One of life's beautiful gardens regenerating out of our current cultural and political landscape is one dedicated to the common good. I’ll let your imagination play with what a Common Good Garden might look like! For some time how I’m afraid our sense of the common good is just a bland, threadbare phrase, and a worn out and neglected garden. Much of our cultural bias, in fact, is a garden of morality of nasty weeds that emphasizes individual rights, the pursuit of one’s own happiness, competitive win-lose, and self-interest, for a start. We are more likely to honor the importance of personal accomplishment in terms of personal wealth, and our system of accumulative capitalism provides the philosophical economic base for our individualism. The problem this creates is that those of us able to successfully work this cultural bias do well by sprouting with strains of seeds that provide us with better test taking skills, for example, or a more favored racial strain, or with “genes” of inherited wealth or privilege. And too many of us are more likely to be increasingly neglectful of those whose seeds fell on less fertile ground which has left them weakened and marginalized, which, in turn, leads to the terrible neglect of our Common Good Garden. And, this, of course, is an albeit oversimplified metaphor to explain the neglected garden of economic disparity and greed that we have created in the U.S. and throughout much of the world.
See we need that neglected but beautiful Common Good Garden to be tended anew, nurtured, and fertilized with things such as a graduated income tax (the elusive quest of the people in the state of Washington), well financed educational opportunities that support ALL our young people, from childhood through university, and, of course, health care for all ("common good health care," anyone?). For a start!
A cultural bias of the common good would focus on supporting deeply imbedded social relationships that emphasize our common humanity and needs, and we would share a commitment - covenant? - that we would respectfully organize our community so that welfare of all would be as important as our own.
I don’t really think this bias is at all idealistic. Whether we call it socialism or a bias toward the common good, it works well in many countries outside the U.S., and it has solid support from all of our primary religious teachings. I am so grateful that Pope Francis so clearly and beautifully reframed a vision for the common good in his Laudato Si’ encyclical in contrast to the impact of predatory capitalism that destroys community, the environment, and exploits the poor. Pope Francis, it seems, is a Master Gardener!
And yet another boost for the common good garden came this week at the Vatican under the sponsorship of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. Some fifty prominent political leaders and ethicists gathered to help prepare what I understand will be yet another of the Pope’s encyclicals, this time with a focus on the common good to be released soon. And then the event received the unexpected media sunshine when Bernie Sanders attended and delivered a speech. (If you haven’t yet seen Bernie’s excellent speech I am including it below, but remember Bernie was only a guest. He was not the main attraction!)
We would all do well to develop a deeper appreciation for what we already do to support our personal Common Good Garden, acknowledging that most readers will already be deeply involved in their community life. But we would do even better if more and more we helped nourish the Common Good Gardens throughout our workplaces, our political and social settings, and, of course, in our family lives. I envision a virtual Common Good Botanical Garden of all forms and species of vibrant buds and blooms that drive out the nasty weeds of consumerism, militarism and racism.
We on Whidbey Island - and I expect this is true in many other parts of our country - already have a strong commitment to a communitarian ethic and practice through our numerous social and support groups. It’s one of the most important reasons most of us love to live here…. and may it be ever so!
1) Please plan to join the wider community to celebrate our Island's Earth and Ocean festival day this coming Saturday, April 23, at Bayview, starting at 12 noon. Friend Kate Davies will be giving a talk based on her forthcoming book on hope, a community photo will be taken, and then the Greening Congregation Collaborative will lead a reflective procession from Bayview to the Good Cheer gardens a short distance up on Bayview Rd. There will be information booths on various aspects of our Islands environmental concerns, and I will be facilitating a discussion on Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ encyclical at 3 pm at the Sears House.
2) Bernie Sanders' prepared remarks delivered at the Vatican this week are below: