Database of Social Maps
We present here five examples of Social Maps based on great issues of our time. The first is by Anthony J. Parrotto, the author of Navigating The Mazeway.
Please note: Because the combination of great issues addressed by each participant may differ slightly, you will find a list of them at the beginning of each map.
Anthony J. Parrotto
MY SOCIAL MAP by Anthony J. Parrotto
|BASED ON THESE GREAT ISSUES|
|Leadership & Followership||Governance|
|Natural Resources||Planned vs. Market Economies|
|Overpopulation||Reason vs. Faith|
From my point of view this is the most important great issue, not only during our time, for all time. There is hardly any talk about conceptual imprisonment. It remains obscure even though most of us are imprisoned by illusions, prejudices, and self-limiting ideologies encoded on our consciousness by prevailing institutions. Such conceptual confinement diminishes us as individuals, separates us into warring camps, and perpetuates the endless cycle of misadventures, destruction, and despair that humankind endures. Taught to be faithful and stay within bounds, we believe that problems society faces is caused by the faulty orientation of others, rather than consider the possibility that our own orientation may be faulty. This paralysis prevails worldwide and positions humankind within a race against time. Will we discover soon enough how to transcend conceptual imprisonment and resolve a coherent, moral, and universal strategy regarding how we can move forward together creatively, joyfully, and peacefully? Or, will we lose the race and become just another failed civilization, if not a failed species? In the meantime, entrenched institutions focus on maintaining the status quo and their power and control, rather than adapting to change and serving the best interest of humankind. This recipe for disaster will continue unless enough of us become comprehensive, critical thinking, self-directed individuals who lead and/or follow in a manner that transforms entrenched institutions or spawns new ones that are open-ended, self-catalyzing, and self-cleansing.
Leadership & Followership
There has always been the need for effective leaders who possess courage, creativity, communication skills, and, above all else, vision of how to move forward together creatively, joyfully, and peacefully. However, what is becoming increasingly clear is that we need keenly aware and inspired followership. Followership not in the sense of blind faith or being programmable machines, but as intelligent and aware beings that understand the critical issues that endanger this planet and her inhabitants, which need to be addressed. Therefore, if we are to become keenly aware followers within the social process, “we the people” must be educated in a manner that increases our awareness of what is possible and what to demand of ourselves and of our leaders and institutions in a creative and peaceful way. As such, it should become clear to us that systems of education constitute the most pivotal institutions of modern times and need to begin imparting knowledge in a manner that empowers students to become comprehensive, critical thinking, and self-directed – essential attributes of leadership and followership.
I believe that, even after 16 or more years in school, very few students become (a) comprehensive, (b) critical thinking, (c) self-directed individuals, (d) liberated from illusions, prejudices and self-limiting ideologies, and (e) coherently oriented in a complex, rapidly changing, global environment. As a result, a great number of students remain conceptually imprisoned within a provincial orientation and move on with their lives as fragmented, incidental cogs in one part or another of the mindless socio-economic machine of our time, largely unaware of the premises that empower it and frustrated about how to adapt to it or how to improve it. Within my book and on my website, www.mazeway.com, I define a knowledge imparting strategy that is designed to enable students to escape conceptual imprisonment and resolve their truth and their true identity as unique individuals, who are becoming whole, free, and empowered to shape their existence consciously from their own point of view.
Unfortunately, due to a lack of vision and moral leadership, we and other peoples find ourselves in an increasingly precarious position when it comes to natural resources. The confluence of environmental degradation, overpopulation, globalization, and over-consumption press the limits of the supply of fossil fuels, water, and other natural resources. I believe we would be shaken to our core if we understood the possible outcomes of a lack of coherent and credible strategies regarding natural resources. We would be less inclined as individuals to be coconspirators with those in positions of power, who stress narrow self-interests, while ignoring long-term consequences. It is important to understand that too many of us, as mindless consumers and apathetic citizens, have allowed politicians and those who direct commercial enterprises to compromise our future. Unless enough of us reduce consumption and work together in a creative manner to exercise our influence in the governance of natural resources, we should not be surprised by a decline in our standard of living and/or by serious disruptions of social order here and abroad.
The viability of our planet is fundamentally important to our existence. Accordingly, I think it is unwise to risk our well being and that of our children based on the rationale that there might be insufficient proof that we are heading toward trouble. I support those who err on the side of playing it safe, even if it means we may need to simplify our lifestyle. I suspect that those in the future looking back will be astounded by the mindlessness and malfeasance of leaders of various commercial enterprises and government agencies regarding how they dealt with environmental issues. And I suspect those looking back will be astonished by our consumption habits and wonder how we thought we could continue to consume the resources of the planet at such a remarkable rate without deleterious effects. It is becoming increasingly clear that, unless we educate and discipline ourselves regarding our relationship to the environment, we will fail the promise to our progeny and the promise to the rest of those who follow us. Don’t we realize that we are contradicting ourselves when we say to our children, on one hand, that we love them, and, on the other hand, we undermine the viability of our planet through selfish, gluttonous lifestyles?
How we deal with the phenomenon of overpopulation will affect the outcome of the challenges we face regarding the environment and natural resources. In their book, The Population Explosion, Paul and Anne Ehrlich defined overpopulation as: “When a country’s population can’t be maintained without rapidly depleting nonrenewable resources (or converting renewable resources into nonrenewable ones) and without degrading the capacity of the environment to support the population. In short, if the long-term carrying capacity of an area is clearly being degraded by its current human occupants, that area is overpopulated.” They went on to say: “The United States is overpopulated because it is depleting its soil and water resources and contributing mightily to the destruction of global environmental systems.” They added: “Almost all the rich nations are overpopulated because they are rapidly drawing down stocks of resources around the world. They don’t live solely on the land in their own nations; they are spending their capital with no thought for the future.”
I support the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, more popularly known as Obamacare. I support this law in spite of its shortcomings, many of which are the result of compromises resolved with lobbyists dedicated to special interests. For example, to capitalize on their position, insurance and pharmaceutical companies have used their enormous power to influence government regulatory agencies and other parts of our healthcare system. At the same time, lobbyists representing medical malpractice lawyers petitioned government officials to ensure that the system continues to allow malpractice lawyers to sue physicians and hospitals for excessive amounts of money. This increases the cost of insurance and causes the practice of medicine to become so defensive that the quality of care is diminished while the cost of medical services is increased. The combination of such self-serving behavior contributes to the shameful fact that a great number of individuals remain uninsured and that our system of healthcare is underachieving in spite of the enormous amount of resources being applied.
The World Health Organization in year 2000 ranked the U.S.A. 38th of healthcare of 190 countries, while we ranked first in terms of cost. In the year 2013, a Bloomberg study ranked the U.S.A. 46th health care, while we ranked 2nd would feel ashamed if I was functioning within the system and not trying to change it.
I believe that countless thousands of physicians, nurses, and other practitioners should be commended for their dedication to providing worthwhile healthcare services. However, most remain unaware that they are part of a system that is based largely on industrial age modeling, where standardized protocols promote the consumption of drugs and the treatment of symptoms and diseases, more than they promote the discovery of causes and the fostering of prevention. And, we must add to this disquieting equation the fact that most of us do not choose healthy diets and lifestyles. While this reflects our own lack of discipline and common sense, I believe it also reflects the failure of our system of education to teach us systematically and convincingly how to maintain full health. If our system of education did manage to do this and we, in turn, exercised more discipline individually, less healthcare would be needed and a greater number of us would die of old age rather than costly diseases.
While I believe a market economy functions better than one based on socialism, I do not think our healthcare system should function as a set of self-serving business enterprises. Healthcare should be considered a cultural institution that satisfies the needs of all citizens, rather than a business driven by greed and the illusion that the system is functioning admirably. Accordingly, I support a system of universal healthcare, as long as it is designed to be open-ended, self-catalyzing and self-cleansing, rather than just another government program, destined to become highly bureaucratic, inefficient, and more costly than need be.
Humankind has the resources and know-how to extinguish poverty. However, we lack the leadership, integrity, selflessness, and corporate structures to get the job done. While we may applaud present efforts, they do not represent a comprehensive, adequately funded, and efficient strategy to deal with the magnitude of the problem, which is exacerbated by bad governance practices and heartless corruption. Even in the United States, the richest, most powerful nation on the planet, profound suffering and/or a shortened lifespan are experienced by many people within the lower strata of our society due to poverty. Somehow, in our egocentric, fragmented, frenzied existence, we feel little shame in having so much to enjoy, while so many human beings suffer and die needlessly. I believe most of us would support, much more generously, programs that work to extinguish poverty within a generation, if there was leadership with the vision to design and orchestrate them coherently and morally. Such a goal is within our reach, if we manage our resources and sort out our priorities more judiciously and more compassionately. It is important to realize that sacrificing to help the poor will fulfill us more surely than undue devotion to material wealth and consumption.
Unfortunately, history is not encouraging in terms of showing that humankind has the capacity to govern its institutions in a manner that is effective and sustainable. Somehow we manage to design and orchestrate them in a fashion that leads to stultifying bureaucracy, wastefulness, arrogance, corruption, and decline. Given this pattern, we should not be surprised by our society’s inability to respond effectively to the great issues of our time. It seems odd to me that we continue to employ traditional, top-down, bureaucratic structures to govern political, economic, and cultural institutions when we know that they will, by design, fail their promise sooner or later. Why must we endure such foolishness and remain so vulnerable, given the fact that there are strategies other than bureaucracies for organizing our institutions?
The alternative to traditional, top-down, bureaucratic structures for governing our institutions is “the learning organizations.” Self-catalyzing and self-cleansing, a learning organization understands itself as a dynamic, open-ended system of human beings dedicated to using feedback systems and alignment mechanisms to continually adapt, learn, and grow in order to respond to changes in the social process. The knowledge concerning how to develop learning organizations already exists. We must appreciate the governance principles involved and demand from our leaders that they utilize them within our institutions or get out of the way.
