ETHOS: Left and Right are just arms and legs on the same body

Oops, too close for youtube’s comfort? Only hours after I posted this it disappeared.
Watch the video before you read the following:

“Our Ethos is all that we currently hold to be true. It is what we act upon. It governs our manners, our business and our politics.”
Howard Zinn 1922 – 2010

The left/right, liberal/conservative paradigm is meaningless. It is a smoke screen, a delusion, a diversion. I have to keep reminding myself of that because my thoughts and values are so steeped in conservative traditions. Harrelson, Zinn and others in this movie are icons of the left. Yet, here he is speaking intelligently to the same issues that have polarized the right against the left and reaching similar conclusions to mine on what to do about it.

One of the prime reasons for this Village is a reaction to a world gone berserk. 9/11 was the watershed moment that changed my world view and led ultimately to my decision to find another solution. It is a reaction to powerlessness against overwhelmingly powerful forces.

Most of the world has taken refuge in the very activities that perpetuate their surrender of freedom and meaning in life. Harrelson correctly points out that in the aftermath of 9/11, we were told the solution was to go shopping. And again, in 2008 when the economy crumbled, we were told that it was our duty to save the economy by doing what? “Go shopping”.

How ironic is it that I am now teaching “Strategic Marketing” at the University? Yet, Marketing, like the Internet, like a gun, like a drill press or a saw, is a tool, not inherently good or evil. It is simply a means of identifying and satisfying human needs and desires. Some enterprises use marketing effectively to pander to base human needs and wants. There is a BIG market for these products and services.

I do marketing to find and satisfy people who are looking for a means to improve their lives, to find meaning and joy. The product I am building is mostly intangible. It is community, harmony, security, connection to nature, creative and constructive work, a meaningful life. In this context and for this purpose, is marketing evil? Only if what I am selling is bogus or of poor quality.

Yet, while I agree with Harrelson’s prescription, it is only one element of a total solution for an empty, shackled life. “Stop shopping” or at least shop wisely. It’s positioned as an offensive weapon against an entrenched corporate enemy. Is that where it ends? In the unlikely event that this perpetual war should end, either in victory or defeat, what do we, the wounded and weary foot-soldiers, return from the battle front to? There must be something more, something meaningful to replace our culture’s obsession with consumptive living.

Sandy Hook is another 9/11 event. It is meant to polarize right and left. Masterful marketing used with malice aforethought, IMHO. Extreme polarization between left and right. Strident calls for disarmament from the left while demand for guns and ammo empties the gun stores and heavily armed and fortified communities appear in Idaho and elsewhere.

Left and right are just arms and legs on the same body.
Powers that divide, profitably conquer
while the masses, having lost their heads,
trade arms, legs, body and soul for fear and division.
– Grant Miller

In answer to this insanity, can we not respectfully explore and enjoy different perspectives and world views while we live peaceably within our means and “in Harmony with Nature and People”? That is my solution and my intent.

2 thoughts on “ETHOS: Left and Right are just arms and legs on the same body

  1. This is an excellent post. You’ve really hit the nail on the head. I’ve included some links to the Moral Foundations webpage. No, it’s not a religious group. It’s a research group. Jon Haidt shows the research for mankind’s different moral ideas. It worthy of listening and examining just because based on his own research he’s had to modify his own views of morality. No he’s not a conservative now but he realizes conservative concerns and realities.

    His talk:

    The website:

    His groups research of left and right:

    Click to access haidt.graham.2007.when-morality-opposes-justice.pub041.pdf



  2. Thank you so much for sharing Jonathan Haidt’s TED talk.
    Once again, I’m steeped in conservative traditions, but I guess I’m a bit schizophrenic in that I also crave diversity of thought and innovation. I want to live a simpler life style, I love being in and caring for nature and I was once an avid surfer. These tendencies are often associated with liberal hippies, not to mention that I oppose the neo-con aggressive war complex.

    But I believe in God. I don’t see religion only as a bankrupt, corrupt power source that causes war, although there are examples of that. On balance, religion anchors us with a full quiver of moral values. Three of the five are missing on the left, as Haidt so eloquently points out.

    So, I split the difference and find myself in the Libertarian middle. While most people attracted to the Village are firmly conservative, I long for the openness, optimism and creativity that are hallmarks of liberals. In my view, a utopian society can no more exist without a balance of left/right views than a fulfilling marriage can exist with only one partner. But, I find that very few people value diversity and openness over safety and sameness. And, while fear is usually associated with conservatism, I find that liberals are just as likely to exhibit social fear as conservatives.

    It’s a marketing problem we will explore in my class. But I am afraid the social and moral forces are like magnets that repel each other. Just too strong to overcome, so in an intentional communities like ours, we may be stuck with only half of yin and yang.


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