The following is an attempt at sane thought in an insane world. Its main purpose is to look at us as a species and where we may have gone wrong.
For most of human history, there haven't been enough of us to harm nature in any great way. Our tools were primitive, our needs simple and vast areas of the world lay beyond our dominion. As we draw closer to modern times our numbers and our destructive capabilities increase exponentially. Generations of war and suffering taught us nothing and our recent history seen bloodshed on an unimaginable scale. Among the milestones, since the start of the twentieth century, we can count the Holocaust, Rwanda, Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Armenia, Vietnam, East Timor, Iraq, Stalin's Russia, Chernobyl, Dresden, Hiroshima/Nagasaki, chemical warfare, world war and the age of nuclear weaponry with which we can obliterate our species.
As a species, the technological ability to create a just and fair society has never been so close to our grasp, but we seem further away than ever. One merely has to look at the largest industries in our world to see how far we are from any sort of ideal, and how little we can trust the current system to provide the sort of society thoughtful people aspire to.
The first of these monolithic industries revolve around the tool we use to rush to nowhere, the automobile and its associated requirements, roads, oil, tyres, etc. Whole nations economic wealth is built on oil and petroleum and many more are inseparably tied in with the industry. Apart from the many other terrible effects of this industry, we now have wars for the control of oil, blood for oil.
Next os the international arms and weaponry trade, tools with which to destroy and defile life. Much poverty around our world is directly related to resources wasted on weapons, which destabilise countries and make life intolerable for those without power. Often the sellers of these weapons are the wealthy nations, who after selling these products of death to poor nations, wonder why they are so unstable politically and socially.
Not least of these industries is the international drugs trade. The legal part of the drug trade has turned sickness and disease into a multi-billion dollar business for private interests, subsidised by universities and states, doubling in its cost to our society every few years, yet most of the gains in our life span have been due to hygiene and nutrition, not new expensive drugs which line the pockets of wealthy shareholders. The illegal part of the drug trade has turned unhappiness into a multi-trillion dollar business which gives undreamed-of resources to criminals who live like emperors. It destabilises our society and fills our prisons with the social debris at the bottom of the drug pyramid, people who often just searched for happiness and instead become wasted lives, wasted potential.
On the whole, these industries are a telling indictment on our misguided species. They are the product of the mind of humanity, of the system the majority of us allow to be. This is us.
So it begins...
Our society has, since the mists of recorded history, remained divided amongst itself. Though we have problems on a massive scale, we also have the technological ability and resources to solve many of them, yet we are divided and unable to work together on solutions. Long have we had the intelligence to understand that this is not a productive state of affairs, that selfishness can only ever benefit those with power and resigns many to lives of misery, losing the creative energies they could contribute to us all.
It is not through a lack of vision that we continue to live in a society, the very structure of which inevitably produces suffering. We are all involved in society and most can see its main flaws, there are many ways in which our society should change and I don't believe the answers are as difficult as those who benefit from the status quo would have us think. Selfishness is a more arbitrary motive for human action as compassion. There are simple ways of doing and thinking about things which could greatly improve our standard of life, to cooperate, to love one another, to be kinder, to think not only of our little part of the world.
Instead, much of our energies are spent on unproductive pursuits, war, consumption, economic gain. We see selfishness as the way of living a better life. We believe that increasing consumption as our key to happiness, despite the trinkets we've bought in the past that have failed to do so. This state of being doesn't satisfy us, trends show for all our efforts we are not getting any happier as a society, many would say our modern world is unhappier. Even this hasn't slowed the machine our species has become, instead, it seems to have made our appetite for destruction more intense.
Does society have to be this way, is another world possible?
A commonly held opinion seems to be the cliche about money ruling the world, driving and motivating people. This amoral god is a powerful example of how we have lost touch with a truth relevant to the natural world in which we live. A seed doesn't grow, the sun doesn't shine, a river doesn't flow because of money. A monkey in the forest can grow plump, have family, relationships, joys and sorrows, and if it is lucky will never have its fate ruled by money. The rest of the entire universe works without even the comprehension of money, yet we pretend it is the centre of all.
On deeper reflection money is truly nothing more than a system of barter, an arbitrary method of exchange, pieces of metal and coloured paper. Money is a facade, it has no power, it is just an idea.
So if money does not rule our society and "make the world go around", then what does? One might say human needs, however, on one side of the world someone needs water and doesn't get it, whilst on the other someone wants a different coloured vehicle for different days of the week. The system provides wants and needs, only on the basis of power within the system. It is this power that rules our world, which manifests itself in the drive to possess and control things that serve our self-interest.
It should be obvious to any thinking person that if we are to survive and truly progress as a species we need to attune our motives with something more relative to the flow of nature than just our desires themselves. It is evident that we need to live attuned with a higher purpose, a truth that envelopes the meaningful aspirations of our species, and helps us to fulfil them.
Evolution is a vast and mysterious enigma and far from understanding it, we can but give it a label.
Over time humanity has been evolving in many ways. Contrary to popular wisdom our evolutionary past and consequently what we are now, was and is no more predetermined than our future and what we could be. However much we can explain by the survival of the "fittest", there seems as much which is just where or how things happened to be, or the whims and social conditioning of the status quo at the time. One being survives because it exists halfway around the world from a predator perfectly formed to annihilate it, not always because it was the fastest or fiercest. Would our consideration of what it is to be human be different if the neanderthals had ended up on a separate continent, surviving to our present-day? In many ways there is more chance ruling the makeup of world than we can comprehend, the fiercest creatures do not always survive, the weakest do not always fail, and in the mass extinctions, they all died together.
Maybe humans were the fittest and survived, it certainly seems that way now, but looking at the world we inhabit it is more likely that nature had a need for us, a niche she needed to fill at a place and time. Yes we are terrible and powerful creatures, but we were not always so, evolutionary theory says that once we were little different from other creatures we now drive to the edge of extinction because we have decided that they don't matter. Standing at this point in history we claim supremacy, but this is the logic of hindsight. We see things only from our limited self-perspective, our lives have been just another part of this planets intricate system of life, the separation of our species we perceive does not exist. There is no scientific principle saying that humans are the only animal capable of evolving a higher consciousness.