Corruption is more pervasive than we realize. In some countries it is so common that their government is often referred to as a “kleptocracy,” that is, “rule by thieves.” While in the U.S.A. there is no way of measuring the prevalence of corruption, I suspect that we would puke if we knew the extent of bribery, extortion, cronyism, nepotism, patronage, graft, embezzlement, and other forms of corruption. Like a low-grade infection, it insidiously undermines the health of our institutions and the trust we have in them. Can we cure this infection? While probably not completely, I believe we can greatly reduce the incidence of corruption, if we recognize that it is we who allow the circumstances to exist within which such misbehavior occurs. If we persevere and work with enough other citizens diligently, we can insist on a re-structuring of our institutions (as I mention in my opinion on Governance) to function organically with checks and balances that keep the levers of power and control out in the open for all to observe and question. We can insist on true transparency and accountability with no more backroom deals, no-notice-middle-of-the-night voting, or other malfeasance.
Planned vs. Market Economies
I am more of a capitalist than a socialist. I believe a market economy works better than an economic system in which the means of production are owned and controlled collectively in an effort to effect social equality and an equitable distribution of wealth. However, I believe both ideologies will ultimately fail because they do not fully satisfy the criteria of being open-ended self-catalyzing and self-cleansing, and because neither prizes equity, justice, and compassion. Actually, a market economy is open-ended, self-catalyzing and self-cleansing whenever the dynamics of supply and demand are allowed to function without restraint. However, I do not think it is sustainable, as we know it. Driven mindlessly by power and money, free-market business enterprises affect our political and cultural institutions insidiously to the extent that their long-term viability is undermined. Therefore, it will not matter if our standard of living improves in the short term. Eventually, the “house of cards” will implode, and those who resisted or manipulated useful regulations for selfish reasons will not have served their progeny very well.
Unlike Capitalism, Socialism, as we have known it, lacks inherent processes that make it open-ended, self-catalyzing, and self-cleansing. As a result, its institutions are not sustainable in the long term, however good the intentions may be of those who promote its programs. Overall, the reality has been that we have not had the leadership required to create a coherent and moral vision of how the attributes and benefits of a market economy can be combined with the value of worthwhile social programs. The possibility of a hybrid economy is within our reach, if we incorporate love, compassion, and truthfulness within our institutions. If not, we will become just another failed culture eventually, in spite of how rich and powerful we were.
Globalization is an inherent part of the evolutionary process. Through the ages, to survive or to improve their conditions, humans migrated to unknown places wherever their sensibilities led them for better or worse. The overall result of those adventurous journeys led to what we now refer to as the “global village.” That is, an environment that connects humankind culturally, politically, and economically around the planet. Given this shrinking social space connecting people with diverse orientations, the questions now becomes: (1) Do we possess the humility, resilience, and awareness to dialog constructively with individuals and institutions from a wide range of cultures and economic interests to reconcile differences and agree upon how we can move forward together creatively, joyfully, or peacefully? Or (2) will we continue to behave egocentrically and maintain illusions, prejudices, and self-limiting ideologies that separate us into warring camps and perpetuate the endless cycle of misadventures, destruction, and despair that humankind endures? The answers to these demanding questions will depends on how well humankind adapts to the reality that we are one species of conscious beings on a developmental journey together in the mazeway. I do not think there is much hope for a viable future if we are not able to deal with the phenomenon of entrenched institutions dedicated to maintaining the status quo and their power and control. I suggest that we either transform them or spawn new institutions that are open-ended, self-catalyzing, and self-cleansing, while serving the best interests of humankind. To accomplish this, we need to educate ourselves in a manner that increases our awareness of what is possible and what to demand of ourselves and of our institutions in a creative and peaceful way.
Reason vs. Faith
Our effort to navigate the mazeway and to fulfill our best possibilities is a test of our being — a test of our capacity to access the “moral compass” within us. I define our moral compass as a gestalt of our mental faculties — the sum of our intelligence, intuition, imagination, memory, and conscience. The combination of these attributes, functioning in a coherent and moral manner, can propel us to a higher level of awareness within which we transcend our conceptual imprisonment and egocentricity. We access our moral compass when we are quiet, peaceful, and motivated by love and selflessness.
This may occur through deep meditation, prayer, uplifting rituals, artful music, and other such experiences that help our mental faculties to resonate as one. However, we may misread our moral compass. We may believe that the visions it reveals came from a god separate from us, a god ruling the mazeway in a literal sense. As comforting as such faith might be, I think it leads to traps within the mazeway that have had, and continue to have, very serious consequences.
Absolute faith in revelations and premises that underpin one’s religion precludes reconciling with other points of view and adapting new insights that may materialize during humankind’s developmental journey. As a result, religious absolutists may end up supporting concepts long after they have been proven wrong, such as believing that our planet is the center of the universe. A more profound consequence of this kind of closed-mindedness is that some leaders and followers become so extreme in the moral certainty of their beliefs that they perpetrate destructive crusades and other forms of holy wars in the name of their god. Much of the terrorism we are experiencing today is generated by such absolutism.
I believe we misunderstand the moral compass within us when we fail to honor its capacity to reason and its need for coherence. Reason is the variable within the equating action of our moral compass that will enable us to reconcile our differences and navigate the mazeway creatively, joyfully, and peacefully.
Terrorism is generating anxiety and fear in many parts of the world. While humankind has survived past misadventures through the ages resulting from extremism, we should be concerned today because some terrorists and nations may soon gain weapons of mass destruction (if they don’t already possess them) that can cause the death of tens of millions of people, and make parts of our planet uninhabitable. I believe that, if the United States is to lead the war against terrorism successfully, we must understand that our great wealth, enormous military power, impressive technologies, and modern lifestyles may hurt more than help us deal with a war of ideas, especially in a world where highly diverse ideologies and lifestyles are contrasted, and vast economic differences are vividly displayed. Terrorism gains momentum through misunderstanding, alienation, despair, jealousy, poverty, violence, and through attempts at domination. When we are guilty of hypocrisy and questionable use of power to serve our economic and political interests, it makes it difficult to appeal to the sensibilities of moderates whose political leverage within communities of potential terrorists could greatly diminish the energy of the terrorists’ campaigns of recruitment. We must accept that our dubious behavior increases the number of terrorists and strengthens their resolve. Strangely, we have yet to learn that we cannot extol a humanitarian vision and act like a duplicitous, gluttonous bully at the same time.
MY SOCIAL MAP by Mary Warren
BASED ON THESE GREAT ISSUES
Natural Resources Terrorism
The Environment Governance
Healthcare Planned vs. Market Economies
Leadership Relativism vs. Absolutism
Poverty Holistic vs. Myopic Vision
Our government’s policy on energy is controlled by the oil industry in our country, as well as, impacted by oil production and policy in other parts of the world. However, there is much that is within our control that our country needs to be addressing. We need to support with federal dollars a strong program for development of alternative energy sources in order to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Lip service for such programs is not enough. We need active government leadership for both alternative energy sources and for conservation of resources. Voluntary programs for both will not produce the level of results necessary. What we need are financial and tax incentives for industry to develop fuel-efficient and alternative fuel cars and trucks, as well as, tax incentives for consumers to buy these cars and trucks and gas tax disincentives to use them less.
Not to address these energy issues now will make an energy crisis of enormous proportions for our children and grandchildren. How greedy will we continue to be versus how much do we care about the well being of the next generation?
I consider myself an environmentally conscious person, yet I don’t think about conserving gas in my car until the cost goes above $3.00 a gallon or gas to heat my home until the cost goes up 40%. I believe we, in our highly consumer oriented society, are greedily destroying our environment, yet I do little individually to protect it. I support governmental regulation to conserve our natural resources and to limit pollution.
Our government and industries do not focus on long-term consequences to the environment in their decisions and laws. By their very nature, politicians must focus on short-term issues that will get them elected and industry must be concerned with making money in the current fiscal year for stockholders. This leaves ordinary citizens to create pressure on government and industry, through environmental lobby and interest groups, to drive the engine of change in our society from ravenous consumption to more thoughtful, less selfish life styles. I do not think I will change my behavior significantly until we all are required to sacrifice a part of our consumer mentality.
It bothers me that our government is actively resisting the rest of the world in the attempt to resolve our global environmental problems while our country is the greatest culprit in creating them. One way for individuals to make an impact on environmental problems is to write, call or e-mail our Congressional Representatives and Senators.
Before we address global overpopulation, our country needs to address our own overpopulation in relation to our consumption of resources. Until we have a self- sustaining environment, which does not deplete our resources faster than they are replenished, our country is overpopulated. In the equation of population vs. environmental resources it is more humane to limit consumption than to limit population growth. Population growth and consumption of resources are inextricably interconnected.
We have a health care system spinning out of control, in both service delivery and costs, with no real plan to contain it. We have the best health care in the world, for the fortunate with good health insurance, and among the worst in the developed world for the 40 million people with no health insurance and the additional millions with inadequate coverage.
Our health care system, unlike others in the developed world, developed from employers paying for health insurance after WWII in order to be competitive in a tight labor market. For this reason, our government chose to supplement the existing health coverage with health care for those not employed – Medicare for the retired and elderly and Medicaid for those unemployed. Currently, these government programs are the most cost effective, with only a few percent of costs going to overhead, while overhead for managed care insurance plans, which contained costs for only five to tens years, have sky rocketed into the double digits and is contributing to increasing costs by for-profit companies paying stockholders a high return on their investment. For years health care has been the business sector that has given its stockholders the highest return at the expense of the individuals insured.
Costs have relentlessly increased in health care delivery for many reasons. Technological advances, longevity of our population and doctors providing expensive, defensive medicine for fear of liability suits are among the major causes of the increases. High expectations for the best care possible, disconnected from experiencing a direct impact of these high costs, also drives our system’s increasingly high costs.
It is especially disturbing to me that in our country more is spent on medical care in the last year of a person’s life than in the rest of that person’s entire life. Enormous amounts of money are spent to keep people alive for a few more days or weeks while millions of children go without health care. Some states have legalized living wills in which persons can say when they want medical care to stop. Other states have legalized the Health Care Proxy that gives the patient the right to authorize a family member or friend to make medical decisions when the patient is unable to do so. Of these two options, I prefer a living will because a proxy has no legal requirement to follow my wishes. I fear a painful, protracted death not death itself.
The USA has the highest percentage cost of health care to our Gross National Product of any country in the world, yet we have over 40 million people with no health care. This is a dysfunctional system perpetuated in part by business interests. As provider and hospital payments continue to be squeezed and psychiatric care becomes non-existent, the business of health care continues to make high profits.
