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"Radical Common Sense"
byline: Marilyn Ferguson 

When we got organized as a country and we wrote a fairly radical constitution with a radical amount of individual freedom to Americans, it was assumed that the Americans who had that freedom would use it responsibly.       —Bill Clinton 

To get out of the bottle we need radical common sense. Radical common sense is common sense deliberately encouraged and applied. Radical common sense reflects the growing realization that individual good sense is not enough—that society itself must make sense or decline. Radical common sense is a spirit. It respects the past, it pays attention to the present, and therefore it can imagine a more workable future.

On the one hand, it looks as if modern civilization hasn’t the time, resources, or determination to make it through the neck of the bottle. We can’t get there from here. We can’t solve our deepest problems through such traditional strategies as competition, wishful thinking, struggle, or war. We can’t frighten people (including ourselves) into being good or smart or healthy. We find we can’t educate by rote or by bribery, we can’t win by cheating, we can’t buy peace at the expense of others, and, above all, we can’t fool Mother Nature.

On the other hand, maybe the answers lie in the problem—our thinking, especially our ideas that nature is to be mastered rather than understood. We have tried to run roughshod over certain powerful realities.

Radical common sense says let’s ally ourselves with nature. We have nothing to lose and a great deal to gain. As the old saying has it, “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” We can apprentice at nature’s side, working with her secrets respectfully rather than trying to steal them. For example, scientists who observe natural systems report that nature is more cooperative (“Live and let live”) than competitive (“Kill or be killed”). “Competing” species, it turns out, often co-exist by food- and time-sharing; they feed at different hours on different parts of the same plant. Among moose and some other herd animals, the old or injured members offer themselves to predators, allowing younger and healthier members to escape.

Altruism appears to serve an evolutionary function in living creatures. In its inventiveness, nature—including human nature—may be on our side.

By documenting the health benefits of such traditional virtues as persistence, hard work, forgiveness, and generosity, scientific research is validating both common sense and idealism. People who have discovered a purpose feel better, like themselves more, age more subtly, and live longer.

Radical common sense derives its conviction from science and from the inspired examples of individuals.

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