Sunday, August 7, 2011

Read All About It

It's Sunday, and I spent my morning in a traditional way-- drinking coffee and reading the paper. Early on in the morning, I read the most compelling piece, certainly of the day, but probably of the last six months. In his New York Times op/ed piece, Drew Westen, an Emory University professor of psychology, dissects what he sees as the primary weakness of the Obama presidency so far, starting with inauguration day. It's a fascinating read that rang a lot of bells for me personally.

I like his analysis of the importance of story-telling in the human experience (although I anticipate objections of readers who will complain that he is arguing that our leaders must treat us as children who cannot comprehend facts and thus must be fed parables), and I also appreciate his take on how bullies behave. His "bending the arc of history" metaphor, borrowed from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was right on, as was his point that "After a great technological revolution or a major economic transition, as when America changed from a nation of farmers to an urban industrial one, there is often a period of great concentration of wealth, and with it, a concentration of power in the wealthy." In times such as those, Teddy Roosevelt worked to bust the monopolies, and Franklin Roosevelt set in motion the great society.

To emphasize the relevance of these historic cycles, Westen reminds us that in the US today, 400 people control more of the wealth than 150 million of their fellow Americans.

Now that's some story.

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