The order we see in evolution is mathematical, not ethical, and therefore no more morality to be found in the domination of it, than in the addition of figures. That we appear to rule this world of plants and animals is a dubious distinction in any case. Might does not make right, to say so is to make a god out of evolution and mathematics. We have judged things by no standards other than our own, which serve to conveniently place us at the pinnacle of all things. Men believed women lesser, the slave master thought his slaves intellectually inferior, the conquerors believed the natives less than human, the powerful always seek ways to justify their oppression as virtuous. We variously use god or evolution to justify our oppression of other species.
The earth does not only sustain, but it must also be sustained. We have such power that we are effecting in a negative way the total organism which is earth. Far from being the shining example of evolution, we have become its nemesis, causing the extinction of species of plants and animals, irreparably retarding others, taking ridiculous scientific risks for little but economic gain and generally warping the delicate process that creates and sustains life on our home. The progression of humanity of which we are so proud is also one of the great extinction events in the billions of years of life on earth. It is the height of irony that we see ourselves as the pinnacle of life on a planet we are destroying.
Much of our understanding of nature focuses on the emotional, flamboyant parts that we find emotionally intense, rather than the deeper processes which hold it together. Existence is inter-related to a point were its individual identity becomes blurred. Without trees, we could not breathe, without water we could not drink, these things sustain our life force and are as much a part of our survival as the internal organs which exist within our bodies. Perceiving ourselves objectively we will see we are just another peripheral part of the intricate processes of life on this planet. Far from being separate from the laws of nature, like all other creatures, the reality is that we are totally and utterly interdependent.
A species which is overly successful in a restricted area will inevitably reach a critical point in relation to its resources. If they are lucky in survival terms they will peak before they have destroyed the ecosystem which supports them. If there are no checks on their destructiveness, they will consume themselves out of a viable future. Although on a grand scale, we are just going through a self-defence mechanism this eco-system could not have reached its bountiful state without. Whilst our species has so often thought themselves superior to all other creatures, this very superiority being exempt from a progression of sense, may be the thing which destroys us. We are that which we consume - in damaging it, we are damaging ourselves, for instance, we cannot have clean health without a clean environment and we fail to understand this at our peril. To be conscious of it and ignore it, to ignore all the consequences of our actions, is potentially our end. We cannot go on as we are.
It is difficult to overstate the gravity of the path we are headed, self-annihilation, just the potential of which should inspire us to act. Our lives, the things we love, our history and culture will cease to mean anything, indeed even the concept of meaning itself will be banished from what we know of the universe. The great human achievements we cherish, not even the memory of them will exist, and the ones who's brilliance might yet come, will never get the chance to be. This great human species that believed it would one day colonise the universe, will turn out to be nothing but particles of dust blowing around a barren world. If this means something to us, if we want to place any meaning in human existence at all, in consciousness, then it falls upon each of us as ethical beings to act to ensure it does not happen.
There are those who make the point that religious sects and false-prophets have long prophesied that "the end is nigh". Unlike those before them the prophets of our age are not products of supposed mystical revelations, they are biologists and environmental scientists using peer-reviewed scientific methodology. What they are telling us is that we need radical change. For many amongst us they hope only that they won't have to face the consequences of their own actions, however, we are being damaged already. Cancers and breathing disorders are skyrocketing, our fertility is failing, if that is not enough of a wake-up call that our lifestyles need to be remade from the ground up then our species is in a state of coma. Will we have to wait until we are breathing warm brown air for us to question our way of life? Should a child not be able to breathe properly because you don't want to change? Instead of decreasing, our destructive effects are increasing. As a direct result of our unnecessary actions, people and species are dying, now. At what point, at how many dead, do we stop and question ourselves? At what point in our history do we say enough? At what point in the evolution of humanity do we cast aside selfishness and decide to become something beautiful and true?
The very fact that incentives such as self-interest or self-preservation are needed in order for people to heed the messages our natural systems are sending us, rather than simply asking what right we have to desecrate this beautiful world and its creatures, is a sad indictment on the collective intellect of humanity. Who knows where evolution might have taken other species, with their genetic material so similar to our own, many of them no doubt descended from or passing through branches of evolution we once dwelt within. The other inhabitants of our planet are thinking, feeling beings, similar to us in so many ways, yet we draw this strange line of intelligence which, we believe in our ignorance, doesn't allow anyone but the human species to comprehend its own pain or suffering. We who know so little about that which surrounds us, assign them an intellectual value and believe it has some relation to their actual worth. It is our own worth as a species we should be questioning, and we should debate not their ability to feel, but our own.
Perhaps once trying to define what is meaningful was the realm of philosophers and poets. Keats said "Truth is beauty, beauty is truth", and that is a wonderfully intuitive statement, but Keats lived in a time when the wider ramifications of humanities actions were less evident. He may have seen a factory spewing filth into a river and thought it ugly and wrong, but he couldn't know all we now do about the evil effects pollution and chemicals have. Right and wrong are to some degree becoming manifest in our time and one of its clearest messages is from our environment. It is showing us that you cannot exist in a state of ignorance, self-interest and greed, and be a worthwhile part of the existence you inhabit. Our actions have an effect on our world, if they are done without thought of the consequences, we are likely to make our world uglier, and existence less beautiful. This is the spiritual message that the earth is teaching us.
Money and Power
Using the example of wildlife and nature conservation, many have made the point that if conservation cannot be made economically viable it will not last. This is perhaps valid in resignation to a world that values nothing but economic gain, but in a saner world, this logic would be looked upon with contempt. Many of the solutions which can help return our world to its diverse and productive state will certainly be economically viable especially in the long term, but if this is the sort of logic we turn the direction of our world to, I feel that we may despair. The destructive, easy, ugly way of doing things will often be the most time-efficient and cost-effective especially in the short term which many of us seem unable to see beyond. It would have to be asked, is that which does not have any worth to such an amoral principle such as economics doomed? Is something so artificial as "monetary value" to continue deciding the life and death of the irreplaceable flora and fauna of this planet? I hope for the sake of the natural world, it does not.
Many people appear to think that readjusting small parts of the economic model of our current society will be enough to preserve our dwindling natural world, however, they obviously don't fully understand the complexity of the problem and almost more importantly the roots of the dilemma. You can not try to base a society on negative emotions like self-interest, greed and gluttony, and expect it to produce a positive outcome. We don't need a new economic or political model, we as individuals need to change the way we think about our world. It is a question of nothing less than the motives for what we do, and the meaning we attribute to our lives.
