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What is this “Green New Deal” of the Democratic Party?

Perhaps the most telling statement of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at her meeting with the media (February 7, 2019?) in front of the Capitol was this one:

“Climate change and our environmental challenges are one of the biggest existential threats to our way of life.”

Ocasio-Cortez’s comment represents the manner in which the Democratic Party can take a real issue and turn it into sawdust with its magic touch. To start with, adding “and our environmental challenges” to “climate change” significantly weakens the focus and suggests that there is but a spectrum from climate change, to lead in water to irregular garbage pickup by the sanitation department. So also the expression “one of the biggest existential threats” made the term “existential” seem like a colorful booster, such as those popular with PR firms, or lobbyists, to describe a topic you want to get tax dollars. It is the equivalent of “robust” or “critical” or “absolute must.”

Based on my own experience in DC, I am deeply suspicious that this bright and bold statement was in fact written by a lobbyist or PR firm.

That interpretation is further supported by her employment of the hopelessly banal expression “threats to our way of life” which makes it seem like there is nothing critical or existential at all about the problem, but rather that in the future we may have to pay more for gas, or for vegetables, or not be able to enjoy our weekends with the kids in the park.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pushes for her borrowed “Green New Deal”

The Democrats have taken the concept and the content of “Green New Deal” from the Green Party without giving any credit to Jill Stein and her team. They talked about a broad coalition, but they did not invite any Greens, or other groups not related to the Democratic Party. I am a bit shocked at how many are willing to just accept this move and see it as a revolution in the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party is as closed as it ever was.

World Beyond War’s Global Security System

The light and shadows of the Korean Peninsula  (Emanuel Pastreich)

The light and shadows of the Korean Peninsula

Emanuel Pastreich

February 1, 2019

How many times have I seen an American expert pointing to a satellite photo of the Korean Peninsula at night and remarking that the striking difference between the darkness the envelops North Korea and the bright lights that illuminate South Korea, as well as Japan, symbolizes the insularity, the oppressiveness and the pathetically backward economic state of the North. The obvious point is that the brightly lit South is a model of progress, of technology, of democracy and of free markets. 

This contrast between the light of progress and democracy and the darkness of dictatorship and ignorance has a certain aesthetic perfection that easily feeds the imagination of viewers; the narrative is intellectually predigested and it goes down smooth.

In the political debate in South Korea, this narrative is not seriously questioned in the media, among scholars, or among politicians. The progressive politicians argue that we should engage with North Korea and invest more in such projects as the Kaesong industrial complex so that North Koreans can find opportunities for employment and South Koreans can make profits from the cheap labor and abundant natural resources that North Korea offers. The conservatives argue that North Korea is a dictatorship and that it threatens South Korea militarily and cannot be trusted. They say that North Korea must first open itself up completely to the international business, and allow complete inspections of all its nuclear facilities.

But the assumptions made by the progressives and conservatives in South Korea do not differ fundamentally. Both are assuming that South Korea is more advanced and that a future North Korea should look more like South Korea where citizens enjoy a far greater GDP, drive cars, live in spacious houses with televisions and smartphone and produce K Pop hits that sell around the world.

Of course, it would be ludicrous to make an argument that North Korea is a model for others. The closed environment and the repressiveness of the government is no myth.

But as someone who has lived in South Korea for twelve years, I have been forced to admit, despite my hesitancy, that there is something seriously wrong here too. Whether it is the high suicide rates, the polluted air, the ruthless competition in schools, the deep alienation felt by young people, the extraordinary dependence on imported food and imported fuel or the tremendous numbers of the elderly who live in poverty, there are deep, deep shadows that cross all of South Korea.

There are two important points that are often buried in the shadows in the official narrative about North and South Korea. We need to look at North and South Korea from the ground up, not from high up in space.    

I have heard from numerous South Koreans who had the opportunity to visit North Korea that they had a strong sense that something vital had been lost in South Korea when they walked through the small vegetable markets in North Korea, observed the modest décor in the clean-scrubbed hotels and encountered the unadorned and unpretentious behavior of the citizens of Pyongyang.  

Such South Korean friends noted that women in North Korea, although they may not have the luxuries of the South, are also not under the same pressure to wear makeup and to compete with each other in consumption. There is not the demand for brand clothing.

