Relationships in a World of Individualism

  • rWorld

    The rWorld is about more than Dale Kuehne's book Sex and the iWorld.
    The rWorld is a New England based, non-profit (in formation), that is composed of a growing number of people and organizations from many faith and ideological backgrounds worldwide. We believe that much of the fulfillment for which women and men are looking can be found by enhancing the quality of our relationships. While the individual freedom we enjoy in the West is a gift, the love and intimacy for which humans yearn will not be found in self-serving materialism or hedonism, but in a variety of healthy relationships.

    Contact us if you'd like get involved:

  • Dale Kuehne

    Sex & the iWorld

    Professor of Politics and The Richard L. Bready Chair for Ethics, Economics, and the Common Good at Saint Anselm College, Manchester, NH.

    In this blog I'm highlighting signposts of the world in which we presently reside as a means of helping promote a civil, and meaningful dialogue about what kind of world in which we wish to live. I am particularly interested in exploring how might we reconcile the individual good and the common good, and where reconciliation isn’t possible, which should take precedence and why.

    I also blog at

    [Content Caution]

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The Long and Winding Road (America)

Posted by Dale Kuehne on March 18, 2010

Does the future of America rest with our standard of living or our quality of life? That is the question.

David: Oh sorry…well this is thoroughly depressing.
Nigel: It really puts perspective on things, though, doesn’t it?
David: Too much, there’s too much f***ing perspective now.

Dialogue from the movie, This is Spinal Tap (1984)


6 Responses to “The Long and Winding Road (America)”

  1. Lauren Fithian said

    “Quality of life” is more encompassing concept than “standard of living” which makes an attempt to use measurable standards such as income , poverty rate, graduation rate, life expectancy, etc…. “Quality of life” is subjective. One person’s meaningful access to parks and theaters is another persons meaningless measure.

    As a country we are certainly far from presenting a cohesive “American Way of Life” that we all value. Instead of coming together and building upon our history of ideals and working for the population as whole, it seems to me that there’s an awful lot of blaming, excluding and fear-mongering going on. The rise in hate groups documented by the Southern Poverty Law Center and other civil and human rights groups over the last two years is astounding. Tens of million of Americans say they are against health care reform even though it would rectify a national shame by immediately covering millions of our children–innocents who have no control over their lack of insurance.

    In blog and FB discussions I have seen over and over the argument that hard-working people should be able to provide for themselves and shouldn’t need a government “hand-out.” The Tea Party folks seem to believe that all of those who are currently “have-nots” should simply stay that way indefinitely rather than be helped by the federal government. Right now we as a nation are projecting the image that we don’t care to “take care of our own.” Either that or the concept of who “our own” are has shriveled to something very small. I’m betting that churches are over-burdened with helping the poor and that their own resources are smaller than they used to be.

    In Arizona right now, the legislature is considering a bill that would further criminalize and further marginalize undocumented workers–and their documented friends–to an extent that is so far beyond necessary and rational that I can only conclude it is grounded in racism. (Arizona’s recent history of unlawful detention of latinos and physical abuse of detainees unfortunately bears this out.) When we don’t have a decent standard of living, or quality of life, too many of us focus on further hurt instead of healing.

    It also seems like many of us are sucked in by the attraction of perverse lies that serve no visible purpose; things so negative and outrageous that they appear only to be receptacles for hate and anger. Some of these concern our black President, making them very insidious. It’s beyond me to figure out how anyone’s quality of life would be improved by insisting that Obama is Muslim, or that he is not legally president because he wasn’t born in the US. (Of course it’s also hideous that such a person apparently thinks being a Muslim is evil.) If it’s going to be a new era of stress, as the article suggests, I hope we as a nation have the maturity and sense of unity to prevent any further increase in the amount of misplaced and irrational blaming and the atmosphere of bigotry that goes with it.

    (I don’t think it’s possible to have a high quality of life without a decent standard of life –especially where standard of life is based on poverty rate.)

  2. Lauren, are there any cliches about the right that you don’t believe? And in particular, what is your possible basis for mind-reading what Tea Partiers (I am not one) believe about have-nots? I have not encountered that they have addressed this matter one way or the other.

    Also, I recommend you read the Atlantic article.

    To the topic: This illustrates why the Atlantic has moved back into its position as the best middle-to-highbrow venue for the discussion of cultural events. It languished for more than a decade, but has come back in force. A very comprehensive article. I was aware of much of the information, but this added to my store and wove it together well. An exceptional article, even if it does close with Benjamin Friedman, about whom I have decidedly mixed feelings.

    And the topic is one dear to me. I graduated with a useless humanities degree from a prestigious college in the recession of ’75 and did not start getting “good” jobs until the 80’s. Those early, crummy jobs changed me as a person and a worker – I hope in the long run for good, as I certainly needed the arrogance beaten out of me, but the cost was high and I am still paying it. Also, as the father of five sons from 14-30, the effect on males, on family, and identity held my attention.

    I also worry for my brother, a college professor going on two years unemployed, and what this will do to his already somewhat unhappy life.

    We have been hearing since I was a child the dark predictions that machines would replace us, leaving many out-of-work. But such things do not happen steadily, they happen in sudden drops. This is one of them. I have confidence that technology will continue to deliver, to us and to the world, increase in physical well-being. But as our understanding of the science of happiness grows, it is emerging that comparative poverty and wealth are more important to us than actual poverty and wealth. We are apparently hard-wired to be petty enough to need to be better than, or at least not too far behind, others to feel good about ourselves. This seems to be cross-cultural, though there are some in every culture who escape it.

