Categories
Development Human Nature Oneness

A Final Step in Humanity’s Evolution

One can analyze in the tumultuous evolution of the life of humankind one thread, among others, that has been present and steadily advancing for thousands and tens of thousands of years.  Perhaps human history can even be conceptualized as a progressive movement in this direction.  This common theme is that since its earliest beginnings, humanity has been moving closer and closer to realizing the oneness of humankind – to manifest into reality this latent truth.

 

The fundamental barrier towards this realization is perceiving otherness – categorizing one group of human beings as “other” to another, often one’s own, group.

 

The reality of man is his thought.  Just as spiritual and physical reality, with all its laws, processes, and forces, is a manifestation of the mind of God – (Nature in its essence is the embodiment of My Name, the Maker, the Creator. Its manifestations are diversified by varying causes, and in this diversity there are signs for men of discernment. Nature is God’s Will and is its expression in and through the contingent world.) – so, too, is all of social reality an emanation of the collective mind of humanity: “…all these highly varied phenomena, these concepts, this knowledge, these technical procedures and philosophical systems, these sciences, arts, industries and inventions—all are emanations of the human mind.”

 

However, both the oneness of humankind and the fundamental reality of human beings as thought have both been progressively realized over humanity’s collective development.  This evolution necessarily started out as more physical, then moved towards more cultural and geographic – natural evolution into our current physical form, then the gradual integration of individuals into families, families into tribes, tribes into city-states, cities into nations, nations into empires, and now the emergence of a global civilization.  At this point, no one can reasonably argue that humankind is not whole and interconnected, and the earth is not one homeland.

 

This realization has only been at the physical, geographic, and cultural level – through masses of people moving like waves across the earth, through inter-ethnic marriage on a vast scale, through interconnected systems of communication and economics.  Yet, the reality of man is his thought, and social reality an emanation of the mind.  The final step in the oneness of humankind, beyond conceptualizing that all of humanity is one, is in not creating an “other” that doesn’t conceptualize this.  This is, perhaps, the most challenging “us” and “them” barrier.

 

Recently I heard the statement: “well, for us there is no ‘us’ and ‘them’, but for them there is an ‘us’ and ‘them'” or “we don’t think in terms of ‘us’ and ‘them’s’, but they think in terms of ‘us’ and ‘them’s'”.  This type of categorization of “us” and “them” is the deepest obstacle to oneness, the greatest challenge that must be overcome in humanity’s physical-geographic-cultural-intellectual-spiritual evolution.  Once our collective consciousness eliminates the thought that one group of people realize humanity’s oneness, and another group do not, then will we have reached the level of humanity’s fundamental reality (thought), and will social reality reflect more and more just and unified processes and systems, greater and greater degrees of Bahá’u’lláh’s vision for humanity.

 

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Categories
- Consultation - Language Discourse Justice Knowledge Oneness Power

Collective Reflections

This past weekend, nearly forty individuals gathered together for an exploration of participation in discourse. (See post, Discourse: Session at Bosch)  The aim was to connect everyday conversations – those with neighbors, with friends, with co-workers, with family, with parents of children and junior youth – regarding society’s prevalent discourses with the conceptual framework described by the Universal House of Justice, in order to provide a context for continued reflection, action, and learning.

Among other documents, the letter dated 2 March 2013 from the Universal House of Justice was the main study.  Both halfway through study of the message and at the end of the study – which was done in small groups – all participants got together as a large group, and each individual shared one advance in understanding regarding the conceptual framework provided by the Universal House of Justice in that message, one salient point that they wished to share with the large group.  Capacity to articulate insights perceptibly increased from the first round of sharing to the second.

Below are some brief notes of each comment, grouped by concept.  This list can serve both as inspiration for others to connect their experiences with the framework provided by the House of Justice, as well as a source of analysis and reflection.  (Of course, these groups are my own categorization – many comments span multiple concepts).

 

ONENESS

– Oneness requires breaking of all us/them dichotomies, including an “us” that is more conscious of the oneness of humankind and a “them” that is less conscious.

– Relationships are reconceptualized based on the principle of oneness – including our relationship with nature.