South Koreans detect decency in the manner in which people treat each other on the street in Pyongyang. Many are reminded of the Korea of the 1960s and 1970s when there were far closer relations in South Korea between family members, and between members of the community. For that matter, the absence of automobiles, of youth addicted to cell phones, of endless advertising that drives people to buy things that they do not need or want for the sake of profit—all these aspects of North Korea evoke an original Korean culture that has been lost.

But there is an even more important issue that has been completely buried in the media of South Korea, and in our discussions about North Korea.

All the discussion by “experts” by journalists, about North Korea is based on issues involving economic growth, GDP, standard of living, production and consumption. According to these standards, North Korea is helplessly far behind advanced nations, and South Korea in particular. That means that South Korea can be the big brother and teach the North Koreans how to be “advanced” and “modern.” But all those terms are subjective and ideological in nature. The assumption made in South Korea is that wasteful consumption of resources is a positive and that it should be actively encouraged. It is assumed that it is progress to live in bigger, overheated homes and to own automobiles and smartphones.

But there is no scientific evidence, whatsoever, that underlies these assumptions. They are as accurate as saying that praying to the moon will bring rain or using leeches to drain blood will cure the diseases.  

In fact, research shows that such behavior patterns focused on consumption can have profoundly destructive effects on society as a whole including deep alienation and increased levels of suicide and substance abuse. That is to say that the assumptions about what North Korea should become, and what South Korea has been successful at, are based on ideology, on unfounded assumptions and on a myth of modernity. The result is that South Koreans are convinced that they are successful even as profound stress and frustration sweep through families.

When we approach this image of the Korean Peninsula at night using a scientific approach, this image tells a profoundly different story; the lights and shadows are completely reversed.

The overwhelming opinion among experts based on objective scientific analysis, not based on ideology, or profit, or warm fuzzy feelings, is that humanity faces an unprecedented crisis in the form of global warming (climate change) and that at the current rate we will be lucky if we manage to avoid extinction as a species.

There are numerous reports and books on the catastrophic changes in our climate, and the resulting extinctions taking place already. We can already see in Seoul that mosquitos manage now to survive until December, and often flowers are found blooming into January. That is just the beginning of what will be rapid, life threating changes.

If we let things progress as this rate, the oceans will warm, and grow acidic until fish are extinct, deserts will spread until much of Earth is uninhabitable and South Korea, hopelessly dependent on imported food and on the export of fossil-fuel intensive products, will be devastated

So what should South Korea do if it wants to survive? The answer is quite clear. It should start looking more like North Korea in terms of energy consumption and frugality. It should stop wasting energy and be dark at night, the way it has been for tens of thousands of years. It should get rid of all the useless lights on apartment buildings, end those electrified signs on commercial buildings, reduce dramatically unnecessary internal heating and end the wasteful design of high ceilings and concrete, glass and steel exteriors found in its buildings. It should go back to the traditions of frugality and simplicity that characterize much of its history.

South Korea should be dark at night. Its citizens must be aware of the tremendous cost of keeping its cities illuminated, in terms of the expense of importing fuel, in terms of the terrible pollution generated by subsidized fossil-fuel power plants, in terms of increasing global warming that is destroying the future for our children.

But there is a deeper, hidden secret. We have been fed a myth that Korea must grow, must advance, must consume and consume more to be modern, to be advanced, to be recognized as being special, as opposed to the unwashed masses of “developing countries.” Becoming modern has been assumed to be the highest priority for generations. But what is modern if consuming fossil fuels and wasting natural resources is destroying our ecosystem and damning our children?

The numerous problems that exist in North Korea are quite serious, but from the perspective of climate change, South Korea should be benchmarking North Korea’s low-consumption, rather than planning to vastly increase consumption and build highways and expensive wasteful apartments.

Many people may find that my words sound odd, even nonsensical. It is so obvious to many that South Korea’s modernity and its high level of consumption is a badge of honor, a sign that it is a member of advanced nations. Consumption considered as a major factor in calculating the state of the economy? If people consume less (and that means consuming less energy) then the growth rate will go down.  

