A Bold Plan From Bill Whittle

Bill Whittle is an amazing essayist. If you have never read him before, go read everything you can, perhaps even buy his book (a compilation of his essays), over at Eject! Eject! Eject! You will be well served to read and ponder what he has to say.

I write this post in response to his essay You Are Not Alone Part 1 and Part 2. He has a bold vision; the title of his essay eludes to it, technology now allows us to communicate and share ideas in a way that was never possible before, people working together with shared values and virtues can truly change the world. It starts with the individual, not just any individual, but yourself. If we actually aspire to be virtuous, what will happen?

The essay introduces a working ideology for a strong and prosperous society, it is one that he calls a tit for tat society:

Tit-for-Tat combines generosity and toughness. And look at the terms used to describe the most successful strategic version of Tit-for-Tat: Nice. Retaliating. Forgiving. Non-envious.

He then provides examples of why this ideology works, I quote one here:

Everything the West has achieved – all the science, prosperity, security and freedom – is based upon the free exchange of ideas. We tolerate offensive ideas so that this free exchange of information may continue. Disagreement is the crucible of wisdom. The price we pay for this cooperation is the daily offense we suffer at the exposure to ideas we find distasteful.

However, when radical Muslims living in the West demand that their religion not undergo these same stresses and trials and turns violent – burning buildings or killing those who disagree with them – well, we as a society have a choice. We can be “always cooperating,” which rewards that behavior, or we can retaliate, which punishes it.

Which do you think – reward, or punishment – is likely to produce more of this savagery, and which less?

And frankly, which behavior is more worthy of contempt: slapping someone repeatedly in the face, or watching someone thank his assailant for doing it to them? That is not moral superiority. That is the neurosis of the masochist.

Read the rest of Part 1.

Part 2 then delves into how to best make a culture that functions in this way happen. The crux of the plan is the focus on values and virtues and the dedication of the individual to such aspirations.

Today, when we think of virtues, we tend to think of things like prudence, chastity, modesty…pretty cold porridge. But to the Greek, the Virtues were dynamic and bold. More, Aristotle and others believed they were harmonized – that is related, interconnected, so that to not know one was to imperfectly know the rest.

They were dionethic, he said, built by rationality – the virtues of understanding of substance, science, wisdom, the practical crafts and the practical mind.

And there were ethnic virtues, built by by customcourage and temperance; the property-based virtues of generosity and goodwill; honor-based virtues like pride, assertivity and control of anger; the social virtues of wittiness, honesty and friendliness; and the political virtue of justice.

What kind of society would a citizenry so educated and versed produce?

Good question. I think we should try and find out.

I want to make a quick interjection here. Bill is proposing something here that does not require religion (including Christianity). That is perfectly fine because not everyone in America is Christian or religious. But I do want to suggest that all the things he suggests should be things that are actively sought and striven for by Christians. Try going to church and reading your Bible; it will be impossible to get away from the same call that Bill is making. The difference is that for Christians, acting in such a way is not the end all of things.

One of the things that I am very excited about locally that relates directly to Bill’s call is a new non-prof whose board I will be serving on once it starts up more fully: Ivy Roads: Northwest Student Mentoring. Ivy Roads is the brain child of Ron Jacobson, a doctoral candidate in education at the University of Washington. From their vision statement:

We are focused upon purposeful investment in tomorrow’s leaders. It is our contention that our world is in need of leaders with integrity, compassion and wisdom. Most centers of higher learning (public and private) do an excellent job of training graduates in areas of job skills and knowledge, but are not equipped to carry out effective programs of character development. In the current makeup of the college and university structure character development has been left to sporadic residence hall programs, outside religious institutions, and the family. Ivy Roads is filling this gap in diverse and creative ways. Specifically, Ivy Roads is focused upon mentoring post-high school students in issues of integrity, leadership, and service.

So if you are in the Northwest, and you want to know more, let me know and I will try to get you in contact with the people that can get you the information you need. On a more global scale, Bill is starting up a community projected called Ejectia! (yes, he knows it is a silly name and no, that link does not work yet) where

We, together, can build a virtual community where people can go to be refreshed, encouraged, educated, entertained and improved. Such a place will invariably produce better citizens and better citizens make a better society.

Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

One of the things I would like to see in an online discussion/forum is not the standard “fight for your side of the argument till you collapse” method, but a place where the arguments are not just stated and defended, but where they are always related back to the virtues we are trying to aspire to. I don’t just want to know your argument, I want to know how it fits in, I want to know how it will make things better. If things are done this way I think those virtues could become a reality in a more concrete way. Arguments (especially arguments online) never seem to really change anything, but it we can show how our ideas work and why they should be implemented, we could actually cause change.

What are YOUR thoughts on this? What would society look like with these virtues? How can you help make that happen? Oh, and go introduce yourself to everyone at Eject! Eject! Eject! and let them know what you can do!

If you are a Technorati user, you should vote for this “Where’s the Fire?”: Bill Whittle has big plans backed by big virtues.

Categories: Social Commentary
  1. The Pirate King
    May 22nd, 2007 at 00:27 | #1

    Well, I found my way here from your comment at Bill’s blog. Gotta say, nice place you have here.

    I’ll need to read your backlogs before making further comment, but what I’ve seen so far is intriguing. More power to you.

  2. May 22nd, 2007 at 01:58 | #2

    Thanks TPK, I really appreciate that! I hope you will enjoy what you find, I know that I do, but I am slightly biased. ;)

    I am pretty excited to see what happens with all the people that are excited about Bill’s idea!

  3. salmypal
    May 22nd, 2007 at 10:11 | #3

    I hadn’t even finished Part I when I decided to come over here and tell you to go read this, only to find that you’re already there. Great minds, yada yada.

  4. May 22nd, 2007 at 12:16 | #4

    Heh, yada yada indeed! :)

  5. May 22nd, 2007 at 15:26 | #5

    “Always cooperating” would certainly wouldn’t work. But I think the Mideast demonstrates that “retaliating” doesn’t work either. Israel and the Palestinians have been going at it tit for tat for what - sixty years? I guess the idea with retaliation is that sooner or later the other guy will grovel and whimper like a dog instead of getting more and more angry.

    It never happens. Meanwhile, civilians get killed more than anyone.

    The sane thing is dialog. One way or another, as best you can, talk with those you disagree with. That’s what worked in Ireland after they’d had enough of tit for tat.

  6. May 22nd, 2007 at 15:44 | #6

    Did you read all of Bill’s essay? What the Palestinians and Israelis are doing is not what Bill is proposing. These are the qualities of Tit-for-Tat: Nice, Retaliating, Forgiving, Non-envious. If a society is only retaliating they are NOT doing what Bill is calling for. Please go read the essay where he explains it very well.

    I agree that dialog is a sane thing to do… until it becomes “always cooperating” which is what generally happens as talk talk talk continues with nothing actually being done.

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