– That the rational soul is the identity of a human being is a conviction of the oneness of humankind

– Concepts addressed by the House apply to all.

– All are working to advance one humanity, because all are one – this realization gives hope.

– Hallmark of age of maturity is oneness – this principle reconceptualizes relationships and structures of society.

– The new civilization won’t come through only the efforts of Baha’is, but is a process of organic change that all people contribute to.

– Humanity’s transformation will occur through the efforts of all people.

– The principle of oneness reconceptualizes all human relationships in a sustainable way.

– Peace will not come about through Baha’is alone, but all people – this reality is becoming more apparent.

– Association with others in a spirit of joy and radiance creates unity which actually advances humanity forward.

– The rational soul (our identity) has no gender – an empowering concept to women, as well as men.

– Unity is promoted through associating with joy.

 

THREE PROTAGONISTS

– The vision of the relationships between the three protagonists is completely new; there is no precedents to guide action, only a mode of learning.

– Each of the three protagonists affects the other – how can I, as an individual, strengthen community and institutions?

– The three protagonists are not just for the Plan, but actors on a stage of history that at this point need cooperative relations in order for humanity to mature.

 

HISTORY / FUTURE

– Humanity is on an evolutionary path and is at the threshold of maturity – our communities are similarly at this point.

– Humanity’s transition requires work and effort, and though it is difficult, we try and learn.

– Historical perspective is important to understand humanity’s current state.

– The House is opening and guiding the final frontier for humanity’s evolution – the building of a world civilization.

– Civilization is to the body of humanity as the soul is to the body of an individual, which elevates the building of civilization to the level of sacred.

– The analogy of the soul to the body as civilization to humankind gives a vision of spiritual, as well as material, prosperity.

 

TWO PROCESSES

– Linking together the process of disintegration and integration infuses hope into our outlooks.

– The process of disintegration is not discouraging, but hopeful; it sweeps away barriers and allows for more integration.

– Integration and disintegration go hand it hand – disintegration allows for integration.

– As the forces of disintegration are removing obstacles, integration proceeds; the House of Justice is now sending open letters to Iran, as an example.

 

LEARNING

– Diversity of thought has led to a rich conversation that allows investigation of truth.

– Our mode of operation is a process of learning, and all is on a continuum – there is no need to fear disintegration.

– Culture of learning allows adaptation.

– Decision-making in fact benefits from a diversity of opinions, because consultation is a form of collective investigation of reality.  Diversity is a source of strength.

– The messages of the House of Justice become more accessible through a collective collaboration of diverse minds.

 

JUSTICE

– Consumerism is inherently unjust – it doesn’t allow justice, which is a faculty of the soul that allows one to distinguish truth from falsehood, to be exercised.

 

POWER

– Sources of power that can be harnessed include the power of unity, of truth, of pure deeds, of humble service, which represent a limitless capacity to transform humanity and allow each person to grow spiritually.

– Words associated with power include “release” and “enable”, not “seize”.  How do we help release the power latent in others?

– Reconceptualizing power as having sources based in the human spirit, and the power of unity for example, is an empowering notion, something all can access.

 

TWO FOLD PURPOSE

– The two-fold moral purpose permeates all aspects of life and all three protagonists, including its appellation to the Baha’i community itself (its own development, and its involvement in society at large)

– Through an understanding of this coherent framework for action, how can I choose coherent goals in life, aligned with two-fold moral purpose?

– Two-fold moral purpose requires a coherence of words and deeds.

 

THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE

– The language of the House is accessible to all, and phrases from it can touch hearts.

– The House is inviting us to engage with a deep vision of a just and prosperous world civilization.

– How empowering is language of the House of Justice.

– The House of Justice has been providing us guidance in unfolding layers – their vision is world-embracing.

– The House of Justice itself is a model of effective governance, for it seeks to empower.

– This message demonstrates the power of Baha’u’llah through the vision and compassion of the House of Justice – all are uplifted, even those chastised.

 

DISCOURSE

– Discourse is part of the growth of Baha’i community – people are gems of value, and all can contribute.

– My goal is to have better discourse each day through reflection on conversations.