But if we are facing extinction because climate change, who cares what stupid things the newspapers tell us about consumption? We must stop subsidizing fossil fuels immediately. Those numerous lights that burn all night in South Korea do not represent cultural advancement, but rather a dark and dangerous game of living for the moment by sacrificing the futures of our children.

There are infinite meaning and depth, spiritual and personal experience, to be derived from talking with family and friends, from reading books, writing letters and essays, walking in the woods or putting on plays and musical performances for each other. It requires almost no and does far more for us than a jungle of smartphones, lit up Starbucks Cafes, or throw-away plastic toys and cups that we are given, whether we want them or not.

As we think about the future of a unified Korean Peninsula, we must first move beyond this dangerous concept that being modern and advanced is a priority. We should ask ourselves rather what does it mean to be human? How do we live a meaningful and fulfilling life and contribute to society?

I do hope that North Koreans can live in a freer way than they do today and that they can eat more nutritious food. Yet they will not find any nutritious food in the convenience stores that have taken over South Korea and destroyed the family-owned stores that once gave citizens economic independence.

But I also hope that South Koreans can be set free also from the invisible chains that bind them to mindless consumption, that force them to consume increasing amounts of coal (heading in the opposite direction of almost every country in the world) and that leave so many feeling deeply alienated from friends and from family because of a brutal culture of endless competition.

The move toward unification must be about freedom for North Koreans and South Koreans. How unfair it would be if we assumed that only North Koreans are entitled to be free. 

“information everywhere but not a drop to contemplate”

Nicholas Carr’s book

“What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains: The Shallows” has had a deep impact on my thinking about disturbing trends in our society that I had already noticed. Carr demonstrates, with reference to scientific research and philosophical insights, how the computer and the resulting internet (and related market-driven stimulations) are remapping our brains and creating a social and intellectual wasteland in the midst of an unprecedented wealth of information. I have selected a few critical quotes from Carr’s book and will refer to him in an upcoming article.

It is truly “information everywhere but not a drop to contemplate.”

Nicholas Carr

But the news is not all good. Although neuroplasticity provides an escape from genetic determinism, a loophole for free thought and free will, it also imposes its own form of determinism on our behavior. As particular circuits in our brain strengthen through the repetition of a physical or mental activity, they begin to transform that activity into a habit. The paradox of neuroplasticity, observes Norman Doidge, is that, for all the mental flexibility that it grants up, it can end up locking us into “rigid behaviors.” The chemically triggered synapses that link our neurons program us, in effect, to want to keep exercising the circuits they’ve formed. Once we’ve wired the new circuitry in our brain, Doidge writes, “we long to keep it activated.” That is the way the brain fine-tunes its operations. Routine activities are carried out even more quickly and efficiently, while unused circuits are pruned away. (page 34)

The potential for unwelcome neuroplastic adaptations also exists in the everyday, normal functioning of our minds. Experiments show that just as the brain can build new or stronger circuits through physical or mental practice, those circuits can weaken or dissolve with neglect. “If we stop exercising our mental skills,” writes Norman Doidge, “we do not just forget them: the brain map space for those skills is turned over to the skills we practice instead.” Jeffrey Schwartz, a professor of psychiatry at UCLA’s medical school, terms this process “survival of the busiest.” The mental skills we sacrifice may be as valuable, or more valuable, than the ones we gain. When it comes to the quality of our thought, our neurons and synapses are entirely indifferent. The possibility of intellectual decay is inherent in the malleability of our brains. (page 35)

“A new medium is never an addition to an old one,” wrote McLuhan in Understanding Media, “nor does it leave the old one in peace. It never ceases to oppress the older media until it finds new shapes and positions for them.” His observation rings particularly true today. Traditional media, even electronic ones, are being refashioned and repositioned as they go through the shift to online distribution. When the Net absorbs a medium, it re-creates that medium in its own image. It not only dissolves the medium’s physical form; it injects the medium’s content with hyperlinks, breaks up the content into searchable chunks, and surrounds the content with the content of all the other media it has absorbed. All these changes in the form of the content also change the way we use, experience, and even understand the content.

