13. SOCIAL GOALS
This raises the question, what measure should we use as our guide: what
should be our goal? Some people have argued that the goal is the maximization
of happiness. Society, particularly the media, regularly acts as if the goal is
the avoidance of boredom. Another measure, though, which is not unrelated to the
first, is the preservation and creation of value.
Over the last 3.5 billion years all manner of life forms and natural habitats
have evolved on our planet. Similarly, in the last two hundred thousand years
the period of time since Homo sapiens evolved as a separate species
an extraordinary array of distinct human cultures have been established. This
diversity represents what is truly unique and beautiful about the Earth: it constitutes
the real value of our world.
Every time a species dies out, every time a natural habitat is cut down, every
time a traditional human culture is assimilated by the modern world,
part of this value is irrevocably lost.
This concept of value can also be used to evaluate any actions that humans consider,
as individuals and through groups. If such actions preserve environmental and
cultural diversity, and establish the conditions in which they can continue to
thrive, then they are acceptable. However, if the actions reduce the diversity
and the potential for further development, even if only through indirect consequences,
then they are not.
- Dictator Watch Manifesto
Earlier I listed a great number of specific activist causes, in which you might
choose to become involved. But this still raises the question of our overall goal.
If we are to change our society to escape from its present destructive path, what
is the alternative? And, how are we to measure our progress?
The issue with development, or progress, is development or progress towards what?
Are we working to create a stable society where human needs are fully satisfied,
and is our system sustainable and not causing environmental harm? Under the current
system, development, as in the idea of a nations development, is seen in
purely commercial terms, really, in how much money corporations, i.e., developers,
are making. There is little consideration given to or calculation of
the cultural and environmental damage that is being caused. Indeed, land development
means, it is the same thing as, irreversible land destruction: to pave it over
and put up some type of building.
Real development, the type of development that should be our goal, is social or
cultural development: the achievement of our social goals. And what are our social
goals? The following is a prospective list:
- Voluntary control of our breeding, to reduce the pressures from overpopulation.
- The protection of all natural habitats, with minimal human impact thereon, and
as natural resources are needed for industry and agriculture, the minimal, least
impact, and sustainable extraction therefrom.
- Human happiness, through the satisfaction of our needs as individuals.
- An ethical society, where people care for others as well as for themselves.
- The construction of a social infrastructure that guarantees all people access
to quality education, health care, housing, transportation and basic utilities.
- The preservation of cultural history and traditions, including such things as
languages, arts and crafts, and environmental knowledge.
- Opportunity equality.
- Within reasonable tolerances, wealth equality.
- A meritocracy.
- No intolerance or discrimination; rather, a celebration of diversity.
- A level society, where the disadvantaged are given support and assistance.
- A level society, which does not sink to the lowest common denominator, but rather
in which individuals strive to achieve personal creativity, excellence and sophistication.
- A highly productive society, with a great store of wealth, thereby minimizing
work requirements and maximizing the time available for leisure and personal development.
- A stable society; one at peace, in equilibrium, and undergoing a natural process
of evolution with minimal disruption and unrest.
Are these the goals to which modern society is leading us? If so, it is by a very
roundabout route. And are these the goals by which we measure the success of our
development and progress? I dont think so.
Also, as a final measure, it is essential that we recognize that for real development
to occur, we have to be able to minimize the effects of chance. We have to eliminate
the social forms that lead one individual to be a beggar on the streets of India,
and another a multimillionaire in Silicon Valley (or Bangalore!). Even in the
greatest cases of merit, chance still plays a significant if not dominant role.
In a fair and just society, this would not be the case.
© Roland O. Watson 2005