Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Modest Proposal (Qualitative Reasoning)

By Tom Friedman, New York Times, November 13, 2010
Reading the headlines these days, I can’t help but repeat this truism: If you jump off the top of an 80-story building, for 79 floors you can think you’re flying. It’s the sudden stop at the end that tells you you’re not. It’s striking to me how many leaders and nations are behaving today as though they think they can fly — and ignoring that sudden stop at the end that’s sure to come.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke this week, in a process he calls "quantitative easing," has in effect just printed another $600 billion to buy U.S. bonds.
His use of the language, another public relations spin, got me thinking.
What about the politicans in Washington being thrown into a room, presumably with only water and tooth picks for refreshments, to discover the deeper meanings of a phrase like "qualitative reasoning."
That would, for example, make it necessary for them to remove their party hats, and their campaign rhetoric, and their ego's and their short-term political gamesmanship. They would and could then, don new hats fit for the "Greek thinker," and some different rhetoric (for example that of the student and practitioner of collaboration and negotiation), and replace their ego's with their consciences, and replace their short-term political gamesmanship with some hard work dedicated to actually solving the mess in which the U.S. economy, and all of their electors, find themselves.
Qualitative reasoning would be, necessarily, a process presided over by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court who would don the mantle of "chair" without a vote, and without the right to intervene in the debate.
And the sessions would be videotaped, so that all electors, immediately following the conclusion of the sessions, probably at minimum of thirty days and a maximum of forty-five days, would be able to watch their so-called leaders in action. (Very few of these men and women would starve drinking water for 30 days, yet they would get some sense of the hunger in the rest of the world!)
Of course, the contractor for the taping of the process would have to be none of the corporate television networks, and none of the Hollywood directors. Perhaps an agency like the BBC could be imported, providing both an outside perspective, without anything more than minimal commentary, names, and agendas etc. but no "opinion" whatsoever.
Qualitative Reasoning would provide an example for all classrooms throughout the country, and quite possibly the world, of how these six hundred men and women who consider themselves "leaders" of the free world could actually don that coveted mantle, and provide an antidote to their rush to conflict and their rush to spend for their own political purposes, without any thought for the survival of the planet, and the survival of the families in their own country, never mind the millions of starving, dying, diseased people living without hope around the world, whose lives are not even counting in the equations of the "rich", except as a target for their so-called charity, in their meagre foreign aid budgets.
Qualitative Reasoning would also require, in the terms being envisaged here, a succession of lectures from the most prominent economists, jurists, health care experts, climate scientists, and political philosophers who would be expected first to meet together, set an agenda of their own, with measureable outcomes to present to their "students" the legislators of the U.S. Congress, as an orientation to the "macro-political-economic-ecological-population-health" issues facing the world.
No longer would each file be debated in a silo, except for "earmarks" for diversion; each issue is, and would have to be considered as such, intimately connected to every other issue, through the common thread of the six-plus billion people who need food, water, shelter education and health care, in order that each of us can play a useful, meaningful and significant part in the survival of the planet.
And Qualitative Reasoning, as a process begun in the U.S. Congress, next moves on to the U.N. where a similar set of lectures and discussions would be convened, linked to a similar process in the European Union, and former Soviet Union, and in Africa, and in Asia...so that the world could watch the level of learning among the both elected and self-appointed leaders, with a view to future considerations.
Oh, and the press would be totally banned from all Qualitative Reasoning sessions, in every country, until after the videos are shown on their respective networks, with CNN having first rights to all the tapes, so that the world would see them first, before the national audiences.
For starters, Qualitative Reasoning would need an international panel of leaders, who would and could gather the thinkers together, help them shape an agenda, and then provide orientation and introduction to the process in each country. Among the list of candidates for such a panel would be names like: Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Tony Blair, Vladimir Putin, Stephan Lewis, Angela Merkel, King of Jordan, Ban Ki- moon, and the president/prime ministers of Sweden, Norway and Denmark, and the Chair of the Nobel Committee.

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