(page 89)

What can science tell us about the actual effects that Internet use is having on the way our minds work? No doubt, this question will be the subject of a great deal of research in the years ahead. Already, though, there is much we know or can surmise. The news is even more disturbing that I had expected. Dozens of studies by psychologists, neurobiologists, educators and Web designers point to the same conclusion: when we go online, we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning. It’s possible to think deeply while surfing the Net, just as it is possible to think shallowly while reading a book, but that’s not the type of thinking the technology encourages and rewards. (page 115)

One thing is very clear: if, knowing what we know today about the brain’s plasticity, you were to set out to invent a medium that would rewire our mental circuits as quickly and thoroughly as possible, you would probably end up designing something that looks and works a lot like the Internet. It’s not just that we tend to use the Net regularly, even obsessively. It’s that the Net delivers precisely the kind of sensory and cognitive stimuli—repetitive, intensive, interactive, addictive—that have been shown to result in strong and rapid alterations in brain circuits and functions. With the exception of alphabets and number systems, the Net may well be the single most powerful mind-altering technology that has ever come into general use. At the very least, it’s the most powerful that has come along since the book. (page 116)

As we go through these motions, the Net delivers a steady stream of inputs to our visual, somatosensory, and auditory cortices. There are sensations that come through our hands and fingers as we click and scroll, type and touch. There are the many audio signals delivered through our ears, such as the chime that announces the arrival of a new e-mail or instant message and the various ringtones that our mobile phones use to alter us to different events.

The net also provides a high-speed system for delivering responses and rewards—“positive reinforcements,” in psychological terms—which encourage the repetition of both physical and mental actions.

(omitted)

The Net commands our attention with a far greater insistency than our television or radio or morning newspaper ever did.

(page 117)

This is particularly true for the young who tend to be compulsive in using their phones and computers for texting and instant messaging. Today’s teenagers typically send or receive a message every few minutes throughout their waking hours. As the psychotherapist Michael Hausauer notes, teens and other young adults have a “terrific interest in knowing what’s going on in the lives of their peers, coupled with a terrific anxiety about being out of the loop.” If they stop sending messages, they risk becoming invisible. (page 118)

The constant distractedness that the Net encourages—the state of being, to borrow another phrase from T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, “distracted from distraction by distraction” –is very different from the kind of temporary, purposeful diversion of our mind that refreshes our thinking when we’re weighing a decision. The Net’s cacophony of stimuli short-circuits both conscious and unconscious thought, preventing our minds from thinking either deeply or creatively. Our brains turn into simple signal-processing units, quickly shepherding information into consciousness and then back out again. (page 119)

What we’re not doing when we’re online also has neurological consequences. Just as neurons that fire together wire together, neurons that don’t fire together don’t wire together. As the time we spend scanning web pages crowds out the time we spend reading books, as the time we spend exchanging bite-sized text messages crowds out the time we spend composing sentences and paragraphs, as the time we spend hopping across links crowds out the time we devote to quite reflection and contemplation, the circuits the support those old intellectual functions and pursuits weaken and begin to break apart. The brain recycles the disused neurons and synapses for other, more pressing work. We gain new skills and perspectives but lose old ones. (page 120)

But brain scientists have come to realize that long-term memory is actually the seat of understanding. It stores not just facts but complex concepts, or “schemas.” By organizing scattered bits of information into patterns of knowledge, schemas give depth and richness to our thinking. “Our intellectual prowess is derived largely from the schemas we have acquired over long periods of time,” says John Sweller. “We are able to understand concepts in our areas of expertise because we have schemas associated with those concepts.”

(page 124)

Imagine filling a bathtub with a thimble; that’s the challenge involved in transferring information from working memory into long-term memory. By regulating the velocity and intensity of information flow, media exert a strong influence on this process. When we read a book, the information faucet provides a steady drip, which we can control by the pace of our reading. Through our single-minded concentration on the text, we can transfer all or most of the information, thimbleful by thimbleful, into long-term memory and forge the rich associations essential to the creation of schemas.

