Sunday I listened to John Ikerd speak on sustainability at the OEFFA (Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Asso.) conference. He emphasized that we must take the high moral ground that what we are promoting is the right thing to do, whether farming ecologically or organizing local food systems or communicating with our politicians. As he says in this recent blog:
“For purposes of this discussion, I have defined an ethic as: a set of rules of behavior based on individual or collective ideas about what is morally good and bad and thus is right and wrong. An ethic can be individual, communal, or societal and thus can guide the decisions and actions of individuals, communities, societies, or humanity as a whole. An ethic of sustainability ultimately must eventually encompass humanity, if the global sustainability movement is to succeed in its mission. However, individual ethics eventually shape communal ethics and communal ethics shape societal ethics, which ultimately guide the evolution of humanity.”
And then I reread Rev. William Barber’s piece in a recent issue of The Nation, where he speaks of the same issue of what is morally right and wrong and raises some pointed questions:
This is why progressives must learn to “speak in tongues” toward a new political Pentecost, because the issues we face in 2016 are not matters of left and right; instead, they are matters of right and wrong. What religious tradition urges its devotees to fleece the poor and destroy public schools? What concept of God informs the believer that it is right to turn hungry children away from preschool programs where they can get a head start in life and a nutritious breakfast, or to deny poor children medical care and dentistry? What Scripture permits the beating of prisoners or refuses a person a fair trial? We have a genuine moral vision, and it is time that we embraced it.”
There are many conservatives who are religious, but progressives have the high moral ground, while it seems like the Right Wing has become totally greedy and selfish and legalistic. Setting aside the “hot button” issues, about which religious people sincerely disagree on ethical grounds, progressives are fighting for what is morally right, and we must maintain the high moral ground in all we do. And, as Rev. Barber emphasizes, we must band together with all those fighting for what is ethically right on a host of different issues if we are going to turn things around in this country. As Ikerd, who is an economist, said, we farm ecologically because it is right, not because it is highly profitable, we shop at the farmers market because it is the right thing to do, not because it is cheaper. We must appeal to folks’ higher moral standards if we are to win them over and change our society.