There has to be a necessary coexistence in society for an individual to flourish. A society is a huge factor in the development of an individual. There are individuals who can and want to take up social causes, offer practical suggestions, and assist in bringing changes that will bring possible improvements. The flourishing of all individuals should be seen as the ultimate goal of society. Where every last one in society moves forth with opportunity, society has fulfilled its goal; the quality of existence of each and as a group has reached a higher mark.
Featured artwork: Landscape of the Four Seasons (Eight Views of the Xiao and Xiang Rivers) Artist: Sōami (Japanese, died 1525) Period: Muromachi period (1392–1573) Date: early 16th century Culture: Japan Medium: Pair of six-panel folding screens; ink on paper Dimensions: Each: 68 1/4 × 146 in. (173.4 × 370.8 cm) Classification: Screens Credit Line: Gift of John D. Rockefeller Jr., 1941
What is the coexistence necessary in society? On the one hand, the individual must have the right to believe as he wishes. With the level of information we have, and possibly developing means of how to weed out misinformation, there is the possibility that individuals would understand what to believe and why. When the quality of information has improved, it stands to reason that, individuals would feel the necessary impetus to themselves examine matters of belief. There is no guarantee of satisfaction to all members, but there are the possible reason and means for such satisfaction.
When it comes to individuals, usually there is no problem in the desire to exercise personal rights, including the right to belief. If there is a problem, it is with the selfishness that people are used to showing in the matter of exercising this right. One significant reason is, there is a lack of good role models in society. The internal competition in communities has reached such dangerous levels that, being selfish looks absolutely appropriate during these times. The role models in society today exemplify what it means to get ahead, be competitive, and be selfish. It is for these qualities they are rewarded and praised!
Societies in different parts of the world seem to have bent to the will of a few powerful humans. It is their beliefs in politics, religion, technology, or religion that are affecting uncounted numbers of people in their community, and all those communities where their influence is able to reach by modern electronic means of communication. Society stands transformed by the will of the few. It is easy to understand, society finds it easier to function when there is unity of belief. It is also worth understanding that, the smooth functioning of society is not the greatest social goal. Societies are not esteemed for their smooth functioning or performance, else we would all aspire for fascism! Do we? Should we?
With the level of information we have, and possibly developing means of how to weed out misinformation, there is the possibility that individuals would understand what to believe and why.
It is worth noting, peace on a social level and justice at a social level even though they often go together, are not the same thing. The experience of peace could be quite uniform in society. All the people in a community could be experiencing a general sense of peace, even though each is occupied in very different ways. Each individual might be connected with society in a very measured way, and the observed peace could be a result of how little friction there exists among the members. The members keep their distance from each other in times of peace, and for the sake of peace to continue. But what do the members of the society do when an act of injustice comes to light and threatens the peace of the community?
Peace for strange reasons
Peace can exist in a society, even for strange reasons. It is not the positive spirit of coexistence at times, but the heavy shadow of hopelessness that is keeping people suspended in a “state of depressed cluelessness”. A prevailing sense of futility is inescapable, particularly in the minds of the young people today. The older ones might only find enough courage to be in denial, while the young are too tired to think of solutions. With the number of people we have living in individual communities, each one having access to information about absolutely diverse value-and-belief systems, it is no wonder that a person feels pressured to exercise only his own fundamental rights. A person has the fundamental right to belief and to practice that belief. Somehow these matters take on a communal form, and that communal movement ends up clashing with other communities. Usually, in those cases, it is not a nuance of thought but a deep-seated difference that comes to the surface in the form of enmity. After a point, it seems further thought is simply unnecessary or irrelevant.
Even individuals vehemently stand for or against certain beliefs, leading to clashes rather than discussion. Strong convictions do take time to develop, and for reasons never fully understood by others. Mutually, we should try to come to a point of respecting the reasons, even if we do not agree on the convictions themselves. It might already be prudent to admit, the fault may not entirely lie with information or access to it, but with the way humans use that information! It does seem, as long as the nuance in a discussion is maintained, it is a sign that minds are working. When frustration takes over, there is an absolute abandonment of nuance and detail. Hate or violence takes over. Peace is then lost.
What people are now more wary of is a pretense of working minds that keeps listeners engaged in nuance while behind the scenes, terrible plans are being executed. Perhaps you too are inclined to think of the U.N.O. as an example! Who knows, how much literature and other content is produced by this massive organization of nations, but despite all that, there is no shortage of evil and injustice in the world. The uninformed and gullible might even have believed that actual peace is in existence. However, the Internet has ended the days of selective, filtered information. Despite all the misinformation, there is an abundance of verifiable information – text, audio, and video – to show, the kind of peace advertized has been an extended illusion.
Mutually, we should try to come to a point of respecting the reasons, even if we do not agree on the convictions themselves.
Why is there a sense of futility?