Our government supports the business interests of health care through its policies supporting the for-profit health care industry. This prevents developing an equitable, quality health care system for all citizens. I fear it may take a collapse of our system, as employers increasingly pay less of the health care cost of their employers and retirees, in order to have a significant shift in how our health care is delivered. Our current politicians are reducing government health care programs and increasing business profits to the disadvantage of our citizens. The Medicare drug program pays high profits to drug companies while other health care services are being cut. Until our health care system can become more in the service of its patients and less concerned with providing profits to stockholders, our health care system will continue to fail in its moral obligation to provide equitable, basic health care for all.
I can have more of an immediate and direct impact on my personal health care. I see myself as part of my health care team reviewing my options with my doctors and making the final decisions myself. I am fortunate to have a team of doctors I highly respect and feel respected by even when I make decisions with which they may not agree. I also incorporate complementary care into my health care. I have used acupuncture, therapeutic massage, chiropractic, nutrition, relaxation/meditation and energy healing when I have felt it would be useful to my healing. All of these are out-of-pocket expenses. I inform my medical team when I use complementary care. I believe a combination of traditional and complementary medicine has made me healthier then using just one or the other.
Education is the key to most of the great issues of our time both social and economic. Effective education must create in students an excitement to learn and an empowerment to use that learning in an integrative and creative way. Education must create leaders who can integrate intuitive and learned knowledge to advance our world economically and socially. To do this education must grab the attention of each student. This is difficult and different for students of different cultures and sexes. It must start with self-aware students who can personally integrate what they are learning with whom they are. Our educational system is more effective for students of Western European and Asian cultures. We have failed miserably with students, especially males, of African American and Latino cultures.
Public education is based on the premise of molding students to become socialized into the values of the prevailing society. Since our educational system is locally administered and financed, there is a wide range of prevailing values across our country. With the exception of some wealthy suburbs, public education generally produces followers rather than leaders. Many of our private schools are based on the premise of producing leaders. However, these schools are available only to the wealthy few.
In order to change this reality in our educational systems, enlightened teachers with imaginative programs, such as The Mazeway Project, can help students to become leaders through the integration of self understanding with intuitive and learned knowledge.
There is a serious lack of moral and visionary leadership in our country. It is especially alarming in our government and political party system, as well as in the corporate world. There are many qualities of great leadership. However, the one missing and crucial quality, in our world filled with unresolved conflict, is a leadership of reconciliation through a combination of self-understanding with the ability to listen to and respect the values and views of others. Without self-understanding there can be little acceptance of others. Without respect for differences there can be no dialogue. A moral leader gives respect even when not experiencing it from another. There also can be no reconciliation without perseverance and patience. These are lacking at every level of our society and our world. There are a few enlightened programs in some secondary and higher educational institutions that teach this kind of leadership. These must be expanded. Without moral and visionary leadership, our country and the world will sink further and further into unresolved conflict through bitter fighting and war.
The causes of poverty are many but certainly lack of education, health care and economic opportunity are among the most important. Discrimination of others different from the primary culture, especially immigrants, contributes to poverty. Unfortunately, as discrimination, caused by racial, cultural and gender prejudices, has been made illegal and civil rights are increasingly protected, a more insidious discrimination contributes to poverty. Our public education system has not found a way to teach in order to reach our African/American and Latino students for the most part. These students drop out of school at alarming rates. In addition, our health care system does not provide basic health care to millions of our citizens who are not healthy enough to work. Economic opportunity is out of reach for many living in poverty because of lack of transportation and/or training for the jobs available.
The trickle down theory, of tax breaks for the wealthy to create more jobs to lift people out of poverty, is not enough. It may create more jobs, but it still does not address the lack of education and health care, the economic blocks and prejudice which keep people in poverty. Consequently, many living in poverty are left hopeless in their plight.
What we need are programs to address the reasons people are stuck in poverty. Poverty can be eradicated if our country chooses to make it a priority. We need educational programs to prepare people for work – the job skills, the language, the dress and manors skills to get and keep a job. What is needed is a health care system that provides basic medical care to every person in our country, so those in poverty can be well enough to work and when they get sick, they don’t loose their jobs. We need economic opportunities by bringing jobs to where people live in poverty or by providing transportation to where there are jobs. We need to recognize insidious prejudices in people with a higher economic status feeling threatening by a new group rising economically.
In addition, there must be an economic safely net for those people who, for health, mental health or disability reasons, cannot work. We are not all created with an equal ability to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.
Religious terrorism from the Mid East is evidence of a fear of annihilation, of religious beliefs and values of their culture, by more powerful countries, economically and militarily, in the West. Fanatical Islamists fear Western culture, especially from the US, will infiltrated into their countries and destroy their religious beliefs and cultural values. The terrorists, as well as our own government, view their own beliefs to be morally and spiritually superior.
Our misguided strategy in Iraq, of military war for economic and political gain and imposing upon that country our system of government, only fans the flames of terrorism. We must understand that it is our military and economic power, combined with our cultural and religious values, which are the sources of their fears of the destruction of their culture by the Western world. The Islamists are sensitive to our disrespect for their culture that once enjoyed a high level of development and achievement. An understanding of the Islamist’s fears of being destroyed as a culture can lead to a shift in our strategy to one of being respectful of their cultural values, however different from ours, while opposing their terrorist tactics.
A strategy of helping the people of Islamic countries economically, within the context of their beliefs, rather than trying to impose our beliefs on them, would lead to a more successful outcome in Iraq both for them and the U.S. The dishonesty, in why our government made a preemptive attack on Iraq, shows them the U.S. is untrustworthy and foreshadows a destructive outcome in Iraq unless the U.S. changes its strategy toward Iraq and the Islamists.
Lasting change can only come from within their countries. Only as they experience respect, honesty and compassion from the West for their plight, can they begin to respect the values of the West. Of course, a change in the U.S. strategy in Iraq would mean giving up our economic interest in controlling Iraq’s oil, the reason for our preemptive war there. Unfortunately, this is highly unlikely without leadership in our government for conservation through a commitment to a stainable environment. This strikes at the heart of an absolutist approach to capitalism.
With any strategy, the Western world must continue highly sophisticated surveillance against terrorists. Balancing national security and civil liberties will always be a challenge in a democracy. What is needed is a shared responsibility in our government that holds both Congress and the President accountable for our national security and provides the necessary checks and balances to protect our civil liberties and our national security.
The U.S. is fortunate to have our democratic form of government with its system of checks and balances to prevent radical change in our system of government. Our government was created to be responsive to the needs of our citizens. However, over time our government and its institutions, like all governance throughout history, fall prey to those in power more concerned with maintaining power and control than with responding to the needs of our citizens. There was foresight to limit the Presidency to two terms, although our legislators can have any number of terms, our civil servants can serve until retirement and our Supreme Court members are appointed for life.
Unfortunately, we, the citizens, fail in our important role in governance. The U.S. has the lowest percentage of voter turnout for elections of any democracy, often less than 50%. Apathy of citizens, both by being uninformed and by non-participation, greatly weakens our governance.
The declining state of our free press and media news coverage contributes to uninformed voters. Publishers of newspapers and news broadcasting companies are increasingly interested in higher profits to the detriment of balanced, in depth news coverage. Intelligent, well-researched and balanced journalism has been overshadowed by sensationalism in short sound bites, large headlines and short news articles. Well-informed citizens are at the heart of democracy. We must demand truthful and balanced information from the news media and from our government.
Corruption is a complicated concept. I believe that “absolute power corrupts absolutely,” at least, in the democratic sense of corruption. That is why democratic governments like ours have checks and balances. When a person has power and wants to hold on to control, he is vulnerable to corrupt methods to do so. We see this in our governments at all levels. In the United States, however, honesty is expected, as is self-interest being secondary to societal interest. Our legal system was designed to go after corruption when it is suspected. Like everything, our governmental and legal systems aren’t perfect and are only as good as the people who run them. A concerned and involved electorate is required to minimize corruption at all levels of government.
In some other parts of the world, especially Asia and the Mid East, corruption is viewed differently. Coming from a different morality and governmental structures, what we consider corrupt in the United States is considered the price of doing business or the right of a person in power. This complicates business and government interaction between the United States, where corruption is illegal and hidden, and countries where what we call corrupt is open and acceptable.
Planned vs. Market Economies
The United States embraces both capitalistic and socialistic principles in its government. This has made our country strong and sustaining. The combining of these principles is difficult and can swing too far in one direction or another. I believe that our current government has swung too far to the capitalistic market side at the expense of the planned social needs of its citizens.
Our government needs leaders who value both capitalistic principles and social planning to bring our country more in balance.
Globalization is a result of economic and technological progress. Our world has instant communication to create economic, social and political interaction never dreamed of 50 years ago. This brings positive effects as well as negative ones. We know immediately what is happening in all parts of the world and seek commerce worldwide. However, our ability to understand and resolve the complications of globalization has lagged far behind. The conflicts within our own country over the benefits and problems with globalization are a continual problem for our government. For instance, the economic advantage, to business and consumers of cheap labor in third world countries, conflicts with the loss of jobs for workers when companies move to third world countries.
Globalization cannot be stopped. It is an economic and technological reality. However, our country must balance the advantages of the economic gain with the disadvantage of the loss of jobs to other countries. The need for creative solutions to the loss of jobs must be a part of our government’s efforts to affect a balance with the economic advantages.
Relativism vs. Absolutism
Relativism is based on a value in understanding and evaluating different beliefs and opinions within the context of relevant concerns. This requires understanding and respecting all sides of an issue when evaluating all the information available. This will rarely produce an absolute, clear cut position or resolution. Often there will be much ambiguity and qualification in the outcome. Democracy, at least theoretically, is based on relativism allowing for all citizens and opinions and beliefs to be honored equally in order to find a common ground for governance. Those who require clear, finite answers are often uncomfortable with relativism.
Absolutism is the basis of many religions and autocratic governments. Fundamentalists in the Islam, Christian and Jewish faiths are grounded in an absolutist premise and thereby have difficulty with relativistic democratic governance principles. We can see this in Iraq, as well as Israel and the United States, where there are strong blocks of fundamentalists who are politically active.
Although the great prophets may not have been absolutists, the premises of the religious institutions created by their followers often were. The perpetuation of an institutional religion often leads to absolutist beliefs. Extreme absolutism led to the wars of the Christian crusades in the 11th century. Today the extreme absolutists are the Islamist terrorists. We also see absolutism in America in the Christian fundamentalists’ views on morality.
