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  A Prophetic American Voice provides a Blueprint for Citizens to              Restore Their Power and Diminish the Influence of Corporations and         Financial  Institutions and Create a Just and Life-Affirming Society

America’s Future: Requiem or Renaissance? An Agenda for the Transformation of Our Nation and Ourselves, a new book by Bernard Gluckstern, has just been released by RoseDog Books.

In America’s Future: Requiem or Renaissance? An Agenda for the Transformation of Our Nation and Ourselves, Bernard Gluckstern has articulated both a vision and a strategic approach to its implementation. He explores the various tactics and mechanisms which those at the summit of our financial pyramid deploy to ensure that we remain a society that is exhausted, apprehensive, and in conflict, as the result of our deteriorating financial circumstances. His antidote to these afflictions is contained in a comprehensive plan of action that rewards ethical business enterprises and compels mammoth companies to reform their negative behaviors or face extinction. These objectives can be achieved by citizens who will no longer permit the current injustices.

“At its core this book is a humanistic appeal for sanity in a world where the playing field has grown increasingly inequitable. The premise is Great Power Heal Thyself, in other words as American citizens we have the capacity to reform our country, first of all and the “spread effects” could be enormous. The U.S. could rightfully reclaim the global respect it once had as the model of a true functioning democracy.” Edward C. Green, Ph.D. Director, The New Paradigm Fund

About the Author
Bernard Gluckstern has devoted much of his professional career to the mitigation of poverty and the empowerment of the poor in such locales as Watts (Los Angeles), Appalachia, New York City, and Washington, D.C. He is the recipient of a M.A. degree in Political Science from Brown University and a B.A. degree in Philosophy from Alfred University. In addition, Mr. Gluckstern served in the United States Marine Corps Reserve during the Vietnam era. He resides in Washington, D.C., with his extraordinary wife, Lisa.

America’s Future: Requiem or Renaissance? An Agenda for the Transformation of Our Nation and Ourselves is a 152-page paperback with a retail price of $15.00. The ISBN is 978-1-4809-6377-1. It was published by RoseDog Books of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. For more information, or to request a review copy, please go to our virtual pressroom at http://www.dorrancepressroom.com or our online bookstore at http://www.rosedogbookstore.com. For Merchandising Coordinator call 1-800-788-7654 or send email to: bookorders@rosedogbooks.com

America’s Future: Requiem or Renaissance? An Agenda For The Transformation of Our Nation and Ourselves

During the month of June, 2015, my publisher Rose Dog Press shall disseminate in both a soft cover and e-book format a literary effort to which I have devoted much of 2014 and the winter and spring of this year as well, ” America’s Future: Requiem or Renaissance?” An Agenda For The Transformation Of Our Nation And Ourselves.

This effort in activist scholarship was animated by the desire to provide a comprehensive course of individual action that our citizens might undertake to be responsive to so much of our current economic, political, and social circumstances that are both enormously dysfunctional and cause moral injury and material suffering to so many among us, particularly those who reside in the dungeons of poverty as well as those whose tenuous grasp on a middle class status is becoming ever more compromised and impaired.

Though there are numerous texts which have found their way to the American public in recent years that have set forward multi-tier critiques athat are reflective of a sophisticated and trenchant analysis of our contemporary cultural afflictions and the companionate unraveling of the efficacy and the influence or so many of our populace who are not members of the miniscule class of our plutocratic elite,  few of these efforts have provided a strategic approach to the amelioration of these intensifying destructive forces that are consuming so much of our national heritage and the democratic normative predicate on which our country was constructed.

As a result, what has animated my undertaking has been two fundamental desires.   The first is the wish to present a contemporary portrait of the current horrific social reality with which so many of our fellow Americans and being overwhelmed and diminished.   The second objective is a fervent commitment to formulate and  distribute  both a vision and a strategy and the modalities and procedures for its total implementation that possess the potential to ameliorate the tragic current  political apathy, impotence, and economic inequality that in which an overwhelming number of our fellow citizens are imprisoned.

This document is a blueprint to restore the efficacy of our population by augmenting  the magnitude and success of ethical business enterprises, and compelling mammoth corporate enterprises both public companies and private financial institutions and others, to recind and reform their negative and culturally deforming behaviors or face extinction. These goals can be achieved by the commitment and exertions of our citizens who will no loonger permit the continuation of the current injustices for which these entities are responsible.

