The following piece about an ethical and fulfilling life is chapter 12 in the book Values & Ethics: From Living Room to Boardroom (itself based on an Internet-based talk radio show of the same name I did in times past). My insightful and experienced partner in dialogue is Jan Phillips. Jan’s words are indicated by the initials JP, and mine are JM. For paragraphs with no initials, assume they are a continuation of the speaker who was speaking in the previous paragraph. I highlight words having to do with values and virtues by placing them in boldface type. Enjoy this look at an ethical and fulfilling life based on wisdom, enlightenment, self-growth, vision, and fulfillment with author and thought leader, Jan Phillips.
“People who have the most positive emotion, the most engagement, and the most meaning in life are the happiest, and they have the most life satisfaction.” ~ Martin Seligman
JM: Jan Phillips is a most unique person. She is an author, speaker, “thought leader,” photographer and “cultural creative.” Today we are going to be discussing who Jan is, how she became so, and some of her philosophies. The overarching idea is to discover her ideas, beliefs, suggestions and examples of how to live a life that is both ethical and fulfilling; to hear her insights on what we as individuals, communities, nations, and the world can do to make useful and needed improvements. I’ve spoken with Jan many times, and predict that we might have trouble keeping it to an hour! I am a definite fan of her book The Art of Original Thinking. Hello, Jan, welcome.
JP: Hello, glad to be here.
JM: Let’s talk about an ethical and fulfilling life. You are a “thought leader.” Tell us what that means.
JP: Well, I haven’t exactly defined myself in those terms. When you say it, does it ring true? Yes. For anyone to be a thought leader in this culture, what I think that means is that we’re willing to speak out; to take the risk of advocating for others; to make statements that are true, ethical, and moral (which might not necessarily be popular). The biggest component, I think, is that of courage. Courage is called for when you stand up for ethics, justice, and compassion in the world.
JM: Interesting. Whose footsteps do you travel in? Whom do you look to for inspiration and example about what the right thing to do is, what justice really means, and what an ethical and fulfilling life means?
JP: Some of the elders who have gone before and passed on I would say would include Jesus Christ, the Buddha, Ramana Maharshi. More modern-day heroes of mine include Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, and all the activists throughout time who have coalesced into one organism to register their feelings about certain things going on in our world.
“People see God everyday; they just don’t recognize him.” ~ Pearl Bailey
JM: That’s kind of a “Who’s Who?” of thought leaders, if you ask me. Now, you helped found the Syracuse Cultural Workers, is that true? Tell us about your intentions.
JP: It was the early ‘80s and I had just moved back to Syracuse, New York. I had been a photographer and activist already, so when I arrived I looked around to see how I could be of use – how to use art in the service of kind of “forwarding the action” of justice and peace in the world and in our communities. So, I gathered with a group of four other people, and what we discerned was that the movements for peace and justice in the world seemed to lack an artistic component— they were highly theoretical, very wordy, very cerebral— and we felt like we were “called” in the area of the arts; we were excited by colors and images and vitality. So we founded a forum for artists to create and submit work that said something about the world in which we lived. We generated interest in artists around the world to create work which we then put onto posters, calendars, note cards, and the like so one could go into a bookstore and find materials that had images that spoke to the very basic realities of our lives.
JM: So, perhaps an ethical and fulfilling life is when where one does something that is not only fulfilling to themselves, but really makes a dent in the problems of the world; when one tries to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. Although some artists might bemoan or decry any number of situations going on in their communities (or the world), I think the key element is: Aim to do something; you have certain skills and visions, so put it all together to (I think you said) be of service. You’ll feel better, I promise you.