Competition for resources inevitably leads to inequalities. In an uncontrolled system of the distribution of resources, there will be 'natural' centres of power, over time through luck or skill some groups will be more successful than others. In a capitalist system, wealth is power, those who accumulate wealth in such a system, have an unequal basis of power for the accumulation of more wealth. We no longer hand on political power purely by bloodline, but the seemingly more influential monetary power is still handed on in this way. This is an inherently unbalanced system. Many of those who accumulate wealth and power expending their energies attempting to perpetuate their privilege, disregarding suffering around them. This is predictable as a system that rewards greed, ends up with that trait dominating its positions of power. This is not the way forward for humanity.
All many people can vainly hope for their lives is to join the wealthy in their gluttony, because their experience of power and the powerful has led them to be cynical that an equitable world is possible. They cannot see the sharing system which is the only path that can provide them with a common dignity, one not reliant on them climbing over the top of each other.
A quick look at the aspirations of many of the poor in this world will find nothing more than a will "to be rich". We have replaced the religious concept of heaven with one in this life of garish consumption. Little do we understand that in dreams of opulence, lies submission to the unjust world that created poverty in the first place. A system of haves and have-nots, powerful and powerless, malnutrition and gluttony, winners and losers. The poor, pursuing an end to their own poverty, submit and perpetuate the system that caused it, and so condemn others to poverty.
Church and State has been replaced by Corporation and State, the alter has been replaced by the television, the brainwashing of the church replaced by the carefully crafted hypnotism of the media and shopping mall. We have been taught to worship sport, celebrity, god, nation etc. We have been taught that self-worth comes from power and fame.
The wealth of the world is becoming even more concentrated into the hands of proportionately few. Consumer goods are illusory beads and trinkets hiding the actuality of economic polarisation, and the lack of real input and power the majority have in their society. Much of the structure of our society is specifically designed to control the many and keep them from having any real say over the grand themes of their lives, the control of the media and politics by corporations being prime examples.
Almost every step in the system is designed to use the effort expended by the majority for the profit of a minority. If no profit can be made, the poor receive no wage, and can have no products. People starve in this world, not because of a lack of resources, but because no one can profit from selling things to them. Corporations do not make things out of any sort of community spirit, they make them because they can profit from them. If they have a choice between making medicines for sick children, and golf carts for overweight executives, they will follow the profit, regardless of any ethics involved. If they have a choice between donating money to a charity, or giving it to a political party so that laws will be made in their favour, they will choose the latter. Their morality, like the morality of destroying forests, making land mines, selling junk food to children, is all about profit.
The millionaires and managing directors of our age are just the kings and nobility of a bygone age in another guise, down to their ridiculous titles, attendant servants and palatial abodes. We are just (and have always remained) the slaves of a ruling elite that has become more efficient in their methods over the last couple of hundred years. Instead of providing food and lodging, they give us a wage by which we can provide our own. Human life, like everything else, is perceived as nothing more than a commodity to be bought and sold. We have theoretical freedom and that is an incalculable improvement, but we still exist in a state of wage slavery where we have limited choices in our lifestyles. The education system does not equip us with the ability to make real choices, like whether to participate in this system or not. Instead in our formative years, the choice it gives us and equips us for is what specific role within the system we will have.
The elites have discovered what Aldous Huxley put so succinctly in his introduction to Brave New World, that the ultimate form of slavery is one in which the slaves love their bondage. In the right ideological environment, many are willing to climb over each other, despite this not being in their own long term interests.
The ruling elite, pass money and therefore power on to their physical and ideological children. A handful of dynasties, countries and corporations own and control the majority of wealth. Studies have shown over ninety per cent of elections are won by the party which spends the most money. Corporations bribe politicians to create a society which benefits them. Corporations pay for political campaigns, they have the resources to influence the workings of democracy, and they reap the benefits of that power.
The very governments whom we have elected and entrusted to regulate the financial institutions and corporations are instead having policy dictated to them by those same corporations. Dictating policy to the governments who amongst other things we have entrusted to regulate our media and educate our children. Of course, this is not an open democracy, democracy is the formulation of ideas and the people having the ability to participate in their society, not voting for someone else to do it. When a small section of society controls the representation and flow of ideas, as is the case in our media, democracy cannot function as it is intended. Instead of informing people, our media is 'Manufacturing Consent' to an unfair system for the elites.
Whether there is a conspiracy of the wealthy and corporations attempting to control us, or whether as Gore Vidal said "they don't need to conspire, they think alike", the effect is much the same. There are vast sums of money and power to be had through the control of us, society, it would seem it has been too tempting for our elites to resist.
The importance of the popular media in controlling us is evident in that the majority of people rarely seek alternative sources of information. People trust the corporate television news and newspapers to inform them. What doesn't appear on them virtually doesn't exist, people don't get information from anywhere else. This hands the electronic and print media disproportionate power in relation to their direct responsibility to the public. You cannot have a fully functioning democracy without a media which informs the people free from vested interest. This fact has not escaped the elites, and they understand it is one of the key elements in control. The media no longer tries to inform our view of the world, it tries to shape it.
Advertising is generally directed at us less as we grow older. There are far less critical minds who spend much of their childhood watching the advertisements and entertainments of corporations who admit no responsibility to anyone other than their shareholders. With the evidence from psychologists that the vast proportion of our intellectual make-up is decided in our early formative years, and that we don't have the same intellectual defences at a younger age, it is little wonder the media continues to have such a hypnotic hold on us in later life. The media is well aware of the influence propaganda directed at children can have on their social patterns as adults. We don't even question the consumerist urges within us, the ideas which allow us to accept such global inequality whilst obsessing over a car or television set, yet they have come from somewhere. Public relations firms are getting more scientific in their methods year after year, the psychologist, the social scientist and the marketing executive are now one. They know much of our subconscious mind better than we know it ourselves. Through various overt but nonetheless subliminal methods, ourselves and our children are being told what to wear, what to eat, what we care about and how we are to think. This is power, and it generally goes unquestioned.
