An Asteroids Club backstory

I was asked if I would pick up Jon Haidt at the University of Alabama, where he was speaking at the law school and drive him to Tallahassee where he was scheduled to deliver two presentations the following evening. Would I like to spend 6 hours in the car with one of the most significant minds in America…all to myself? And right after I had read The Righteous Mind?!

After a short nap, he consented to answer all my questions and patiently engage, for the rest of the trip, on a variety of subjects. One of those brainstorming sessions created The Asteroids Club although I suspect he had been thinking about the concept for awhile. I drove, he wrote on his computer, and the notion of a “Four Asteroids Club” started to take shape. We agreed it would be better not to limit the number to four and he tossed out a dozen ideas about how such an entity could formed and operated. We talked about the club’s motto and logo and sometime during the night after we arrived in Tallahassee he created portions of a powerpoint presentation for the next evening.

He suggested The Asteroids Club at both presentations in Tallahassee and spent a significant portion of his speech at FSU asking the audience about their preferences about a motto. It was evident that audiences found the notion of the club compelling.

–Steve Seibert

Common Threats? We have them.

It’s really a curious state of affairs that we seem to be so incapable of finding common ground in today’s divisive political slugfest. The uber-partisans remind me a lot of two toddlers fighting intensely over possession of a plastic toy as their tussling moves them ever closer to a busy roadway. No matter how oblivious they are to it, that busy roadway exists and the cars are whizzing by. The toddlers are not really attending to the higher priority problem because of how intent they are about the toy. And these two young lads (let’s face it, they’re probably boys) factually have incredible common ground, their fate is likely the same and may even rest in each others’ hands. Ironic since they haven’t the vaguest idea this is true, trapped as they are in their zero sum game of winning that darn toy. And their failure to see it may well seal their fate.

I make the comparison not just because after spending six years trying to heal the partisan divide, it makes me feel good to call partisan leadership children (and it does make me feel really good). The comparison works because boy do we have real problems, enduring problems, problems that are growing bigger by the day, problems we are applying precious little sustained effort to solve. Like the poor unsuspecting kiddos near the highway, we’re too busy attending to the transient and intense squabble.

The other dynamic is that we’re spending all our time talking – at an ever-increasing decibel level – about the common threat that we see, while threat warnings that come from the opposite side of the aisle barely register as a blip. It’s time to harness “the power of and” – a concept we broke out early on when we noticed the either-or thinking run amok. Both threats can be – and probably are – true. When about 50% of a society it deeply concerned about a coming threat, isn’t it worth our time to at least really listen?

Enter The Asteroid Club, a concept we’re finding genius. America’s looming problems may as well be asteroids, as they are hurtling at us through time, heading straight toward an impact that looks certain to about half of us on planet earth. Pick your asteroid, whether it’s climate change, entitlement spending affecting the deficit and financial stability, the growing divide between rich and poor, or the dissolution of the family. There is substantial data to suggest that each (probably among others) is a legitimate asteroid and they’re heading our way.

Our common threats IS our common ground. And we’d better get busy noticing the asteroids. At the Village Square, we’re going to.

– Liz Joyner