“The art of peace does not rely on weapons or brute force to succeed; instead we put ourselves in tune with the universe, maintain peace in our own realms, nurture life, and prevent death and destruction. The true meaning of the term samurai is ‘one who serves and adheres to the power of love.’” ~ Morihei Ueshiba
JP: Have you ever heard of the concept, enlightened self-interest? This kind of fits into that category. It’s an action that one really recognizes as self-serving, but it has what appears to be a kind of altruism about it. How this manifested personally in my life was that in 1982, Ronald Reagan was in charge; there was a great deal of nuclear proliferation occurring and I, as a global citizen, was experiencing a lot of anxiety. It was “hard times” to read the newspaper. I didn’t quite know what to do about it, but one day, inadvertently, somebody left a copy of the book The Hundredth Monkey on my workbench (I was working as a picture framer in a suburban mall).
It’s a wonderful story that was written about this research being done by an American scientist on the islands off the coast of Japan. They were researching monkeys, watching their behaviors in response to different stimuli. So, one day they went and they threw bags and bags of sweet potatoes on the ground, and the monkeys just loved them. There was one little 18-month-old monkey who took her sweet potato down to the stream and washed it off before she ate it. So, what happened in the long run was that the little monkey taught her peers this adaptive and useful behavior, and within a short time the monkeys’ mothers all practiced this technique.
The point that the author was making was that this was a very smart move, and more and more monkeys every day were washing their sweet potatoes before they ate them. The “hundredth monkey” is a hypothetical number, but when a particular monkey picked up its sweet potato and washed it off, at that point all the monkeys on the island adopted that behavior. That’s called the hundredth monkey theory, and sheds light on how we as human beings, theoretically, advance evolutionarily. It’s like an ideological or cultural breakthrough, but, information was not being communicated through words, but actions and consciousness…
“People are aware that they cannot continue in the same old way, but are immobilized because they cannot imagine an alternative. We need a vision that recognizes that we are at one of the great turning points in human history when the survival of our planet and the restoration of our humanity require a great change in our ecological, economic, political, and spiritual values.” ~ Grace Lee Boggs
…When I read the story, what it did was motivate me to believe that I could be the hundredth person; I could really go out among people, carrying a consciousness of peace. What I did first was to carry a slideshow featuring images of the peace movement backed up by music throughout the United States and Canada. We all know music “opens the heart” and an image is “worth a thousand words.” So, I could travel around the world with my “peace show” and bring people together to have a conversation about how we’re actually creating the world we live in.
I next made a decision to make a “peace pilgrimage” around the world. It took me 18 months to save up $5,000. It lasted for a year-and-a-half. Obviously, I didn’t sleep at the Hilton; I slept on people’s floors and in people’s barns or wherever they could fit me. That was an activity that created a very deep sense of peace in my own heart as well as a sense of community and communion with people around the world.
It might have seemed like, “Oh, I was this great heroine, making this great pilgrimage,” but the real truth was I was serving myself. I say this because when I am facing something that makes me anxious, the only thing that helps is if I act from my heart toward that which I believe in, and want to stand for.
JM: That is a apt story about an ethical and fulfilling life, indeed. I am reminded of Siddhartha Gautama – “The Buddha” – and please correct me if I’m wrong, but was he not trying to deal with a sense of anxiety that he had when he left the palace in search of something? He didn’t wake up one day and say, “You know what? I should become The Buddha – people will love me for centuries.” I think he was just looking for enlightenment; a way out of the pain he was experiencing.
JP: Yes, he was looking for a way to end suffering for all sentient beings. So the fact that his journey led to his enlightenment – it’s like: our enlightenment, our joy, our feelings of passion and meaning are byproducts of living a committed and ethical life.
JM: That’s pretty quote-worthy right there! So, you’re saying that we achieve a certain personal benefit that let’s say, feels good, to do the thing we believe is good?
“Spiritual truth is a truth of the spirit, not a truth of the intellect, not a mathematical theorem, or a logical formula.” ~ Aurobindo
JP: Yes, for anyone looking to life an ethical and fulfilling life, a passionate existence, the first step to take is to look around and see what needs doing that feels good to do. There is a guy, Frederick Buechner, and how he describes it is, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
JM: That’s deep. I know a little bit about your past, and I personally have the past where I was trying to figure out how to deal with family problems, and with this society, which I think is just poised to cause a teenager difficulty; it’s hard for us to find our way. I’m reminded of a quote by Zora Neale Hurston: “I have been in sorrow’s kitchen and licked out all the pots. Then, I stood on the peaky mountain wrapped in rainbows with a harp and a sword in my hand.”
