Declaration of Interdependence
Posted on July 4, 2010
By Dr. Jim Logan
Several years ago I was fortunate to be in Washington, DC at the same time the National Archives featured an exhibit that had a profound impact on me. Respectfully displayed almost side by side in the dimly lit hall in sealed chambers under layers of special glass to protect the contents from harmful rays of light were the Magna Carta (1215), Declaration of Independence (1776), the Constitution (1787) and the Bill of Rights (1789).
The mood in the hall was one of reverence as visitors lined up to slowly file past these hallowed documents. There was no talking, no multimedia displays, no fancy marketing, no bright colors, no concessions, no chirping cell phones, no clicking cameras, nothing - - just the documents and the people lining up to pay their respects. I felt a sense of awe as though I was in a sacred place - - a church or temple.
In reality it was - - a Temple of Ideas.
When my turn came to slowly file past I was literally stunned to see how frail the documents are. The sheets of parchment were yellow, tattered and even missing in some places as though they had been feasted upon by long ago moths. The ink was faded and blurred. In many places the text had been rendered undecipherable. I think I was startled because here in America we usually talk about these profound documents as nouns, i.e. things, and therefore believe in some sense the power of these documents come from the things themselves. Yet here I was, looking at them and seeing first hand how fragile, weak and in poor health they really are.
As irrational as it might sound there was a part of me that expected to see these documents as strong, bold and defying time perhaps like the Ten Commandments, chiseled in stone tablets to be forever preserved. Yet here they were, literally decomposing right before my eyes. For a split-second I felt oddly destabilized and vulnerable.
Then of course I realized the obvious. The documents I was paying homage to aren’t really nouns at all. They are verbs. It’s not the parchment that has power but the ideas. There is nothing more powerful than ideas shared by a common conviction. The generation of newly self-proclaimed “Americans” along the Atlantic seaboard in the last half of the 18th century were right to declare their independence from old world tyranny. The world, old and new, is far better off because they took action to ‘boldly go where no one had gone before.’
Likewise, we Americans of the 21st century, the prime beneficiaries of the revolution generation of the 1770s, must honor and continue their journey by declaring our independence from the tyrannies of our age regardless of whether it is techno-tyranny, government tyranny, corporate tyranny, eco-tyranny, religious tyranny, political tyranny or any other tyranny that threatens to erode our sacred hard-earned rights.
However, let me add a caveat - - one that enhances rather than detracts from our independence. In this day and age of ever more complex relationships in all areas of human endeavor, from economics to ecology, it is becoming increasingly clear we are all becoming vastly more interdependent upon one another. This trend will continue unabated and is, for all practical purposes and for better or worse, unstoppable.
The pollution in China affects all of us personally. That’s not politics, it’s scientific fact. The escalating narco-wars in Mexico affects all of us - - in ways we aren’t even aware of yet. The mercury that is rendering tuna, salmon and swordfish increasingly dangerous to consume comes from the coal-fired power plants everywhere. Likewise, in the political realm no one is free if everyone isn’t free. If the system isn’t fair to everyone, it isn’t fair to anyone. Like it or not, we all live on a round planet. Regardless of ideology or politics, we are all in this together. Period.
If, just IF, we all understood and accepted we are increasingly interdependent, I think our national discourse would become less and less divisive and much more oriented to progress and real problem solving.
Today, while you celebrate our nation’s birthday and the genius of our founding fathers, take the time to accept the obvious and make your own personal Declaration of Interdependence. It will change the way you think about everything.