– The language of the House of Justice affects hearts, and use of its phrases is powerful.

– This letter represents a force of integration, and is empowering to discuss and share.

– The House of Justice’s use of language raises standards of discourse, and it uses language in a way that is beyond dispute.

 

Discourse

Categories
- Consultation Development Justice Knowledge Oneness

Justice and Universal Participation

The development of a just society requires universal participation.

Why?  Why is this the case?  If you’d like, respond with your thoughts below.

Surely, there are many of reasons.  Three come to my mind at the moment.  They are related to unity, capacity building, and knowledge.

The purpose of justice is to bring about unity within human society.  This is a basic reason why all who are a part of this society need to be involved in its development; otherwise how could one claim unity, when some are spectators and some are protagonists?  More significant than the actual actions of various people (because of course, contribution to society’s development is a spectrum; some more active, some less) it is the mindset of “us” and “them” – of otherness – that hinders unity.

One of the manifestations of justice is that the capacity of each created thing is revealed to its fullest.  Obviously, this, too, is a spectrum.  But, to use a tree as a simple example, it is just that a tree be allowed to bear its fruit.  Human beings have infinite talents and capacities, especially when each individual is viewed as part of a collective humanity.  In order to fully express the collective capacity of humankind, opportunities must be created for each individual to contribute to humanity’s well-being and development, according to his/her talents.  Otherwise, if only some develop capacities while others don’t, the collective capacity of humankind will not fully be actualized, which is not just.

Finally, justice is the process of investigating truth through one’s own eyes, and not through blind imitation of what has been already stated.  A human being who undertakes an exploration of reality with justice will necessarily have a unique perspective, since it is through his/her own eyes – some may say that it is subjective.  We know that reality is multi-faceted.  As an example, imagine that it’s a sphere.  Each individual will view from a particular angle, perhaps seeing a disc.  It is only as more and more subjective perspectives are harmonized together will reality be objectively known and understood.  Justice demands universal participation, because it is only through a diverse range of perspectives that our multi-faceted reality can be known, and justice is the process by which we understand truth.

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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 - Governance - Religion - Three Protagonists Discourse

Summary of August 9th Message

Paragraph#:

1. 10 new Regional Councils (RC’s). 5-Year Plan messages foundation of action and study. Familiarity with dynamics of growth increases with core activities.

2. Dichotomy of neighborhood and centralized children’s classes (CC) transcended. 2 Junior Youth learning sites. Expansion/consolidation primary task of RC’s.

3. RC’s to ensure functioning of Regional Training Institute (RTI) and Area Teaching Committees (ATC). Two perspectives: cycles of activity and educational process.

4. RC to draw on world-wide system of generation and dissemination of knowledge. Relationship with Counsellors significant. Report successes and impediments.

5. Prospects for Junior Youth program especially bright. Transformation in junior youth and rapid development in those accompanied to serve as animators.

6.  Capacity for human resource development needed for sustainable progress in growth of Cause and transformation of society.

7. Intensity and patience are called for organically in accordance with the varying rates of growth in various populations.

8. Refrain from comparisons between differing circumstances. Validity of network teaching versus intense neighborhoods. Guard against inundating fledgling efforts.

9.  Attention to Latin, African, Asian children; now 1 in 4 children. Vibrant sense of community more pronounced. CC’s and JYSEP accelerate community building.

10. NSA to engage in regular consultation with Counsellors on form of scheme of cluster coordination being studied by International Teaching Center.

11. Ramifications for organization of National Center. Decentralization to respond to financial needs at grassroots. Funds for part- and full-time workers.

12. Growth not to revolve around expectations or presence of RC members. Requests for reports or gatherings deferred in response to needs of grassroots.

13. Appreciation of efforts. Ardent supplications on behalf of new RC’s. May Baha’u’llah bless American Baha’i community.