With the Net, we face many information faucets, all going full blast. Our little thimble overflows as we rush from one faucet to the next. We’re able to transfer only a small portion of the information to long-term memory, and what we do transfer is a jumble of drops from different faucets, not a continuous, coherent stream from one source. (page 124)

Still, [Google’s] easy assumption that we’d all “be better off” if our brains were supplemented, or even replaced, by artificial intelligence is as unsettling as it is revealing. It underscores the firmness and the certainty with which Google holds to its Taylorist belief that intelligence is the output of a mechanical process, a series of discrete steps that can be isolated, measured, and optimized. “Human beings are ashamed to have been born instead of made,” the twentieth-century philosopher Gunther Anders once observed, and in the pronouncement of Google’s founders, we can sense that shame as well as the ambition it engenders.

毎日違う話しているね

Harpers Weekly
The Chinese Question
“Hands off, Gentlemen! America means fair play for all men.”

Cartoon by Thomas Nast from
February 18, 1871,

The Chinese Question
“Hands off, Gentlemen! America means fair play for all men.”

New York Times source:

The Harper’s Weekly article dismissed the purported “Chinese invasion” as “altogether mythical,” and argued that most Americans “still adhere to the old Revolutionary doctrine that all men are free and equal before the law, and possess certain inalienable rights …” That sentiment is reflected in Nast’s cartoon, where Columbia, the feminine symbol of the United States, shields the dejected Chinese man against a gang of thugs, whom she emphatically reminds that “America means fair play for all men.”

The armed mob includes stereotypes of an Irish American (second from right), perhaps a German American (on the far right), and a “shoulder-hitter” (far left), who enforced the will of urban politicians (like Tweed) with threats or acts of violence. The imagery in the back alludes to the Civil War draft riots of 1863, during which angry, largely Irish American, mobs in New York City protested the Union draft and Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation by burning the Colored Orphan Asylum and lynching blacks. For years after, Nast incorporated those images into his cartoons as symbols of the alleged Irish-American and Democratic penchant for violence and mob rule.

Seminar: “Wildfire: Two Roads Diverging in a Woods on Fire: The spread of climate chaos and trends in global response today”

SEMINAR

“Wildfire: Two Roads Diverging in a Woods on Fire: The spread of climate chaos and trends in global response today”

Daniel Garrett

Senior Associate

The Asia Institute

Response by

Emanuel Pastreich

President

The Asia Institute

(

Moderated by

Rachel Stine

Researcher

The Asia Institute

7-8 PM

Monday, February 18, 2019

The Earth System is transitioning to a new phrase – that of Hothouse earth. We see climate refugees everywhere at the same time that right-wing governments that derive their power from racism, nativism, and other forms of the “fear of the other” purposely ignore the threat. The wildfire of climate chaos already been lit and will burn even brighter. In this seminar, former State Department official Daniel Garrett and refugees’ rights advocate Rachel Stine will explore the following topics: 1.) How can we preserve a livable environment? 2.) What new forms of governance – and approaches to living will be demanded in such difficult times? What can we do now and during the climate chaos to improve the chances that eco-civilizational and climate justice models emerge victorious rather than the “vultures” of disaster capitalism? Join The Asia Institute for this exciting first event of 2019.   

@ Commons Foundation

Daniel Garrett is a retired U.S. Department of State diplomat.  His areas of expertise include human rights, trafficking in persons, Himalayan regional issues, climate change and international trans-boundary water issues.  He is currently working to facilitate the accelerated emergence of innovative ideas and technologies that make it possible for human civilizations and their infrastructures to be seamlessly interwoven in a productive manner into the earth systems which sustain and support them.

Sponsored by

The Commons Foundation

The Asia Institute

The Earth Management Institute

World Beyond War

“汉学家贝逸溟:东方传统文化契合可持续发展之道” 《环境与生活》

今日头条

“汉学家贝逸溟:东方传统文化契合可持续发展之道”

《环境与生活》杂志 

2019年 1月28日


韩国全球治理研究院院长、哈佛大学博士贝逸溟,接受《环境与生活》记者采访

如何治理有生命的地球

贝逸溟博士是土生土长的美国人,早年在哈佛大学攻读东方学取得博士学位,并精通汉语、韩语和日语。他长期关注东亚地区的政治、社会、文化,对中国传统文化浸淫颇深。几个月前,他刚发表了用中文写的《画中的小说——曹雪芹<红楼梦>中的一种文学隐喻》的学术论文。但在韩国定居多年的他,有感于环境问题的重要性,创立了韩国全球治理研究院。两个月前,他刚刚给韩国环境部就环境治理问题做了一次演讲。