Different kinds of personalities tend to be absolutists and relativists. Those, who by their natures, see both sides of an issue and have a harder time coming to definitive conclusions, often are relativists. Educators and social scientists tend to be relativists. Those who need to know a definitive answer and have a hard time with ambiguity, most often are absolutists. Fundamentalist ministers, and accountants and some scientists tend to be absolutists.
Holistic vs. Myopic Vision
An egocentric or myopic perspective is grounded in the belief that one’s own values and perspective are truth. There is no questioning of premises in childhood usually taken from parents or in adulthood taken from an absolute view of God as revealed in The Bible or The Koran or other religious authority. An egocentric perspective focuses on one’s individual and cultural beliefs or needs and is often enhanced by personal fears or by fear of a perspective that is different or misunderstood. A person with an egocentric perspective often tries to change the mind of someone with a different perspective through proselytizing or politics. For instance, the radical fundamentalists in the United States, who have an egocentric perspective, are trying to change, through the legislature and the court system, the laws in our country to be reflective of their beliefs.
An integral or holistic perspective attempts to respect and understand all beliefs and values and recognizes the interconnectedness of all peoples. It honors diversity and the search for and recognition of common ground within diversity. The integral perspective is based on compassion for self and others and furthers a constructive outcome in integrating differences. The integral perspective incorporates self knowledge at all levels – emotional, physical, social, mental and spiritual – as well as at all levels of understanding of others. The integral perspective is the closest to God-like love as is possible in our finite world.
Governments are run from an egocentric perspective. Wars are the result of an egocentric perspective. Multi-national groups, such as the United Nations, at least in theory, approach a more integral perspective. As world communication increases the tensions arising from cultural differences, it is in the interest of all nations to move toward an integral perspective in order to resolve conflicts that lead to hatred and war.
MY SOCIAL MAP by Joe Gravante
|BASED ON THESE GREAT ISSUES|
|Healthcare||Planned vs. Market Economies|
|Leadership||Relativism vs. Absolutism|
|Poverty||Holistic vs. Myopic Vision|
The environment is the biggest concern facing our world today. Due to multinational corporations’ stranglehold on all major information channels this fact is being obscured to the general populace. In showing a lack of concern and enthusiasm toward environmentally safe practices, corporations are setting a bad example for people to follow. America is the largest consumer of energy and biggest culprit in polluting the environment. The American media influence along with the short sightedness of the American consumerist culture allows most of its citizens to ignore or put low priority on saving the environment. The American people cannot be trusted to make the right decisions for the future because of their sheepish conformity of consumerist values. I believe world governments needs to step in and demand strict adherence to pollution laws throughout the world, including laws that prohibit low mileage cars, trucks, and SUVs, as well as pollution limits that cannot be bought, traded, and sold. I believe the existing carbon credit system allows a get out of jail free card to corporations who have the money to keep polluting as long as it sustains an eco-unfriendly business model.
Maximizing the value of a non-renewable commodity such as oil has brought out the worst in human beings and the market system. I believe that existing technology that could increase efficiency of internal combustion engines using gasoline is purposely being hidden by oil companies who want to sustain their large growth and profit margins. Governments are not doing enough to move the world into an age of renewable energy sources by providing significant funding to alternative energy solutions. America, as the largest consumer of natural resources on the planet, needs to lead the pack in funding and adopting new technology that will eliminate our reliance on foreign fossil fuels. Solar energy research should be funded with taxes from polluting companies to help create more efficient technology for harnessing the potential of the sun. The government also needs to put in place limits on the amount of renewable resources we use, as well as tax breaks for companies who give back to the environment more than they take.
Human civilizations started the road to overpopulation with the advent of agriculture in 11,000 B.C. The ability to create surplus food storage has opened up the pathway to complex city-states that house millions of people in areas of little food production. The modern human race is built upon a system of overpopulation where humans can train in specialty skills to obtain capital to buy food and necessities. This is how we have become such a technology advanced world. I believe this system is due to crash in the near future due to the drastic changes we are seeing in the environment. The system has worked thus far due to the fact that environmental forces have been taken for granted. If our world is in for a swift and deadly change in environment as I believe it is, it threatens the balance of resources around the globe. The human race will not be able to adapt as quickly as the environment changes and massive food shortages will kill off much of the world’s population. This is the self-cleansing system of our planet when we offset the natural balance. If this situation does happen it may also be the tipping point to the formation of a global world cooperative where all nations work together to ration resources on a need basis, ridding our economies of excess.
The current system of healthcare system works within the market economy which allows for competing healthcare providers, hospitals, and doctors. Within the market the dollar is god, so people who do not have enough dollars will never get the best care. Even though this system has injected the medical field with enough money to further research and drug development, it is a shame to see that not all citizens within the United States have healthcare. In order for universal healthcare to work it would require a huge investment by the American people to use their tax dollars toward providing care for people who cannot afford it. We would need a substantial tax increase to make universal healthcare available to everyone and it would not ensure that everyone would be able to receive the best, or even adequate care. I work in the financial department of a hospital and I get to see the slim margins that hospitals and doctors are able to negotiate with the health insurance companies. One of the main problems within the health system is the inflated costs of care, yet hospitals are still unable to squeeze the margins they need to maintain operating costs. In FY2003, 182 of Pennsylvania’s acute care hospitals posted losses, an increase from 42% to 48% from the previous year. Hospitals are constantly battling bad debt and cannot accrue the capital needed to improve patient care. The main argument against universal healthcare is that the hospitals cannot afford to increase its patient flow for cost less than what the current system can offer. I believe healthcare is a very complex problem that involves more than just the ethical agreement that everyone should have a minimum healthcare benefit.
Education is the most important institution in our society and will always have major impacts in our success as a nation and as a worldwide community. I am not concerned as much with world education as I am in the education system of the United States. My future wife and her entire family are or have been teachers in the public school system. I hear about all of the strife that they experience as teachers and believe I have a better understanding than most about how our public school system is educating children. I still believe our public education system is still one of the best institutions in the world, and we are still creating children who can compete in the world market. Test scores are a one dimensional metric that does not wholly incorporate all of the values that are taught in school. The no child left behind act of 2003 has done damage to our education system because it did not account for the highly stratified social and economic structure that resides within the system. Cutting funding for schools that cannot make adequate yearly progress seems illogical and detrimental. The idea of a single baseline for the entire nation to gauge our schools progress also seems illogical. I believe schools should be pitted against themselves to increase test scores without having to be compared to other schools that may have more funding and stronger educational values. This would allow schools to stop teaching toward the test just to make AYP and start focusing on individualized strategies for success. Somehow, competition needs to be implemented within the school system to allow teachers to compete for salary. The current system allows burnt out teachers to hold onto old ideals and practices without the need to develop professionally. Young teachers with new ideas are resisted against until they match the status quo because there is no benefit in fighting an uphill battle. Competition would create a self-cleansing system where the best teachers would be recognized for their great skill and dedication, while also driving good teachers into needy areas where improvements can be easily obtained.
The United States is currently lacking good leadership due to the fact that our President has lost sight of the citizens’ wants and needs and instead focuses in on popular yet inconsequential issues such as gay marriage and extremely unpopular conquests such as Iraq. Instead of serving the people I feel our current leadership is more in touch with the needs of faceless corporations with no regard for human decency. America is losing face in countries throughout the entire world by swearing to humanitarian efforts yet bullying nations in overt conquest. No longer does the world feel the United States is trying to further anything but the governments own agenda. The American people feel powerless to the government because their say has lost all power to sway our current leaders against the unpopular and unethical. In a world where information is able to flow free throughout the internet, our popular media is still governed by large corporations who use the channel to supply government approved propaganda to trick us into believing the righteous cause of America’s actions. We are falling into bleak times where nations are drawing lines instead of breaking down walls.
Capitalism breeds poverty because productivity is the means to obtaining capital with no limit on the amount that can be obtained. In our complex global society businesses have moved most of the manufacturing and unskilled jobs overseas where labor is cheaper. Without education it is hard for many people to compete in our shrinking middle and upper middle classes. Poverty is defined by the United States by determining the food costs of your family on a standard scale then dividing it by the total amount of income to the household. If food accounts for more than 1/3 of the total income a family is considered poverty level. In this consideration it would be interesting to see what would be considered poverty if every citizen in the US was given the food they need to survive through a government program. Wealthy families could then supplement their ration with food purchased through their own capital and the standard definition of poverty would no longer be hunger.
Terrorism, defined as the use of violence and intimidation to achieve a goal (normally a political goal), has been in use since human interactions have lead to war. One of the earliest examples, and by far one more terrifying than any we have experienced, started in the 14th century during the black plague. The Tartars, a people of Turkish origin, were conquering trade routes over Europe. As carriers of the black plague, they used the disease to their advantage by catapulting dead bodies over the walls of the trade town Kaffa in hopes of infecting its inhabitants. This terrorist attack worked and the city was abandoned. Fear has been used as an effective weapon throughout all of human history. Terrorism is not just in use by small factions of people who want a political change. Powerful nations have used terrorism as a means to keep their political advantages over others. Violent actions in general are cause for terror. Because fear is a part of war, fighting against terrorism is counterproductive to solving the ultimate problem. Using human-centered politics and benevolent foreign policy will curb terrorism more effectively than becoming terrorists ourselves.
Humans have a natural born tendency to resist change and fall back to what is considered safe, tried, and true. Personal interest is always on the forefront of governance, even if outward appearances do not appear as such. Because of these inherent human traits governance always results in a top down structure where power preserves itself. Even well intentioned individuals are unlikely to willingly give up powerful positions in the governing bodies that are created. Bureaucracies do end up failing the system they are meant to govern because 1) the systems allows for a wide range of inequality 2) the external environment changes quickly 3) the top levels of bureaucracy lose touch with the bottom easily 4) it becomes easy to blame an individual for the fault of the whole.
The bureaucratic system allows for a wide range of inequality. The top down structure that creates competition within the system is self-destructive and inefficient. Because human nature is self-preserving, when an individual reaches the top they are able to put in place safeguard against their removal from power. It also allows politics to enter the system which removes the self-cleansing aspects. Bureaucracies tend to be connection based, not merit based, with an aim to reach the top of the system, not strive for the success of the system in a changing environment.