Department of the Secretariat

9 August 2012

Categories
- Governance Discourse

Surgical Politics

Our goal is to participate in discourses of importance to society at all levels of stratification, from informal discussions on internet forums and attendance at regional seminars, to the dissemination of insightful statements and relationships with government officials. It is necessary to forge a dialogue and maintain a presence in the many social spaces in which thought and policy-making take place. But, we ought to desist from participating in partisan political processes and discussions that are not constructive.  To do this we must develop first a perception that discriminates between forums for constructive, noble discourse, in which we seek to engage, as opposed to divisive, partisan discourse, which must be quarantined and allowed to fade.

The principles that help identify boundaries between processes and discussions that are unproductive for us to participate in are part of a surgical approach to political discourse which is invasive and substantial, in terms of achieving social change, but which intentionally and distinctly avoids elements that can act as a quagmire or self-corrupting influence within partisan systems. What principles can guide us in our efforts to determine what elements and when to participate in specific discursive processes? What initiatives can we take to participate in public discourses as individuals and when should we maintain silence or non-involvement on a forum or issue for the achievement of an higher common unity?

How can we cultivate a deeper understanding of the grand narrative of social transformation at work in global challenges, reading into it more than just superficial phenomena, and how can we align our political goals with this epochal process? Partisan viewpoints that drag unsuspecting activists into immovable ideological gridlock ought to be avoided, among other things. What spiritual insight will guide us to distinguish constructive processes that advance civilization from divisive partisan processes that ought to be avoided?

Categories
- Consultation Discourse Knowledge Oneness

Truth, Civility, and Consultation Part I

Unity and Truth are closely related. If two people argue about a matter both are wrong about it. Prevalent assumptions hold that truth can be known and should be sought by individuals.

Alternate epistemologies hold that truth should really be pursued as a collective, as a community, or in a social setting. This view maintains that truth can be discovered and investigated most effectively through loving and inclusive consultation, within increasing circles of participation. In this way, unity becomes the prerequisite of knowledge; Truth emerges through a combination of diverse perspectives and experiences. Unified groups and loving communities foster an environment in which shared needs come to the fore of the discussion, common sentiments are given voice, and universal solutions are propounded. United consultation acts as a conduit for collective understanding, it brings all members of the community into connection with others’ needs, creates collective vision, gives a sense of power over what is to be done, and inspires people to act on behalf of the common weal. Furthermore, unified discussion enriches and spreads widely the details and intricate workings of community infrastructure and with swiftness spreads the understanding of the problem, the parameters of shared resources, and suggests effectively the proposals of collective response. Great swiftness and ease characterize consultative approaches to problem solving. The emergence of a collective mind to accompany a community’s spirit becomes natural.

Categories
- Consultation Discourse Knowledge

Study, Consultation, Action, Reflection

An approach to the generation and application of knowledge within a learning mode occurs through a process of study, consultation, action, and reflection.

Science and religion are the two systems of knowledge and practice that strive to describe reality, and are studied in an ongoing and systematic manner, with humility and with the understanding of their complementarity. This study is undertaken for the purpose of informing action, to apply insights generated.

As reality is multifaceted and complex, and every individual has a unique perspective on some aspect of reality as an object of study, then consultation is the method by which a more accurate depiction of reality can be created. For consultation to be effective, the individuals participating must have purity of motive, humility, truthfulness, patience, and detachment. In an atmosphere of openness, mutual respect, and commitment to truth, individuals can exchange diverse views on reality, offering them to be critically and frankly examined, in a dispassionate and courteous way. The more individuals that contribute perspectives, the more facets of this highly complex reality will be illuminated.

Tentative insights into reality, through study and consultation, must be tested against reality for learning to advance. A goal and purpose of study and consultation is action – in particular to not only effect individual and collective transformation, but to learn about it. Thus, action in a learning mode must be unified and accommodate diversity, must reconceptualize mistakes as opportunities for growth, must aim to build capacity in all participates to become protagonists of learning.

For learning to actually take place, reflection on action is essential in order to analyze observations, modify conceptions previously held, and adjust subsequent action. This is both an individual and a collective endeavor – individually, realizing one’s capacities and how best to manifest them; collectively, as just with consultation, each person’s diverse views can provide a unique perspective.

Study, consultation, action, and reflection are interwoven aspects of a single coherence process of learning.

What are your reflections on reflection itself?

