On Being Human: Critical Consciousness, Critical Thinking

We are asking the question, “What does it mean to be human”? And I am proposing that the “10 C’s” of creation spirituality, a value system I created for a public school program for inner-city teenagers that takes us beyond religious language as such, might offer us a certain useful roadmap.  We shall be treating these “10 C’s” in upcoming DM’s.

“Mindmap to Become an Outstanding Critical Thinker” Image by jean-louis Zimmermann on Flickr

One of the “10 C’s that seems to be especially pertinent to us today is that called “Critical Consciousness.”  There is a need to recognize lies and folly for what they are whether they are driving the media or the social media or messages from political leaders. 

A man in the White House who has spoken over 20,000 lies in less than one term in office assists us to recognize the urgency of this task. 

To be human is to think critically, i.e. use our faculties of discernment to double check truth and untruth.  Ernest Becker, in his classic work Beyond Alienation: A Philosophy of Education for the Crisis of Democracy, comments that

to ‘know thyself’ means precisely to know what one’s nature is, and what one is striving for.  And the only way to know this, we now see, is to be able to examine critically the beliefs one has learned in one’s society, and to weigh in one’s own mind whether they are applicable to one’s life and times.

Figures of California Indian women from a diorama of Mission Dolores, reprinted in “Re-imagining the California Mission Dioramas” on Justseeds.org. For an average 4th-grade diorama project click HERE.

He believes that education is too often uncritical; it does not train students to think and that means, among other things, to judge.  Judging is after all what ethics is about—making judgments and making decisions. 

Humans need practice at this.  Answers cannot come from the outside in but from the inside out.  That is what having a conscience means: To judge; to decide; to weigh; to be critical (from the Greek word, kritein, to judge)

In our time we don’t just need compassion; we need critical compassion–not sentimental or squishy compassion.  Compassion that employs our best capacities for weighing and judging with critical mindedness.

When we fail to do this, Becker believes, the inevitable happens and “as a result, the industrial masses in fascist countries are swayed by demagogues” and

the industrial masses in capitalist countries are swayed by the uncritical commercial ideology that controls the mass media….The few sway the uncritical passions of the many.

“America Exceptionalism Explained” Image by Joe Wolf on Flickr

These observations were uttered forty-five years ago before the fall of the Berlin Wall and much of communist ideology.  They address the pitfalls of the “commercial mass media” who have become far more influential rather than less since they were written and since communism collapsed. 

The Black Lives Matter movement is offering us a working critique of what causes much alienation in our country and world and have done so for hundreds of years and are embedded in society.  Movements raise consciousness and lead to the next step which is making governmental policies of action that can lift the veil on atrocities and allow justice to happen and hope follows.

See Ernest Becker, Beyond Alienation: A Philosophy of Education for the Crisis of Democracy, p. 158.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, The A.W.E. Project, pp. 126-130.

Banner Image: “Stop Lying.” Photo by Joe Flood on Flickr

Do you see the deep connection between mendacity and a failing democracy?  And between truth-telling the critical thinking with its power to renew a democracy?  Do you love truth and the search for truth and the ability to distinguish, by critical thinking, truth from falsehood?  Do you find yourself growing in that love?

The A.W.E. Project: Reinventing Education, Reinventing the Human

The A.W.E. Project reminds us that awe is the appropriate response to the unfathomable wonder that is creation… A.W.E. is also the acronym for Fox’s proposed style of learning – an approach to balance the three R’s. This approach to learning, eldering, and mentoring is intelligent enough to honor the teachings of the Ancestors, to nurture Wisdom in addition to imparting knowledge, and to Educate through Fox’s 10 C’s. The 10 C’s are the core of the A.W.E. philosophy and process of education, and include: compassion, contemplation, and creativity. The A.W.E. Project does for the vast subject of “learning” what Fox’s Reinvention of Work did for vocation and Original Blessing did for theology. Included in the book is a dvd of the 10 C’s put to 10 video raps created and performed by Professor Pitt.
An awe-based vision of educational renewal.Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice.

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7 thoughts on “On Being Human: Critical Consciousness, Critical Thinking”

  1. Avatar

    Would have liked to see the image of the “Stop Lying” sign. in front of the Capitol building on the evening news.

  2. Avatar

    What a great-great meditation again today. I read Mr. Fox and Mr. Rohr every day. When I went to grade school in the 60’s the Sisters of St. Agnes told us that the communists controlled what was put in the newspapers in Russia. Yes, this is happening with the commercial mass media today in America. I know that Mr. Fox’s 10 C’s can slowly over the coming years improve the over-all for a higher quality of life for the world in the future. Thank you.

  3. Avatar
    Anne Marie Raftery

    Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox: You have many titles after your name….I would like
    to add: Courageous Truth-Teller. Thank you for validating what so many
    of us are thinking and believing. The Truth prevails. Alleluia!

  4. Avatar
    Elizabeth Stamp

    Thank you, Matthew ,
    You really pivot the madness of the quagmire the Earth is encountering. I am a contemporary and admirer of your inspiration, spirituality, and wisdom through the decades. I am a a seeker of justice, speak truth to a power in religions and in the political arena. My love and compassion extends to the sacred Earth, humankind, all non-humans and the diversity and beauty that creation has bestowed through the Cosmic Energies.
    I tame my negative energies in the
    madness of this darkness while embracing “holy anger.” I believe that this civilization is being given another change to get things right. And that needs each to make wise decisions in Love and Gratitude, in the balancing of the Divine Feminine/Masculine-right relationships. Blessings,

  5. Avatar

    I believe in four C’s: commonality, community, communion, and compassion among all. When we keep those in mind we can look beyond our differences, separateness, arguments, and ill feelings.

  6. Avatar

    I would like to change the word “judgement” to discernment. At least for me, judgement always contains a good/bad connotation. Yes, we must choose the good and the true, but we need to KNOW what that means by introspective soul searching.

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