The fraudulent and brutal myth that “Educational Credentials” are the pathway to finacial stability

Recently, the newly installed CEO of Goldman Sachs recounted the struggles he confronted in acquiring an education.  Moreover, he relayed the fact that one of his teachers during his adolescence suggested to his parents that with his meager intellectual capacities he would be fortunate to obtain a position as a truck driver.

Obviously, he has demonstrated that prediction was grieviously in error given his accomplishments in the world of investment banking. He further proclaimed that the principal antidote to the rampant and escalating inequality that has characterized our nation’s contemporary economic circumstances was the acquisition of various educational credentials which would enable their recipients to consign their interminable periods of residence in the dungeons of poverty in the U.S. to a regrettable personal history and enter the ranks of the thriving and robust American middle class.

Oh that this might be the future that those who implement his recommendations would be afforded.   The realities surrounding this prediction are however,  grieviously flawed and the prospects for its attainment are statistically grim and anemic at best.

At the moment approximately 70% of our nation’s population are bereft of college degrees of all and any character and level of accomplishment. The resources required to undertake various courses of study to acquire skills within a vocational or community college setting are beyond the capability of the overwhelming majority of these high school drop-outs/graduates who receive in most instances little more the minimum wage.

Moreover, many courses of study both within the public educational arena and the not for profit, non-profit and for profit arenas at the culmination of these academic efforts lead to very few job opportunities and thus the overwhelming majority of those who have become burdened with loan obligations to pursue these credentials find themselves unemployable and substantially in debt.

Those who are enrolled in degree programs whether it be within private colleges and universities or state institutions of higher education who successfully complete the acquisition of the various undergraduate degrees they have sought to acquire, nonetheless have discovered that our nation’s current economic climate is most inhospitable, i.e. in excess of 42% of current graduates are rewarded with job offers that pay little more than the minimum wage, or are in areas of the economy in which they have no interest, and/or are internships for which no compensation is provided.

As a result many of these students return to their parents homes and embark upon years of  a schedule of loan repayments to the institution that provided the funds for their collegiate journey, delaying marriage and child rearing and experiencing a most spartan existence in which little but the bare necessities are affordable.

During the previous four decades in which the ideology of the neoconservatives has been in the ascendancy, globalization, the continuing replacement of employees by technological innovations, the dominance of the use of part-time contractors and “at will” staffing to achieve greater cost reductions in the wages provided to workers, the departure of many corporate headquarters from the U.S. to other nations as the result of mergers with foreign corporate entities which have reduced their tax obligations,

In addition, does there exist  the  unwillingness of corporate behemoths to repatriate the trillions in profits that reside outside the U.S., and the depredations that “activist investors”  have inflicted with their obsession to compel boards of public companies and their senior management to continuously strive to increase the value of the equity they possess in these public companies.

Furthermore, these groups of investors also insist on ever augmented dividend payments, and a companionable demand that the increases in profitability which technological innovations attain must be allocated to the senior executives rather than to the employees of this company, have cumulatively conspired to greatly minimize the importance, relevance, and most importantly the capability of educational attainments to afford its recipients with a meaningful and significant access to the middle class.

At the moment approximately 4 million jobs are vacant, and approximately 23 million Americans are either unemployed, underemployed, so discourage that after months or years of seeking a position have in a state of discouragement and exhaustion ceased their efforts to obtain employment, and perhaps most tragically the numbers of those who fall within the category of the poor and the near-poor in our society exceeds 100 million.

What is required is a multi-tier comprehensive national program to both create those jobs necessary to rebuild our infrastructure, improve our public educational systems, and ensure that every American has access to an employment circumstance that is adequately compensated and provides for the use of their talents, training, and energies.

America’s Refounding Fathers and Mothers

As December of 2013 was drawing to a close, nineteen scholars all united by their fierce dedication to the  notion that our contemporary social and cultural circumstances were inequitable, oppressive, and in the central contravention of those principles on which this nation has been created, gathered on a frigid winter’s morning in Cambridge, Massachusetts to commence a five-year dialogue about America and its prospective future.

Continue reading America’s Refounding Fathers and Mothers

McDonald’s newest attempt to ingratiate themselves into the good graces of consumers is a total failure.

