Categories
- Governance - Human Body - Prevailing Conceptions Discourse Human Nature Justice Oneness

Economic Theory: Competition, the Key to Prosperity?

Human nature has been misinterpreted. We are not selfish and competitive by nature, but rather, altruistic and cooperative. Human societies to some extent actually represent an anomaly in the competitive theory of the jungle. Humans demonstrate a detailed division of labour and exchange of goods and services, with or without a cooperative intention on the individual level, between genetically unrelated individuals, that amounts to an economy-wide scheme of cooperation for collective prosperity. Modern societies with large organizational structures for meat and vegetable production and distribution, banking services and widespread trust in economic stability, and the rule of law and order, do the same. Since earliest days of the species Homo sapien, we have seen dense networks of exchange relations and practices of sophisticated forms of food-sharing, cooperative hunting, and collective warfare in hunter gatherer societies. The world of the animal for example, exhibits little to no distinguishable division of labour. In the jungle, cooperation is limited to small groups, and when it is seen it is almost certainly among genetically closely related individuals (eg: a family in a pack of wolves). Even in non-human primates (chimpanzees etc.), cooperation is orders of magnitude less developed than it is among humans. One may argue that certain insects such as ants and bees, or even the naked mole rat demonstrate cooperation in colonies of 1000’s of individuals working together. However, cooperation of these types of organisms cannot be appreciated except in the context of their considerable genetic homology. Genuine, conscious, cooperation that is biologically altruistic or selfless (ie: lacking genetic incentive) is seen in human society because of our unique nature, distinct from the jungle.

The “Jungle” interpretation of human nature comes from looking at humanity’s past of war and crime and deducing that human nature is selfish and competitive. No serious sociologist would look at a child and deduce that human beings are 2 feet tall and irrational. Yet, that is precisely what has been done when we look at humanity’s war- and crime-ridden history and deduce that human nature is selfish and competitive. Over the course of the child’s maturation and development it will become evident that he is actually capable of being a 5’10” professor of physics, for example. To judge human nature based upon an immature stage in human development leads to misconceived notions of who we are and how we should behave. The problem arises from the mistake of taking descriptive observation and mistaking them for a prescription of how things should be. The is-ought fallacy. Based on the observation of selfish and competitive behaviour, sociologists have prescribed selfish and competitive standards for others to follow. Instead of describing humankind’s violent past and seeking to overcome and transcend these difficulties in the future, many social theorists normalize these characteristics and prescribe them as the mode of interaction in economics and political practice. The sad truth is that much of our social order is built with this view of human nature in mind, catering to the worst aspects of our potential. No wonder society and the global state of affairs are in such shambles. A distinctive effort is needed to rethink human nature and our relationship to the collective order. Nothing less than a spiritual revolution in the hearts and minds of people and a transformation of the values of society will redeem us from the course we have set for ourselves with bankrupt self-conceptions.

Current economic theory is modeled around a self-interested conception of human nature analogous to the competitiveness of animals fighting for survival and reproductive resources in a jungle. I believe human nature is fundamentally altruistic, analogous to the harmony of cells and tissues cooperating for total organismic prosperity. The best advantage of the part is pursued in the progress of the whole. Cooperation of the various parts leads to health, and selfishness of any cell leads to cancer. The human body and not the jungle is what I choose as my model for societal and economic organization.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7AWnfFRc7g

Assumptions of the Jungle Interpretation of Human Nature:
1. Human beings are naturally self-interested
2. There is a finite amount of goods, services, and opportunities with an infinite amount of wants, drives, and competitors
3. Competition is both biologically necessary and mandated by the scarcity of resources
4. Survival of the fittest is not just a biological law, but a social one as well, equally applicable to the biological and social human condition

Assumptions of the Body Interpretation of Human Nature:
1. Human beings are naturally altruistic
2. Goods are produced in proportion to the sense of a duty, purpose, and enterprise animating human endeavours, individually and collectively
3. Needs are satisfied in a way that does justice to their severity and intensity, which balances the extremes of satisfaction and want society-wide
4. Creation of a just and prosperous world order is the fruit of all social evolution, just as the manifestation of the rational mind has been the fruit of biological evolution

