Sunday 12 December 2010

Bill Shankley and Benevolence

Saw this in The Independent yesterday. Liverpool are (were?) a club of with commendable values.

Former manager, Bill Shankley, is revered, not just because of the success he brought, but because of the man he was; his values. This quote exemplifies it. 'I would like to be remembered as a man who was selfless, who strove and worried so that other could share the glory...' Stirring stuff, what's it got to do with Sustainability? Well, it reinforces self-transcendent values, a commitment to things 'bigger-than-self'. In a world in which much messaging (not least from Premiership football) reinforces 'self-enhancing', self centred values, it is nice to reminded of great men like Shankley. He lived and breathed for his beloved club, he put it before himself at all times.

This quote highlights Shankley's Benevolence values, he was concerned with 'preserving and enhancing the welfare of those with whom who [he was] in frequent personal contact (the 'in group') (Crompton, 2010, p. 31). In Common Cause, Tom Crompton draws on Tim Kasser. Kasser's empirical studies have produced data showing how those with benevolence values are more likely to be concerned with 'bigger-than-self' issues than those who value personal achievement, status and power. I listened in on a conversation between Kasser and Andrew Darnton last week at the Common Cause workshop last week. They were discussing the potential for 'bleed over' between benevolence and universalism. Universalism: 'Understanding, appreciation, tolerance, and protection for the welfare of all people and for nature.' (Crompton, 2010, p. 31) Those who value universalism are even more likely to be concerned with 'bigger-than-self' issues. But, universalism (where concern is with abstract 'out groups') is probably less common in most people than benevolence (where concern is with those closest to us, our 'in groups') . The 'bleed over' suggests that benevolence can provide a step up to universalism and that they are mutually reinforcing. Common Cause argues for stronger reinforcement of benevolence and universalism. The sort of benevolence displayed by people like Bill Shankley and more recently by current Liverpool heroes like Steven Gerrard, and Jamie Carragher is good to see, but rare. Benevolence does not necessarily predict universalism, but it is a better value to champion that 'achievement, power and hedonism'. Sustainability educators can search out and amplify cultural examples benevolence, they don't need to mention the environment.

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