JP: I think that quote says it all! In one day, we are apt to have both of those experiences. You know, I wake up pretty refreshed and I start my day with an hour of stillness and nothing but a candle burning. If I happen to see the news, or look at the front of a modern-day magazine, then I end up licking out the pots of despair. So, that’s what we subject ourselves to.
“Possessing material comforts in no way guarantees happiness. Only spiritual wealth can bring true happiness. If that is correct, should business be concerned with only the material aspect of life and leave the care of the human spirit to religion?” ~ Konosuke Matsushita
JM: Let’s flesh that idea out a little further. Do you think that part of a person leading what they would consider a an ethical and fulfilling life has something to do with having experienced some negative emotions – pain, alienation, sorrow, longing, and stagnation? Do you think those things are sort of like the fire in which we can forge the sword that becomes something like, for you, the Syracuse Cultural Workers or the peace pilgrimage? Or for me, Values of the Wise?
JP: Yeah, turning the swords into ploughshares. I think it’s not so much the suffering that we have, because we all have suffering; all of us go through bitter periods of isolation; we have our “Job experiences.” But it’s what we make of those experiences that ends up leading us to a path that looks like the path toward the light; towards a life of value.
JM: I appreciate you mentioning that. I would urge the listener to learn more about you by tuning into www.JanPhillips.com. Let’s take a brief break.
Welcome back. I’m your host, Jason Merchey, and I’m here with the inimitable Jan Phillips. In this segment, we are going to talk about some practical elements of living a an ethical and fulfilling life. Jan, let me give you a quote and see what you think: “Only when the last tree has died, the last river has been poisoned, and the last fish have been caught will we realize we cannot eat money.” That’s a Cree Indian saying, and it just makes me feel so deflated.
JP: I think it’s true. I think it comes as a warning. As quotes go, it doesn’t have the punch of “deliverance from the phenomenon”— there’s nothing in there that says, “So, do this!”
JM: I hear you.
JP: It’s just like, foreboding.
JM: Right. And do you see that it is relevant to what we have going on here in modern America?
“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” ~ Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama
JP: It’s totally relevant because all of those things are happening in many places around the globe, particularly those places where American corporations are, sadly enough.
JM: So, would you say that a corporation’s main goal is to make money? And if so, it’s interesting to juxtapose that with the Cree Indian saying. Do you think we are headed for more and more trouble in the future as (or, should I say, if) corporations make “money values” their main purpose – to the exclusion of “life values?” Can we live an ethical and fulfilling life amidst the love of money and the wholesale domination of the community and our society by corporations and an overzealous government?
JP: I think the future looks grim when any of us focus on the news, the political realities of the day, or the phenomenon of globalism. There is a huge sorrow in my own heart about the ramifications of an “unleashed capitalism” on the world. I think we as a global community really need to come together to have conversations of consequence about what is ethical. Now. World Talk Radio is an example of just the kind of forum we need to help correct the potential imbalance.
JM: Would you say that it’s more an internal phenomenon for one to change themselves and the world (for example, meditation), or do you think that it’s really about organization, activism, and instrumental change (for example, putting this piece of trash into that can; fighting against that political force; the giving of charity)?
“Not Carnegie, Vanderbilt, and Astor together could have raised enough money to buy a quarter share in my little dog.” ~ Ernest Thompson Seton
JP: I don’t think anybody has to change. I don’t think it’s about changing the world because that’s a weighty and ominous proposition. I think how we can be best served as individuals is to live fully in the present moment and be aware that this world looks just exactly like we’re creating it to look; that I am a player in it; that “my energy goes into the world” in the form of words, actions, and thoughts.
