Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Presidential Elections and The Power of Kindness

With all the election "news" these days (and generally disgusting commercials on the airwaves), I found myself thinking about what I'm most looking for in a President and Senator from Oregon. What will be the next administration's mode of governing and what legacy will the people I vote for leave for future generations?

I wrote the following book review on the subject for the October issue of Springfield Connection:

The Power of Kindness

By Todd Peterson

I’ve had the privilege of voting in ten Presidential elections during my lifetime. Some of the candidates I voted for have won; some have lost. Over the years, the tone and style of campaigns has changed dramatically as candidates have taken advantage of new media and poured millions of dollars into winning votes.

Since the political party conventions this year, I’ve seen the campaign rhetoric and public discourse take a sharp turn toward disrespect, half-truths, and blatant lies. Candidates mock one another, “approve messages” attacking the character of their opponents, and pander to voters with promises of “change” that have no reasonable chance of ever happening.

In the face of this outpouring of disingenuous words, I turned to Piero Ferrucci’s The Power of Kindness for a different view of how to make a positive contribution to the world. In 2006 Ferrucci wrote that our culture was in the midst of a “global cooling.” He noted that “human relations are becoming colder. Communications are becoming more hurried and impersonal. Values such as profit and efficiency are taking on greater importance at the expense of human warmth and genuine presence.”

So where do we start to deal with our “global cooling?” With kindness. Yes, by being kind to one another. Too simple? Absurd in our world of violence, terrorism, war, and hate speech? While not always easy, kindness has “surprising power to transform us, perhaps even more than any other attitude or technique.”

In Ferrucci’s view, “true kindness is a strong, genuine, warm way of being.” It is the starting point for the flow of several positive qualities – honesty, trust, empathy, patience, gratitude, joy and many others. The author describes the interplay of kindness and eighteen human qualities in separate chapters, each containing engaging life stories along with his views on the subject.

In his concluding chapter on “How Kindness Happens”, Ferrucci demonstrates that all we have to do to find opportunities for kindness is to pay attention and see what’s before our eyes. “The opportunity to put things right or to help someone presents itself every moment, and if we respond accordingly, we affirm the truest feelings and highest values life can give.”

Solving the problems of humanity is going to take large numbers of people participating in initiatives to bring about profound cultural changes. No doubt, kindness will be a meaningful factor in changing the world. “Not only is kindness capable of saving humanity” says Ferrucci, “it is already saving it. Have you ever asked yourself how come the world, with all its complex structures hasn’t collapsed?”

As for my concerns about the election campaign, Ferrucci says that “in the political arena, kindness is the giving up of domination and vendetta, and the recognition of others’ points of view, their needs, and their history.” My hope is that our next President and members of Congress will recognize that kindness is a necessity for governing, for living at peace with one another, and for the survival of the planet.
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