Worrying too is that the education of our children is placed in the hands of politicians who it seems would not be above nurturing frames of belief which would assist them in the perpetuation of their own power. Certainly, it is hard to see them allowing curriculum to be taught that would be in any way a direct threat to their power. It is amazing that the pros and cons of different systems of governing our lives and economies which are successful around the world are not often discussed in our classrooms. You don't see discussions of things fundamentally important to our society like different health care models, instead, they are somehow meant to pick up the different sides of such an argument from government and corporate-owned media. If you control a persons information sources, you begin to control their belief structure and if you control an individuals belief structure you thereby control the individual. The goal is to make the slaves love their slavery, but its acceptable that the majority at least tolerate it. If we are not resisting control whilst our actions contribute to the running of the system, we are supporting it. Dissident thought without action is conformist thought.
Why have we reached this point? Obviously, we can look at this from a physical viewpoint and blame governments (even those democratically elected), corporations and even the military, who certainly have all been the willing leaders of this self-destructive path. However until we learn that this physical world is very much a manifestation of the will of the mass and more specifically controllable our personal emotions and desires which are the microcosms of that mass, then we are a long way from being in touch with this "truth" of which I will speak. Who is buying the corporations products, feeding the monetary directions of our scientists and ultimately electing the policymakers and governments which are meant to oversee it all? Yes, they work hard at controlling us, but there is something in the human spirit that has the ability to see beyond what we are fed, we need this part of us to guide us. We need to achieve a critical mass of individual awakenings, of free-thinking individuals taking back control of their society. The human heart is the only place any meaningful revolution can come from.
Whether or not we like to accept it, it does seem to come down to the unhappy fact that many people are ignorant or apathetic to the world they are creating. Easily lead, drunk with trivial desires often placed in their minds by propaganda and advertising, isolated, angry at something but often not sure what. They bow their heads in servility to a system in which they are an interchangeable part, unaware that their whole existence is, in the greater scheme of things, one of servitude. We are unconscious citizens.
Never a truer or currently sadder word was spoken in a democracy and to a lesser extent other systems of power, than - "people get the government they deserve".
From this viewpoint, we have to ask, society obviously has many problems, ones that could be greatly alleviated or cured completely if everybody cared about each other, compromised and worked together for the greater good. Given this, is it just apathy that is the cause of these problems in society, or is it as many believe a darker fundamental void of moral character in human beings?
To me it seems obvious that people have the possibility to be many things, for whatever trait you want to say is innate in people, evil, good, apathy, you can find numerous examples to prove it. I have noticed people asserting human nature is one way inclined or the other usually need it to make their own world view seem logical.
Ultimately our modern societies work. They hold together, we have laws, justice, hospitals, charity, are these the reflections of a fundamentally selfish creature that believes only might makes right? We also have a society where many people are afraid to walk the streets at night, is this evidence that we are basically good? One person lights a fire revelling in the destruction and unhappiness it will cause, another risks their life to put it out for no reward other than to have helped. To say either of these people is the true reflection of humanity and the other is illogical.
I choose the viewpoint Socrates had about people, that evil acts are generally ones of ignorance. People are misguidedly acting in what they think are the interests of their own happiness, not perceiving the deeper fact that a compassionate society is the most logically consistent system which offers us the greatest chance for mass happiness. If understanding and education are not able to change people into more caring human beings, maybe we have no hope anyway. A dictatorship by the compassionate would not be something many wise people would want, because they would understand the likelihood of its corruption. We must work to attain the truest possible democracy, and then trust that if the truth is known the vast majority of people will act harmoniously because it is in all our best interests. We need to make them understand that what we are trying to achieve is a progression for us all, not a war between us. The only path to a just world lies in compassion and cooperation between empowered, enlightened citizens.
Although it might seem that people often believe destructive or negative things, if you look at the motives behind their opinions, you generally find a glimmer of the wish for something positive or higher for society. They may be brainwashed or ignorant, misguidedly aimed, but they base their views sincerely on the perception of what they believe would be best for all. We don't need to inculcate these people with totally new motives, we just need to make our case for the journey there. I believe the majority of people wish to live in peace, to pursue their dreams without the fear of violence in their lives, they want health care, a decent home and sustained environment in which to live, and they want these things for other people as well. The predominantly evil and selfish minority, do not offer this world to us. They instead offer us a system of classes, where everything is a commodity. Though they are powerful I believe their arguments, being based on the logic only of self-interest, are innately flawed. They would make of life a competitive war I believe the majority of people would reject if they could see it for what it is. Hence the massive effort in keeping the truth from the many, because the human is ultimately a social animal.
We have only this planet, those who wish to live in a clean, peaceful world are bound by fate to those who don't care. We are stuck with the ignorant, the cruel, the apathetic, perhaps a portion of us will always be that way - and the good will continue to suffer for the bad. They pollute, and we have no option but to breath that air. We cannot ignore them, hence it will always be important for us to show the destructive and apathetic amongst us something higher and draw them irresistibly to it, just as every generation of children will need to be taught about the mistakes of the past, and the way to create a better future.
If one were to look at the problems faced by humanity, we create most of them for ourselves. Warfare, starvation, violence, pollution and poverty are mainly products of humanities inhumanity towards their fellow human and natural surrounds. So by changing people, changing ourselves, we can make a huge difference to the quality of life in this world.
It seems to me that the question of whether we as a species are "sane" summarises the questions I would ask about human existence. It is difficult ground, but I think it is a key part of our existence and should be confronted. I have talked about apathy and ignorance above when perhaps the question of sanity is more relevant.
Although many question what sanity is, it might then be asked if they are unable to define this concept, how might they live it within themselves? I think some are scared of defining sanity for this reason. Our society generally accepts sanity as being "normality", somewhere there is a medium of human activity which despite our various idiosyncrasies, is defined as acceptable logic or behaviour. Some of the more sensible parts of that are directed at the welfare of the individual and those around them. The further we step beyond this in certain key ways the more our sanity might be questioned. It is a relative term, relative to the culture and norms we exist within at a certain point. According to this definition, it shifts, an example of this would be to look at how practices such as cannibalism and animal sacrifice are accepted parts of some cultures, however, in our culture we look on them differently. It is also related to what effects it has, different manifestations of insanity have different consequences and therefore are perceived of harm to one's self or society accordingly.