So, if I take responsibility for my thoughts, actions, and words; my art; anything I do in a public way – if I manage my energy in a positive way— I will be a “force for good” in the world. What that calls for is an internal self-awareness; the only “interior work” we have to do is to create enough stillness in our lives so that we balance out the stress we experience when we traffic through the world.
JM: What can you say to the listener to help them understand and come to believe that as they are being still – as they work on their own self-realization, creating peace within themselves, and justice in and around them – that it’s not going to turn out to be useless? That the opposing forces out there are not going to be wide-awake and prowling around while they are meditating?
JP: I don’t think it’s about convincing somebody that they need to believe another set of dogmatic truths. I think each one of us fully knows which path is the right path. There is no doubt about it. You cannot be engaged in unethical behaviors and not know it.
The measure of our lives is the peace that we have in our hearts. Only those people who are committed to arranging their lives in such a way that it creates and causes that level of deep peace will come alive to the fact that there is a distinct relationship between how we are living our lives, and what the world looks like. This is an ethical and fulfilling life.
I never have to think about anybody else; I don’t have to think about President Bush – thank goodness – I only have to think about me. I don’t have to send out emails about somebody’s bad behavior; that’s a waste of my energy. I am not caring about what “those people are doing that’s immoral.” God knows there’s a lot of immorality occurring in the name of the United States, in the name of Christianity, in the name of Islam; we’re ensconced in immorality right now.
“Man is a wanting animal – as soon as one of his needs is satisfied, another appears in its place. This process is unending. It continues from birth to death.” ~ Douglas McGregor
…I remember traveling in a car with my uncle right after September 11th. He’s like 60 years old. There are a lot of bumper stickers now that read: “Proud to be an American,” and I said, “Look at that. Where does that phrase come from!? You might as well have a bumper sticker that reads: “Proud to Have Blue Eyes.” You know? I was born here by default; I’m lucky enough to have been born in America. But I could just as easily have been born in Bosnia. Who I am and how people have shaped my mind mean that I have these constructs that are totally American/Western/Christian and didn’t stand a chance of being dismantled until I engaged with other cultures and religions.
I was scared to go to Communist China…. See how I say “Communist China”? Why don’t I just say “scared to go to China!”? Because all my life it’s either been called “Red China” or “Communist China.” I was afraid; what’s it going to be like to be next to Communists?? It’s all conditioning; in fact, it was like being at a family reunion in China! People there want the same the thing – a job, rice in your bowl, education for your kids. But I have been conditioned to embody these labels. Now, when I see bumper stickers that says “Proud to be an American,” it’s like let’s unravel what this means, because that kind of patriotism is causing more problems than it’s solving.
JM: Hmm. Causing more problems than it’s solving. Interesting. So, it sounds like you firmly believe that the best that you can do is to come to know yourself, and to know your values, and to spend time attempting to work on your values, embody them, bring them to life.
“A Hopi tradition speaks of a fall from grace in which human beings experience themselves as progressively more separate from Earth, animals, and other humans. The return to grace is through reunion. The cause of the fall is ascribed to people’s forgetting their true nature and purpose.” ~ Arthur Deikman
JP: No, not to work on them; it’s like breathing. You don’t have to work at breathing. Sometimes you have to be mindful to breathe differently, but breathing is natural. Try to write down three values that you have; three you think are yours. Then, back up into, How did you get those values? You’ll usually find out that they were handed down to you. A lot of values have been transmitted to and inculcated in us which are no longer relevant or appropriate for these times.
JM: Let me give you a quote; this is by Kristen Renwick Monroe, who is a Professor at UC Irvine. She wrote a book on altruism by asking Holocaust survivors questions. She said, “What generates altruism is seeing oneself and others as human beings of value, not being religiously faithful or being of one particular ideology.” Do you think that seeing human beings as having value is the key to living an ethical life?
JP: Yes, though I don’t think there is such thing as altruism. I think everything that we do, if we just could admit it, is for ourselves. But, the thing that makes us feel the best is when we do something that helps someone else.