Because of this skew in aim it is easy for a changing environment to derail and collapse a bureaucratic system. The changing environment creates a need for a system be to self-reflective and constantly adaptive. In the top down structure this becomes burdensome and slow. The leaders at the top are far removed from the environment making it harder for them to anticipate the changes needed to succeed in the new situation, if they can even see that there is a new situation at hand. When failure or collapse does come, it is easy for an individual to be blamed because of the focus on accountability of that individual. The top down method makes clear distinctions for blame, which scares people from taking risks and avoiding failure. This removes the self-catalyzing aspect of the bureaucracy.
I believe the best system is a plural system that gives equal power to people while still enabling the selection of a leader. The leader should not be heralded as a king, but considered another person within the system with the knowledge and the vision to bring success within the given situation. Decisions needs to be transmitted universally, debated vigorously, and agreed upon majorly by the people within the system before action should be taken. This will protect against a face of hypocrisy. The people within the system also need to be educated to think critically about all aspects of the system, abhorring blind faith in the leadership and direction set forth in the moment. There needs to be a universally ambivalent goal to strive for which can unite the system in times of prosperity and in times of turbulence and distress. People need to take control over how they are governed so that the system stays working for the best of the people within it, not to the means and ends of the people at the top.
In the paper Corruption and Democracy: Comment by Norman Uphoff, Ph.D, he describes corruption as “It is appropriate to view corruption as more than an individual matter, and not just a matter of breaking the law. It is embedded in economic, social, political, and cultural relationships. This does not alleviate individuals from their personal responsibility when engaging in corrupt actions. It does not excuse their exploiting positions of wealth or authority or high social status for personal or family gain. But stressing moral values or introducing sanctions against individuals will not reverse behaviors that are (or have become) systemic in multiple dimensions.
I favor a broad conception of corruption which goes beyond legal definitions. I consider it corrupt, in the broad sense, whenever persons seek to profit at others’ expense. This can include exploitative employment relationships or derogation of subordinate social groupings so their labor can be more cheaply utilized, to give two examples of behavior that is ‘corrupting,’ if not technically ‘corrupt.’ It is corrupting because it creates, at best, negative-sumrelationships, where losses in a total social sense exceed gains. A few are gaining at the expense of many. While exploiting a few low-caste individuals as menial workers might look like it is hurting only a handful of employees, it is contributing to the perpetuation of a system that deprives thousands and thousands of people opportunities to attain their full and true productivity, and ensuing happiness.”
Uphoff describes an idea called the GNC – gross national cynicism, which measures the amount of mutual distrust and disregard for others. No system can survive, or thrive when the GNC grows. It is easy for the GNC to grow exponentially due to human nature. Uphoff goes on to say
“I am aware of this because I see in the U.S. how the institutional decline of our so-called ‘criminal justice system’ (police, courts, prisons, etc.) and our system of public education is undermining America’s capacity to succeed in the 21stcentury, having benefited from their strength in at least the first two-thirds of the 20thcentury. It is appalling to learn that “many jobs, including those of a primary school teacher seem to be up for sale,” that even this level of public service, the most basic service performed at the grassroots is ‘corrupted.’ When people buy their jobs, they do not need to perform the jobs well, or even at all, and only need to keep satisfying the authorities who granted them the job, not the pupils or their parents. If Nepal’s education system deteriorates further in quality, one must discount any reported successes in quantitative terms such as enrollment statistics or even graduation numbers. Education is nothing without quality. It is very difficult to restore the value of certificates of education once they have depreciated.
The substance of liberal democracy depends, first of all, on ‘the rule of law,’ diminished by the deterioration of the courts, police, etc. Second, it depends on an informed citizenry, compromised by the decline in educational access and quality. To have parties and elections without security to express opinions, without knowledge of how the world works, without confidence that the will of the majority will be determined and ensconced, without hope that being in the minority in one election is not a permanent consignment to that status as the side with a majority shuts off opportunities for a new outcome in subsequent elections—this is not liberal democracy”
Democracy does not breed corruption, people breed corruption when the system allows rules to be bent, broken, swayed and influenced by external systems with no mutual regard for others.
Planned vs. Market Economy
The Times outlines the differences between a planned, market, and mixed economy.
Three main sets of decisions need to be made by the economic system – what to produce, how to produce, and how to share out the product of the economy. A planned economy is one in which a central planning agency such as the government determines the 3 economic decisions outlined above. A market economy is one in which these decisions are determined by buyers and sellers interacting with each other without government interference. A mixed economy includes elements of both the planned and the market economies. Those (and there are few of these left today) that favor the centrally planned economy argue that the government (central planners) is best placed to meet the needs of all the people of a particular society. Those in favor of the free market argue that central planning wastes resources and that the market makes sure that consumers get what they want producing, while producers supply it at a profit.
I believe in the mixed economy because it allows the most basic of necessities to be planned for by a government that takes in taxes to disperse as needed, but also allows for the benefit of a free market. The benefits of the free market economy are that it allows competition and innovation. We as a people need to reevaluate institutions that fall within the free market economy, such as healthcare, that should be placed in a mixed economy. This would allow people who cannot afford healthcare at market prices to receive it, but also keep innovation and progress moving forward.
Globalization is the inevitable effect of a technologically advanced world. In the physical world a person is able to fly around the world in under 24 hours. In the virtual world, information can be transmitted around the world in milliseconds. The ease at which to move around, experience, and learn outside of one’s physical proximity is becoming increasingly universal with computers and the internet. This is the first time in human history that globalization for the masses is becoming a reality, and there are many benefits and consequences that nations, cultures, and individuals are facing.
With globalization there is an increase in the transparency of nations and their problems to the entire world. The dark side of nations that used to be kept under wraps and contained within the physical borders of the nation are now freely witnessed and discussed throughout the globe. A recent example is the racial issues that face the American people in the wake of hurricane Katrina, or the human rights issues facing China over Tibet. Globalization has allowed these national concerns to become international, taking away the control of governments to filter information in and out. This information spread can be a good or bad thing and nations are learning to adapt to this increase in transparency.
Nations such as America also have to deal with the economic consequences of globalization, such as outsourcing and free trade. Due to the vast differences in national economies companies have been able to squeeze bottom lines with moving labor to cheaper countries at the expense of their own people. With the world as a playing ground ethical concern over what is responsible economic policy needs to be addressed so that the companies’ interests do not overshadow those of the people. Although with globalization many nations have been able to profit and grow, such as India and China, it should not be at the expense of others’ livelihood.
Cultures are facing increasing pressure of globalization as foreign ideals spread. Many cultures feel as though their ideals and traditions are being endangered by this spread. The Western culture is much willing to accept and adopt ideals of other nations because cultural acceptance is thought upon kindly. Other cultures reject the ideas of others to ensure the existing structure remains. Globalization has allowed the free spreading ideas of the Western culture to pervade those cultures that are more exclusive, making them feel threatened and endangered. This is causing tension between cultures, nationally and internationally. If not dealt with carefully with education and tolerance, these clashes could, and have already, lead to violence.
Individuals need to become more educated on the effects of globalization so that the spread of ideas does not come as an endangerment, but just as an effect of globalization. Ideas are everywhere, and if the world is not going to stay isolated. The core tenets of our world should be tolerance and understanding, so that when faced with encroaching ideas we can deal with them peacefully and respectfully.
Relativism vs. Absolutism
In the wake of globalization it is apparent that a relative perspective is needed to deal with ideas peacefully and respectfully. Absolutism leads to intolerance and conflict, instead of fostering an environment of understanding. Many religions are based around an absolute set of premises that are inflexible and intolerant. Mixed with globalization this creates a hot bed for violence. If this world is to accept globalism it will be required to understand others through the relativist perspective.
Holistic vs. Myopic Vision
I am a firm believer that a lack of vision is the cause of many long term problems, even if the short term result is beneficial. Approaching a problem with a holistic approach is a much better, but much harder way to make decisions. There have been many holistic decisions made in the history of America, especially in the formation of the constitution, our civil rights, and our democratic government. The center of this approach was people, which made our country so great for so many in a relatively short amount of time. The framers of our great nation were able to think outside of their own personal needs and focus on the greater good of an entire nation. I believe all of the greatest decisions that have the highest long run benefit center around this holistic approach of people.
Lately, we have seen a large amount of decisions being made for self-centered and egocentric reasons. The almighty dollar has taken over the focus of our decisions, instead of keeping the focus on people and their needs. In this globalized world we need to regain that focus on the people more than ever. With the advent of globalization and free trade the world is becoming a single nation. In order to create a congealed world state it is going to require all nations to become focused on the good of the whole, not just the needs of any individual nation. This will require tolerance, understanding and sacrifice if our world is going to move forward with a progressive plan for the entire world.
MY SOCIAL MAP by Jason Kunen
BASED ON THESE GREAT ISSUES
|The Environment||Planned vs. Market Economies|
|Overpopulation||Reason vs. Faith|
|Healthcare||Leadership & Followership|
|Poverty||News and Social Media|
We are born to certain parents, raised in a particular manner, attend schools, and are influenced by religions, peers, teachers, the news, and all kinds of “authorities.” All of this is the programming, the conditionings we carry with us; and all of these conditionings are a conceptual prison because we react, judge, think, and speak based on this framework unconsciously. When we live from our conditionings, we are not encountering any experience in a fresh, creative manner, because everything is filtered through our programming.
Even though we may not be responsible for the programming we received as children, it is our responsibility as human beings to change it, and to end the cycle of violence. It is therefore of tremendous importance to become non-judgmentally aware, not self-conscious, of our words, thoughts, reactions, fears, and judgments. This awareness will allow us to see our conditioned habits of mind, where they came from, and let them go.
As strange as it may sound, conceptual imprisonment is vitally important for our ((Evolution)) and our existential journey. By living through the anger, pain, fear, loneliness, sorrow, and suffering caused by conceptual imprisonment, we develop the urgency, energy, and attentiveness to let go of our /narrative/, and inquire if we can be psychologically free. Breaking the chains of conceptual imprisonment requires wisdom, but the journey also teaches us compassion and understanding for those still caught in a web of suffering.