This broadly defines where sanity resides in human terms however if we were to truly look at the "average" person's psychology, which is the basis for the relative definition of sanity, it would have to be asked if they confront the deeper questions of life with any sort of reasonable logic. That we are grounded in the realities of the world in which we live which would certainly have to be the higher definition of what sanity should mean. If sanity is purely a relative term, are we really just talking about a sort of "averageness" rather than the generally rational behaviour and logical thinking it should denote? I would conjecture that sanity is a clear comprehension of objective truth and that given our societies tendency to be beholden to fantasy and untruth we are on the whole far from this understanding.
A list of desirable attributes I might include in a healthy mind are self-esteem, awareness, happiness, knowledge, many more but they are enough for my purposes. The will to commit suicide would not be part of what we would call a healthy mind, I wouldn't consider my own mind healthy if it spent too much time contemplating how to best extinguish itself, and it would seem that our culture agrees with me. It is an action which although also being once an accepted part of various cultures, in our culture would be seen as beyond our relative definition of a healthy mind, sanity.
If we accept this on an individual level, then can we extrapolate that to the actions of our species as a whole? Given the amount of information showing how we are hastening life on our planet's demise, and the fact that we are generally aware of this, could that be construed as a form of suicide less personally related? Is this sane, is this a sane culture?
On a different level examples might include, land degradation, smoking cigarettes, not exercising, eating vast amounts of junk-foods and junk-drinks, consuming salt and sugar in maniacal quantities, polluting our air, desecrating the natural beauty of our world, destroying rivers, overfishing the oceans, putting pesticides in our food chain, killing each other with guns, bombs and even the cars we drive, all of these afflictions and many more, have nothing to do with evolution or our survival. Not only are they in no way necessary for any of us to survive or be happy, but they also cause suffering on a wide scale. Yet we continue with them, ignoring the damage they do to ourselves and our world. Is this sane? Perhaps one could say it is stupid, ignorant or illogical, but I think it is a question of sanity, of the motives which drive us being unrelated to the reality we find ourselves within.
I believe the causes of this lack of motives with real groundings has to do with many things, to begin with, a creature which is in an evolution process having come from nowhere to be part of this universes experiment with consciousness. I think there are many motives within our culture too, to capture out mind for others benefits, that others can profit if they can lead us away from our internal journey towards truth, to their religion, corporation, marketing campaign, sporting team, political party, love or nation. There are also many people consumed in just trying to survive, poverty, oppression, competition, control, all these things distract us from deeper philosophical questioning of our actions. However, even in relatively materially comfortable societies, free from overt oppression, the same emptiness of purpose, of disconnectedness, exists and is often more acute. This is part of the human condition at this stage of our shared evolution, and we have constructed ideological barriers to moving beyond it.
Most people do little more in life than consume. The same obsession with external materialism seems to exist in both rich and poor countries, despite the rich being theoretically free to pursue other life goals. We have become addicts to things which are on a large scale are detrimentally affecting our quality of life. Objectively, this sort of short-sighted lack of logic would seem strange, yet we are not talking about insignificant minorities here. This is perhaps the majority, the majority that the relative definition of sanity says is where we look for sanity.
Put all these facets together, our mass greed, our dishonesty and indifference, that our actions are not productive for the upliftment of the spirit of all, that we are destroying the world around us, that our sanity is open to questioning, it is not a healthy picture. Humanity needs the direction to find healing. So where do we go from here?
"Truth" has become another meaningless word through its familiarity, yet it is an intense and challenging concept.
Unfortunately, it seems that most words have ceased to mean anything and unless they came from someone who others claimed walked on water, had a hit song or movie, or was some great conqueror, they would be ignored anyway. We value not so much the message in this society, but its means.
We are largely left to ourselves to contemplate what truth is if we do at all. This intellectual isolation on one of the great questions of consciousness is stagnating us philosophically as a society. We need external guidance that understands we must each make an internal journey towards wisdom in this life, as we carry nothing with us from the womb. Truth has to make sense to us, it has to relate to our life experiences, it has to be logically consistent with our world. We look outwardly for the tools of philosophy with which to think about our own place in the universe, but ultimately the true philosophical journey has to be real to that which lies within us. Each existence is an experience with its own journey of meaning, each person should therefore be looking not for external prophets or messiahs, but for wisdom which facilitates their own journey to becoming an enlightened being.
We exist within a society which can physically and psychologically brutalise ourselves and others. Sadly we will probably always need defences. There are many in this world who hate others because of various meaningless identifications of "us and "them", races, religions, down to the most trivial things. They believe that their hatreds are a defence from the greater world around them when an objective comprehension of truth would show them that it is the hatred within us, not something outside of us that is the main cause of our current condition of metaphysical and spiritual emptiness, the condition they struggle blindly against. Their anger is misguided, they do violence to those suffering from the same emptiness around them, rather than utilising that emotional power as motivation to change the conditions of their society for the better.
Even where people recognise that something is wrong with the motive and morality of society, the answer they give is invariably something which has little to do with the many and varied difficulties that face us as a species today. They look at how they can improve things for themselves, but whilst the masses also live in conditions conducive to despair, and you dwell amidst them, like the fish swimming in a polluted stream, you cannot escape its effects. Freedom is nonsensical in isolation, their struggle and your struggle are the same. Our liberation is bound up in each others because it is only as a member of a society of free individuals that we can achieve the fullest expression of our existence. The struggle for hope, for happiness, for contentment, for love, must be begun personally within, but it has to be equally concerned beyond in the wider world.
The path to a better world lies through the healing of the human psyche. We need to understand those that we hope will change. The fewer people seek information, the more they are susceptible to having it fed to them. Many have never attempted to enhance their understanding of the intricate global dilemmas we face, however this does not stop them having strong opinions, the sources of which they never stop to question. Rejecting everything different is an instinctive response to validate ourselves amidst an infinite universe one doesn't understand. Anger, drugs, hatred, can drown out the uncomfortable despair and powerlessness people often feel inside. They want to avoid any attempt at questioning or analysing themselves often because of the pain they find within. This can largely be resolved through education, in a climate of love, honesty and compassion, they can work through these things, to deal with their own self-destructive emotions. As it is though we need to deal with them now when they have acquired all the armour needed by the human adult in a society that thinks itself based on greed. This will be difficult but I know that many can change because I can change. We don't need everyone, just enough, just that critical mass.