采访当天,贝博士全程用流利的普通话与《环境与生活》记者交流。当记者问起他创立的研究院为什么“放眼全球”时,他解释道:“我们现在只有一个地球,我们所有的行为都会影响到地球。很多人没有意识到在日常生活、工作中会有很多浪费的情况,所以我们考虑的是全人类与地球的问题。地球这个词与‘世界’‘国际’有所区别,选择叫地球就是强调我们这个星球小小的、有生命的那种状态。地球是一个很特别的说法。我们人类作为主宰者,为了人类自己的未来,去思考小小的、有生命的地球应该怎么治理。因为我们是在韩国开始研究的,而且与关注环境的年轻人交流比较多。年轻人也比较喜欢‘地球’这个词。”贝博士说,年轻人的参与非常重要,他在研究院经常与年轻人交流,他特别重视年轻人的看法。年轻人不仅了解现在生态环境的问题,也可以为他提供一些新思路,对他的研究有很大贡献。

环境问题也是安全问题

贝逸溟说起自己与环境问题的因缘:“我13年前就开始参与到环境活动中,写关于环境问题的文章。我认为这是一个非常重要而且很危险的问题,但很多人还没意识到环境问题是怎么出现的,也不清楚这与我们所处的文化有什么关系。所以,我是从文化、思想、思考习惯等角度研究环境问题,也从安全保障的角度看问题。比方说在如今的美国,政治、国防、安全方面的预算是很多的,但在环境或气候方面,却没有太多的预算,好像美国人没有想到环境问题其实也是一种安全问题,所以在这方面我也写了几篇文章。”

贝博士在他的文章中写到,韩国国防部里面也需要增加应对气候变化的部门。这是因为军队在现代社会开始转型,在一些非传统安全问题上它可以扮演积极的角色,可以应对突发的自然灾害和紧急事件。这种时候,军队往往可以提供即时、有效的帮助。

贝博士还说:“我现在居住在韩国,我发现韩国军队可以很快地做出改变来应对气候变化,他们的一些燃油车,很快就改为电动车了,但在普通的企业里或社会上,很难做得到这种力度的变革。要求普通的企业明天就用电动车,这就比较难办得到,但如果军方说从明天就开始,他们就真的可以做到马上开始,这种改革是比较容易做得到的。”

在传统文化中找到解答

贝博士本科学习中国文学,并先后在日本和韩国进行比较文化的研究,对东亚地区的文化感情颇深。说起中国近年来的生态文明建设,他也颇为关注。

贝博士说:“我对东方传统文化非常感兴趣,很多时候可以从传统文化里找到环境问题的解决之道。我们有很多个国家、企业、单位、团体,但只有一个地球,而人类对地球是要共有、共用的,所以我们需要一个新的想法。在西方,也有很多人需要新的文明,但是他们不知道,这种与生态环境和谐共生的文化传统在东方的传统——道教、佛教、儒教里面是已经存在的。想要解决环境问题的话,我们可以在这里找到真正的可持续发展之道。比方说风水,很多人认为风水是一种迷信,但是风水本来就是一种生态学的传统,就是探讨天地人三才的关系——它们是如何互相影响的。古人需要考虑的不是明天,也不是明年,而是一百、五百年以后的问题。河水是怎么流的,周边的山会怎么变化,我们的土地应该怎么保存下去?这种长期的对人与自然关系的思考,在中国是非常发达的,可能连很多现在的中国人也不知道。说到生态文明建设,今天的中国在很多方面已经是模范国家了,很多国家可以学习中国的环境政策、方法。我觉得包括美国也一样,再过几年,一定会有美国人来中国学习如何进行环境治理,当然中国未来还可以做得更好。”