Having a coherent, moral, and open-ended education system is essential for creating a world of compassion, dialogue, understanding, and wisdom. Our education paradigm is still rooted in the values of the industrial revolution. Although many private and independent schools are changing and offering a more holistic foundations for students, our education paradigm as a whole is severely lacking in cultivating students’ intelligence, creativity, and compassion. We are intensely focused on training the intellect, but without compassion or intelligence to guide it, knowledge can lead to destruction, fragmentation, and ego-centric patterns of thought.
Education must cultivate students’ critical and meditative reflection skills, their dialogical abilities, and allow them to be creative and engage in inquiry. Many times, students aren’t asked questions and allowed to be curious, but are instead asked for answers, that is, “the” answer expected from them by the teacher. Therefore, students are living according to the expectations of another and become second-hand human beings. Rather than being taught what to think, students should be in an intellectually safe space where they can be creative, are free to inquire, and learn how to think. The acquisition of more knowledge will not help us to be happy or to address the issues of our time, for knowledge is of the past and is static. Educating the heart-mind, and cultivating one’s intelligence, creativity, and compassion will allow us to respond to problems we face in an appropriate manner.
The way our system is now, school only prepares us for more school. Quite often, people feel their schooling did not prepare them with real-world job skills or did not teach them practical methods of how to apply what they have learned. The aim of our education system is to help students be free of fear and understand themselves so that they are free to be creative and open-minded. In such an environment, students will naturally be able to find their vocation, and not be as influenced by the societal conventions and forms of authority that impose various pressures on them. A compassionate, peaceful, and intelligent society can emerge when we are free of fear. I strongly agree with Mahatma Gandhi when he said, “If we are to reach real peace in the world, we shall have to begin with the children.”
The extent to which we have damaged and strained our precious planet is tragic. However, we are also the only ones who can take responsibility for our actions and work to help the Earth.
We have been using a mental framework that objectifies our Earth and the resources she provides us. Due to overpopulation, deforestation, and a number of other factors, and based on the drastic climate changes and the increase in the frequency and intensity of natural disasters, it has become apparent that our lifestyle is unsustainable. We need to shift our priorities and work to restore and alleviate the stress of our planet. Our apathy, greed, inaction, and mindless consumption of resources has allowed misguided politicians, leaders, entrepreneurs, and companies, to take advantage of us and carry on with their practices that are detrimental to the Earth.
If we hope to have any chance of healing the Earth, we will all need to learn to collaborate and unite in a dialogical and creative way. We must take action and raise awareness of the atrocities we are inflicting on the planet, not through violence, condemnation, or idealistic notions, but through creative, practical, and peaceful methods. Is an overly extravagant lifestyle, money, and power really worth the desecration of our planet?
Industrialization and technological progress has certainly advanced many fields, including medicine, communication, transportation, and lifestyle to name a few. However, over time, many of us have lost touch with nature and the world around us. Perhaps this may be another cause for our negligence and disregard for how we treat the Earth. If we learn, through educational excursions or periodic outings for example, to be with nature, maybe we can relearn to appreciate and care for our environment. We would be doing a disservice to our ancestors who knew the importance of loving our planet and who lived in harmony with nature, and the future generations, who may grow up in a devastated, polluted world.
Some claim that the future generations will find a way; that they will invent something to solve these problems. But if we do nothing and fail to be the role models willing to take care of the environment, they will likely perpetuate our violent, unsustainable cycle until it is too late. Apathy and indifference are just as detrimental as directly damaging the environment. Both are part of the problem.
Overpopulation is clearly a contributor to the tremendous strain on natural resources and the environment. Wars, illnesses, and limited medical treatments and technologies throughout history kept the population down. But with the medical knowledge and equipment we have today, and the ways in which wars are fought (i.e., not with hundred of thousands of infantry and cavalry against another large army, but with unmanned drones, long-distance weapons, and high-tech artillery) the population has multiplied greatly and can live longer than before. This, of course, is a double-edged sword.
Had we been using sustainable methods throughout all our history, we likely would not have the extent of environmental problems we have today. Though I cannot give a set answer as what to do, some practical approaches to address these issues might be to: limit our consumption of goods and resources, create communities where the members each take care of each other and share their resources, adoption, create sustainable housing options, and educate people (young and old) about overpopulation and its effects.
It has only been within the last decade or so that alternative forms of medicine, treatment, and preventative measures have been more accepted in the medical community. Our materialistic and science-obsessed culture has been, and still is, suspicious of methods that do not rely on controlling and suppressing the body, or scientific processes; it is a kind of intellectual xenophobia. However, more and more people and doctors are beginning to recognize alternative therapies and treatments as being valid and helpful practices.
I believe healthcare should be accessible and affordable for everyone. Seated in their high thrones and playing manipulative games of power, our leaders, politicians, insurance companies, and other industries involved in healthcare are completely blind, unaware, and unconcerned with the struggles of the ordinary person. An issue as serious as healthcare should not be a game of money and power. All those involved with perpetuating the system should be held accountable and ousted from their positions unless they can change the system for the better or construct a new, beneficial paradigm for healthcare. Our medical practitioners should collaborate and work together to fight the injustices of the system.
For those of us not involved in the medical field, we should educate ourselves and work to live a healthy lifestyle. It is important to learn about any illnesses and conditions we may have, the risks of medications, and be aware of the treatments, preventative measures, and practices we ourselves can use to take care of our minds and bodies.
Poverty is a major predicament across the globe, but one we are capable of addressing and solving if the majority of companies, entrepreneurs, politicians, and leaders weren’t greedy and hungry for power, and instead had a coherent and moral vision of how to help humanity. In the past few years, the gap between the rich and poor has widened, and continues to increase. What is needed is an economic system that is oriented around life, liberty, and happiness for all people’s, not a system grounded in profit, greed, and gain for some. If one sees the fact that we are all interconnected, then one must also understand that in an economic system where some gain and many lose, everybody in fact, loses.
We are also in an age where many are also spiritually poor. This invites an opportunity for many to let go of the materialist culture and find something more meaningful. However, there is also a danger here as well. Many people do not want to inquire or understand themselves, but simply want another person, belief system, philosophy, or guru to give them answers. Spiritual poverty is one of the reasons why we seek after material gains, power, and become psychologically dependent on all kinds of materialistic forms of pleasure. Once an authority is established, there is control, fear, belief, and separation from all others who do not conform to that particular system, which is a form of objectification and violence. Therefore, rather than belief and relying on the words of another, thereby becoming second-hand, mechanical human beings, we should see for ourselves that another cannot provide Self-knowledge. Each individual should be encouraged to discover and inquire into oneself without establishing any authority or system. Otherwise, we will remain spiritually poor.
Terrorism is fueled by misunderstanding, misinterpretation, hatred, jealously, disparity of wealth and lifestyles, questionable political actions, and misuse of power. International dialogue must take place so nations can collaboratively work to protect their citizens, respond to terrorist attacks appropriately, and find ways to address the reasons terrorists take action.
We must understand that in our global and technological age, the whole world is monitoring every nation’s move, both domestic and international; thus, we cannot engage in questionable, suspicious, and aggressive actions, and not expect others to react negatively towards us.
I support whatever system of government that is effective at taking care, protecting, and informing the people, and working to benefit others at home and abroad in non-violent and non-intrusive ways. Although the ideals of such a system have been established piecemeal, I think we have yet to develop such a system, primarily because no person or group of people has yet been capable of being in a position of power without becoming corrupted. The more we are divided between left and right parties, this or that ideology, and all the rest of it, the more there will be conflict and violence, and less progress and dialogue that will move everyone forward together creatively, joyfully, and peacefully. Instead of representing the ideas and agendas for political parties, our leaders should be discussing ways we can address the issues we face today regardless of another’s background.
I believe we need to have systems in place to deal with greed, arrogance, lust for power, and scandalous actions in politics. The government is not a business, but a living institution created by and for the people to create a world of peace, cooperation, and order. As it stands now, we have many leaders in government ruled by money and power, and we the people are either too apathetic, powerless, or unaware of ways to do something about it. A government that is open-ended, self-catalyzing, and self-cleansing, and is free of outside influences, lobbyists, special interest groups, and the agendas of others will be wiling to dialogue and address the issues we face today in a coherent, moral, creative, and collaborative manner.
Corruption is a result of ego-mental, fragmented thinking. Using an ego-mental, or objectifying, framework, we take ourselves as the center, and everything outside of us becomes an “other” on the periphery that is separate from us. This self-centered way of conducting our mind is the root cause of corruption. We see all others as objects and as a means to an end to pursue our own profit and gain.
We can counteract corruption by facing, accepting, understanding, and letting go of the corruption within ourselves. Through Self-knowledge, we affect others, for we bring a new energy of love, wisdom, and compassion to our relationships. If each individual awakens to a deeper understanding of him/herself, we can change education and working environments to support an open-ended paradigm of wisdom, compassion, and understanding. This will allow future generations to cultivate their intelligence and creativity, and prepare them with the skills to be moral, empathetic, and knowledgable leaders.
Although it has benefited many people and drastically changed travel and communication, globalization has been a double-edged sword because we have not responded to its challenges in an intelligent manner. If we wish to respond to these matters holistically, I believe governments and businesses must collaborate and work together to address issues such as living standards, wages, outsourcing, immigration, overcrowding, etc.
Entering a global age means encountering a plurality of worldviews; it is imperative that we learn the art and ethics of dialoging across worlds so that we can be open to the Other and understand their world without filtering it through our own biases, prejudices, and agendas. Such dialogues can only take place and be productive if those involved are not trapped by self-limiting ideologies and ego-mentalism. Only then can leaders develop a coherent and moral vision of how to address the side effects of globalization in an open-ended and creative fashion.
Planned vs. Market Economies
I am not familiar with the workings and dynamics of economic systems, so I cannot speak on their technical details or judge them accordingly. However, what is clear to me is that more and more people are struggling financially, there is a huge gap between the rich and poor that continues to increase, the cost of education is rising with minimal returns, a handful of people make exorbitant salaries while the majority must make sacrifices just to get by, the cost of living is rising while wages are not, and there are issues with standards of living. All this suggests that our current economic system is unsustainable and failing.
An economic system where a few gain and the majority lose is an indication that the system has failed the people, and is ruled and controlled only by those who gain and are in power. Our current system is embedded in and takes advantage of the materialist culture and exploits the peoples’ mindless consumerism.
