When one examines social structures, processes, and relationships, one can identify numerous factors that influence them all. Yet one that is a never-changing and ubiquitous factor upon which ultimately depends the efficacy of civilization-building is the individual – the values, qualities, and capabilities developed and expressed. On the one extreme, people will not spontaneously arise to perfection when institutional maturity demands it; and on the other extreme, people are not incorrigibly selfish and inept. As has been stated numerous times regarding human nature, individuals have the potential for both egoism and altruism – and that attribute that is manifested depends, in large part, on the surrounding environment.
The environment, however, includes, of course, social structures and institutions. And they are, in turn, shaped by the individuals who participate in them. Thus we have set up a profound reciprocal dynamic between individual and structural change – and any lasting change must focus on both simultaneously (as aspects of the same process of advancing civilization). All of this means that the goal of effective governance requires the building of capacity in individuals who are to shape governance, which itself requires institutional structures, particularly education, that build capacity in individuals. Education must empower individuals to create systems of governance described in the last few posts – with this goal, we see how important moral, intellectual, and spiritual education actually are. The quality of honesty and humility in a statesmen, the capability of consultation and cooperation in a leader, and the attributes of open-mindedness, of freedom from prejudice, of rectitude of conduct, of a world-embracing vision, of thinking in terms of process, of systematic inquiry, of reflecting with others, of seeing unity in diversity, of a spirit of service, of being able to communicate well, in this context all take on a fresh and urgent importance for education, even at a childhood level. Justice – a capacity often attributed to the level of state – is fundamentally a faculty of the human soul.
The highest purpose of institutions is to nurture human potential – those being governed, as well as those serving within the institution. In the process, and also as a consequence, effective governance is built – it cannot be any other way. The goal of social structures is to empower individuals; the building of these social structures is through empowering individuals. The end is simultaneously its own means.
Where do you see examples of individuals empowering structures of governance? Where do you see examples of structures of governance empowering individuals?
How can education foster these mutually empowering relationships?