“Public philosopher” and author Tom Morris has written a shelf of bestsellers, from “If Aristotle Ran General Motors” and “If Harry Potter Ran General Electric” to, inevitably, “Philosophy For Dummies.”
Through his Wilmington-based Morris Institute for Human Values, he’s spoken to businesses and civic groups across the country, and now he’s branched out to Zoom.
Just in time for an election year, Morris tackles the topics of patriotism and citizenship. As in his previous books, he treats them through the prism of the great thinkers of the past, from Plato and Socrates to Confucius, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Robert M. Hutchins.
It’s not a pretty sight.
“We have elected or allowed persons to remain in office who have blocked and limited the betterment of our national life in almost every way possible,” Morris writes in “The Everyday Patriot”, now available in paperback. “Racism has disguised itself in a hundred ways and worked under false flags to undermine what should be. Narrow financial interests have dangerously distorted public policy. Anger has corroded our national discourse.”
It’s not a great age for patriotism, Morris concedes. Mass mobility has undermined our allegiance to local communities. Too many people – Morris himself pleads guilty – have focused on careers at the expense of their role in politics and society.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Morris carefully reads the Declaration of Independence to see what the nation’s founders thought and how it can answer the questions of today.
Today, patriotism focuses on rights and freedoms, often taken to extremes. Citing his great philosophers, Morris argues that patriotism also entails important duties – especially voting and learning about public affairs (preferably from a reliable, well-stocked outlet).
“The pursuit of happiness,” as Thomas Jefferson and other founders saw it, was not synonymous with entertainment or euphoria. Rather, it meant pursuing a place in the world where one fits best, with fulfilling work and social relationships.
To this point, Morris draws from Confucius and others that sound politics goes beyond government and elections and involves healthy relationships with one’s family and community.
Being a good citizen means more than paying taxes and being a juror. Rather, Morris suggests, it means strengthening one’s community in many ways: mentoring a student or coaching a local youth team, supporting the volunteer fire department, shoveling snow (or mowing a lawn) for an elderly neighbor, thanking policemen for their service and simply smile to those around you.
Also, suggests Morris, it wouldn’t hurt to read a book once in a while.
Cynics will dismiss Morris’ thesis as pollyannaism. It’s hard for one person to tell the difference. Yet, Morris argues, if enough people work together with persistence and passion, the results can be dramatic.
‘THE EVERYDAY PATRIOT:
How to be a great American now”
By Tom Morris