Editors' note: Each of the following topics explores — through a wide range of resources including spiritual practices, articles, blogs, books, book excerpts, films, quotes, and much more — a way to build and polish democracy.
Anger: There is anger that separates, yet anger also can break down barriers. There is anger that hardens our hearts, yet anger can open us to life's fullness. We offer you this palette of resources to help you consider in what ways anger and conflict destroy democracy and in what ways they help build it.
Character: What could be more important to a flourishing democracy than good character? Citizens' attributes, traits, and abilities — like patience, generosity, candor, and sense of duty — are at the root of their civic contributions. This topic explores the part that character plays in building a strong society.
Civility: We need a revival of this rare commodity to lubricate interactions between people, if we hope to bring democracy to its full potential. Discover the power of this antidote to amoral, contentious, and narcissistic behavior.
Community: Community-building is without a doubt hard work, but it is also fun, healing, and protective — not only of humans, but of Earth and all her species. As essayist Scott Russell Sanders reminds us, "The only durable community is the one that embraces the whole planet, wild and tame."
Consumerism: Paradoxically, consumerism is cheapening yet costly. It cheapens us by reducing our worth to what we accumulate. It's costly to the environment, our relationships, our integrity, and our sense of self-worth. Here we explore the problem and helpful antidotes.
Conversations: Conversations allow us to bridge differences, develop empathy, and discover new pathways to constructive change. What could be more vital in creating a fulfilling life or in allowing democracy to flourish?
Diversity: The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley notes that appreciating diversity is "a prosocial skill, like empathy or forgiveness, that can be developed over a lifetime with intentionality, knowledge, and practice." We trust that this topic will help you hone this essential skill.
Empathy: Empathy can strengthen the bonds that make for a stronger democracy. It is an antidote to racism, bullying, and conflicts of all kinds, and it can precipitate the kind of understanding that leads to reforms in the justice and healthcare systems.
Enemies: If we are to have a healthy family, a healthy community, a healthy democracy, a healthy world, then, we need to take a long look at the nature of animosity and what we can each do from our end to replace it with kindness, hospitality, openness, and compassion.
Generosity: Generosity is about more than giving an occasional gift. It is a way of life that recognizes our marvelous interconnections, and that's what makes it pertinent to democracy: a focus on quality of life not just for "me, the individual" but for "we, the people."
Humility: Humility allows us to learn from everything and everybody. It brings about reconciliation; we cannot build community without it. These days, we need humility as much as we need fresh air.
Poverty: Poverty is a debilitating condition that robs millions of men, women, and children of their dignity. We need to face this omnipresent scourge and remember that when compassionate people and institutions help those in need, democracy shines.
Racism: Racism is a disease in which we project our self-disgust, anger, alienation, and paranoia upon others whom we perceive to be different from us. Democracy, on the other hand, embraces the ideals of ethnic diversity which traditionally have animated our pluralistic society.
Resilience: This spiritual practice allows us to rebound from dire circumstances and come back even stronger. What could be more essential for remaining engaged, optimistic, and geared up to handle the crises democracy faces?
Respect: There are many who claim that we are leaking the precious fuel of respect all around us. Here are tools you can use to rebuild this quality so that every member of our democratic society is protected and valued.