There are no easy answers in the psychology of the human species and even if there were the disease might be worse than the cure. We don't want imposed solutions, we don't want to destroy the beautiful complexity that the individuality of humanity creates. Change needs to be spiritually and philosophically internal and it needs to encourage difference, whilst comprehending the need of working within the greater context of a society.
A truly civilized society would attempt not to exclude anybody from the discussion of its structure. Each of us owns their small piece of enlightenment which compliment the whole, even the angry and hurt are expressing real emotions that must be addressed. However generally our discussions have become so entrenched with ego that conversation has ceased to be the exchanges of ideas and ideals, Conversation has become a tool by which we attempt to influence others perceptions of ourselves, whether we are right is less important than whether we are perceived to be right. Freud said one of our primary goals was the "need to be important" and this seems to have totally eclipsed a "need to be compassionate, understanding and wise". No longer do we communicate with each other, rather it is a subtly disguised dance of our egos, a collective delusion intended to pass time, whilst surely time passes us by.
Undoubtedly, there are those who are generally wiser and more compassionate amongst us, but who seeks to learn from them, who aspires to be like them? Are we instead so caught up in being a created image of a successful person and trying to like ourselves within that context, that beautiful words and actions of others are like echos of our own quiet inner despair? We cannot progress if each of us will deny the knowledge of the other, for as I said before, each of us only holds in our hands a piece of the puzzle, enlightenment is interdependent.
Somewhere down the passage of time, we found the need for a simple, powerful word that signifies something not always entirely tangible, "truth". As I said previously, it is a word that through over-use and familiarity has ceased to mean anything deeper along with much of our language. I believe this word in particular "truth" encapsulates a direction which we have lost and desperately need to find again for our species to survive and for us to truly fulfil ourselves and each other. I think that until we realise our journey in life is really a quest for higher truth, we walk a crooked path toward enlightenment.
How do we define this "higher truth"? My instinctive answer is - tentatively. To begin this explanation, it is interesting to note that we insult each other with the term liar, or use instances of untruths as evidence of another's lack of character, yet in the next breath, we admit that everybody tells lies or even deny that there is such a thing as objective truth. Many don't feel the need to reconcile these sorts of mutually exclusive opinions within themselves, however, I don't think this is a stable basis for human consciousness. The equation of two cliches in our culture, we all tell lies = we are all to varying degrees insane, seems to me to be telling, I think insanity and the lie are bound up together.
It seems part of the human condition to condemn in others what we forgive or even condone in ourselves, and this is stark evidence of a lack of a fundamental truth from which we draw our judgements. If our thoughts and judgements do not stem from an origin that can be counted upon to be free from self-servitude and therefore sincere, it must be asked how much are these thoughts and judgements worth? If we cannot be counted on to be sincere and honest, what do we offer to society and those closest to us as individuals? For our healing, for our self-development, for our progression as a species, I believe that truth is the beginning, the direction and in many ways the destination. I believe it is the best path to any sort of real happiness and meaning for our culture, and we have lost sight of its importance in a spiritual sense.
In most circumstances, there is only one truth, and although many would like to argue that truth is only ever relative, it would appear the very need for the word itself denies this. To illustrate, it is worthwhile looking at the wider ramifications of truth.
One fairly straightforward example is to ask what science would be without truth? Lies cannot rid us of diseases, provide the structures for bridges, resurrect an endangered species. The very nature of science is to verify truths, often previously hidden, science is based on truth or it is nothing. The truth which scientists uncover has, of course, a major difference to ideas of the mind, as it can more easily be tested, but this serves as a primary example of how there is such a thing as truth, which in certain circumstances can be perceived and understood for what it is. Great scientists are seekers of truth, who find knowledge and share it for the benefit of humanity.
I was using science as an example, but it certainly isn't the only endeavour where achieving is really a search for a higher truth in disguise. Take philosophy, writing, religion, art, politics, economics, agriculture, permaculture, even physical endeavours, it seems it can be applied broadly, that under the guise of separateness, their highest exponents have found truths undiscovered or un-utilised by those before them. The human journey of which we are all a part is often most positively progressed by the discoveries of useful truths relevant to our lives.
Truth can be perceived directly, however, a large part of the reason our world is in this state is that most of the time truth is not so easily recognised. This is a basis of our problems, truth has evolved scientifically because it can be seen, but the truths of the mind have remained static because they hide behind the disguise and artifice of the intellect.
Truth is intangible and this has allowed many to argue its existence. I have had this point of view put to me on many occasions. Although the purpose of the view that there is no truth (which would be a truth if it were accurate and therefore contradict itself, which they wouldn't think is a problem because they believe there is no truth) is dubious at best, on many occasions it has appeared to me that those holding this as a belief, honestly believe it an enlightened position. It is easy enough to see the hypocritical nature of this (sophist) argument, in that it denies logic it is self-denying, but it is more important what it represents in the human psyche.
The "truthless" assertion represents a digression from responsibility for one's actions, something which is at the centre of the inhumane way in which humans seem to treat themselves and their environment. It represents a denial of "the other", it pretends that it is only one's perceptions that are relevant in understanding the world, not the lives and existences of others. Similarly to my hypothesis about insanity, it might also be asked if someone is unable to distinguish true from false, or right from wrong, how they might live it within themselves? Put simply if humanity is so mired in ego that it argues about the existence of truth itself, then we will never find anything that we can believe in and that can bind us together as one humanity.
We need to grasp the occasionally paradoxical nature of truth and this is not easy. I believe it cannot be done without a certain degree of humility. To attempt to know the infinite truth, which by necessity must be comprehended from a finite intellect, is not possible. In other words, in its totality truth is obviously unknowable, therefore what we seek is a state of receptiveness and awareness of truth in our lives, it is more a state of knowing (specifically knowing thyself) than of external knowledge. It is an understanding the very essence of which will perpetually be incomplete and for the mind to truly rest in its awareness requires more of a non-delusional state than one of illumination. In one breath the truth is incomprehensible and in the next children understand its basic meaning.
