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The Common Good in a Divided Society

Essay by   •  September 29, 2011  •  Case Study  •  4,125 Words (17 Pages)  •  2,869 Views

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The Common Good in a Divided Society


In the essay The Common Good in a Divided Society David Hollenbach, SJ discusses how the American society today faces the social challenge of distributing the common good within its divided society and the additional responsibility toward the less fortunate of the society. Hollenbach emphasizes Aristotle's message that a community's good should set the direction for the lives of individuals as the community's good is a higher or more divine good than the particular goods of private persons. St. Thomas Aquinas says that people should be committed to the common good of all of creation when being they people want to achieve close relation to God. Furthermore he states that commitment to common good also fulfills the Bible's commandment to love God whole heartedly, our neighbors and us. Later n the 16th century, Ignatius Loyola stated with the religious vision that the order of a Jesuit should be pursued towards the glory of God and the common good. Hollenbach focuses on the struggles of African-Americans in central cities and illustrates that tolerance by itself is not sufficient to address the urgent problems public American life.

The Common Good in Trouble

Hollenbach writes that this tradition is serious trouble in Western societies and Christian environments. John Rawls said that in today's life it is challenging for all people to agree on a social good and asserts that the vision of the common good now not possible anymore as people allow constraints of liberty and toleration of democracy. As people come from different cultures, have different beliefs, are different races and ethnicities, and speak different languages it is common to have different opinions and views. Every day we see the news of people being killed in our communities that makes it hard not to feel threatened but rather view them as neighbors and share our life with them. Therefore some people tend to avoid certain neighborhoods and the people who live in that neighborhood. The result of this scenario is more so a common bad as a common good and easy to find in U.S. communities. Furthermore, past occurrences of the country including slavery, ethnic exclusion and others lead to minority groups that have not been well protected or given a fair chance to live good life. The United States has emerged to a pot of cultures as well into mainstream groups of the middle class. When true, this could be very threatening to the country's democratic stability. In Alan Wolfe's study "One Nation After All", he finds that the American's middle class most values tolerance that even seems to have become the eleventh commandment. Wolfe counter argued the facts of the U.S. being pluralistic and at a cultural with itself and states that there is no reason to be concerned of the common good. The middle class's tolerance is also evidence in attitudes on other questions of importance regarding the quality of public life including family life, gender roles, immigration, multiculturalism, and race. Only homosexuality receives a low level of tolerance amongst Americans. Americans seem to look away and do not want to speak out to issues that could tear the country apart and therefore choose not to be part of conversations relating this issue. However, the common principle living in one community is to do whatever someone wants to do as long as someone else can do what he or she wants to do.

Wolfe states that it is ethic to aspire modest virtues and ordinary duties that show kindness and honesty than the aggregate goals such a social justice and social equality. He furthermore states the importance of these virtues as a cultural war as the Civil War and the abominations in the former Yugoslavia have shown the bad outcomes before. Therefore Wolfe is relieved to know of tolerance alive in the United States. Later on Wolfe though confessed that he was somewhat depressed after the research. He states that Americans suffer from responsibility of national citizenship and enthusiasm. In detail Wolfe writes that Americans seem to take the benefits but not taking the responsibility, such as paying taxes or paying attention, of being an American citizen in consideration. Furthermore, he states that Americans do not seem to consider their position and their international responsibilities in the emerging global context. Wolfe states that the narrow vision is a result from the prosperity of the middle class and evolved from him so called "couch-potato politics," that seems to be an ignorant or the inability to vision the common purpose and work towards securing them. Wolfe emphasizes the importance for the American society to realize the vision of the common good, to understand and to approach national life, and furthermore the role of the United States on a global scale. Hollenbach states that there are major social and political questions calling for more vision that tolerance.

A Problem Tolerance Can't Handle: Poverty and Central Cities

Hollenbach focuses on the struggles of African-Americans in central cities and illustrates that tolerance by itself is not sufficient to address the urgent problems public American life. Life in American cities has been hurt with economic downturn and raising unemployment rates, single parenthood, and furthermore drugs and violence. Most African Americans live in the inner parts of the cities and according to the commitment to the common good this is not due to tolerance in the context of the middle class and as mentioned before. Most middle class Americans live in neighborhoods where their neighbors have a similar social-economic background. That is due to the American zoning laws as well as boundaries that are a result of political choices. Hollenbach states that only a better of understanding of communities can help to develop an understanding of the common good that reaches beyond the boundaries of existing groups. According to Robert Bellah, people living in certain communities among subordinate's leads to "lifestyle enclaves" who live life similar to their neighbors, do similar leisure activities and have similar interests. They rather associate with their private life rather than their public life and therefore do not act as political citizens but as friends. The enclave lifestyle can have an extreme effect that can lead to the construction of bigger and better malls and tougher zoning ordinance to strengthen the barriers to protect the privileged from those who are different. The tolerance among white citizens has increased and racist attitudes notably decreased over the recent decades, but this change has not been accompanied by an improvement in the life



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