I would not define myself as being a capitalist, socialist, or a strict follower of any other economic ideology. What we need is an economic system that is open-ended, self-catalyzing, and self-cleansing that values compassion and justice. Such a system must have countermeasures to deal with those who place profit and pleasure over people, and are ruled by greed, competition, and lust for power. If humankind experiences an evolution of consciousness, an inner awakening, perhaps we can create an economic system that is fair, just, open-ended, compassionate, and people, not profit, oriented.
Faith vs. Reason
Contrary to popular belief, I do not think reason and faith are incompatible. We tend to think they are at odds because we use a mental framework that is polarized and fragmented; it is an “either/or” technology. However, when we see that there is a deeper, more holistic way of conducting our mind, it becomes clear that all things, including reason and faith, are interconnected and interdependent.
Faith is not blind or absolute belief; it is learning to trust oneself and the mazeway by working with it. As we become familiar with navigating the mazeway, transforming our relationships, and opening up to a more holistic way of living and minding, our faith and trust in our practice and ability to “navigate” deepens.
Reason is not confined to analytical thinking and scientific experiments. Some of humankind’s greatest achievements came from creative insight that is beyond thought. Thought is based on memory which is of the past, and is therefore static and conditioned. Creative insight, however, is new and fresh, and is not conditioned. Although analytical thinking has its usefulness, we tap into a deeper form of Reason, perhaps ((Meditative Reason)), when we remain open to creative insight and let go of thought.
As we open up and let ourselves to be inspired by Meditative Reason, we simultaneously deepen our Faith and Trust in it. Using a martial arts analogy: if the martial artist thinks about how to react in a situation, her actions will either be too late or ineffective. If he has faith in his abilities without practicing what he has learned, he will lose. However, if the martial artist comes to trust her abilities through practice, and is unobstructed by thought, then she can make the appropriate responsive intuitively. I see the connection between Reason and Faith in this way.
Leadership and Followership
Our ability to be intelligent, psychologically free, holistic, compassionate, and understanding leaders and followers is highly dependent on education. If education created a safe space where students can cultivate such a way of minding, and helped them to be free of fear, we would have insightful, courageous, and empathetic leaders.
Such a leader must understand his/her own mental process and not be psychologically dependent. This will allow him/her to use power responsibly and remain unswayed by greed, arrogance, profit, and fame. Most people are trapped in fragmented, objectified, ego-mental thinking, and do not understand themselves. Thus, they easily fall prey to the temptations and corruption one faces in a position of power.
Psychologically, no one should be a follower. To follow anyone but oneself in that sense is being dependent and attached to another, and being untrue to oneself. No one can give you understanding or Self-knowledge. Each person should strive to be self-directed and to understand their own mental habits. In this respect, we must all be leaders.
Excluding psychological processes, those of us who are followers should still be self-directed, critical thinking, and holistic individuals who understand the issues at hand. This will enable us to choose a leader we feel can address problems in a creative, moral, and coherent manner.
News and Social Media
It is difficult to find a newspaper or news program that is unbiased and informs the people accurately. As it stands, most televised news broadcasts are forms of entertainment than informative programs. Figuring out what is really going on requires studying the story from several angles and the putting the pieces together. Most people, however, neither have the time, energy, or concern to perform in-depth research into such matters.
Social media has greatly influenced how news is transmitted and dispersed. I think there there are creative and intelligent ways it can be used to help others, inform the public, and facilitate communication. However, this requires that people learn how to use it responsibly, which is dependent on education. I think social media has great potential to be beneficial to the world if it is used responsibly, creatively, and constructively.
MY SOCIAL MAP by DAVID McCORMICK
BASED ON THESE GREAT ISSUES
Natural Resources Terrorism
The Environment Governance
Healthcare Planned vs. Market Economies
Leadership Relativism vs. Absolutism
Poverty Holistic vs. Myopic Vision
A material source of wealth, such as timber, fresh water, or a mineral deposit, that occurs in a natural state and has economic value.
Resources (actual and potential) supplied by nature.
There are two types of natural resources nonrenewable and renewable. The one which global capitalism is most dependent on is fossil fuels, particularly oil. This is a nonrenewable resource as it takes millions of years to produce. Most mineral resources are nonrenewable as we use them faster than they can be produced by natural processes. In a sense we use natural resources at a rate faster than they can be produced naturally including timber and fresh water. Although we could use many natural resources at sustainable rates we unfortunately do not. It would be possible to use timer and fresh water at sustainable rates as Homo sapiens did before the advent of agriculture and to a greater sense industrialization. The industrial manipulation of natural resources requires the use of fossil fuels in most cases, as in the extraction of timber.
There is real potential in the manipulation of water, wind and the sun. Natural resources are part of the environment and our problems with the environment are linked to our relationship with natural resources. If mankind did not have this adversarial relationship with the environment perhaps we would have a different idea of how to use/extract natural resources. It is our dependence on nonrenewable resources that has accelerated our environmental crisis. Natural resources should be used at renewable rates because this is the only method to indefinitely sustain our way of life.
The Environment is the most important issue facing the human race at this juncture in time and it is my belief that this has always been so. The global environment is where we live and the local environment dictates how subsistence needs are met. There is no escaping this reality. It has been man’s quest since the advent of sedentary life which coincides with the advent of true agriculture to conquer the environment and make it work for man, or to provide man with sustenance. Before agriculture man found his sustenance in nature (in foraging society) and by balancing nature and sustenance by migration (horticultural and pastoral society). Since man has dedicated himself to the conquest of nature he entered into an adversarial relationship, which we are just now realizing the consequences of 12,000 years later, a mere blink in the evolution of mankind. However in these 12,000 years mankind has managed to destroy much of the world’s forest and industrialism (a mere 200yrsish old) has only accelerated this process. The environment has been drastically effected by industrialism in an adverse way. The use of fossil fuels has the unfortunate by-product of greenhouse gases which have had a two-fold effect. One is global warming which is causing a lot of environmental problems: the most pressing of which is the melting of the polar ice caps causing global waters level to rise. The other less known is a phenomenon called global dimming which prevents as much UV rays from hitting the earth’s surface slowing the evaporation rates of water. However this puts the world an interesting predicament. The cessation of pollution would not rid the atmosphere of the green house gasses that already exist and would reduce global dimming. So this would increase global warming.
All in all the environment is a delicate thing, a precious resource to which we are inextricably linked. We should not be in an adversarial relationship with the environment because, first of all there is no need and secondly the environment will win as it is eternal. If man does not rethink his relationship with the environment, the environment will reclaim the earth and expel man from the earth.
Overpopulation is a problem that strains mankind’s sustainability on planet earth. It demands the use of more natural resources which in turn puts further pressure on the environment. Every environment has what is known as carrying capacity and if we look at planet earth as a global environment there are too many people for the environment to support. The populations of the world have been manipulating the environment to deal with the problem of overpopulation. Again this problem is largely a result of the industrial mode of production mankind has adopted. Before man became sedentary we our population was fairly stable with fluctuations that came in times of abundance but were easily checked by carrying capacity in times of shortage. When mankind began to practice agriculture we began to produce surplus for the ‘lean’ times. This stopped the environment’s ability to check the human population. The overpopulation in the world makes the population more susceptible to the effects of environmental changes which can have adverse effects on the availability of life’s necessities. Shortages of rainfall can cause famine as they create not only a shortage of fresh water but also in foodstuffs which leads to large-scale starvation. This is a result of overpopulation because without the production of surplus populations check themselves because of the environmental or natural carrying capacity.
Healthcare in this country is big problem. In a country where we have the capacity to give universal healthcare we do not. Why is it when other industrialized nations give healthcare regardless of a person’s ability to pay and we do not? I think that the answer is in our economic philosophy this is a country of capital where the bottom line rules politics. The argument is that universal healthcare will mean a rise in taxes, and this is true. But wouldn’t it also free up money in for-profit corporations to raise salaries? The way I see it the government has its pockets deep in the private healthcare systems and drug companies and this is one of the main reasons that we don’t have universal healthcare. This whole idea of privatizing healthcare within companies so that employees have to ‘shop around’ for healthcare is only going to exacerbate the problem. It is a serious problem it has does with what is morally right and wrong. I do not think that anyone would argue that ‘health’ is not a right but that is the stance you take when you keep healthcare in private sector and not universal. My stance is that anything less is than universal healthcare is not just undemocratic but it is un-American.
I would have to agree that the United States education system is failing its students and its country at large. American education has become an assembly line still modeled after the industrial philosophy from whence it was born. Let me give my opinion keeping in mind my perspective. I grew up in Delaware County, PA and went to Strath Haven High School, which is ranked in the top 2% (or was) of public schools nationwide. I grew up in neighborhood (Rutledge) which I would say was more blue collar than the rest of the school district (Swarthmore, Wallingford, Rose Valley) but still an affluent Blue Collar workforce. I was considered a good student: I got good grades in Honors classes, finished my required math classes in by sophomore year, finished my required science classes by junior year and took advanced placement classes in Photography, Biology, and Spanish my senior year. I took four SAT II’s did well in all of them and scored a 1250 on the SAT’s. My grades, SAT scores and AP exam scores got me into a top liberal arts college. This is goal of Strath Haven High School to send their students to good colleges. The reality of high school was that I spent most of my time in school stoned and spent about one third of my last two years skipping school and getting stoned. When I was flung into college I found myself under prepared, thinking that I could coast through the way I had in high school. I started college at Union College which is not your typical employment factory. It is an old guard liberal arts school where the administration really took time and effort to get work with the student body. We took three classes a term in a trimester system, a lot of attention was paid to understanding and class sizes were fairly small. In addition the lower workload and class size allowed for students to ask professors about subject matter. When I made the switch to Drexel University I found a much colder institution. An administration with an elaborate bureaucracy more concentrated on numbers than building relationships with their students. For the most part I would say this is what American education has become, a cold place where people become numbers and fall in rank.
I think that leadership in the United States has all but disappeared. Leadership is something that I think comes from free and independent thinking coupled with working existing theories and models. From existing schools of thought and methods leaders innovate. Unfortunately I think that new ways of thinking are discouraged by our society. I believe that leadership has fallen off in our society. We seem to pick our leaders based on their ability to tell us what we want to hear. Again if we examine the situation we find that our leaders have their hands deep in the pockets of corporations and that our leaders serve the interests of these corporations that fund their campaigns instead of serving the interests of the people that elect them. I think that the problem is that our ‘leaders’ believe that it is the corporations that elect them and that it is the corporations that they serve. This is a huge problem.
