Knitting the Public Good

In his recent review of Tony Judt’s Ill Fares the Land (Atlantic Monthly, Oct. 2010), Terry Eagleton lines the recently-late Judt up with the rest of us who lament the loss of the “public good.” If you don’t know what I mean by ‘the public good’, then Judt’s lament could not be more timely.

In our relentless pursuit of individualism, we have sacrificed the morality of civic and community value (not values). Since we can’t articulate the public good in currency, it has less currency (and thus, worth) in our culture. Think about those two uses of the same word. If we looked at currency as energy, which must be allowed to flow, then amassing resources would not be such a destructive thing. We’d get some, take care of ourselves and let it flow through us, unblocked. We’d know that by allowing it to flow away from us we are feeding the quantum soup of energy and mutual connectivity within which we exist. We’d know that I can’t earn money if the bridges don’t work, the Gulf wetlands are causing the Mississippi to back up so that there is flooding as far north as North Dakota or Saskatchewan; or that people in Oakland don’t have access to fresh vegetables. We’d know that our unwillingness to pay a living wage to workers may boost stock price in the short term (you’d have more cash on hand), but will eat away at the integrity and good will that will draw people to your products, for example.

But bec’ we’re so obsessed with getting our own, and keeping you from getting yours, we suffocate the public Good. Watch out. I’m capitalizing the ‘G’ in ‘good’. If you don’t know what that capital ‘G’ means, then Judt’s lament could not be more timely.

I have been invited to contribute a chapter on creative writing in a neo-liberal context to an anthology. While I could undertake a big research project, I’d prefer to articulate just how and why I think the practice of creative writing (among many, many other pursuits) actually contributes to the public Good, consciously, in order to knit us together for the public Good. Yes, even Dan Brown

I’ll add stuff as I go…stay tuned….

~ by Thom on September 25, 2010.

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