Truth is many sided and it seems some who dismiss it choose to look only at its lesser parts and mistake those small facets of this vast concept, for all that it is. If any human were so perfect as to be able to infallibly perceive truth when they heard or saw it, or if they invariably spoke the truth, then we would but have to discuss the highest mysteries with them and get the correct answers. Truth is not so easily discovered, it is something that often requires work. It is important to know what you know, to know what you believe and to also know what you don't know (without accepting the latter as a limitation) in order to live a true existence to oneself. The importance of this understanding is thus, truth is the only way of travelling deeply within, and ultimately of knowing thyself.
Basically what we need to conceive of within ourselves is the difference between what we know as truth, and what we believe is truth. Knowledge and belief are separate. Opinions are not truths and I believe that we would solve many problems in our world if people could but know the difference. Too many times have I listened to people state without hesitation answers to questions which have mystified mankind since time immemorial. Too many people believe that god exists, and then go on to mistake that for knowledge, a simple logical error perhaps, but one which has affected the entire course of history.
Take the destination waiting for all of us in this voyage - death, as an example. On one side you have those who believe we go to heaven or wherever else, yet their evidence for this are books thousands of years old and in reality, they don't even know whether they're accurate or not. They have an opinion that it is true, but this opinion is peddled as not only truth but the highest truth there is. On the other hand, we have those who believe we die and rot, yet how this is able to be known is never questioned. It might seem logical at least physically to say we just return to the earth that has sustained us, but this is unprovable and it can therefore only ever be a belief, which is exactly what they are accusing the other side of. At least the believers of heaven, have a god and various prophets to back them up, but in both instances, neither of them appear to have been there, neither of them really know the truth, yet both parties seem to think they possess the undeniable truth. And both are wrong, at least in the intellectual arrogance of their certainty.
It might seem comical this false perception of the ownership of truth if it weren't for the fact that unbelievable numbers of people have been tortured, enslaved and killed for these sort of false principles over time. We are surrounded by these sort of ignorant opinions which people often maniacally believe and would inflict upon others. Is it so difficult to comprehend that the problems of this world are hatred and ignorance, not communists, other races, empowered women or whatever other foolish things some people seriously believe, and think they know?
In the meantime whilst we argue amongst ourselves about the ridiculous, hateful, egotistical and for many whatever the media tells them to discuss, the greater world out there slips away beyond our grasp because we don't believe we have any power over it anyway. We leave our precious planet in the hands of politicians, arms merchants, drug dealers and the most influential criminals of our time, global bankers and corporations. The profiteers and apologists for greed as a spiritual end.
This world is in a constant state of movement and flux, however, this inevitable process is being left to follow an anarchistic path. Every day billions of us expend our energies in various ways, but this colossal mountain of energy is wasted on getting ahead in a soulless system, indeed most of the energy of the masses has been harnessed and is drained in no higher pursuit than that of making the rich even wealthier. How much of what we do in industrialised societies has anything to do with making us as a mass healthier and happier. Sometimes it is difficult to tell where machines end and the humans begin, are we not here for a higher purpose than being a mechanism with which they run a machine? Just imagine for a second that we all were working together, expending our energies creating a bountiful, harmonious world, what might be achieved by mass humanity? I would propose that this is not only a fanciful conjecture as it might seem, but that it would be the sane way for us to act, perhaps even logical.
We are in grave danger of our part in the progression of the species being completely taken out of our hands in more ways than one. How many of us could build a computer, an aeroplane, or understand the highest sciences or physics, indeed how many of us are really part of this great technological evolution and how many of us are just button-pushing enslaved consumers? That is all we are becoming and it is the direction we are allowing ourselves to be imperceptibly pushed because quite simply an intelligent, active populace requires too much thought to rule. We are being programmed, controlled, manipulated, both subliminally and overtly.
How is it possible that in a period of merely a few years the majority of people in a nation with a two-party system of conservative and liberal, can change from right-wing politics to left-wing politics, and then back to right-wing again and so on, especially when they are two systems of government apparently so philosophically opposed? Is the general populace really so fickle, or is it that in actuality the differences in these parties are so minimal that many people can't perceive much of a difference between the right and the left? The latter appears more accurate and I believe it is this way because we no longer have any viable choice. Our only real options are more of the same or, more of the less recent same. The people in power all appear to represent the same class, even if not initially the trappings of power soon propel them into the same class, and as Marx conjectured (although my reading of him is slim) they then go on to make decisions which benefit that class.
This state of affairs has no doubt come about as a result of politics being a game of economics where only the established parties or those backed by wealthy corporations and individuals have any chance of competing in elections on such a large monetary scale. Politicians would assert that the people have specifically chosen them to govern and that if the electorate wished to vote for other minor parties they are free to do so. However, it seems almost impossible for minor parties to compete with the resources of the major parties, which then not only mars the minor parties ability to get votes, but also because of the unlikeliness of these minor parties gaining legislative office, it consequently makes them unattractive for the legalised bribery (called "campaign contributions" etc.) from the corporate world that the larger parties benefit from. This is a corrupt cycle which seems to strike at the very heart of the democratic system, with individual members towing "party lines" under the threat of losing the resources and support of their major party, indeed the threat appears to be one of having to compete with the smaller parties on even terms.
Democracy, or any system for that matter, means nothing in itself. It is just a mechanism, and as such is open to abuse. All systems are not equal, but no system can remain uncorrupted when corrupt people hold its positions of power.
To quote Noam Chomsky, an author who has consistently shaken the mire of force-fed opinion "When such means and organizational forms are lacking, democracy reduces to a game played among elite groups who command the resources that permit them to be active participants in the political system" [Taken from On Power And Ideology: The Managua Lectures].
Why there isn't some attempt to even the playing field especially in relation to media resources, with the purpose of enhancing democratic principles, can only be put down to the fact on which so many things rest, that it will not benefit the current holders of legislative power. Perhaps the media would be best left to summarising the policies of politicians and alternatives, rather than merely being used for both the paid advertisements and the free ones they furnish covering the all too familiar premeditated political media events. Television, radio and the papers cannot be allowed to have such an influential hand in electing governments any more than economic wealth, yet the major parties (primarily those of the middle to far right) ignore the inequality because it is in their favour. It has to be asked that if the political parties don't believe in this seemingly all-pervasive influence of the media, then why is it that they spend almost all of their electioneering energy and resources on manipulating the various media? Are the voters, therefore, making decisions almost purely based on misplaced trust in our entertainment institutions, mistaking them for information institutions?
