The fall and fall of the United States, the rise of China, India and the lot
Obama, B. (2006) “ The Audacity of Hope:” Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream. New York. New York: Three Rivers Press.(pp 141 – 142)
How would that make you feel?
…..a sense of empathy – is one that I find myself appreciating more and more as I get older. It is at the heart of my moral code, and it is how I understand the Golden Rule – not simply as a call to sympathy or charity, but as something more demanding, a call to stand in somebody else’s shoes and see through their eyes.
Like most of my values, I learned about empathy from my mother. She disdained any kind of cruelty or thoughtlessness or abuse of power, whether it expressed itself in the form of racial prejudice or bullying in the schoolyard or workers being underpaid. Whenever she saw even a hint of such behaviour in me she would look me square in the eyes and ask, “How do you think that would make you feel?”
But it was in my relationship with my grandfather that I think I first internalized the full meaning of empathy. ….By the time I was sixteen we were arguing all the time, usually about me failing to abide by what I considered to be an endless series of petty and arbitrary rules…..
With a certain talent for the rhetoric, as well as an absolute certainty about the merits of my own views, I found that I could generally win these arguments, in the narrow sense of leaving my grandfather flustered, angry, and sounding unreasonable. But at some point, perhaps in my senior year, such victories started to feel less satisfying. I started thinking about the struggles and disappointments he had seen in his life. I started to appreciate his need to feel respected in his own home. I realized that abiding by his rules would cost me little, but to him it would mean a lot. I recognized that sometimes he really did have a point, and that in insisting on getting my own way all the time, without regard to his feelings or needs, I was in some way diminishing myself.
There’s nothing extraordinary about such awakening, of course; in one form or another it is what we all must go through if we are to grow up. And yet I find myself returning again and again to my mother’s simple principle – “How would that make you feel?” – as a guidepost for my politics.
……I believe a stronger sense of empathy would tilt the balance of our current politics in favour of those people who are struggling in this society. After all, if they are like us, then their struggles are our own. If we fail to help, we diminish ourselves.
Obama, B. (2006) “ The Audacity of Hope:” Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream. New York. New York: Three Rivers Press.(pp 66 – 68)
In the world’s greatest deliberative body, no one is listening
If anything, what struck me was just how modest people’s hopes were, and how much of what they believed seemed to hold constant across race, region, religion, and class. Most of them thought that anybody willing to work should be able to find a job that paid a living wage. They figured that people shouldn’t have to file for bankruptcy because they got sick. They believed that every child should have a genuinely good education – that it shouldn’t just be a bunch of talk – and that those same children should be able to go to college even if their parents weren’t rich. They wanted to be safe, from criminals and from terrorists; they wanted clean air, clean water, and time with their kids. And when they got old, they wanted to be able to retire with some form of dignity and respect.
I understand politics as a full-contact sport, and minded neither the sharp elbows not the occasional blind-side hit.
…politics could be different, and … the voters wanted something different; that they were tired of distortion, name-calling, and sound-bite solutions to complicated problems; that if I could reach those voters directly, frame the issues as I felt them, explain the choices in as truthful a fashion as I knew how, then the people’s instincts for fair play and common sense would bring them around. If enough of us took that risk, I thought, not only the country’s politics but the country’s policies would change for the better.
Obama, B. (2006) “ The Audacity of Hope:” Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream. New York. New York: Three Rivers Press.(pp 15, 7, 17-18)