In my inaugural post, I indicated that I wasn’t going to spend time explaining something you all know in your hearts: we can do better. That is our starting point, and I won’t argue it, because if you do not pass each of your days in the shadow of that foreboding sentiment, then you should go find a different blog to read.
Still, we need to examine the actual barriers that stand between us and “better” in order to smash through or find a way around them. We can start with the evidence that is already clear to us: society is not what we want it to be. Why is this–why is it that we put our energies toward shaping it one way, and yet it ignores our efforts and takes on a completely different form?
I have described the state of contemporary society as fragmented–as having its constituent elements disconnected and scattered, only to be woven back together by ideology into a false whole. Understanding this condition can provide an answer to our earlier question: the reason society does not reflect our best wishes is that its fragmented nature somehow distorts our efforts. We plug A into what we believe the most appropriate outlet for our political energies, and instead of coming out A on the other side, it appears as an unintended B.
Let us call this value separation. This refers both to the way values become distorted when acted upon through conventional political mechanisms, and also to the incongruence of values that exists between authorities and their constituencies. Basically, value separation is the void between our sentiments and our reality.
Where moral separation describes the way in which fragmentation diminishes our moral agency, value separation refers to our diminished autonomy. And where decreasing moral separation increases moral agency and allows people to express their better natures more easily, decreasing value separation increases autonomy and allows people to shape their communities as they please.
So how do we decrease moral and value separation in order to both reify human goodness and also empower people to shape their communities around that goodness?