JM: It sounds like the thing that feels right to a person, fortuitously and elegantly, is the very thing which is going to benefit themselves as well as others. It’s neat how that was designed, in the evolutionary sense of the word! In this way, I would say that altruism is engendered by egoism. That’s pretty neat. So, tune in to what feels right to you, do the thing which you know, on the inside, is going to fulfill you and be helpful to the world. An ethical and fulfilling life is really almost like Adam Smith’s invisible hand.
JP: True. The only part that’s not simple is the commitment to “inquire within.” That means, you have to take a step you’re getting no encouragement for—from anywhere in the culture. Once you make it, life itself is not only simplified but is much more meaningful, full of passion, joy, and connectedness. That’s what we’re all looking for.
JM: Say again which is the difficult part –
JP: The commitment to inquire within. The commitment to ask yourself the question: Is this the job I came to Earth to do? Is being a waitress at Denny’s my purpose? If you feel that it’s not…. I mean, I’ve had a lot of waitress jobs; while I was doing them it was great because it was a lot of satisfaction: I was a great waitress, tips were good; I liked it. But, one day, when I was a bigger person, I asked myself the question. The answer was: “No, this is not your work anymore. You’ve got better things to do.”
What I am saying is, the only difficult part is for us to really “step outside our own life” and look inside to see if this is really the work I am most in love with doing. I think we have to create an alignment between what we do with our lives and “what our heart wants to do.” It’s totally possible; you see it all over the place. I don’t know why, but there are more people in California who seem to have this ability.
Deepak Chopra says: “Effort is the problem, not the solution.” None of us have to do anything that hurts. The question is: What can you do to relieve the suffering in your life? For many of us, it’s to create another kind of work for yourself. The consequence of which is, if you take some time out and say: “Okay, I will do the work I would really love to be doing in the world,” it would probably equal a contribution to the betterment of the culture, the country, the world.
JM: Could you say something about those people who seem to be stuck in a place where the job they have is the one they feel like they have to keep. I’m thinking of Barbara Ehrenreich, who did a book called Nickel and Dimed, where she, being a researcher and journalist, decided to put her middle class lifestyle in Key West on hold and enter the world of the minimum wage worker. She did waitressing, Walmart, all kinds of stuff. Never was she – without kids – really able to make ends meet! “Living paycheck to paycheck” is putting it mildly. No health insurance, no money for anything but motels and car repairs and cheap food. It was a great piece of muckraking journalism, and she really put it all on the line to capture a figurative photograph, if you will, of the lives of many Americans. How do such persons make a positive change in such circumstances?
JP: So, how does one get out of that situation – it’s a dead-end job, you can’t raise your children, you’re imprisoned to it because it’s the only way you can imagine how to make an income…? This is what’s “countercultural”: to believe in ourselves enough to think we’re worthy of a better life. Once we say to ourselves, “I am worthy of a better life,” then doors open up for us.
The German playwright [Johann Wolfgang von] Goethe was talking about the distinction between commitment and desire. It’s like the difference between a New Year’s resolution and a wedding vow: once we fully commit to something, providence moves, too. So when I say to myself, “I am really committed now to living a life that’s worthy of me – I’m not going to be a clerk at that store anymore,” then doors begin to open. As was said for thousands of years: When the student is ready the teacher arrives.
“We have to extend this enormous wealth that we have in a few countries, and be measured by how generous we are. I think we have to stop this xenophobia. We have to rethink some of our institutions. What are we teaching young people in American business schools? Are they just developing the same status quo – this belief that maximizing profits and accumulation of wealth is all that matters? Maybe what is needed now is a real change that embraces not a religious education, but a spiritual one.” ~ Anita Roddick
…But, the trouble is that we have been so programed to think we’re not worth anything. All of us have internalized these messages – in American culture, anyway. Here’s how and why it works: because all of us decide that we want to live in a capitalist society. Well, it can only work if they make you feel insecure about who you are so you give them your money for all the potions they promise are going to make you okay – from soaps to cars to sex tools to make-up to balding cream. So, the whole culture has a commitment to making every citizen in this country feel insecure about what they think, how they look, and how they feel. Once we feel insecure, we buy products. That’s why we have to maintain these ridiculous jobs: we’re in a rut. We have to have the jobs in order to buy the products! That’s unethical; capitalism at its very heart.