Categories
Justice

Cardiovascular Justice – 1

Once again, principles applied in our social reality can be informed by the analogy of the human body.  Justice, on one level, should govern decision-making processes.  One example of collective decisions is the distribution of resources – the economic system.  What is the human body’s macro-economic system?  The distribution of blood, one of the body’s most valuable possessions, is highly complex and awe-inspiring.  One thing that is apparent, when studying cardiovascular physiology, is that this system is governed by justice.

The 20th century was ideologically dominated by two schools of thought at opposite ends of a spectrum; and the economic systems of the world tended towards one or the other end of the spectrum (with none being purely one or the other).  One is characterized as unfettered individualism, in which people are self-interested actors competing for the accumulation of resources based on their own abilities.  The other is characterized as suffocating collectivism, in which a state machinery distributes resources according to some centrally planned equal proportion.  If we apply either of these models to the human body, we would witness disastrous results.

In a Laissez-faire model, organs compete for blood flow, maximally dilating their arteries in an attempt to secure as much blood possible; to their justification, each rightfully believes that it is an integral part of the whole organism and needs blood to survive, and thus it is in the best interest of the body that it labors to acquire blood.  There are multiple organs that have great capacity for taking cardiac output – the digestive organs and the skeletal muscles, in particular.  Each can take, say, 70% of the heart’s output.  Imagine if every organ competed according to its ability; no other organs would get any blood.  It becomes quickly evident that each organ competing towards its own self-interest would kill the body.

In a communistic model, centrally controlled factors distribute resources according to some type of equal proportion, such as weight, volume, activity, etc.  Again, death would quickly ensue.  If each organ got blood flow equalized for its weight, for instance, then organs such as the muscles and skin, which together take over half the body’s weight, would receive too much blood; while the brain and kidneys, equaling a small percentage of weight, would whither away.

How does the body determine blood flow?

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
- Prevailing Conceptions - Three Protagonists Human Nature Oneness

The Rise of Christianity and Individualism

The socio-spiritual phenomenon beginning circa 33 AD inaugurated an era of ever-deepening emphasis on the social reality of the individual, in terms of her or his status and rights, merits and responsibilities, and origins and opportunities. The various religions of Christianity are not individualistic ideologies per se. Indeed Christianities historically and geographically have inculcated tens of thousands of institutionalized structures designed to give prominence to community based and collectivist forms of social organization, value normalization, and moral education. Churches speak of their communal existence through congregational participation as “the body of Christ,” a metaphor of the unity of all its members into a single body unified by ritualistic and soteriological association. Worldwide, altruistic charity has often been associated with church-related motivations in television, newspapers, and news media. Notwithstanding, individualism emerged as a new way of thinking and acting that grew in seventeenth century Europe. At this stage it was confined to purely secular sectors of society and indeed may have attracted some heterodoxical condemnations from church authorities against its philosophical proponents at the time of its initial formulation. It was in the context of the political and economic rights of the propertied that the initial dogmas of individualism, with imperatives for behavior and property protection, were classically formulated. At the time this was a more or less secular domain of concern. Nevertheless Christianity would go on to re-shape the modern notion of the individual in a way that restructured societal self-conception and organization forever after. A force as powerful as Christian faith revolutionizes social realities it touches. As the dove that lighted upon Jesus’ shoulder after baptism in river Jordan, the history of the individual before and after, has never been the same. With the rise of Christianity, people had the opportunity to choose whether they wanted to believe in Jesus as God’s Messiah or to deny Him. Faith, previously a matter of birthright in the Jewish milieu from which Christianity emerged, became a matter of personal choice. Jesus says, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on Earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:34–39 NASB) Judaism saw religion as a product of ethnicity and birthright, situating religion squarely in the domains of community based, collectivist forms of social organization. Penance was earned by a Jewish community when it unitedly sacrificed non-human animals to appease the indiscriminate wrath of God for their collective transgressions as a community. This relationship existed in Christianity at the level of the individual, where religious allegiance became a matter of personal choice, salvation became a function of faith in Jesus, and ethnicity and community – indeed all manner of collectivist social organization – were categorically subordinated to individual religious conscience. Communities bound by blood were transmuted into congregations constructed on personal faith, God’s chosen people through family origin and birthright were transformed into communities of salvation through the inner experience of belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Protestantism further pioneered the framework of rights and responsibilities that led to individualism as a cultural and economic status quo. Max Webber insightfully deconstructs the involved sociological link between the protestant work ethic and the imperatives and motivations central to economic laissez-faire capitalism, within which individualism flourished widely. The stage was set for industrialization, the scientific revolution, unilateral economic growth, and various associated global challenges.

