Saturday, April 11, 2009

Moral Courage

Few men are willing to brave
the disapproval of their fellows,
the censure of their colleagues,
and the wrath of their society.
Moral courage is a rarer commodity than
bravery in battle or great intelligence.
Yet, it is the one essential, vital quality
for those who seek to change the world
which yield most painfully to change.

~Robert F. Kennedy
1966 speech

Of Note: Individual moral courage is a humble act that may not make the headlines. It is often apolitical and asymmetrical and doesn't always provide a story that impresses the presses. But a movement of moral courage is afoot. An observer can tell that change is happening at many different levels led by courageous visionaries, who often sacrifice their reputations to put forward truth. Even more impressive, however, is the beginning of an even larger surge--that of massed moral courage. I dare say that Bobby Kennedy would not even recognize today's world where a free populace has elected a black President. Or a place where corporations are vying to be the greenest. Or a place where many of the richest people on the planet are giving away their wealth to the poorest. Massed moral courage is power. Get its energy going in the same direction, and the world could change overnight.

Today's Weather Report: At 50 some degrees Fahrenheit, spring has officially arrived! Someone forgot to tell our frozen lake, however. My husband said you could probably still walk across it although he's not about to try. In past years, the lake has been open water by now. It looks like all those sub-sub-zero winter days are having their effect even now. See that little deer in the photo above? It's not real but a good fake, especially at a distance. Marie took this mellow shot at the Dallas Arboretum a few weeks ago. Down in Texas they never have to worry about frozen lakes.

Watch For Change Snippet: I've been watching this presidency as it unfolds and noticed a trend. Seemed that the masses were being manipulated intentionally. As it turns out, I was right. TIME magazine ran a recent article "How Obama is Using the Science of Change." The subheading read: "It's more than a campaign slogan. Inside the White House's plan to employ behavioral economics to promote its agenda--and fundamentally alter the way Americans live." The military and others have been using these techniques for years, think Hitler. But, finally, someone has figured out how to use mass psychology on a grand scale for potential good. This timely article points out that the administration is full of renowned behavioral scientists from Harvard, Princeton and the University of Chicago, who are intent on inculcating the science of influence into national policy. Based on sound research, they know what gets folks to change, and it's not too hard really--make it clear, easy, popular and, if all else fails, mandatory.

Unsurprisingly, popularity is one of the biggest people movers. If someone else is doing it, so will we. President Obama used that potent psychological change agent much to his advantage during his campaign. It was so simple, but more importantly, effective.
Others have noticed. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, for example, is spending millions to develop TV scripts that promote health and education and recently funded the writing of an ER episode that featured the return of George Clooney. The foundation promises to invest even more money influencing popular culture on such stations as MTV and VH1. So should we be fearful of this manipulation? Probably not, because it is nothing new. What is new is that we are hearing about it in the popular press. It just makes the "watching" more interesting to see if knowing we are being influenced makes a difference in the outcome.

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