Bluffton College talks
With Bluffton University right around the corner from us, I’ve been asked to speak at a number of venues there over the years.
It’s a great Mennonite school, especially when it coms to principles around social justice, environmental stewardship, peace building… all from an overarching Christian perspective.
And it was in a “Christian Perspectives in a Global World” Capstone Class for seniors that I was asked to speak in first. I complimented the university as a whole for its cutting edge Cross Cultural Program that requires every student to spend a semester, or at least part of a semester, volunteering in such places as an outreach to the poor in Appalachia, a Conflict Resolution Center in Northern Ireland, programs to help Hispanic immigrants in south Texas…
I said this kind of ethos should be absolutely thread throughout all of American society. That is, there is so much more in the way of sharing resources and time that most people in society could be doing to make our country, and our world, a much better place. And not just in, say, a semester – but in an entire lifetime.
And its lifetimes, or at least significant parts of them, that many of us in America are wasting, I said during a talk to a Sociology Class at Bluffton. The students were studying about “National Social Surveys.” That is, a good number of European countries now regularly assess “quality of life” for an individual. These surveys are tools to measure such things as how much time a person is able to spend with their family a day, how much time they have for sports and leisure activity, how polluted their environment is…
Meanwhile in the U.S., we have no such formal national survey. Although we do have all sorts of economic survey/indicators. We track our income levels, our purchasing power, our debt, our housing market sales, our unemployment figures…
I told the students that if I were president, there would be less focus on the economy and much more focus on the areas that these other countries look at with their national social surveys.
And one of these areas would be how much one is wasting on television (the internet, etc…), especially in regard to what one is watching.
During a talk at a graduate level theology class, I said our society had gotten absolutely “nuts” when it came to morality. As an example, I used the following:
I’m standing on a street corner with my wife. A scantily dressed woman is approaching. If I “intently” look at the woman for more than five seconds, tops -- Liz will slap me.
However, I continued, we think nothing of sitting on a couch for two or three hours a night, with our spouse in the kitchen (or sitting right next to us for that matter), and “intently” watching the same type of scantily dressed women, and men, on prime time television.
The professor then chimed in. He said: “You know, when you think about that objectively, it would be like saying to your wife: ‘Honey, I’m going next door to look through the window at Marge for a couple hours.”’
That’s right, I said.
And what’s more, the psychological and physical consequences for this kind of thing, and other relationship destructing things, is virtually off the charts at this point in our society, I said.
For instance, we’re approaching a 65% divorce rate in the country. There’s repressed, and overt, anger in marital relationships everywhere, there’s broken families everywhere…
And it wasn’t everywhere, but rather to a Bluffton College Social Work class that I went to talk next. The students had been looking at “class privilege” in various societies.
I showed the students a picture of people living in tents in an Afghanistan refugee camp. I said I’d just read an article about parents at these camps starting to sell some of their children into human trafficking – so their other children wouldn’t starve.
The going price for selling a child in these camps? $30.
I noted that many people in American society will thinking nothing of spending $30 on drinks and a meal at TGIF Fridays, for instance, while there is so much potentially relievable suffering worldwide – that doesn’t get relieved.
And speaking of money…
During another talk at Bluffton College (it was set up as a “dormitory town hall meeting”), I noted that our national debt was absolutely off the charts. And as president, I would use a common sense formula for balancing the budget.
I would raise taxes and lower federal government expenditure.
I also said that I propose people could designate where one-fourth of their tax money goes. That is, do they want it to go to the military, or environmental programs, or social service programs, or to foreign aid…?
Common sense, again, says that if people had more of a say in where their money went, many would spend more time reading up on issues, being actively involved with issues… In other words, grassroots democracy in America would increase exponentially – one would hope.