It seems a strange contradiction that these very politicians that most of us grumble about and sneer at are the ones running our lives. They make the laws that are not only the boundaries of our existences but also the laws that regulate what the corporations are allowed to do. The Americans may go on all they want about the importance of free enterprise, but I shudder at the thought of living in a world where the corporations are allowed to function completely unchecked. They already have more influence over the policies of our governments than the people, what more power do they seek? Mussolini once asked that fascism be called corporatism, because that was what he was really trying to achieve, the merger of private corporate power with the governing of the state. He would be pleased indeed to see the influence his ideological children have in today's world, the fascist fist hidden in the velvet glove of public relations.
In every country in the world the power to implement political change rests in the hands of a chosen few, regardless of which political system they aspire to be under. Whether this is a product of a need to be led (which I don't feel for one), or certain individuals urges for power, it has facilitated a situation where the control of our species is affected by a fraction of our number, or the manipulation thereof.
The saying "all power corrupts" is not a cosmic law of science, it is a lesson hard learnt by the masses over history. Admittedly there are many who believe the governments are fulfilling the will of the people admirably, but as stated before there are many who believe anything the corporate-controlled media tells them. The question merely seems to be to what degree is this an unhappy product of circumstance, or is it truly a secret union for corrupt purpose - a conspiracy against the people by a self-interested subset of their number.
It might be thought that here I am discussing the environment and the human condition, and then I wander off on various tacts about politicians and corporations, but I will state plainly - all these things are inextricably interlinked. Although many think that politics is boring or pointless, those who perceive politics in this way need to come to realise these boring pointless political people have our lives, the environment and nothing less than the evolution of our species resting in their hands. They are currently not adequately fulfilling this responsibility, because I am unsure if they realise the gravity of the power that they wished upon themselves. Most of us have ideals, and we should be following these higher purposes, nothing less is worthy of this chance we all have here on this intricate and beautiful planet. In order to fully achieve this, we need a political system and society that gives us every opportunity to do so, rather than one that tries to buckle us into meaningless occupations to run economic machines.
Whether or not there is an inherent meaning in our lives, there probably should be. Have we not progressed to a point where we can comprehend beauty, truth, right from wrong? We may have far to go before these things will be understood in their fulfilment, but at least the path has already been laid and we merely have to tread upon it.
Many of us seem to think evolution has ceased and we are at its endpoint or something, which although regrettably could be the case, is quite erroneous. We can at this time truly display our pre-eminence in positive rather than negative ways, by taking evolution in our own nurturing hands and bringing it back to a bountiful organic procession. If we don't annihilate our own species along with many more others, who knows, given the amazing progressions in our century, where we might be in another hundred years, or a few hundred, or even a few thousand? If we could clear our minds through harmonious understanding and clean our bodies through sustaining diets and proper activity we could make ourselves something we could have pride in, rather than one which we deride in disgust (of course no one is themselves the problem...). If we just give the future a chance to be, we will no doubt one day be a species that looks back on today's world as a dark age. We have the precious ability to create a world that seems just a fantasy now, and if we can picture it in our minds, it can be. Perhaps it was once a fantasy for slaves to be free, or for women and people of alternate sexualities to participate fully in our society as they saw fit, but we can see that we have come far enough in these respects to see the potential for many other changes in the longer view of history.
There is no limitation on what could be achieved by us, this human species, for even now we have the technological and spiritual abilities to manifest a relative paradise. One in which we took on a role as a harmonious and helpful part of the processes of life on this planet instead of a creature bent on dominance. The only barrier is ourselves, the only hurdles we need to overcome are greed, apathy and ignorance. Nothing outside ourselves has to be invented, discovered or found, only the nurturing, peaceful aspects which rest often somewhat obscured within ourselves.
It comes to this, if we have not evolved to love one another, to accept each other, to protect that which cannot defend itself, then it may be asked what are we evolving for or to? Is our evolution to invent complex machines that will let us sit around eating junk while our bodies decay, these machines which the average so-called "evolved" person couldn't build in their wildest dreams, yet produce as evidence of our omnipotence over the other animals? If we have not evolved enough to take care of ourselves, each other and our environment, how far truly have we come, how intelligent are we?
So far humanities great evolution physically has brought us to the wonderful zenith of defiling the earth in greater proportions than we have been capable of previously, and mentally we are at a point where the only thing that seems real to a lot of people is their own selfish happiness. It has been said that change is not necessarily progress and, as we are proving neither is evolution. The evolution that has taken place appears to have been an external one, the evolution of inanimate objects, but within, humanity has fundamentally changed little in thousands of years.
Is it any wonder that of all the great religions currently holding sway over the mind of man, even the most recent is many centuries old? Is it because our unrequited needs for peace, happiness and trust, have not been fulfilled or changed substantially in over four thousand years. Amongst the oldest known philosophical writings known to us are treatises on why one cannot trust a neighbour or brother implicitly, something that is still being written aeons later in our so-called modern world. This being so the question remains how far have we really progressed, in meaningful ways?
This is the heart of the matter, that being separate from wisdom and compassion, our evolution is in reality just turning us into an ever more efficient soulless machine inflicted upon this planet. As our power grows, so does our semblance of an affliction. Yet in sad paradox the more our power has grown the more we have thought that we were somehow chosen by evolution or god for the role as overlords, and the more we have instead turned out to be dictators of the most self-serving kind. What makes this all so ludicrous is that we are far from a species of content and happy beings, it seems our worst aspects are often reserved for our fellow humans.
We need to find a spirituality within ourselves, that relates to the beautiful and the sacred within our existence, love, lust, joy, peace, kindness, hope, understanding, mystery, the beauty of a blade of grass that struggles through amidst the concrete and pollution. I believe that our actions should be focused towards a philosophy in which we recognise its inherent sacred qualities that exist internally and externally, that sees life as a gift, and existence as an opportunity to participate in the grand masterpiece that is our universe. Because it is beautiful and true, I believe it will prevail.
What has and will make our lot in life in an inherently empty universe mean something, are the gains we make in real selfless meaning, the true progressions of humanity.
Our future is not set.