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The Language
of Conscience

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The world is often filled with commentary, advice, and sensationalism; the challenge for people is to develop a model or framework from which to filter information and sort what’s valuable from the waste. Only by doing so can one harness information to make a positive difference. Instilling Values in Transcending Generations has developed the concept of Enlightened Conservatism. It follows in the work of Rene¢ Descartes who thought the complex could be made simpler through reason.

In his book, Dippel takes ideas of the past and demonstrates their relevance for the future. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and how it affects human perceptions is balanced equally with Rambam’s Eight Levels of Charitable Giving that moves in philanthropy from giving grudgingly to the ultimate concept of giving a man an opportunity in order that he may be independent. It looks to the nature of man and realizes that at any time society can be dominated by a culture of conscience, which is driven by affection and honor, or by convenience, which is often driven by fear and greed.

Dippel believes that the tremendous expanse of technology, education, and communication as energized by market systems will challenge the existing cultural values and economic interests of almost all societies. It is friction between enlightenment and existing cultural value structures that will have great impact upon the stability of all societies. To him the critical issue that determines the balance between these forces rests in the perception of the individual dignity of each member of society. Dippel looks at the three powers that affect the concept of individual dignity. These are the powers of economics, of politics, and of culture. He points out the competitiveness of politics and economics by their very nature and notes that culture, which is the one major binding force beyond economic and political alliances, is the one truly based on common values. To him the preservation of basic concepts like the Golden Rule, the Common Good, and the Rule of Law are the concepts that need to be understood within a culture. He develops the concept of the triangles of Enlightened Conservatism, a method of thought through analysis, trends, and measurements of the forces and powers that interreact within society.

Dippel demonstrates in dramatic fashion that what values shall govern society is increasingly critical. The world has become increasingly multicultural. We have reached a defining moment in determining how societies shall operate in the future. We must choose between individualist and collectivist values or an acceptable combination that is based on individual responsibility and respect for human dignity. He focuses upon the point that the culture gives us law, not law the culture.

His goal, as he did with the Texas Lyceum and many other organizations, is to provide a framework of discussion that gains the respect of all sides because of its sense of honor. This important trend—the nature of our culture and whether it will be peer driven to conscience or convenience—is one dominant theme.

The important theme in the book is the rise of Asia and the tremendous economic, political, and cultural consequences of globalization. To him the significant player is China, although the U.S., India, Brazil, and a combined Europe will have impact. But China’s growth rates and the economic relationship with the United States will be one of the most critical factors in the strategic direction of the future.

Whether China and the U. S. come to understand each other in a cooperative fashion or become significantly competitive is one of the great-undecided issues of the present time.

To Dippel, these two ideas converge; the world of the future must find some common values or civilization will disintegrate. Dippel argues for a culture of responsibility. This is the reason that much of his life has been spent in building character-based organizations in Texas. As the son of a famous Texas sheriff and a devout Christian mother, his set of values are consistent but from a different perspective. He looks at religion as based upon free choice; people should serve as examples and not try to force others to adopt their views. But, he looks at justice from a sheriff’s perspective. That blend provides an interesting framework for understanding the world.

At the Fund for American Studies we have been educating young leaders since 1967 about the values of freedom, democracy, and free market economies. Our goal has been the preparation of young people for honorable leadership by educating them of the benefits of freedom in both theory and practice. Our efforts in Eastern Europe have shown the validity of the ideas of freedom and personal responsibility. The great question in this next decade is whether a culture conducive to freedom can be developed in countries that have for many years been centrally controlled.

One part of the Fund’s work looks very specifically at the concept of obligation to others, which is why we founded the David R. Jones Center for Leadership at Philanthropy. We help prepare young people for roles in the nonprofit sector, while simultaneously developing the core of individual responsibility. Dippel’s concept of a culture of service is consistent with our experiences as we have worked around the world. Dippel makes a very interesting analogy to the three great theories of physics that emerged in the last century. The first, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, dealt with the universe and the rules by which the great objects operate. To him that is the overall importance of a peer pressure environment of conscience. There is a tension between conscience and convenience. Conscience generally prevails at lower levels because of the adherence to the Golden Rule and other accepted norms of behavior. But when you reach the areas of concentrated power, convenience dominates. So Dippel again argues, unless you give power to conscience by making it convenient in that the society honors and seeks it, conscience cannot ascend to power.

His analogy to the second great theory, Quantum Mechanics, how small objects such as atoms operate, is a different set of rules from the large objects. Dippel compares it to the interaction of the powers of politics, the media, and the forces of change in existing values. Understanding these rules is critical, and the America/China relationship will become a crystallization of these forces and will have impact on the rest of the world as to global prosperity. The final theory, Chaos Theory, is one less well known but looks at nonlinear circumstances and describes the motions and dynamics in sensitive systems, which are mathematically deterministic but often unpredictable. It shows that what may be perceived as small changes can have big results.

It is clear, as Dippel demonstrates, that China will be a great impact on world politics and the global economy. If you read the international press, the place for discussion of change within China and the ideas considered often come from white papers that are discussed within the Central Party School of the Communist Party, which trains the leadership for its military and its government. President Hu arose from the Central Party School, the Vice President of China is its head, and it is the organization that serves as the ideological think tank of change and models many of the programs considered in China. It is significant that the publication of The Language of Conscience has been translated into Chinese by the Press of the Central Party School. It is said to be the first Western book published with the School’s insignia. While it is clear there is not an agreement with all that was in the book, it is an extremely positive sign. It is a potential bridge in the areas of ethics, morality, and cultural values. The fact that this is considered a serious work and read by its scholars adds dramatically to the chance that the best of Eastern and Western culture can be assimilated for a more positive future. More significant was that in January of 2006 a collaboration agreement between the School and the Texas Lyceum was signed that provides for an exchange of scholars, journals, and other efforts. The Lyceum, of which Dippel was a principal founder twenty-five years ago, specializes in being a catalyst of a variety of institutions but is dedicated to the principles of integrity, respect, and the Common Good. We feel the Chinese chose very well a base for discussion, and this book develops the framework of that discussion. Without doubt, Eastern and Western scholars will have disagreements on important issues. But on the issue of the need for individual dignity, personal responsibility, morality, we must reach agreement in order to advance our mutual understanding and build a peaceful and prosperous future. A serious discussion of ideas such as those set out in this book can change paradigms.

                                                             Roger Ream
The Fund For American Studies


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