Why do people love getting together on a particular day at a particular hour to Socratize in Fiji? "To find out what other people are thinking," says one of the Fijian Socrates Cafe participants who participated in this exchange. This is the first time I've held a podcast with more than one person, much less with seven -- including Fijian islanders, as well as transplants from Wales, and even my own Virginia, among others -- and it was a delight (though a few times we had a bit of trouble hearing one another). In these days in which people hide behind social media to 'communicate' (or, much too often, to derail attempts at communication) these thoughtful Socrates Cafe-goers believe it's more vital than ever to meet in person and philosophize face to face.
At a time when Poland is at a critical crossroad in its experiment with democracy, our Socrates Cafe and Democracy Cafe initiatives are burgeoning throughout the country -- from Krakow, to Konstancin-Jeziorna, to Poznan to Warsaw to Wracow to Zielona Gora (all the info is at http://socratescafe.pl/ -- and there is a Polish speaking gathering in Berlin as well).
Jakub Kocikowski, organizer of the Democracy Cafe and Socrates Cafe in Krakow, believes that when we have a genuine conversation, "we can find solutions, come up with a consensus agreement" -- and conversely, that when we stop conversing, we all lose out.
Jakub is a big proponent of the culture of conversations, of hearing and considering varying views, including those with which we disagree. Only then can we hope to find common ground, in his estimation.
"Even if we disagree , it is okay," asserts Jakub, 25. "From disagreement we can find something new and come up with new solutions."
Only in the last 40 years or so have gun laws and gun rights become viewed as a zero sum relationship, according to Robert Spitzer, noted scholar and author of five acclaimed books on gun policy, including most recently the acclaimed 'Guns across America: Reconciling Gun Rules and Rights,' and Distinguished Service Professor and Chair of the Political Science Department at the State University at Cortland.
Indeed, as he puts it, while gun ownership is as old as america, so are gun laws, and for most of our first 300 years, there were thousands of gun laws in every state and colony.
What can we do today to lessen the probability that gun violence, including mass shootings, can occur?
Listen in to Dr. Spitzer's important perspective, and what we the people might do to bring about the enactment of public policy (some of which used to be in place) to help prevent such tragedies in the future.
(Check out this recent essay by Dr. Spitzer in the Washington Post https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2018/02/15/laws-we-used-to-have-on-the-books-could-have-prevented-the-florida-school-shooting/?utm_term=.81f49ab8073c
and this Washington Post essay of his from 2012
Our democracy is experiencing a singular moment, no doubt about it. Chris Gates, for one, our latest Democracy Cafe guest, has faith that we’ll get through this and that just perhaps the outcome of what we're experiencing right now is that we the people will become more attuned, more active, and more informed.
Chris has his ear to the ground and finger on our pulse like few other Americans I have the privilege to know. He's past president of the National Civic League, former Executive Director of Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE), and also was president of the Sunlight Foundation, which advocates for open and transparent government; Chris is now a consultant for nonprofits such as Kettering Foundation, New America Foundation, and Common Cause, on issues that have to do with democracy, political reform and civic engagement.
As Chris shares with me, he believes that there is potentially a silver lining to what most everybody agrees is a rather rough moment in the history of our country. His high hope is that we can once again become a society in which we give each other the benefit of the doubt, hear each other out, and find common ground.
How can we bring together Americans in ways in which they'll feel compelled to explore in meaningful ways our most pressing political issues -- and to consider an array of perspectives and possible solutions?
Enter an amazing project on civic engagement that is unfolding at Florida Gulf Coast University in conjunction with WGCU Public Media, Gulfshore Life Magazine, and FGCU's PAGES program (https://www2.fgcu.edu/pages/).
Yours truly is honored to be part of it.
It all began with an email to me from Jennifer Reed, senior writer for Gulfshore Life magazine. She was "interested in exploring the roots of the growing political division, hostility and communication breakdowns we're witnessing, and then examining how we as a community might bridge those divides." This kicked off the conversation that eventually led to Florida Gulf Coast University's PAGES, philosophy and journalism programs, along with WGCU's Public Media, to provide and sponsor an incredible opportunity for students and the public to delve into the debate. On March 13, we will launching the first of what we hope will be a series of dialogues -- "Civil Discourse in a Polarized Society" -- to generate greater civic engagement.