 

Categories
- Consultation - Empowerment - Religion - Science Development Justice Knowledge Oneness Power

Beyond Modernism and Post-Modernism

Historically and currently, the relationship between power and knowledge has been strained and complex, to say the least.  Recently, “modernism” – which has constructed systems of knowledge around truth-claims about social reality – has come into critique by “post-modernism” – that these systems have been created through the operation of privilege and power, resulting in an unjust and inequitable social reality that brings modernism’s remarkable advances to only an elite minority.  Post-modernism, however, has reacted to an extreme position, asserting that all knowledge is grounded in power dynamics, that knowledge is oppression, that no truth-claims are more valid than others.  Instead of a solution, post-modernism has replaced all thought with endless critique.

Perhaps the following premises can help:
1)  Human comprehension is limited, human perspective is diverse, and social reality is complex and multifaceted.
2)  Science and religion, two systems of knowledge and practice, yield partial and tentative, though valid, insights into this reality.
3)  Over time, through a reflective learning process, humanity can judge the relative validity these insights (or truth-claims) against the goal of advancing civilization.

This is a consultative, evolving, and adaptive approach to knowledge.  It can be protected from oppressive uses of power by a) drawing in any and all diverse insights and perspectives, experiences and reflections, and constructive criticism from all people, and b) being guided by spiritual principles such as oneness, justice, interdependence, compassion, honesty, cooperation, etc.

This approach resolves the tension of knowledge and power, currently taking form as the crisis of modernism and post-modernism.  More importantly, it empowers humanity to take charge of its own destiny and the advance of civilization through the generation and application of knowledge.

Categories
Discourse Knowledge

Scouting the Truth

Having explored the nature of knowledge and its generation, thought must now be given to the nature of one who generates knowledge, a seeker of knowledge, a scholar.  How do we view those who have or seek knowledge?

Revelation and Social Reality, by Paul Lample, provides a very insightful analogy to the nature of a scholar – from which the following is taken.

A scholar is not as a gatekeeper or priest, one who is seen to hold the keys to knowledge, one who determines what knowledge is valuable or meaningful, one who sets the directions of inquiry.  Neither is a generator of knowledge like an anthropologist or archeologist, merely identifying truth as what is currently understood, or even as what has been in the past.  Nor is a scholar an artist, simply constructing the meaning of knowledge according to one’s subjective standards, preferences, or inclinations.  Finally, a seeker of knowledge is not an impartial observer, apart from and outside of the community in which one learns.

Instead, the generation of knowledge is a right and responsibility of all human beings, not an elite few; it is a constantly evolving process, where truth is relatively less understood, applied, and embodied now than it will be in the future; it is, however, the process of uncovering objective and foundational truths of reality; and every individual both influences and is influenced by the social reality they seek to study.

With this understanding, one can view a generator of knowledge as a scout – helping to guide an expedition into unexplored territory with the aim of bringing knowledge back to the group, constantly advancing individual and collective understanding, while not possessing any authority on the subject, and actively participating with others and making a humble yet vital contribution towards a collective endeavor.

Categories
Development

Civilization

This term, “civilization”, has been mentioned repeatedly.  In fact, the stated purpose of this blog is to contribute to the discourse on the advancement of civilization.  Perhaps we could all share thoughts about our relative understandings of what civilization is.

Of civilization it can be asked: What are its elements?  Of what is it composed?  What are its characteristics?  How does it advance?  How is it understood?  What are its connotations and implications?  What are its dynamics? What is your understanding of its laws and governance, the role of statesmanship and the empowerment of the masses? What are the dynamics of the change that is pending? Trace the course of the evolution as it will foreseeably unfold. Cast before our eyes a vision of the future world civilization as you would see it be. Who are the protagonists of this change, and what are their respective capacities and roles?

Please share your thoughts.