Recently, the McDonald’s corporation has taken to the airwaves to unveil their most recent efforts at rehabilitating their brand and their menu.   For a number of their customers the cost to purchase various menu items will not require our nation’s currency, but rather a phone call from the patron to their mother for the purpose of conveying their love for the person who has given them life.

Continue reading McDonald’s newest attempt to ingratiate themselves into the good graces of consumers is a total failure.

TOWARD THE CREATION OF A DEMOCRATIC POLITICS AND ECONOMY

Permitting the continuation of multinational corporations’ hegemony over our politics and economy can only lead to the further exacerbation and estrangement of those in our society who are separated by the ever-widening chasms of financial capacity, i.e. the plutocrats and those citizens who comprise the entire balance of every subordinate social class in this nation, whose financial reality is unceasingly deteriorating by every measure of qualitative and quantitative assessment.

To seek a redress from the federal government for these afflictions is to engage in a delusional aspiration, given its captivity to the macro-political influences in this culture, whose principal if not exclusive concern is the unrelenting accumulation of wealth and the unbridled opportunity for further global commercial inroads and the profits that these incursions generate.

Though there exist an expanding number of initiatives at both the state and municipal levels that are auspicious alternatives to the status quo e.g.  public-private partnerships, technical and financial “incubators”, and experiments in social entrepreneurship that are formally concerned with communal measures of analysis/impact beyond the profitability of these enterprises, as well as other organizational forms of innovation and implementation, the cumulative influence of these activities do not comprise a requisite “critical mass”  that currently contains the potential to substantively transform the U.S. into an authentic social organism in which democracy is extensively extant and where the economics of an infinitely greater egalitarianism may be glimpsed.

As a result it is my considered judgment that in order to significantly augment these efforts, numerous “Citizens Councils for a Democratic Economy” should be created throughout this country, with a particular emphasis in those urban and rural areas where unemployment and poverty are most pronounced.  The entities should be comprised of the  broadest possible coalition of individuals who represent any statistically meaningful constituency of an ethnic, commercial, personal values, religious, or artistic and cultural character,  within the geographic area under consideration.  Beyond these groups, university expertise, and professional organizations should engage in this dialogue as well.  Sources of financial capability and municipal/rural planning should also be involved in these deliberations.  However, beyond the breadth and depth of these socioeconomic variables, what is most important is the ethos under which these conversations shall transpire. 

What must reside at the epicenter of the normative system that animates these exertions is the explicit commitment to the  following ethical and value propositions:  That those entities created to serve any purpose be it commercial enterprise, artistic or cultural, educational, or environmental, housing construction, and infrastructural projects either new or rehabilitative in character shall be undertaken and administered in a maximally democratic manner which permits all citizens to be equal voices in the formulation of these activities and services which are deployed, the compensation which those involved in its operations shall be provided, the ability of all employees to be heard regarding the those decisions that affect, any and all aspects of its governance and agendas, be they internal to the enterprise or external regarding its community impact.

Moreover, such considerations as an economy that is sustainable in its intrinsic nature must be observed, ratios between median wages and the compensation of senior executives must be adhered to, and perhaps most importantly, what must invigorate this process at its center is the objective of creating those projects and activities that in a central and explicit manner will mitigate those factors of social pathology in which these communities/areas are ensnared.  Thus, if unemployment is the ascendant variable, those enterprises/services to provide both the skills and capacities required to be wage earners must be offered, and the enterprises that are created must serve such critically required necessities as enlarging the numbers of affordable housing units, retrofitting structures to provide a reduction in energy use, restoring and expanding the regions infrastructure, enlarging high speed internet capacities for all citizens, and elevating the quality of life within the spheres of the creative artistic and cultural initiatives to which those who reside in this vicinity shall have access.

The sole prohibition of involvement shall pertain to corporate behemoths lest they attempt to capture or unduly influence the democratic processes and economic predispositions toward the implementation of a maximal egalitarian/administrative efficacy   distribution of those employed in these entities and or to subvert the additional priorities enumerated in the previous sections. 

That this essay is incomplete in a host of regards is without question correct.  However, it is an attempt to begin the process of delineating how we might proceed in this society in hundreds of communities toward the objective of both mitigating the inequality, poverty, and powerlessness which so many of us are enslaved within at this crucial point in our national history.  In subsequent posts I shall provide must greater detail and specificity regarding both the processes and structures that will be deployed to achieve these goals and the chronology and sources of the expertise and financial capacity to translate the work of these councils into material reality.

