Reaching for the Common Good: Moyers interviews Bellah


This article originally appeared in Issue# 58

As one of the founders of the growing "Common Good" movement, philosopher, author and social activist Robert Bellah has been a prime exponent of the need to tackle personal and public problems from the context of a community based on moral and spiritual values. These connections transform the interplay between self-interest, democracy and politics. In an interview with journalist Bill Moyers, Bellah spoke of interdependence and the failure of personal freedom and technological advances to provide meaningful solutions to social ills. The following excerpts provide a timeless critique:

..."Americans are allergic to politics. We see it as an area of power and influence unfairly exercised. We have to recover a more classical notion of politics as the place where we decide together about the things we need to do...

...Part of the problem is [television]. Television is such a powerful way of presenting immediate images that it tempts the politician to go for whatever will have the most immediate impact and corrupts the electorate into thinking about voting only in terms of the most short-term interests or fears...

...If a public official is only thinking about his or her own interests and not about whatever entity that public official is supposed to serve, we think that is a corrupt official. By the same token, a voter who goes to the polls and asks which candidate is best for me [without caring] about which is best for the country or for other people, that is a corrupt voter. Just as corrupt as a corrupt political official."

Author Bio: 

David Ruth was an editorial assistant at Media&Values while a film student at the University of Southern California