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Of the people, by the people... (07/10/2013)
From: Jim Eddy

Webster’s New World Dictionary defines civilization as a “social order of a high order, marked by the development and use of a written language and by advances in the arts and sciences, government, etc.” (p. 261).

In a macro sense civilizations have in general followed the direction provided by two (2) relatively contemporary thinkers, Confucius (551?-479? B.C.) or Socrates (479?-397? B.C.).

In the case of Confucius, jen (virtue) was achieved by external manifestations of li (rites) and rituals that would inculcate into the person a discipline and stability important for the immediate manifestation of filial piety to the family and to the extended family of the society and state. This approach provided China with relative stability, until the 1911 revolution promoted by the Western trained and educated Sun Yat-sen. Other societies have accomplished the strategic quest for order by other forms of behavior modification via culture, and social organization. In such an approach to order the individual was viewed as an instrument of the society and state.

Socrates introduced the very uncomfortable idea of emphasizing the individual as more important than the society or the state. He developed this by focusing attention on a dialogue in which Socrates began his argument on an issue by asking “why” to those involved in a dialogue initiated by Socrates.

From Socrates forward this questioning approach attracted the student Plato, Thomas More, the Founding Fathers of this republic, etc. Such questioning is encouraged in our Constitution by the explicit guarantee of free speech and assembly, etc.

Today in Winona we are most fortunate to have access to institutions that provoke dialogue such as our many nonprofit organizations, including the Minnesota Marine Art Museum, Winona Community Foundation, the Winona County Historical Society, St. Mary’s and Winona State Universities, Minnesota State College Southeast Technical, and many more.

In such an environment the participants have the primary role of nurturing the mission, goals and objectives of those institutions enhancing the well-being of Winona as a community. Yes, the late 19th century French writer Alexis de Tocqueville must be appreciating the extent of citizens organizing and asking “why” in communities like Winona and living out the dream of applying the Constitutional requirement of “We the people” sustaining the proposition of government must be of and by the people to be for the people. 

 

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