I don’t think it has to be. I don’t think it’s been developed enough. I do believe if we put our great minds together we could develop, perhaps, a kind of “high-level capitalism” that does not thrive on the abuse of people in the name of profit.
JM: Sam Smith said: “Nothing has been as corrupting to this country as the idea that the bottom line is the one and only commandment that need be followed.” I am thinking of someone such as Anita Roddick, who started The Body Shop— the place where you get beauty products and various things for self-care. As I understand it, she attempted to give the workers “a fair shake” – and I do believe the workers are relatively happy to work there. Or the people who harvest the ingredients that are present in developing countries – they don’t “draw the short straw.” Is that model of an ethical and fulfilling life consistent with what scholar Gar Alperovitz calls “America beyond capitalism?”
JP: Yes, I think her model is totally ethical. There’s also Ben and Jerry’s and Tom’s of Maine. There’s Syracuse Cultural Workers, where the director of the organization has a commitment to not making more than three times the amount that the lowest-paid shipping person is making. I mean, that’s a distinction. It’s still a capitalist operation, but the distinction is, let’s keep it ethical and full of value for everyone involved.
“The reduction of nonhuman animals and the environment to the status of resources for humans has had a devastating effect on the environment.” ~ Judith A. Boss
That sounds pretty aspirational to me. So, do you think that we can move toward that? It’s true that The Body Shop and Ben & Jerry’s have been highly successful; to some degree Whole Foods and Starbuck’s do pretty well. However, in banking you have very little ethicality, insurance companies totally screw up healthcare and often try to deny payment, and the military and military contractors siphon off huge sums of money from taxpayers producing very questionable products. Don’t get me started on oil and gas companies. There are plenty of examples in the newspaper of CEOs of dubious multinational corporations storing profits offshore and shipping jobs overseas while they make 200, 300, 400 times what the lowest-paid worker makes. Some banks handed out bonuses not only before, but after 2009! A page of criticisms can be made of politicians and lawyers. How do we touch these people’s hearts – many of whom are no doubt sociopaths or narcissists?
“In their book, Our Ecological Footprint, Mathis Wackernagel and William Rees state that if the developed world’s model of commerce and consumerism were to become the standard everywhere, it would require the equivalent of four Earths to supply the raw materials, fossil fuels, and waste sinks that would be needed.” ~ Jan Phillips
JP: I’m not really concerned about touching those people’s hearts because I’ve only got so many hours in a day. So, what I’m concerned about is touching the hearts of people who are just beginning to open up to the possibility of change. Those are the people in whose midst I want to be and operate. My agenda is not to try to convince the corporate CEO to earn less money; my agenda is to help everybody on the lower levels to come to an appreciation of their own personal worth. That’s very big work, and it demands all my time.
JM: Yeah, it sounds like you’re really self-directed and that you “keep your eye on the ball.” My thinking turns to David Callahan, of The Cheating Culture. In it, he claims and shows that many Americans are cheating –in school, on taxes, on their wives, their employer. He implicates the darker side of capitalism as the root cause. The conclusion I am tempted to draw is that an ethical and fulfilling life is harried by the pursuit of personal gain and trying to “keep up with the Joneses.” We sometimes feel like hamsters on a wheel.
Freud wrote a book entitled Civilization and its Discontents. Callahan could very well have named his book: Capitalism and its Discontents, meaning that a case can easily be made that capitalism is primarily responsible for breeding a sense of discontent in our hearts that is not natural or necessary. Rather, it’s a byproduct of an economic system meant to create and propagate goods and services, and to enrich “the fittest” among us, but what it does not do is look out for every sheep in the massive flock that is America.
