Thursday, March 31, 2016

Everlasting Contentment? Nah. Let's do something.

Xu Yang, Everlasting Contentment, Handscroll dated 1773, 
ink and color on paper, jade core roller, Yale University Art Gallery













THE name of the beautiful work of art above, Everlasting Contentment, suggests something almost the opposite of social threefolding.  Rudolf Steiner:
The ‘social question’ is.... an integral part of modern civilization which has come to stay, and as such will have to be resolved anew for each moment in the world's historical development.... Just as a satiated organism experiences hunger again after a period of time, so the social organism passes from order to disorder. A food which permanently stills hunger does not exist; neither does a universal social panacea.
-- from the Preface to the 1920 edition of Toward Social Renewal: Basic Issues of the Social Question

It may be worthwhile to recall that social threefolding has been advancing gradually in various ways for thousands of years (in the column to the left, see the second heading down from the top, "Social Threefolding: Historical Examples and Current Trends"). When one is aware of that history and has an overview of threefolding dynamics and processes (in the column to the left, see the heading at the top, "An Overview of Rudolf Steiner's Social Ideas and Some Results"), it does not require much of a leap to imagine those processes developing for a long time to come.

A threefold social order is indeed not the kind of thing that can happen all at once.  Social life is infinitely complex, and threefolding by its very nature must always remain incomplete and ongoing.  In that it is like art or science. Thus it is a mistake to speak about it as some of Steiner's students have done, when they have suggested it "failed" in 1919 or 1920.  It is true that Steiner and his colleagues could not advance the process as much as they had dared to hope.  But since the 1920s, although it has regressed in some places and times, on the whole the process has arguably continued to advance.  We have the power to help it progress further.  

Take Action

For example we can help at least three already-existing major reform movements that work in this direction even though the leaders of those movements have probably never heard of threefolding. One might consider assisting organizations such as 

1) Transparency International and The Sunlight Foundation, which seek to strengthen the boundary between money and politics by working for greater transparency in government;  

2) B-Lab, which works with remarkable effectiveness to advance cooperative, transparent, socially responsible forms of capitalism, the kind that both profits and heals communities.  That form of economic life seems most likely to minimize unholy alliances between economic interests and the state and to maintain the distinction between economy and state;  

3) Step Up for Students, a Florida non-profit that distributes scholarships that make it possible for families with limited economic resources to choose an independent, non-government school for their children.  Step Up thus enhances the independence of education vis-a-vis both economic and political power.  Funding comes largely from Florida's extensive tax credit scholarship policy.  This video explains tax credit scholarships in less than two minutes.   This 2015 report explains and grades 16 U.S. states' tax credit scholarship programs, including how well they prevent the government from interfering with independent education and parental choice.  When well designed and implemented, scholarship tax credit policies appear to be the most effective current means of increasing educational freedom and insulating it from political and economic interests.  One could learn more about scholarship tax credits and then make polite phone calls (which are orders of magnitude more effective than email) to senators and representatives to ask them to support implementation or expansion of the policy in one's state.  If they are not available to speak, one might ask for the staffer who deals with education issues.

Until next time...

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