近年来,人工智能等新技术的发展也为社会发展、为环境改善带来巨大动力。但贝逸溟对此并没有盲目乐观,他提醒说:“我每天都在使用智能手机,我们离不开这些高新技术,但长期这样的话,人就没有独立的想法,没有独立思考的能力,我们越来越少写字,也不去读书。当然,我们在因特网上也可以阅读文章,但这种了解是比较肤浅的。我们过度使用电脑也许会影响到我们思考的方式。要注意到这个问题,不要让使用网站搜索资料变成一种习惯,如果网站里查不到,你就认为不存在了。”

中国可扮演独特的角色

说到中国在全球生态环境保护方面的角色,贝博士认为,在环境保护事业上,中国是一个特殊的国家,可以在国际社会上成为联结发达国家与发展中国家的桥梁和平台。

贝逸溟说:“在西方,重视保护环境的国家经济实力大多比较强,像德国、瑞典等国。但你会发现,比方说在美国,类似特斯拉那样的电动车是普通的工薪家庭买不起的,新能源汽车与他们没有太大关系。这就导致在一些发达国家,低收入群体被排斥在生态环境保护之外,环保只和一些生活条件非常优裕的群体有关。同样的道理,一部分比较贫穷的国家也显得与环境保护问题不太相关。但是中国不一样,中国所有的阶层都与生态环境问题有关,我觉得这是一个非常重要的地方。就是说中国是比较多样的,不止是北京这样发达的地区,一些经济不好的地区也与生态环境保护高度相关。中国巨大的市场规模可以让新能源汽车的生产成本迅速下降,所以中国可以让发展中国家和发达国家的低收入群体,都加入生态环境保护事业。”

本刊原创,转载请联系《环境与生活》杂志。

责编:郑挺颖

网编:黄皖婷 崔悦

“再考虑中国的科举传统: 智慧与中国治国理念” 多维新闻

多维新闻

“再考虑中国的科举传统: 智慧与中国治国理念“

2019年 12月 8日

贝一明

要找到好工作,就得考个好大学;要考上好大学,先得上个好高中——怀揣此类“理想”的中国青少年陷入了残酷的竞争。这种竞争不仅令众多年轻人失去了自己本该有的生活,更扭曲了学习的本质。教育也因此而变为逼迫我们孤立彼此的隐形战场,而非鼓励人们为挖掘真理、建立更好的社会而合作的乐园。

我常常见到人们拿令学生深感困扰的现代考试系统和古代科举制度作类比:前者是现代人借之以获得社会地位的手段, 而后者则在近2000年的大部分时间内成为国家治理体系的支柱,对文化的各个方面产生了巨大的影响。

这样的类比并不离谱。科举考场后来也变成了人们追权逐利的战场,尤其在十八世纪晚期,政府机关岗位因人口迅速增长而完全饱和之后,情况更是如此。

少数高门贵族垄断了科举之路,他们所借助的,要么是对子孙的高明教导,要么是腐败手段——有时还双管齐下。考试内容被削减为默写词句,堆砌迎合考官心意的华丽辞藻,撰写毫无创造力、想象力可言的文章等。

然而晚清这种遭扭曲的文职官员考录系统无法代表古人设立科举制度的初衷。

我们应当扪心自问,整体受教育人群的目标本该是修习道德哲学,而非研究工商管理、金融或者广告;但是,倘若人人都把进政府部门工作当成最高理想,这样的社会意味着什么?

首先我们必须要问能人体制价值何在,中国科举制经常被奉为该制度的典范,本可在十八、十九世纪供法国、英国和其他国家效仿。将能力与才识作为至高法则的选拔任用体制的确具有巨大的吸引力。

最近人们对中国能人体制的优点大感兴趣,清华大学贝淡宁Daniel Bell 教授的文章便十分有代表性。他在《中国模式:能人政治和民主制 的局限性》(The China  Model: Political Meritocracy  and the  Limits of  Democracy)一书中提出,中国的能人政治可以成为“西方民主”的替代制度。

诚然,唯能是举的政府用人制度或许能够代替让民众为特殊利益集团预定人选投票的“民主制”。如果人们只能根据反映媒体偏见的信息投票,那么这样的制度绝对谈不上公正。

显然,能人体制可以代替贵族政治(的确,前者经常会沦落为后者)和专制制度,这一点毫无疑问。然而起初传统科举制并非为考查专门知识或者实践能力而设立。

晚清革命家认为,只会引经据典的儒家学者百无一用,中国急需的是能够敲定贸易条约、建立邮政系统、修铁路、开钢厂的实干型专家。他们严厉的批评对科举制度影响颇深。

考试的传统保留了下来,一同延续至今的,还有能够决定一个人职业生涯的诸多测试,还有对数学、英语、行政管理,以及会计、金融等专业技能的重视。然而在整个考试系统中,却全然不见道德哲学的踪影。

那么, 科举考试设立之初为何以儒家经典和道德哲学为主要内容?难道是因为当时的学者都已与国家的需要脱节,因手握特权而迷失了自己?

