Saturday, 20 June 2015

The Evolution of Thought

It is my belief that there are a few major changes which will need to occur in our ways of thinking, as individuals, and as a species, if we are ever to reach the next level of our sociological development. And by ‘next level’ I mean a society with fairness and equity for all its members, that is, all humans worldwide; an almost ‘Star Trek’ level, which is neither as silly nor as unachievable as it sounds. Perhaps eventually a ‘Human Charter’ will be drafted, taking the Human Rights Act, and incorporating also a social philosophy of compassion, and responsibility.

So, I have listed the ways in which I believe we must evolve our thinking.
  1. Religion – In terms of the way it presents obligations over others, religion will have to go. A softer spiritualism may remain, may even be necessary. A system of thought which is regressive, and values ignorance over genuine freedom of thought, is not conducive to a world which seeks to evolve and improve.
  2. The primacy of the human over the idea. – People have rights. Ideas do not have rights.
  3. Racism – As a general term, to mean a realisation that although differences will always occur, these must cease to be used as a differentiating mark between us, we must treat each other based on how we behave. It makes no more sense to judge a person’s character on the basis of their colour as it does to do so based on their eye colour.
  4. Sexism – similarly to the above, women, and persons of what I might call ambiguous sex or gender (which are not the same thing), must be afforded the same rights, pay, and opportunities as men. Women must be enfranchised and given control of their bodies.
  5. Sex - attitudes to sex, and consent, must alter, to the extent that others do not seek to determine what constitutes normal or proper activity for others; this is, within the limits set by consenting adults.
  6. Countries – whilst people’s pride in their origins should not and cannot be removed, the idea of strictly-defined nation states with borders will need to end, as will the idea that people can be defined or categorised so easily. This will only be possible once all the world has been raised to a roughly level standard, so that borders may be drooped without fear of a flood of immigrants looking for the benefits more developed nations provide. There will always be a necessity for local laws, customs, and governments, but this will be more a global federation with smaller powers for cities than anything approaching nation states.
  7. Money – the usage of money will have to evolve and eventually be replaced by a system of credits. The accumulation of money (and things) will cease to be the driving force in human lives. The quest to be better than we are must become our unifying goal.
  8. Things – this will require perhaps one of the hardest changes to the human mind set imaginable, i.e. the removal of greed, and/or the removal of the materialism which comes with modern capitalism.
  9. Crime – the mind set of the vast majority of the human race will need to cease to glamorise (certain types of) crime, and instead embrace a system of rules which is to their benefit. If this can be done, many of the problems which currently occur can be overcome. We may look to and enhance the ideas of current societies in order to facilitate this, taking those things which work well and applying them elsewhere.
  10. Government – hand in hand with the above, governments (such as they may be in the new system) will need to be transparent, democratic, and free of corruption. This will enable the buy-in from the people which is needed to authorise any system of fair governance. Only when people can see that a system of government benefits them and, broadly speaking, serves their best interests, will they embrace it fully, nor should they do otherwise.
  11. Power – as touched on before, the desire to impose one’s will or way of thinking on others must be changed. Taste must not dictate legislation. Human lives and desires will never completely match each other, and this is to be accepted and understood.
  12. Philosophy – a legal, social, and moral school of thought geared towards compassion, but also towards the responsibility of the individual, while also championing the rights of each individual to live in the way they feel is best for themselves. A social conscience is desirable and necessary.
  13. Ecology - a respect for nature, of which we are a part, and a striving, with our economics, technology and resource usage, to live amongst and share the planet, and protect it from harm. Unless the methods of farming are radically altered, meat consumption will also become a luxury rather than a daily necessity.
  14. Children – along with a new attitude toward the planet must come a realisation that its resources are not infinite, and we must temper our reproduction in a responsible fashion. I have written about this before so do not need to go into more detail here.
  15. The cult of celebrity - which is by no means a modern disease, but which has in our time, reached new levels of absurdity. Merit, or talent, as elements of praise and reward, must become the norm. Idiocy, obnoxiousness, and arrogance should be pitied and despised.
  16. Class - the idea that one can be born into positions of wealth and power, and responsibility, must end. This is true not only for the more obvious cases, such a modern royalty, but also in the unending cycle of the prevalence and pre-eminence of families and groups of people, whose interest lies in precisely the opposite direction to that which I am suggesting. A change in attitude to inheritance must also prevail; if the concept of money goes, so goes the ability to be given much without earning any of it.
  17. Mental illness - the stigma around such conditions needs to be removed, and replaced with the same compassion we show to those with physical problems. The body and the mind are intertwined, but out attitudes to afflictions of the one sort are often alarmingly primitive.
  18. The self, and selfishness - I suppose the central theme of this blog is the idea that people are able to consider their actions in relation to others, which sounds simple but sometimes seems much less common than could be expected. There is value in a sense of self-worth, but this is most true when taken in conjunction with a considerate estimation of the needs of others.