As far as information alone is concerned, any person – young or old – faces difficulty in simultaneously holding contradictions in the mind. It could continue for a while, but it is bound to be unsustainable in the long run. Contradictions will have to exist in society and even in the mind. Even in understanding the nature of physical things, there is more than one view, more than one understanding. However, when one seeks to understand the abstract or immaterial, the number and kinds of viewpoints grow. It would seem to follow that, it is irrational to hold extreme and absolute views about such immaterial and abstract matters; a measure of uncertainty is more honest, and pro-peace. Aside from personal revelation which is later evidenced at a public level, there is no rationale for extreme views in those regards.
The sense of futility develops because, the kind of certainty we seek or what we assume as final answers on many issues, simply do not exist. Since the great developments in physical sciences, there has arisen the confidence in the possibility of having the same certainty we have in chemistry or physics, in the fields of politics or social structure. It is indeed desirable, but a fundamental misunderstanding of what science is. If we are willing to consider the process of science as desirable, and not entertain the misunderstanding of having living, thinking human beings behave as non-living matter, then science is one way. Perhaps, a combination of science and philosophy – “scientific philosophy” – could further direct our steps. I imagine it will be a finely tuned, balanced combination of logic, inquisitiveness, and intuition. It will be a period of great uncertainties, and the possibility of frustration is very large. A sense of futility is sure to develop in some of the people. That is when good leaders can step up and inspire the people to keep patience. As some solutions do come, it will keep people hopeful. That hope is important!
We might suppose solutions exist, but then when one’s personal knowledge confronts other available information on the same subject, an open-minded person can see the need not to be dogmatic. What people do in order to keep a sense of certainty in the form of personal convictions is, they close their minds to all other contradictory information. They also close their minds to the possibility of considering such information. The reason for such a conclusion should be very clear and demonstrable in the one closing his or her mind. If lies and deliberate untruths can be identified, the loss of trust is a reasonable response. Personal discomfort, though also a legitimate reason is, far more subjective.
The closing down of the possibility of a solution or even the possibility of a discussion is, a reason for the sense of futility. Even more than that, a person could reach the conclusion that it is no longer of any benefit at all to have further discussion. Yes, we do face frustrating problems of the kind when there seems like no solution exists in the way we have carried on doing business usually. There do exist those – people with faith of another kind – that do see the possibility of finding newer ways. The people in pursuit of finding new ways are perhaps mentally, emotionally, and morally different from us, but they could still make contributions.
Perhaps, a combination of science and philosophy – “scientific philosophy” – could further direct our steps. I imagine, it will be a finely tuned, balanced combination of logic, inquisitiveness, and intuition.
To be unafraid of the eventuality
A sense of sustained apprehension hangs over our world today. Of course, those who listen to the world news in this year, 2017 A.D. can see that there are some reasons for alarm and several reasons for despair. There is somehow this persistent sense, no matter what our plans or efforts will be they would end in futility. The leaders with extreme views in politics, religion, economics seem to cause conscious ones to see what is not an optimistic vision. There is real worry! And the existence of those leaders is indicating to the minds of observers one, two, or a combination of both reasonings:
- These leaders have popular support.
- These leaders have divine support.
- These leaders have support from people and God.
The reasoning about popular support is clarified when one examines conversations and reactions of those using the Internet as a platform of public expression. It is true, people after all still lean toward certain preferences and subscribe to views of “echo chambers”. One can still take peace from the fact that many echo chambers exist, and a person has some opportunity to be aware of the voices in one chamber as compared to the other. It would be an achievement if, people start developing the habit of looking outside their echo chambers and develop a willingness to listen to other voices without agreeing or disagreeing.
The reasoning leading to the conclusion of divine approval should not be estimated by human criteria, and definitely not before it is time. The Divine is not a mere man, and He does not micromanage the affairs of human governments. He is aware of times and purposes, but His vision and thoughts simply exceed our abilities. We cannot presume to think of the Divine to satisfy our preferences. Should He choose to act in an overt and clear manner against human injustices, it is impossible for anyone to resist His power! So we can appreciate the restraint, patience, and unobtrusiveness on His part. He gives ample chance for individuals and all of mankind to learn and the diversity is endless. We should humbly use this opportunity, rather than being quick to blame the Almighty for what we consider He should be doing in our service.
While it is simply not human to let situations slide and let things go as they are, it is anxiety over the future that causes us to so often take a step in haste. The step taken in haste could be corrected if the body in motion is small, but if national governments and large institutions are taking steps in haste, it is very difficult to restrain the momentum in a particular direction. As leaderships are getting narrowed down to one person in power, the speed of decision-making is increased manifold, but the power to restrain consequences once they are unleashed is very, very poor.
The sad reality is, one leader – an individual – today can have more power than it was ever possible for a President, Prime Minister, or King in the past. The simple fact that we have weapons of mass destruction (WMD), it is difficult (actually impossible) to see how any, one person can be considered capable of holding so much power and making the decisions over their use. As for consequences, if one person could be thought of being able to carry the responsibility for the life and emotional state of millions of people, we have really deluded ourselves long enough. The holding of so much power should have been curtailed long ago. Major political, economic, religious, and cultural decisions have been taken that have an impact over too many people; decisions that are enormous and more far-reaching than any human can understand.
Our system needs correction before a few men are allowed to determine the final destiny of man, the earth, and all life on it now and in the future.