 

 

TECHNOLOGY’S ULTIMATE DESTINATION IN AN AMERICAN AND GLOBAL CONTEXT

The continuing encroachment by technology upon human exertion in this nation and throughout  other modern societies is consigning ever greater numbers of our citizens to a posture of economic irrelevance.  In the unrelenting quest to automate and mechanize virtually all manufacturing activity and thus achieve unprecedented levels of efficiency and cost reductions and from a corporate perspective most importantly an increase in productivity, as the result of unprecedented combinations of technology/employee collaboration.

The incremental profits obtained from these procedures are allocated not to those employees in these commercial enterprises who are responsible for these increased profits, but rather to the senior executives of these corporations, augmented dividends to shareholders, and to the enhanced value which the equity in these companies reflect.

Inherent in this absurdity is to attain an objective that at some golden moment in the not too distant future completely eliminates the requirement of employees participation in these manufacturing processes. For when that state of technological supremacy has been realized then will the optimization of profits be both complete and insurmountable. 

The ramifications of this “accomplishment” will be to swell the populations of the unemployed, further concentrate the accumulations of wealth and political influence among those who are presently so disproportionately the recipients of these material and governmental forms of largesse, and given the disappearance of sources of revenue by those who are terminated, shall reduce the capacity of our citizens to purchase consumer products or engage in any economic transactions other than those which literally sustain their very existences.  From these realities homelessness shall rise dramatically, crime will markedly increase, marriages will succumb to the pressures of poverty, alcohol and drug dependency will escalate, and the ferocious competition for employment in any capacity shall become ever more fervid. 

Moreover, public systems of law enforcement, education, social services, and recreation and arts and cultural programs shall all become the proportional casualties of ever reduced funding and the massive increase in those client populations which require these services to remain viable.

In the final analysis, these burgeoning forces and trends shall further exacerbate in a national context what Mayor De Blasio characterized in his successful recent bid to become the Chief Executive of our nation’s premier municipality, New York, “A tale of two countries ever more estranged and ever more unequal.”   In a country that presently reflects an unemployment rate that is in excess of 15%, where more than 50 million citizens receive food stamps to supplement their inadequate nutritional budgets, and where vast areas of both rural and urban environments lie deserted and fallow, because major corporations have relocated to domestic or overseas locales which have proffered obscenely generous tax forgiveness incentives, and other substantial financial inducements in order to attract these companies to these areas and provide the employment opportunities their manufacturing activities require.

It is as a result of this unceasing quest to take up commercial residence in those localities that embody “right to work” laws, and are thus inhospitable to union activity, and prevailing wage levels that are almost always below that which exists in other union friendly environments, and of course the lengthy periods of immunity from state taxes and other traditional costs of business which these entities absorb in more enlightened and progressive politically sovereign jurisdictions, that are cumulatively responsible for the unceasing expansion of the universe of those who are involuntarily consigned to idleness, with all that flows from that state in terms of self-loathing, retreats into alcoholic dependency to anesthetize the anguish which their economic status reflects and in the most tragic eventualities, when their suffering is insupportable will bring their lives to a close.

The sole and exclusive concern of those who control and direct the activities of these companies is the pursuit of the maximization of profit, irrespective of the implications and consequences to their employees, the environment, and the frequently traumatic repercussions and havoc to the larger communities and regions which their departure creates.

To wish to reduce the drudgery and danger of manufacturing procedures that are unhealthful or mind-numbing or produce casualties of body and spirit is a laudable and noble objective. However, the question becomes subsequent to their elimination from the workplace how does our society allocate to these individuals that which is equitable and allows then to engage in both our economy and the crucially necessary psychological engagement in labor that is indispensable to their self-worth? We may very well be entering into an era where the 40 hour work week is an antiquated concept which is no longer necessary. In order to ensure the involvement of those who are currently unengaged, a 25 hour period of involvement in the economy may be sufficient to both sustain our economic levels of productivity for most individuals. If the minimum wage were elevated to $15 per hour a family of two wage-earners could provide a middle-class existence for their children and themselves for a work week of this duration.