We need to instill good leadership skills in our citizens from the beginning, and this lies in our education system. The educational system needs to encourage creative thinking, not conformity.
Poverty is one of the biggest problems facing the world. Poverty is an inherent institution in subsistence strategies that involve the institution of ownership. When you have those who have more than is necessary it is inherent that you will have those who do not have enough. However poverty is not a necessity to the institution of ownership, but a result of the greed caused by ownership and particularly luxury. The fact that we have the ability to make sure that there is an abundance of the necessities of life assures that there is no necessity for poverty within our society. Perhaps this is not true of industrial capitalism but with the technology that exists there is no reason that poverty must exist. In industrial capitalism perhaps poverty is necessary as capitalism is dependent on cheap labor. I think that to solve the problem of poverty (which in our current economic system is not a problem at all and is actually a necessity) we need to rethink our economic systems and the role of government in economics.
Terrorism is a problem as old as time, the fact that we it has come to the forefront of our mind. When we think of terrorism we think of fundamentalist Muslims or perhaps eastern Europeans, maybe even bearded Irishmen in tweed hats. The fact is that terrorism is a word that the media/politicians have created to use to describe paramilitary groups that revolt against the established order. By this definition the American revolutionaries were terrorists, the folks who cut off King Louis’s Head, terrorists. I mean I suppose the term did not mean the same thing, but my point is that ‘terrorists’ do not think of themselves as such. They would apply terms like, freedom fighters, patriots or revolutionaries.
The argument that we terrorists take violent action against innocent civilians could easily be applied to the military actions of any ‘legitimate’ state-sponsored military entity. Our liberation of Iraq was a perfect example. Our ‘smart’ bombs were anything but I don’t believe that anyone of them hit their intended target; although the overall objective was obtained (the toppling of Saddam’s regime) it was not accomplished without collateral damage (termination of innocent lives). This nonsense about our reasoning for going into Iraq being that they support terrorism could have been said of us throughout the cold war, all over the world, but particularly in Latin America. We trained and monetarily supported some of the most repressive totalitarian regimes of all time. The school of the Americas was basically a training facility for terrorists.
This is an issue that has bothered me more and more over my college career. Democratic elections have become somewhat of a formality in this country. Our bi-partisan system receives so much in endorsements from big business that they cannot pass legislation free from influence. This precipitates to the legislature not being able to pass legislation by the people for the people instead they have to pass legislation by big business for big business.
In my opinion the only way to curb the influence of big business in government is to prohibit ‘hard money’ in politics. Also we need to allow for government funding to ‘third’ parties. Without 5% percent of the popular vote parties do not qualify for funding. This prevents parties like the Green Party and the Libertarians from getting a fair shake in politics. Also bicameral government has made this country into a bipartisan system. I would push for a parliamentary system as I believe that this system better represents the people. The body politic should represent the public. Too often are the people of America made to make a choice they do not want to make, between a republican and democrat because these are the only two parties who have a chance of winning? I know many people who do not vote their conscience because they want to have an influence in their government. If we moved to a parliamentary system we could actually have a more accurate representation of the people. This might involve the expansion of the government but unfortunately this is something that the people of America fear.
To me corruption is a huge problem. I think that government has become corrupt but the corruption is legal. It is completely legal to perpetuate the exploitative relationship that exists between the have and the have-nots. The fact is that the people who have money have power and use this advantage to influence government thereby corrupting it.
This has always been the way of the world and I believe that at certain times in certain places it is more pervasive than others. In the third world corruption is more rampant than in the first but I feel that the third world particularly Latin America has improved. The United States has done the opposite. Since the end of World War II our country has embarked on a mission of secrecy. The actions of the United States on the world stage as well as domestically have been shrouded in secrecy marked by covert operations and misinformation. The public is kept in the dark about government corruption while any civilian corruption is plastered all over the news, and the public is taught to think how horrible it is.
The fact is that corruption is horrible. Can we overcome corruption? The answer is yes, but the solution is not simple. To overcome corruption we need to completely change the existing power structure which if not done carefully will only cause a power vacuum promoting rampant corruption. Completely getting rid of corruption is probably not possible. As long as we live in a society with private ownership because of the inherent greed in the system.
Planned vs. Market Economy
I think that one of the most important lessons we learned from the cold war was that completely planned economies (communism) do not work to the benefit of all. We see this result in the former USSR, China and other communist states save Cuba. Fascist states have proven ineffective as well as they exist solely for the benefit of those in power. At the same time we do complete free-market economies do not work either. From the end of WWII we had a more rigid economic policy marked by: a Keynesian welfare state, regulation of the economy, domestic economic production, national capital, labor movements, unions, corporate interests as national interests, currency controls and nationalism-citizenship. From the 1970’s to the current day we have a flexible economic policy that is to say a completely free market marked by: a limited state, de-regulation of the economy, off-shore economic production, de-nationalization of capital, globalization, no labor movements, a contingent labor force, privatization, and free markets. The long and the short of it is Dick Nixon started the United States on an economic policy that has made turned this state from the world’s biggest creditor to the world’s biggest debtor.
Our former economic policy was to protect our citizens, while our current economic policy is to exploit the globe including our own people. Market economics implies that economics are superior to the state and that economy operates best without government interference. Unrestricted free markets do not work as they spiral out of control as we have seen with the United States.
Economies must find a happy medium between planned and free-market economies to be sustainable. Completely free markets promote the disparity of wealth; while completely planned markets retard innovation and are not sustainable.
I feel that globalization is a double edged sword. In many ways it has brought us closer together. Communication technology has made it possible to communicate across the globe in real-time, something that the Magellan, Marco Polo, and Columbus would have thought impossible.
Though the world has been globalizing since the man first left Africa, the pace has been slow. Major innovations have occurred since then. First man figured out how to navigate along the coast of the major continents, then across the sea with the power of wind. After this came the power of fossil fuel which allowed for the rapid passage between spaces. Soon after the harnessing of fossil fuels came the innovation of the telephone which allowed for communication in real-time. It is this ability to communicate and transport between large spaces that has caused what we now call globalization.
Globalization means a number of things some good and some bad. Whether globalization is good or bad for certain people is dependent on how globalization effects said party. For the capitalist globalization is good because it means cheap labor, new markets and higher profit margins. The consumer benefits from the lower prices that come from cheap labor markets and also from the ability to receive goods that were previously unavailable. For the domestic worker globalization is bad because their job is sent overseas and it means the loss of domestic jobs and a decline in the standard of living. When international companies come to countries where industrialism did not previously exist they bring with them the problems that plagued the United States in the first three-quarters of the last century. International companies have brought large scale pollution to countries where there is no legislation to protect the host nations people or environment. The people of these countries are also exploited as they are flung into a world they know nothing about, the world of cash. Before the people of these countries were introduced to the western way of life, a world of commodities, they were often self-sufficient. This is to say they owned their own means of production often relying on horticultural raising of crops. When cash enters these worlds it destroys this mode of production, money becomes a necessity. The people of the third world are forced to join into the global system and are put into a position of exploitation often by their own governments in both direct and indirect manners. We see a move from the country to the city or better put from the ancestral farm or grazing grounds to the slum.
I have seen firsthand what the maquiladoras have done in Central America. Areas where there were once small prosperous villages that served as meeting places for rural inhabitants, there are ghost towns. The people have left their lands to work in large-scale production operations in free-trade zones where they are worse off than they had been in the jungle. Before then were put into these make-shift cities outside the free trade zones they were spread out, were the need for modern infrastructure was not necessary. These free-trade zone cities need modern infrastructure, sanitation, plumbing, etc. but these free-trade zones never get these necessities. The people are worse off than ever. People often make the argument that ‘hey at least we are providing jobs for these people.’ Well the fact of the matter is that these people were self employed before western companies came in and caused the need for jobs. Also people in the third world are not permitted to organize in free-trade zones as these areas are not subject to the laws of any sovereign nation, they do not answer to anyone so why would they?
Relativism vs. Absolutism
I am a strong believer in relativism the meaning and value of human beliefs is culturally relative as well as individually relative. Everything that one experiences or observes happens within a cultural framework and beyond this a personal framework. I do not feel that this leaves people without a coherent framework to move forward. Drawing on similarities and differences in the views of different cultures and individuals within these cultures we can begin to observe patterns and draw relations.
Absolutism leaves no room for change or flexibility in assessment. The non-questioning of accepted rules or truths leads one nowhere in the quest for knowledge. We see this in many fundamentalist groups of all kinds particularly creationists. Refusal to accept the evidence that supports the theory of evolution, is being an absolutist.
Being entirely on one side or the other gets you nowhere in understanding the world. If you only see things in your personal bubble you will not be able to make heads or tails of anything but if you accept everything that you are told you will never have an original thought. It is the lacing together of relative experience and observation that can lead toward absolute understanding of a situation although a degree of relativity must always remain.
Holistic vs. Myopic Vision
In the United States I fear that we look at the world with myopic vision. This is to say we look at the here and now only, never looking at how we got here or where we are going. This philosophy in looking at and dealing with the world has landed us in a heap of trouble. It is only recently that we have realized our crippling dependence on fossil fuels and how it has damaged the environment. We follow this philosophy in business, always trying to turn a quick dollar, regardless of the long-term effects to the market; we follow it in medicine, always trying to treat the symptom quickly with little regards to the cause or subsequent side effects.
We must embrace a more holistic view of the world, which I believe we are starting to do. Although it has taken environmental devastation we are realizing that we cannot simply continue to plunder the earths resources and pollute because this disregard of the environment effects us not only now but has ramifications for the future. The environment needs time to recover and whether we like it or not we are dependent on its stability. In business we need to plan for the long term or else we will find ourselves out competed by those who planned more strategically for success (i.e. the American automobile industry in contrast with Japans). In medicine we are becoming more concerned with avoiding the causes of disease and ailments instead of just treating the symptoms, with things like preventative medicine and nutrition. Finally we must remember that the history is not a simple line dotted with events but that it is an immense lattice and the choices we made yesterday affect the choices we can make today and what those choices will mean for the choices we can make in the future.
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