Here's the link to the event: http://www.wgcu.org/blogs/events/discussion-event-civil-discourse-in-a-polarized-society/
I will be holding further podcasts with other key people involved as this most promising project continues to unfold.
For now, listen in to Jennifer, and how she began a quest that turned a most timely idea into a wonderful happening. As Jennifer put it in an article she wrote for GulfShore LIfe, the ambitious aim is to "probe, in a deeper way, the issues that might be driving us apart—race, religion, the economy, immigration, media, guns, political ideology and the like—and then explore how we might overcome them."
The road to responsible and involved citizenship was not a straight one for Dennis Dienst, our Democracy Cafe nonprofit board chair. Over 32 years ago, Dennis overcame drug and alcohol addiction to become not only an accomplished professional, but an involved and active citizen who comes "from a place of knowledge and of heart." In this podcast, recorded at a pretty noisy restaurant on the day of the Vikings-Eagles playoff game (Dennis lives in the Twin Cities and couldn't bear to watch , Dennis shares his rich philosophy of life and living and doing, and how his experiences were the driving force that led him to become so dedicated to helping others -- including countless youth he worked with for 18 years -- become all they can be, and as a result, help society become all it can be. Listen in.
David Storey, Assistant Professor of the Practice of Philosophy at Boston College, is my kind of philosopher -- an accomplished scholar and dynamic teacher who also is dedicated to bringing philosophy to the public. Indeed, David asserts, if the profession of philosophy wants to survive, let alone grow and flourish, it needs to diversity its portfolio. And he think that philosophy, whose roots were outside the academy, "bolsters the profession if more people see effective, useful rewarding applications of philosophy," from Socrates Cafe to philosophical counseling, to ethics consulting with tech companies. "This adds to the value of academic philosophy,' he maintains. Listen in to this thoughtful exchange with David. (Be sure to check out his website at DavidEStorey.com)
Ethan Randleas is one of six teenagers vying to be the next governor of Kansas. Ethan -- whose campaign website is https://ethanrandleas.com/about/ -- is running as a Libertarian candidate. Ethan insists he's not doing this for any sort of any gimmicky reasons, nor that he is tilting at windmills, but that he aims to be elected governor out of the genuine belief that he can best represent and realize the needs and aspirations of his fellow Kansans. Listen in.
[And thanks as always to our engineer and editor Odin Halverson, website OdinHalvorson.com for his invaluable help.]
Peter Atwater, a sought after financial consultant, and author of the acclaimed book 'Moods and Markets,' believes that moods drive the market rather than the other way around. Right now, Americans are at an ebb in confidence. And yet, he asserts what FDR did -- namely that 'the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.' To Peter -- a fellow William & Mary graduate who now teaches there, and whose commentary frequently appears on CNBC, Bloomberg, in Wall Street Journal, TIME, and Financial Times (among others) -- the challenge in times of low confidence, is to recognize that our craving for certainty and control is innately biological and impacts our cognitive capabilities in helping people help each other, in those moments of great despair, to be hopeful and confident. Listen in to Peter's array of keen and entwined financial and sociopolitical insights.' (Peter's website is Financial-Insyghts.com)
Nearly twenty years ago, there was a tragic school shooting at Westfield Middle School in rural Jonesboro, Arkansas. On March 24, 1998, Andrew Golden, then 11, and Mitchell Johnson, 13, opened fire on their teachers and fellow students. Four students and a teacher were killed that day, and ten were injured, including sixth grade social studies teacher Lynette Thetford. Lynette was shot in the abdomen but survived, and went on to continue her labor of love as a teacher, though even after undergoing extensive rehabilitation she still suffers from the gunshot wound. The memories of that day remain quite vivid with Lynette, now 61 -- more so than ever when yet another school shooting occurs. I spoke today with Lynette. Listen in as she shares her wise words about what we can do to greatly reduce the odds that such violence occurs again.