    Most of those who escape this do so because they develop alternative methods of achieving status. But what of those who have not the abilities to adapt in this way? It worries me greatly. We cannot really imagine a world in which 30% are able to achieve some comforting status but 70% are not. But even at the reverse percentages, where 30% of the people have little hope for even local status, the consequences are chilling.

  3. Lauren Fithian said

    I read the article–before my original comment. I have a bunch of Tea Party friends (as bizarre as that may sound!) with whom I discuss what you see as mere cliches all the time. I was responding to Dale’s initial question about standard of living vs. quality of life. I didn’t realize this was an essay assignment for which my response was to be based solely on the linked article. It is one thing to disagree with another’s view and another thing to simply dismiss it because the person did not engage the topic in a way that was satisfactory to you.

    Arizona just passed a budget that eliminates its children’s health care program. 47,000 children will now be without healthcare coverage. Lower standard of living–lower quality of life.

    I thought this whole rWorld thing was about relationships and, as Dale puts it: “exploring how might we reconcile the individual good and the common good.” When we don’t share a conviction that the collective overall well-being of all of our nation’s (or state’s) children is part of the common good and the individual good, there is no reconciliation. It’s just one real-world example.

    As for unemployment: I am unemployed. I have a BS in biochemistry and a JD. I practiced corporate and securities law until I could not leave my young children for one more day to help rich corporate executives get richer at the expense of their employees ands shareholders. (Yes-cliche–but I lived that cliche.) I have spent all these years since raising my family. A BS- JD-holding homemaker. My husband left me two years ago after a quarter-century of marriage to pursue a new life with a younger woman. This is quite personal information, but for me our divorce was like a job firing–I did not want it but it happened anyway. Further, it happened during really bad economic times. My COBRA coverage runs out in a few months and I have made application for health insurance to replace it. It’s a bit of a stress wondering whether the corporation will find some ridiculous reason to deny this very healthy gal her coverage. It’s also a bit of a stress wondering whether I will need to be more aggressive in seeking paid employment in the near future. I’ve basically been a volunteer for the last 20 years. I am one of those unemployed people who are not even currently counted in the statistics because they don’t know about me.

    Although the Atlantic article covered a lot of ground I was struck by the last paragraph which speaks of a time of large-scale societal stress. I was trying to give examples of ways in which we humans sometimes deal with stress in a way that seems completely counter productive. Thus my mention of the recent rise in hate groups.

    Btw: I suggest reading Jeremy Rifkin’s Empathic Civilization before making any conclusions about what is hard-wired.

  4. Well, I don’t want to kick you when you’re down. But friends sympathetic to the Tea Partiers and their attitudes are not the same thing as Tea Partier’s attitudes in general. Gad, you should hear what social workers and psychologists say when they think only their own are present.

    The SPLC’s listing of a rise in hate groups is widely reported, but doesn’t mean what it pretends to. That strikes me as a cliche about the Right accepted without question. Concluding that racism is the main motive for legislation about illegal immigrants strikes me as accepting a cliche on the basis of impression rather than knowledge. Concluding that others don’t care about children because they don’t support your legislative goals strikes me as a comfortable cliche. The only time I even hear about Obama’s birth cert and whether he’s a Muslim is when his supporters complain that they keep hearing about it so much. There are legitimately folks out there who spread this nonsense, but they don’t seem to have much influence. I don’t assume that all on the left have secret sympathy with 9-11 Truthers (a far more bizarre and serious paranoia) just because they hang out there.

    I’m not even a conservative – more of a neoliberal like DeLong or a postliberal – but I have developed enormous sympathy for them over the last two decades. When you generalise about motives and morality, you are talking about real people. In some instances, you are talking about me personally, though you don’t think of it that way. You would be deeply offended if someone made such remarks about you. Bear in mind that working with the poor, the immigrant, the mentally ill, the addicted, and criminal – and securing government benefits and programs for them – is how I earn my daily bread.

    As to my complaint that you read the article first, it’s a fair cop. As you didn’t reference the article and did an improv on Dale’s tag, that may not have been a ridiculous conclusion on my part, but it was absolutely an unfair one. You should of course comment as you see fit. I was rude and I am sorry.

    I started ranting about Rifkin, but deleted it. I don’t see evidence that he knows what he is talking about. He seems to repeatedly prove what he assumed at the start.

    As to your personal situation, it must be very difficult not to be bitter at such unfairness.

  5. Lauren Fithian said

    Fair enough AVI. I do need to correct two incorrect conclusions that you made –perhaps based on the fact that I wrote carelessly in the first place. I do not think that ALL legislation that concerns illegal immigrants is racist. We desperately need federal legislation to correct numerous problems in our entire immigration system. I was referring specifically to the Arizona legislation. That bill is blatantly unconstitutional for starters. The backers know this. I would be interested to know what you think after reading the bill and the legislative history and the comments of some of it’s backers.

    Second: I was in no way comparing the latest generation of hate groups to “the Right,” or somehow saying the Right and hate groups are one and the same.

    Oops–three things 😉 I have watched Tom Tancredo’s Tea Party “convention” speech, watched video footage of the Tea Party convention rally and other videos. If the Tea Party wants to keep any degree of credibility it’s got some cleanup to do. And when my Tea Party member friends talk to me they are well aware that mine are not sympathetic ears.

    (Thanks for your kind words. I am a quite happy person and am finding that there is an awful lot to do in life post-marriage. Now to get the last of my children through high school and onward!)

  6. Graciously said, and probably better than I deserve.

    I hesitate to suggest, not only because it might offend in places, but because I disapprove of link-whoring, but our conversations have inspired a post on my own site. I mostly say nice things about you (not identifying you, BTW)

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