AN UPDATE FROM ARTHUR
Friday, November 4, 2016
I’m going to keep this brief. As you might have heard on the grapevine, we are four days away from an election. But this note doesn’t contain any predictions, polling data, or grand theses about which candidates deserve to win. All of my AEI colleagues will be studying and reporting nonstop on next week’s developments, of course. Stay tuned to our website and our social media. But today, I want to offer up something different – one last big idea for you to chew on before the storm hits.
As you may know, over the last several years, I’ve developed a friendship with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. To be sure, there are plenty of folks who don’t expect a conservative policy wonk to be collaborating with a Buddhist spiritual leader who sometimes describes himself as a Marxist. I’ve gotten a few skeptical comments from D.C. insiders – and I bet that hardly compares to the pushback His Holiness may have received from some members of his fan club. The media sure didn’t know what to make of it.
But a little skepticism didn’t deter our sense that we could create some value together in the fight for universal human dignity.
In February 2014, His Holiness came to visit AEI for a conference on free enterprise and human flourishing. In November 2015, an AEI contingent accepted a return invitation and traveled to his monastery in the Himalayan foothills to continue the conversation. This quick video highlights a few of the lessons that I have already learned from our partnership:
Today, it was my honor to continue the shared project with a joint op-ed in the New York Times. It contains a few of our big-picture thoughts on this current political moment. Below, I paste a few excerpts for your consideration. I welcome any thoughts or feedback you may have. And as always, I’m grateful if you feel inclined to pass the piece along.
“In many ways, there has never been a better time to be alive… How strange, then, to see such anger and great discontent in some of the world’s richest nations. In the United States, Britain and across the European Continent, people are convulsed with political frustration and anxiety about the future. Refugees and migrants clamor for the chance to live in these safe, prosperous countries, but those who already live in those promised lands report great uneasiness about their own futures that seems to border on hopelessness.
A small hint comes from interesting research about how people thrive. In one shocking experiment, researchers found that senior citizens who didn’t feel useful to others were nearly three times as likely to die prematurely as those who did feel useful. This speaks to a broader human truth: We all need to be needed.
This helps explain why pain and indignation are sweeping through prosperous countries. The problem is not a lack of material riches. It is the growing number of people who feel they are no longer useful, no longer needed, no longer one with their societies.
In America today, compared with 50 years ago, three times as many working-age men are completely outside the work force. This pattern is occurring throughout the developed world — and the consequences are not merely economic. Feeling superfluous is a blow to the human spirit. It leads to social isolation and emotional pain, and creates the conditions for negative emotions to take root.
Many are confused and frightened to see anger and frustration sweeping like wildfire across societies that enjoy historic safety and prosperity. But their refusal to be content with physical and material security actually reveals something beautiful: a universal human hunger to be needed. Let us work together to build a society that feeds this hunger.”
The piece isn’t all diagnosis. We also propose action items for helping fight back against this negativity, both on a personal level and for those in positions of leadership. Again, if you get a moment this weekend, have a look and let me know what you think.