Tikkun, Winter 2011
A Values- and Vision-Based Political Dream
by Benjamin Mordecai Ben-Baruch
We need leaders and organizers to inspire people and communities to act on their values and hopes. We need help articulating our values and vision of the ideal future. Right-wing successes have been achieved by appealing to peoples' fears, hatreds and prejudices. But the politics of hope is stronger than politics of fear. Imagining our future based on our highest ideals can mobilize us to overcome the paralysis of fear and hatred.
The politics of hope is not issue oriented, and people who share the same values and vision often disagree on the issues. For example, people are not inspired by a proposal for a universal single-payer health care system. People are inspired by believing that a future they couldn't imagine is now possible. Many opponents of "Obamacare" (the recent health insurance policy reform legislation) value providing health care to all who need it and want a future in which such care is unproblematic. But they have been misled into believing that their freedom and empowerment resides in free markets and that the government is Big Brother and something to fear. They have become paralyzed by their fears. The irrationality of these fears makes us vulnerable to demagoguery. We need to go beyond issue-oriented politics and the politics of fear to a public discourse focused on articulating our vision for the ideal future and what that future would look like. We need a vision of a society without the injustices of poverty and social inequality. We need a dream.
Similarly, when we explore Jewish attitudes toward Israel we find a high level of agreement on basic values that is hidden by the nature of discourse. The real difference among most American Jews is the extent to which they believe that Israel, the regional military power, is threatened. We see a polarization between those who fear for Israel's existence and hence are paralyzed from even dreaming of a better future and those motivated to act on their dreams.
When we establish a politics of hope, a political discourse of values and vision, then most Christians will see that they do not share the values and vision of the "Christian Right." Most Jews will see that they do not share the values and vision of Israel's political leadership. Most Americans will understand that the kind of America they want to build is quite different from that of the new conservatives and the neoliberals.
But we need clarity. We need help articulating our values and vision. We need help exposing the contrary values and vision of the neo-liberals, clericalists, religious Right, and ultra-capitalists. We need to overcome the politics of fear. We need to go beyond issue-oriented politics. (And we need to go way beyond cyclic party and electoral politics.) We need to engage in the revolutionary politics of hope. We need to build a social movement of people inspired and mobilized to act upon hopes and dreams.
Benjamin Mordecai Ben-Baruch is a former principal in the United Hebrew Schools of Metropolitan Detroit and has served on the board of directors of the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation and is a former member of New Jewish Agenda. He recently served as director of the religious school of the Ann Arbor Reconstructionist Havurah. He is an applied sociologist (and former Vice-President of the Association for Applied and Clinical Sociology) currently working as an onsite consultant and project coordinator at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.
Source Citation: Ben-Baruch, Benjamin. 2011. A Values- and Vision-Based Political Dream. Tikkun 26(1): online exclusive.