Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Time for a "no dickheads" rule

In his wonderful book about the All Blacks, Legacy, James Kerr reminds us that a key to the success of this remarkable rugby team is an unbreakable social contract, "No dickheads."

I'm beginning to think that the body politic needs a similar approach.  If we view each country as having an implicit social contract, we can see that its tenets have an ebb and flow--from inclusive to exclusive, from sharing to selfish, and so on.  It appears that we are now heading, in several countries, to the end of the spectrum that is dysfunctional.

Martin Flanagan sets forth this thought in his book about Australia, In Sunshine or in Shadow. Although written several years ago, I have found his observations to be apt today in many ways.  A country whose philosophy was based on "mateship" has moved.  He writes:

I ask my father-in-law--what does it mean to be Australian? He looks out the window and says, "Giving the bloke beneath you a hand up." This ethic is directly at odds with the political ideology of our day. known in this country as economic rationalism, it is a glib brew of post-modern capitalism and social Darwinism that has no meaningful notion of culture and no respect for the local except as a marketplace.

Ari Shavit, in My Promised Land, describes a similar phenomenon in another young country that came into being on a wave of mutual support and social justice. A friend of mine there in Israel, looking at the current political leadership, behavior, and social trends, says, "I don't feel I am living in my own country anymore."

And in the United States, well, what can we say about the current campaign in one of the two major parties?  This article notes:

Much of the polarization dividing American politics was fueled not just by gerrymandering or money in politics or the other oft-cited variables, but by an unnoticed but surprisingly large electoral group — authoritarians.

This trend had been accelerated in recent years by demographic and economic changes such as immigration, which "activated" authoritarian tendencies, leading many Americans to seek out a strongman leader who would preserve a status quo they feel is under threat and impose order on a world they perceive as increasingly alien.

There was never a more important time for people of influence and status to speak up for the more positive social contract that has worked to make nations great.  But, not only those people.  With the rise of social media, everybody has a forum they can employ for similar messages.  It's really time to use the resources at our disposal to encourage and support a "no dickheads" rule, a culture of respect, openness, understanding, empathy, and mutual support--one that welcomes the diversity within but also the inflow of new citizens seeking gratefully to participate in a productive and free society.

But it is just that freedom that, without diligence, diminishes us all.

If not, we best remember the quote from Martin Niemöller:

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I did not speak out;
As I was not a communist. 

When they locked up the social democrats,
I did not speak out;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
As I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I did not speak out;
As I was not a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.


Hana McCarthy ‏@HanaMcCarthy said...

From Twitter:

"Giving the bloke beneath you a hand up." Could we ever use a return to that spirit!

Victoria Nahum said...

From Facebook:

A "no dickheads" rule would mean we would have to start completely over politically. (Pop up balloon lightbulb flickering over my head) Grand idea!