Categories
Development Justice

Definitions of Progress and Global Development

Where does the concept progress come from? Who sets its parameters? What do we have to do to know we are achieving something worthwhile? Without thinking about these questions we end up thinking about progress in a way that does not actually reflect the advancement of our species. Without a conscious effort to understand what is a good direction to move in, we become susceptible to manipulation and coercion by the interests of others. A person without a plan becomes a pawn in the plans of others. Lack of reflection on goals, does not make us immune to corrupt powers setting goals for us. Passivity does not lead to relaxation – it leads to devastation.

Justice is the name for an active thought process on deciding what constitutes progress. Justice is the science of defining what is a good path for our world to take, setting milestones that let us measure our advancement, and enriching public recognition of how progress reflects global needs. An active and public discourse on Justice is the name we give to human and collective agency in setting the goals and deciding the path for what direction we see ourselves moving in as a species, wholly interconnected, and united in sharing in each others achievements and prosperity, and experiencing each others suffering, with the spread of poverty, illiteracy, disease, unrest and crime. A dominant discourse on justice, an overt and moderated public discussion on Justice, a forum that enforces its agenda, and a dedicated core of intellectual and political protagonists will ensure that social and economic development is never again co-opted out of the interests of the people and manipulated into the service of personal preferences or self-interested financial actors.

Social and economic development lacked a custodian. In her or his absence the ideological and political vacuum beckoned to manipulators and opportunists who saw in this a chance to press the values and finances of the masses into their own services. An agenda of social and economic development was propagated, ironically couched in philanthropic and charitable terminology, that burned the advantage of the generality of humankind to the gadget and industrial preoccupations of technocratic potentates of the fortune 500. Governments and people alike, in the absence of an active and public thought process on Justice, were co-opted and duped passively into supporting and believing this dialogue. Corporation, common man, and custodians of national governments became unquestioning accomplices in multi-national exploitation of developing rural populations for the technocratic centralization of resources to metropolitan financial centers in the west, under the rationalization and justification of ideas such as industrialization and charity, and a vision of ‘replicating’ the way of life of North America and Europe en mass on the African, Asian, and South American continents.

Complicit in this predicament was the indulgent passivity of the populations involved, the good-intentioned but gullible developers, united nations delegations, discourse, and think tanks. A combination of moral righteousness and imperial industrialism led arrogance and complacency to ingratiate itself into the waning integrity and intellectual rigor of the global development community’s discourse on what it means to “progress”. Concern for justice prevents those who define goals for social and economic development from sacrificing the well-being of the generality of humankind to a vision of technological advance experienced only by the privileged few.

Categories
Justice Oneness

Justice in the Context of Oneness

Justice is the ruling principle of social organization, and the advancement of civilization depends upon its universal application.  Conceptions of justice have been explored for centuries, and today, are highly numerous and variable.  In our current crisis of civilization, confusion and contention is the norm regarding such central ideas as justice, power, and knowledge.  As is the case with history, freedom, and social relationships, justice – a core element of our conceptual framework – is re-conceptualized in the context of the principle of the oneness of humankind.

The foundation of understanding justice is to regard humanity as a single body, and oneself as a cell of that body.  All the talents and capacities latent and manifest within each individual member belongs to the whole; and, likewise, each problem afflicting an individual or group wounds the whole.  It is unjust to be concerned for the welfare of one group while ignoring – or worse, at the expense of – another group; conditions are never particular, but always global.  Through regarding all of humanity as one and considering the well-being of the whole, unity can be achieved.  Otherwise, how can unity exist?

The purpose of justice, therefore, is the appearance of unity.  Justice is the surest means by which oneness of humankind, which is a latent truth, can be made manifest.  For it ensures that progress for a segment of humanity is not achieved at the expense of systemic advancement; that limited resources are not diverted to projects at the periphery of humanity’s real needs; that the values, ideas, and knowledge of all are consulted upon, and not just one group.  Justice cements the interests of the individual with that of the entire body of humankind – a very practical manifestation of oneness.

