in the community:

Martorana’s unique campaign is based on a deep understanding and empathy for the plight facing Sicily’s youth. Jobs and employment are scarce, and now with COVID and climate change, things may get much worse. As a problem-solver, she aims to explain why regenerative politics is not just a word, but the way forward.

You can check Martorana’s ideas out at www.cettinamartorana.it – with the help of Google translate!

17 Rules for Building Community (via Wendell Berry)

Those of us who have been building digital communities know that we were simply trying to re-interpret and re-create the rules of real, living, communities. Wendell Berry had something say about this many years ago which applies to the “ecosystem builders” of today.

These “rules” or steps are not optional – you can’t pick or chose. All or nothing. Our survival as a species may depend on understanding this.

These are also the rules for sustainable development. Gandhian all the way.

Supposing that the members of a local community wanted their community to cohere, to flourish, and to last, they would:

1. Ask of any proposed change or innovation: What will this do to our community? How will this affect our common wealth?

2. Include local nature — the land, the water, the air, the native creatures — within the membership of the community.

3. Ask how local needs might be supplied from local sources, including the mutual help of neighbors.

4. Supply local needs first (and only then think of exporting their products, first to nearby cities, and then to others).

5. Understand the ultimate unsoundness of the industrial doctrine of ‘labor saving’ if that implies poor work, unemployment, or any kind of pollution or contamination.

6. Develop properly scaled value-adding industries for local products in order not to become merely a colony of the national or the global economy.

7. Develop small-scale industries and businesses to support the local farm or forest economy.

8. Strive to produce as much of their own energy as possible.

9. Strive to increase earnings (in whatever form) within the community, and decrease expenditures outside the community.

10. Circulate money within the local economy for as long as possible before paying it out.

11. Invest in the community to maintain its properties, keep it clean (without dirtying some other place), care for its old people, and teach its children.

12. Arrange for the old and the young to take care of one another, eliminating institutionalized ‘child care’ and ‘homes for the aged.’ The young must learn from the old, not necessarily and not always in school; the community knows and remembers itself by the association of old and young.

13. Account for costs that are now conventionally hidden or ‘externalized.’ Whenever possible they must be debited against monetary income.

14. Look into the possible uses of local currency, community-funded loan programs, systems of barter, and the like.

15. Be aware of the economic value of neighborliness — as help, insurance, and so on. They must realize that in our time the costs of living are greatly increased by the loss of neighborhood, leaving people to face their calamities alone.

16. Be acquainted with, and complexly connected with, community-minded people in nearby towns and cities.

17. Cultivate urban consumers loyal to local products to build a sustainable rural economy, which will always be more cooperative than competitive.

From a speech delivered November 11, 1994 at the 23rd annual meeting of the Northern Plains Resource Council.

PS – It’s worth noting that Berry was a Jefferson Lecturer in 2012. Walker Percy was the lecturer in 1989 (scrap book and publication).