Moreover, there is presently an enormous and urgent need to repair and modernize our nation’s infrastructure, surely this is work that is both crucial and rewarding, and many of those who currently sit idle would be ecstatic at the prospect of being involved in these efforts from both a sense of meaningfully contributing to our country’s viability and the relatively substantial wages which those with these skills and craft aptitudes are compensated.

Finally, a 25 hour work week would allow our citizens to reduce the current levels of stress and anxiety which plague so many of us as employees, parents, siblings, friends, and other important roles we assume in the current work schedules which often extend to 50 hours or beyond. Additional “volitional” time would enable us to enrich our lives our families and our communities and most crucially would permit us in postures of exploration, contemplation, and analysis, to examine our lives and our society and formulate those models of social justice that we wish the American culture to incorporate and gravitate toward and the strategic and tactical political processes that must be created and employed to attain these substantive improvements in the quality of our individual lives as well as those of us who collectively comprise this nation.

The epic struggle in which we are engaged is in some quintessential regard the imperative requirement to reduce the political influence of these corporate behemoths and increase those burgeoning voices and efficacy of our fellow citizens and the thousands of organizations that currently exist to transform America into an ever more coherent, persuasive, and formidable, force of moral persuasion that will ultimately achieve the humanizing objectives which are possible when the juggernaut of technology is subordinated to its appropriate posture of democritization both in the United States and beyond our borders in other industrial societies.

A MOST CRITICAL PRIORITY FOR 2014 – ESTABLISHING A NATIONAL OFFICE FOR STRATEGIC ASSISTANCE

Currently, tens of thousands of organizations are effectively discharging various aspects of the agenda to transform this nation. In arenas of community based economic development, economic development corporations, state and local banks and credit unions, and other projects are providing democratized and decentralized alternatives to traditional hierarchical American corporate structures.

University-community partnerships are formulating programmatic and policy responses to mitigate the lack of affordable housing in many metropolitan areas. A broad range of systems and mechanisms are being deployed to improve the efficacy of citizen participation in local government and by so doing obtaining increased responsiveness from municipal political officials.

Unique measures to evaluate economic performance in an infinitely more comprehensive manner than those indices such as GNP or the Dow-Jones Averages, or related standards that are both parochial and misleading, have been developed to more accurately evaluate our nation’s economy and its ramifications in all areas of our society.

The analytic tools to which I refer reflect happiness quotients, the external impact which corporate policies register of a negative character on the environment, the sufficiency of a range of wage levels to sustain residency beyond the poverty level, the affordability of health care, and the ecological footprint of our society regarding the depletion of our natural resources and the ramifications for the sustained maintenance of our culture in the present, and most importantly in the longer term.

The expanding universe of incubators throughout this nation that are providing both technical and financial resources to fuel these audacious effort of social entrepreneurs, as well as a significant continuum of non-profit, for profit, public-private undertakings, that extend the frontiers of social and political experimentation and enable citizen-employees to acquire equity positions within the various commercial enterprises where they are discharge their duties, is enlarging at a geometric velocity.

However, the preceding efforts as laudable and critical as they are in the strategic transformation of this country, suffer from a crucial deficiency, which is that they do not manifest in an entirely rendered manner a complete paradigm of those variables that comprise a fully transformed culture.

For in the absence of a strategic plan that does not address and include all the requisite ingredients of a humanistic society which resides on the imperative ethical underpinnings to which equitable macro-political and economic institutions are anchored, and in which individuals engage in the liberating dynamics of self-transcendence, the exertions of so many will be doomed to realize but a portion of the social reality that has provoked the commencement of this activity.

Thus, in order to ensure that a paradigm which contains those conceptual components that when actualized will attain the most complete transformation of our nation, am I establishing beneath the umbrella of the Center For Humanistic Global Initiatives’ “Transform America” campaign, the Office of National Strategic Assistance. This entity shall discharge five primary obligations:

1. Assist in the development and the provision of continuing technical assistance to local strategic planning efforts within various rural, suburban, and urban areas, whose primary task is to formulate a strategic plan for the transformation of that geographical locale, that reflects and embodies those normative values that are delineated in such publications as the Oberlin Project, The New Economics Foundation, and the most recent work of Gar Alperovitz; “What Then Must We Do.”

