LeftyMN sent a link this morning to an interesting post by someone named Bob Ryan. I had two reactions. Wow! (and) I wish I were smart enough to think so deeply that the end result would be profound in its simplicity. Turns out that Iceland could serve as a moral model for the United States. Ryan's post says their national philosophy can be summarized in four points: Turn the page.
(1)The healthy help those who are ill.
(2) The employed help those who are unemployed.
(3) The young help the old.
(4) The rich help the poor.
How's that for a mission statement? Part of the reason the United States is now a rudderless craft, it seems to me, is that for six years, we have sailed using a faux moral compass, interpreted to us by bloviating theocons trumpeting moral values that are essentially empty slogans. More insidious than Groundhog Day, it's been "1984," over and over and over again. We must be up to at least 11,904 by now.
It seems to me that this four-point philosophy holds up well alongside the teachings of Jesus, Buddha, that old secular standard-bearer, FDR, and likely countless others. Having been raised in the Christian tradition, it is reminiscent to me of the Sermon on the Mount, which is a fairly inclusive roadmap for human decency.
Ryan's piece is based on the work of Tor Dahl, a productivity expert. So Dahl's slant is toward organizations. It would be a stretch to say that the U.S. government approaches anything even remotely close to organization. Even so, the four points are relevant to nations. Or should be. Ryan goes on to say:
The four points bring to mind ethical concepts connected to compassion, justice, fairness, redistribution of wealth, The Golden Rule, etc. But one idea that is not often connected to ethics is "practicality." And yet a country (or city or company or family) that practices the four points would be demonstrating practicality. Is practicality an ethical concept? I would argue that it certainly is, at least in this case.
For an organization to find a practical, effective, cost-efficient method of caring for all its members is to declare a moral imperative. Such an organization challenges its members to give back what they have been given - health, jobs, money and the benefits of youth. Such an organization creates a channel through which wellness in its broadest definition is delivered to all. Such an organization publicly affirms the intrinsic value of all of its members. Such an organization demonstrates its beliefs in action.
I read elsewhere this morning that in Anbar Province, Lance Cpl. Daniel Olsen, age 20, was shot in the back, the victim of small arms fire, whereupon he died. Olsen lived in my community. We have lost one of our own, added to the huge and growing number of others. Tragic. Twenty years old. Poof! Extinguished.
Which makes me wonder if the four points might be expanded to five, and begin with: First, do no harm.