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The Democracy, Culture and Values

 September 5 - November 10, 1991                                            Washington, D.C.



In these days an old term has taken on renewed meaning. After a century of attempts to promote human life on the basis of the political ideologies of totalitarianism and liberalism the economic ideologies of dialectical materialism and capitalism, it has become apparent more is needed. The difficulties--indeed the horrors--of this century have shown that it is necessary now to build anew on the deeper foundation of communities of free persons.

But to say freedom is to say self-determination with others, and hence to raise the question of the basis upon which these determinations are made. What are the goals of human life; what qualities and characteristics are needed by a community in which these goals can be realized; what must be the values according to which one commits one's life and makes daily decisions? With the emergence of freedom and a new beginning in the efforts to develop democratic life these issues of values have replaced those of scientific ideologies as the basic coordinates of public and private life.

In turn this suggests the need for a new investigative sources and foundations of values. As the creative and cumulative expression of human freedom a peoples future reflects the decisions and commitments undertaken by a people, their rejection of what is vicious and ugly, and their deepest sensitivity to what is decent, appropriate, worthy and even beautiful.

In order to project a democratic life for the next century we need, first, to look back into our culture, not to repeat the past, but to draw upon these deepest aspirations of human freedom in creating a new future. Secondly, we need to review the basis for the values these cultures contain in order that they be grounded more securely than in our tragic century. Like our rights, human values in order to be truly inalienable must not be based merely upon the decisions of those who have won a struggle for power, but must have a basis that transcends history and through time inspires human strivings. Finally we need to look toward the next century constructing structures for a democratic life which will build upon the values of the various cultures in ways that will enable them to be lived in new ways adapted to new times.

To do this requires first attentive research into the various cultures in order to identify the resources available and the requirements of the various peoples, second a search into the modes of democracy and the various efforts to realize it thus far, and finally creative reflection on new ways of developing democratic life in ways that overcome the new danger of manipulation in an age of mass communication and convert these dangers into new possibilities of free and creative community and cooperation. It is the tasks of this seminar. 





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