Saturday, August 02, 2008

AJC calls for strong national service incentives, as a "rite of passage"


Yesterday, I received a provocative email from the AJC (the American Jewish Center: A Century of Leadership) about an AJC plan called “Imagining America: Making National Service a National Priority”. The PDF document is here.

The press release reads “AJC-Sponsored Task Force Urges National Service as Common Rite of Passage”, link here.

The Press Release links to a website called “Service Nation” with this URL. The domain is called “Be the Change” which was the name of a book by teenager Zach Hunter describing a donation campaign to end domestic slavery (review here It offers a two minute YouTube video (largely in black-and-white) called “Get Inspired.” Service Nation offers a poll that asks whether the visitor would be willing to commit to a particular level of national service (one year, one hour a week, two hours a month, or one hour a month) (poll link here).

My take is that we have a growing cultural war about the meaning of individuality. Our modern technological culture creates a virtue out self-sufficiency, that can become deceptive and unsustainable. Introverted people benefit from this change. Yet, many people see ethics wholly in terms of making real connections to others, and see this “independence” (in a flat world of “globalization”) as achieved by the unseen sacrifices of others. Individualism can exacerbate the differences in ability of people within any one group or family. Newer ideas of ethics and morality, it seems, suddenly demand openness to some emotional intimacy from (and empathy for) others based on their needs, not just one’s own voluntary choices.

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