Indeed, if society were a shepherd, it would be responsible for having created a flock that overgrazes the field, that allows some sheep to dominate others and fulfill their own wants and needs at the expense of the others, is disease-prone and needs antibiotics administered routinely, and which is almost exclusively a profit-making venture. Therefore, the animals are fed growth hormones, pollute waterways, have stress-related illness, and are inhumanely treated.
“We know what is happening. We have information reaching us minute-by-minute of our impact on the planet, on other countries, on each other. We know the rainforests are being decimated. We know our food and water is being compromised. We know our oceans are filling with plastics, our icecaps are melting. We know which corporations are most to blame. We know we could easily feed every person on the planet if we changed our priorities. Each of us is a part of history being made. Each of us is an actor in the global play, no matter how local or limited our scope. This is an invitation to rethink your role.” ~ Jan Phillips & Ruth Westreich
…Clearly, some aspects of capitalism such as sweatshops, environmental pollution, and dangerous products are injurious, pernicious, and deleterious. It would clearly be unwise and wrong to conduct a flock in this manner, just as it is to have tens of thousands of massive, relatively unregulated corporate entities running roughshod in the world.
The impression one gets reading Callahan’s book is that at its best, capitalism is efficient and inspiring and useful, and at its worst it is almost gladiatorial in nature: sink or swim, kill or be killed, live and let die. This is not the America we aspire to be. It is merely the result of “might makes right” run amok.
However, you do find quite a few folks – usually white, low socioeconomic status individuals – who lament not being easily able to ascend the social ladder, but they also resent or begrudge some others for having it “too easy.” Someone I know appraised racism in the small, Southern town in which they live in this manner: “As long as there is a social class beneath me (e.g., African Americans), then I can take comfort knowing I’m not on the bottom.” An ethical and fulfilling life isn’t one based on materialism – I get that. But should it be so stymied by our institutions?
So, at once you have capitalism being characterized (denounced?) as a significant cause of discontent for millions (billions?), and some Americans claiming that the biggest problem we face is that ne’er-do-wells game the system (not that the system is particularly corrupt or deplorable). In the 2016 election, for example, a number of people supported the truly progressive platform heralded by Bernie Sanders, but at least as many citizens blamed our problems on what I think would primarily be described as scapegoats (Trump) or “You know, business as usual really isn’t that bad; let’s not change something that works” (Clinton).
As far as “welfare queens gaming the system” and “illegals stealing our jobs,” it’s probably true, in one myopic sense, that there are those who sit around and watch TV in prison or eat doughnuts instead of working on their resume. However, that is largely, in my opinion and in Nietzsche’s words, “mistaking the consequence for the cause.”
So, it sounds like you would refocus the debate on the things that matter more; that each individual is really, truly affected by and has a good chance of materially affecting. You’re thinking it will be more fruitful, and sustainable, to concentrate on one’s own sphere.
“America’s moral ills were defined in the ‘80s and ‘90s in terms that reflected the traditional conservative worries, with a focus on things like crime, drugs, premarital sex, and divorce. Other concerns— the problems like greed, envy, materialism, and inequality— have been excluded from the ‘values debate.’” ~ David Callahan
JP: Absolutely. I’m totally committed to dismantling the beliefs that we’ve inherited, and creating beliefs “from our own interior.”
JM: This was an interesting conversation, Jan, about an ethical and fulfilling life! Thank you for talking with me. You have a website, www.JanPhillips.com; I’ve been there, and there is a whole lot of information about the books you write, the seminars you lead, and so on. I would urge the listener to go check that out. Once you take a look at that site, look toward your interior J
JP: Thanks Jason, keep it up.
Here is the original interview in podcast form. Some artistic liberty in regard to my dialogue and to the suitability for the interview in written form was taken. Here is where you will find the book in totality. Indeed, Values & Ethics is about an ethical and fulfilling life, and so much more, such as progressive economics, libertarianism, raising children with character, media ethics, and 13 other topics. It feels great in the hand and many say it is well-worth $18.