Categories
- Prevailing Conceptions Discourse Oneness

Beyond the Culture of Contest

Dr. Michael Karlberg is a professor of Communications at Western Washington University whose work centers around the advancement of collaboration and mutualism in human relations.  In his TEDx Talk, Dr. Karlberg challenges the assumption that human nature is inherently competitive and self-interested. The consequence of this largely unchallenged assumption, that humans only have the capacity for competition and self-interest, is the establishment and entrenchment of a “culture of contest.”  Viewed from within this culture, governance is a contest for power, justice is a contest for legal advocacy, and education is a contest for grades and recognition.  Dr. Karlberg’s analysis exposes this very pervasive culture of contest and suggests alternative ways of thinking and acting that stem from a very deep commitment to humanity viewed as a singular and interconnected social body, about whose latent potentials we have only begun to learn.

What are the attributes of a culture which views human beings as cooperative and mutualistic?

What motivations sit deeper in the human heart than selfishness and competition?  How have you seen these motivations tapped in a way that advances individual and collective development?

The TEDx Talk can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0ZCAbYrQ7Q

Dr. Karlberg’s blog is agencyandchange.com

Categories
- Human Body Development Human Nature Oneness

Latency

That certain evolutionary processes are teleological in nature, meaning they are driven by an intrinsic purpose, brings up to the concept of latency.  The characteristic of latent potential is common to all organic bodies – plants, the human body, and humanity included.  Latent truths or characteristics come to fruition (quite literally in the case of a tree) or are manifest visibly over time.  This does not mean, however, that they previously didn’t exist – they were simply in latent form.  Some latent potentials are manifest through physical processes that are independent of humans, such as the formation of planets.  Others only come about through human agency.  Let us look at individual and collective evolution as it manifests latent potential.

On the individual level, the soul is a latent capacity that is manifest or expressed through the human mind.  Prior to the physical development of an individual human, the soul was not manifest, but latent, and its powers become manifest when the human being assumes its physical form – particularly the brain.  And the soul itself has latent capacities – reason and understanding, justice, attraction to beauty and truth, nobility, desire to search for meaning and purpose – and these spiritual potentialities become manifest only through human agency and will, through conscious effort, through an individual’s life and behavior.

On a collective level, world civilization is the latent fruit of humanity’s collective social evolution, which comes about through human agency.  It is a social reality we construct.  In the same way that biological evolution provided for the expression of the soul, social evolution is providing for the expression of a divine civilization – the soul of the body of humankind.  As oneness is the operating principle of our collective life, its manifestation is also latent relative to human agency.  Over time, we progressively express higher and higher degrees of oneness.  This doesn’t mean that humanity was not always one.  Rather, the expression of oneness becomes more maturely translated into social reality over time.

Oneness of humankind, thus, is an ontological truth, a teleological truth, and a latent truth – latent relative to human agency.

Categories
- Three Protagonists Development Oneness

History of the World, Part 2

All things evolve and develop along a path, unfolding towards maturity along a spiritual journey. The richest repository of this potential is human civilization progressing from ancient times until the modern age. The present era has seen the emergence of humankind from an age of infancy towards its transitional phase of adolescence before full adulthood. The exigencies of the age we live in vary from those gone before it, the remedies and methods employed even fifty years ago are inadequate and lamentably deficient in addressing the challenges we face today.  Similarly, humanity’s collective achievements and capacities are of a scale undreamt of an age ago.  The explosion of knowledge, alone, testifies that we are indeed evolving through a distinct phase.  This adolescent age of transition is characterized by turbulence, chaos, and a questioning of collective identity; yet discernible is the approaching age of maturity that humanity is irresistibly marching towards.  Whether we arrive is not a question – rather, how will we reach our next evolutionary stage?  Will we stubbornly cling to old patterns of behavior, competitive and atomistic?  Will we embrace a consultative, cooperative, and collective consciousness and proceed united?

The hallmark of this age of maturity is the unification of the entire human race.  This represents the consummation of human evolution, which began with the birth of family life, to tribal solidarity, to the creation of city-states, to independent nations, and will continue to a world civilization.  Why wouldn’t this be so.  Why do we think of all things in terms of evolution, and not humanity?  And then once we do, why would we think our social evolution has halted with our current stage of sovereign nations?  Isn’t world civilization the next obvious step in humanity’s social progression?  Our next stage requires reordering the life of the individual, of the community, and of the institutions, and reconceptualizing the relationships between and among them all.