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Former Senator Bennett Speaks on Power and Politics

Photo credit: Andrew Whitmer

Photo credit: Andrew Whitmer

Former Senator Robert F. Bennett addressed political science students and alumni at BYU’s annual G. Durham Lecture, honoring the late Homer Durham, an American academic administrator and general authority for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the in the 1970’s. This year’s Durham lecture focused on reviewing Homer Durham’s personal search on political power, the nature of man and its relation to power, as well as applying those ideas to the 21st century.

Bennett discussed what Durham thought were the two most important questions in politics: 1) what is the nature of man? and 2) what is the nature of the state?

By analyzing different political figures throughout history such as Hitler and Marx, Bennett discussed how one’s definition of the nature of man affects that individual’s definition of state.

Bennett applied Durham’s studies of state power versus federal power by discussing the amendments in the Constitution made after the Civil War. He also made reference to Joseph Smith, who experienced the strength of Missouri state power over federal power and how that balance has changed.
In conclusion, Bennett discussed the LDS church’s definition of man and therefore the state, adding to the conversation about Mormonism today.

Bennett, currently serves as chairman of The Bennett Group. He serves as a senior policy adviser at Arent Fox, Senior Fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a member of the Board of Trustees of the German Marshall Fund, Honorary US President of the Transatlantic Policy Network and Resident Scholar at the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics, where he lectures part time. His newspaper column on politics appears weekly in the Deseret News.

Watch the entire lecture here:

Lecture Spotlight: Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: “What’s all the fighting about?”

BYU students hear from Professors Zeitzoff and Canetti about Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

BYU students hear from Professors Zeitzoff and Canetti about Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Today, Professor Thomas Zeitzoff from the School of Public Affairs at American University and Professor Daphna Canetti of the University of Haifa spoke to BYU students and faculty about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict with the theme of “What’s all the fighting about?”

Zeitzoff discussed what kinds of rationalizations fuel the violence. Some “rational” reasons for violence could include benefits outweighing costs, leaders wanting to stay in political power, and demonstrating a group’s ideology.  He also explained that violence can be simply driven by hatred, to spoil negotiations between parties or peoples, to show grievances for past hurt or violence, or using sacred cultural values as a reason for aggression.

The violence is not just a political issue, but also a psychological issue which stems from an intractable conflict between the Arabs and Israel, Zeitzoff explained. If a gain is made on one side, the other loses and vice versa. Zeitzoff proposed that their psychological views cannot be bought by negotiation and affects how they perceive the conflict itself.

However, because people care about issues other than resources or power, such as sacred values, Zeitzoff concluded that there is an opportunity to use those ideologies for peace.

Canetti, in describing the scene in the middle east, explained the violence as an “omnipresence,” resulting in negative psychological coping mechanisms. She noted that recently in Gaza, 65% of the people were diagnosed with depression or PTSD while in Sderot, 75% of children suffer from anxiety because of the violence.

“They’re getting used to [the violence],” Canetti said. “They’ll even open their bags in grocery stores and malls without even looking at the eyes of the person checking their bag.”

Checkpoints, like checking bags at universities and grocery stores, prompt people to support violence due to feelings of humiliation, leading to defensiveness and rage.

“Only by changing those coping mechanisms can we hope to create a psychological, societal infrastructure capable of sustaining formal political agreements in [those] regions of the world,” Canetti said.

Watch the entire lecture here: