How a New Chinese Dream Can Help the World Dr. Jay McDaniel Co-Director, Ecological Civilization International
What Some People Say • 19th century belonged to England • 20th century belonged to US • 21st century belongs to China
The Question Everyone is Asking • What will the China Dream be? • Will it be intensified consumerism in which money is king? Or will it be something that provides moral and spiritual guidance to the world? • One thing is clear – It’s China’s turn. Chinese people get to dream their dream.
A Word about the American Dream • The American Dream is evolving, too. • Many of us in America know that we have lived wastefully, that we too often have been greedy, that we cannot and should not be the policeman of the world. • Many of us carry within us two dreams: the dream of material success and the dream of becoming what Martin Luther King. Jr. called a Loving Community.
The Center for A New American Dream • Some Americans today speak of the emergence of a New American Dream. One example is the Center for a New American Dream, based in Washington DC. See www.newdream.org • It s many activities are aimed at inspiring, engaging, and challenging Americans to re-examine their cultural values on consumption and consumerism and initiating a new national conversation around what “the good life” and the “American dream” mean. • New Dream's Redefining the Dream program seeks “to re-imagine the American dream with a focus on more of what really matters: creating a meaningful life, contributing to community and society, valuing nature, and spending time with family and friends.”
Back to China • Many in different parts of the world – including advocates of a new American Dream -- hope that China’s Dream will be a source of wisdom for the world. • They hope that it will embody not just hard power (economic and military might) but soft power (the power of cultural inspiration). • Already they are inspired by the cultural treasures of China’s past; they would like to be inspired by the cultural treasures of China’s future.
What would an Ecological CivilizationLook Like? There are different ways of imagining such a civilization. Constructive Postmodernists in China hope: • That it will not imitate the worst aspects of western modernity. • That it will include green cities and vibrant countrysideswith town-farm partnerships. • That its agriculture will be sustainable and renewable. • That its urban designs will be hospitable. • That its economic activity will be in service to human community rather than ever-increasing GDP. • That it will offer education for wisdom and not just education for industry.
They further hope: • That it will will build upon wisdom of Chinese tradition even as they learn from the sciences. • That it will be peaceful, emphasizing soft power not hard power. • That its governance will involve a partnership between government and business and civic organizations. • That its local communities that will be creative, compassionate, participatory, egalitarian, ecologically wise, and spiritually satisfying, with no one left behind.
Can such a Dream Come True? • A Dream is an ideal to be approximated not a utopia to be instantly realized. • It does not come true once and for all or all at once, but its people strive to realize it. • Such an ideal, say constructive postmodernists, can be approximated in China.
Can China’s Traditions Help? • Modernizers say No. They believe that the traditions have been a hindrance. They say that the hope lies in science and technology, not in the cultural treasures of Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Poetry and the Arts. • Postmodern Thinkers say Yes. They seek a blending of wisdom both traditional and scientific, both spiritual and rational. They reject the one-sidedness of modernist thinking. They believe it is too narrow and unimaginative. Too “scientistic” and “western.”
Why Whitehead? His philosophy of organism is uniquely Chinese in tone. His philosophy unites science and spirituality, aesthetics and morality. His philosophy invites the kinds of attitudes and public policies that can encourage the emergence of ecological civilizations.
Are there philosophical tools for Ecological Civilization? • Constructive Postmodernists in China and the United States find the philosophy of Whitehead helpful. • He was a philosopher and mathematician.
How does Whiteheadlook at the world? The universe is a web of interconnected events filled with creativity; humans are a part of, not apart from the larger web; all things have a kind of value worthy of respect and care; humans can cooperate with the rhythms of nature in ways that are creative and prosperous for humanity and nature
Whitehead’s Philosophy is often compared with: • The event-cosmology of the I Jing • The person-in-community outlook of Confucianism • The sense of nature-as-source in Daoism • The approach to health in traditional Chinese medicine. • The connections of heart-mind found in much Chinese thinking.
Where can I go to learn more about these connections? Most helpful will be a book by Dr. Zhihe Wang and Dr. Meijun Fan most helpful: Second Enlightenment, Peking University Press. It is in Mandarin. For English speakers, you might also find helpful an article called “Comparing Whitehead, Chinese Thought, and Marxism.” Here is the link: http://www.jesusjazzbuddhism.org/comparing-whitehead-and-chinese-thought.html
Do contemporary Chinese care about these traditions? • Some do and some don’t. • The constructive postmodernists care about them deeply • But one thing is certain. • Americans and others in the West want to learn from them
The Hope If Chinese set their sights on a constructively postmodern dream, and develop local communities that embody its spirit, they will truly have much to share with the world, to the benefit of the whole world. That would be a wonderful China century.