2. To ensure the realization of the fundamental requirement of these prescriptions which is to establish a sustainable community based economy and larger cultural reality that reflects maximally feasible democratic planning procedures and protocols; that creates commercial enterprises in which employees are both equity owners in these entities, and significantly impact the administrative and operational policies and practices by which these workplaces are governed.

An additional requirement is that the ecological footprint does not exploit natural resources in a manner that is non-sustainable; and that makes provision for the fullest possible actualization of the creative aspirations as well as the psychological and spiritual dimensions of all those individuals who reside in this region.

3. Assist these councils in obtaining the financial resources to both commence this planning dynamic, and as various projects are finalized to aid these groups in identifying and initiating discussions with possible funding sources, that will culminate in the consummation of a contractual instrument through which these monies will be furnished.

4. To ensure the greatest possible prospective effect between those projects that are envisioned and approved and the mitigation of poverty, unemployment, educational, social dysfunction, and all other indicators of those cultural pathogens/ social services inadequacies, that are extant in this area.

5. To conduct continuous research inquires regarding the development of social indicators beyond those that measure traditional financial realities; to monitor the broad range of various similar efforts to determine which democratic planning councils engaged in the transformation of this nation are achieving significant progress, or are confronting difficulties, as well as those fully rendered paradigms that are producing the greatest success.

This matrix should include the capability to measure the contentment, financial sufficiency, and personal evolution that their citizens are deriving from these plans, that have as their simultaneous objective the diminution of poverty and all other aspects of social injustice from which human privation and suffering is derived.

Though this process shall require a substantial chronology of effort to fully realize, when it has been completed the innumerable local community-based plans shall comprise in some crucial regard a de facto national strategy by which the United States may be ushered into a future that will reflect a dynamic moral predicate upon which equitable institutions are providing socially just results for our populace, as our citizens simultaneously explore the various modes of self-transcendence.

I have addressed these concerns more fully in the animating publication, “America’s Future: Requiem or Transformation” which appears as a PDF beneath the VISION tab of this website.

One additional task that must be confronted at the earliest conceptual opportunity is to inquire precisely what forms, structures, systems may be constructed to address projects of a regional or national scope by technical or financial entities that retain their decentralized and democratic nature though the scale of their efforts demands a coordination and intermingling of resources that is currently unprecedented.

What our efforts must preclude regardless of our motives, is to ensure that we do not replicate in any element or aspect of a future American reality, is the replication of hierarchical structures of decision-making as well as the power and influence that historically emanated from these entities, that has so severely warped and inhibited the capabilities of our citizens to chart their destinies and fashion the fullest actualization of their potentials, and by so doing attain a happiness that has been unprecedented in our nation’s experience.

DEFINING SELF-TRANSCENDENCE

          In the frame of reference in which we are operating, precisely what is it that constitutes the definition of “self-transcendence?” It is the attempt to explore as fully as is feasible the objective social reality of our lives, with particular regard to  the nature, content, and sources, of the discontent, unhappiness, and lack of fulfillment, that is present in our diurnal activities. 

The second element of this activity is the cognitive construction of a prospective alternative existence which would fully liberate and empirically actualize our talents, aptitudes, and passionate creative impulses.

          In addition to these efforts a crucial related endeavor, to isolate and identify those cognitive and behavioral patterns that we manifest that are responsible for the suffering we cause and the harm we inflict upon our fellow citizens, is an  imperative task.

         For it is through this examination of that which is absent in our existence that causes us great consternation, and the unleashing of our muse,  our capacities, and our fervor, as well as those deficiencies of character and ethical deportment that provokes irritation and outrage among others, that we may embark upon a professional engagement that will sustain us.  Moreover, it is these subsequent  spiritual and psychological exertions which will liberate us from our imprisonments, and achieve a life of meaning, purpose, and an impact on those with whom we interact, that is salutary and uplifting.

          When we complete this process does it become possible and imperative that we begin the effort to transform our lives and our actions to conform to ethical standards that were previously cited, in the initial portion of this commentary.

          The final task is to initiate the labor to create those social, economic, political, and esthetic involvements, that will stimulate the fullest possible actualization of one’s capabilities and fervor, and  by so doing significantly augment our sense of self-worth, joy, contentment, and personal tranquility.

Creating An Ethical, Equitable, and Self-Transcending Culture