Categories
- Prevailing Conceptions - Three Protagonists

Ideological Either-Or

In addition to individualism and individuality, here are two more examples of fragmented social theories on the conception of the individual: anarchism and socialism.

Anarchism’s view places the individual as the source of inspiration, and values freedom for the people from the state.  It is not the popularly-held notion that individuals just create disorder in society through lack of rules.  Rather, social rules and moral principles are only valuable to the extent that they don’t repress the individual, but free him from imposition of political authority.  People naturally have energy and talents, and they should have the freedom to express and develop these.  A collection of self-interested actors will create a successful collective.

Socialism’s target for critique is capitalism, in which, they claim, egoism and anarchistic pursuit of self-interest creates disorder and disunity.  Socialism resolves this by places higher value on service to the community and placing confidence in order.  No individual is free from social ties, and thus no individual can simply pursue one’s own interest; the Robinson Crusoe ideal is absurd and can’t actually exist.  Socialism’s collective values, implemented by a strong state apparatus, will establish an equality and freedom that capitalism cannot naturally achieve.

Clearly, none of these theories provide an adequate enough understanding of human nature required for humanity’s imminent transformation.  How have these prevalent thoughts been incorporated into society’s current view of an individual?  What are they missing?  What do they have in common?  What are some of your thoughts on human nature?

Categories
Oneness

Collective Transformation and the Individual

Oneness reconceptualized across spatial and intergenerational dimensions informs social policy and institutions. Re-structuring according to principles of reciprocity, cooperation and interconnectedness engenders profound ramifications for the relationship binding the individual and society. All humans are molded by their environment, some less than others, and yet all of us are gifted with the capacity to free ourselves from delimiting social norms. The term ‘social action’ has been coined to describe the process by which an individual acts on her or his society to upgrade it. Who are such individuals we can ask? Describe the role such individuals play in the generation and structuring of a New World Order. How would you describe the interaction between such social actors and the collective society to which they belong, and which they seek to transform? Can we trace the dramatic divergences of the concept and practice of what it means to be an “individual” as it has evolved in antiquity through medieval and feudal societies  to modern western nations and  eventually how it will look in the united and prosperous future of our race? What kind of woman, man, or child actually carries out the stepping and ploughing of an ever-advancing civilization? What are the foremost virtues of this new race of citizen-statesmen?

Categories
Oneness

Oneness through Time and Space

Following the last post’s foundational conviction that society should be organized according to the principles of reciprocity, cooperation, and interconnectedness, that oneness is the operating principle of civilization – as well as following a previous post’s idea that oneness is an ontological truth of reality – our perspective takes on dimensions of time and space.

On a spatial level, these principles imply the need for a global perspective.  The well-being of geographically distant people is taken into account for personal and collective decision-making.  If, indeed, oneness of humanity is the principle by which civilization operates, then the well-being of the entire earth’s population needs to be accounted for in decisions made by any one part of the world.  (And this is precisely how human physiology operates.)

On a temporal level, our perspective needs to be intergenerational.  In other words, the well-being of future generations of people is taken into account for any personal, local, collective, or world-wide decision-making.  If one thinks more deeply, this is also a feature of human physiology, particularly during embryonic and infant stages of development.  This temporal dimension to the oneness of humankind provides the foundation for the concept of sustainability – concern for future well-being – a concern that is more fully understood when adopting a vision of the body of humanity over time.

The environment crisis is one practical example of ignoring these two dimensions of oneness.  Can you think of others?  How can these issues be addressed through this richer understanding of oneness?  Any daily life examples of the operationalization of the principle of oneness?