Some of the concepts I have mentioned are here now, and many communities on Earth have embraced them, or begun to do so. Others are longer term goals. All are intertwined. It seems that, in short, we must change much of how we currently live, and defy much of what we consider to be our nature. This is difficult, but not impossible. As to whether it can ever be truly achieved, well, I guess that is up to us.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

The Unspoken Problem

Go to any news website right now and take a look at the problems which are occurring in the world. I am willing to bet that a good proportion of them are due to the same root cause, and yet it is a cause which is rarely discussed in any solid or serious terms. I am talking, of course, about people, and more specifically, about the fact that there are, in essence, too many of us.

I want to put forth the argument that expansion for the sake of expansion is not only illogical, it is also morally unjustifiable. First of all, there is a simple mathematics at work here. You have an area (or a planet) with finite resources, resources which are necessary to human survival. You also have a number of people who may potentially inhabit said area. The fact is that each human requires a certain amount of resources over the course of their life in order to stay alive, and even more resources in order to thrive (the definition of thriving varies from place to place, but I’ll ignore this consideration for now). Therefore, to live comfortably, the amount of humans in any one area cannot go beyond a maximum, or you find yourself with such problems as overcrowding, drought, starvation, lack of housing, and these problems lead to crime, war, and conflict.

Because the resources of any one place cannot be said to be infinite, we need to consider the amount of people who may live comfortably (or even uncomfortably) in any one area, by considering the amount of (existing or potential) water, food, housing, and other resources available to them. If we fail to do so, we invite famine, conflict, and general human misery.

This is not idle speculation. As I have said, these problems are already occurring, on not inconsiderable scales worldwide. It is therefore, in my opinion, not only illogical, but also irresponsible and arrogant to continue to pump out humans without taking these problems into account. A change in attitude is required in order for us to avoid or mitigate the aforementioned issues.

Other challenges loom. The way we operate as a species is now threatening, and has for some time, the existence of other species on the planet. We have already caused the extinction of species like the Dodo, the Moa, and the Tasmanian Tiger. Whereas in the past we may have been able to claim ignorance of our effect on these animals, in the future we will have no such excuse. Even when we do not directly hunt a species, we may still cause its decline by the way we operate, due to factors like habitat fragmentation and deforestation, as is evident in the jungles of south-east Asia, and the plight many of the threatened species there.

Let me be clear here: this planet is not ours. We act like we own it, but in reality, we share it. To allow other species to be destroyed, whether by action or inaction, as a result of our economic pressures or, more simply, our garbage and pollutants, is criminal. Furthermore, if the moral imperative were not enough, we are pushing the planet to the point where it will become much less suitable for supporting human life, as well as the life of other species. This is a problem which must be addressed.

Now, we have begun to change our ways. New technologies and new ways of thinking are beginning to solve problems, clean things up, and make living conditions better for millions of people, and other species. But it is my opinion that even if science can save us from ourselves, it still does not stand to reason that we should keep filling the planet up with people indefinitely. There is only so much space. There are environments and places we should keep free of human influence, both because they are home to other beings, and also because of their importance to the way the Earth’s ecosystems work. These places should not be destroyed or corrupted. Other forms of life would perhaps assert its right to exist in the strongest terms, were it capable of doing so. As it does not have such capability, we must speak and act on its behalf.

So, next is the question of what can be done. We have seen some experimentation (for lack of a better word) in this area, in the oft-quoted One Child Policy implemented in parts of China. The policy is not without its exceptions, controversies, and challenges, but it speaks to a reasonable concern among leaders that indefinite population growth is neither sustainable nor desirable. There will be no one policy suitable to all places and peoples, but I would say that, in a general sense, a change in attitude is required to avert both human misery and conflict, as well as global catastrophe. This I believe to be a logical extrapolation from available information, rather than scaremongering or general misanthropy.

The moral imperative lies with governments, and individuals, when deciding how to behave. In the same way that responsible leaders will need to balance the pressures of day-to-day life for those they lead, with the problems of environmental damage and the threats arising therefrom, so they will need to begin to examine attitudes to procreation, and the idea that more is better may simply have to be abandoned. This will not be easy. Attitudes are based on any number of things, from one’s own childhood memories, to religious or superstitious convictions, to social attitudes. Still, change must come, or change will be forced upon us by the simple pressures of resource limitation. We will either succeed, or we will suffer.