有些人之所以产生这种困惑,是因为他们对科举制度的初心存在根本上的误解,在与之相关的“贤能体制”和英语中的“meritocracy”(英才治国体制)之间划等号。这种想法是错误的,因为从词根词源来分析,“meritocracy”一词由“merit”(价值)和“ cracy”(统治)组成。当然,科举与个人的价值息息相关,但衡量个体价值绝非科举考试的宗旨所在。

汉朝已有通过考试选拔官员的制度。当时此类考试旨在建立智者、贤者为官的国家管理体系,能力与学识并不是考察重点。“智”与“才”,“贤”与“能”之间存在联系,但明确它们之间的差别是推动未来改革的关键。

比起“英才治国”,梳理孔孟之道的哲学家们更加青睐“心智治国”(noocracy)。后者已逐渐不为人知,但古希腊哲学家柏拉图曾将其奉为西方最佳政体。

大多数现代人会觉得“管理政府的应当是智者,而非能者”这种想法太过幼稚,或者还会认为它有危险的精英主义倾向。可是,在对植根于中国深厚文化积淀的这条脉络予以否定之前,我们应当仔细地思考这个问题。

民主很可能会沦落成为令人民被虚假信息牵着走的荒谬制度,魅力非凡的领袖也会堕落为因荒唐决定而生的 最严酷暴政的始作俑者。

所谓的“英才治国体制”,可能会让有能力、高学历,但没有道德罗盘,一心追逐个人或家族利益的人参与国家管理。

政府与企业人员的晋升模式对于建设健康社会来讲至关重要。

孔子和柏拉图都提出过赞成“智者治国”的观点。问题在于,怎样才能实现这种治国模式?

人类都有本性上的弱点,任何体制都无法避免腐败和权力滥用。因此定期开展改革大有必要。

让人们自小接受道德哲学的熏陶,长大后精通人文学科,能够撰写意味深长的文章、针对治国和社会问题提出符合道德原则的解决之道——这种育人理念会产生深远影响,正符合我们当前的需要。

关键在于,我们应当挖掘中国传统治国理念的深刻内涵,而不该只停留于表面 形式。

当然,我们不该强迫大家只读儒家经典,不该强制恢复明清时期采用的科举制度——与那时相比,今天的世界已经迥然不同。我们可以采用一些实验性手段,将哲学和文学融入准公务员以及企业人员教育培训内容,让他们重视自己的行为和社会影响,将高风亮节视为最高目标。

上述受培训者所阅读的书籍不必限于中国传统经典,而应结合现实实际。而且此类教育理应由德才兼备的教师实施,教师的遴选也不该通过由计算机评分的匿名评测草草了事。我们应当让公务员考试更加人性化、有机化,包含更多道德考核内容,更全面地考察受试者是否知晓在现代社会中的处世之道和助民之法。

这种回归儒家传统思想初心的创新可为政府注入大量全新活力,同时给我们的年轻人指明新的方向。

서울이야기: 임마누엘

2018년 12월

서울사람들은 서울에 대해 무슨 생각을 어떻게 할까요? 서울브랜드 아이서울유가 세 번째 생일을 맞아 서울시 홍보대사, 아티스트, 글로벌 기업의 CEO 등 서울에 살고 있는 사람, 서울에서 일하고 있는 사람, 서울을 사랑하는 사람에게 물었습니다. 여덟 번째 인터뷰는 아시아인스티튜트, 임마누엘 페스트라이쉬(이만열) 소장 입니다. 임마누엘 페스트라이쉬 생각은 [서울은 공존이다]