Sunday, April 28, 2013
Making a Better World: Looking for (Lots) of Good (People)
While doing the morning chores, still inevitable even if Occupy has become a full-time second job, I was musing on why the world still seems to be going to hell in handbasket despite the efforts of many good people. This got me thinking about people and different kinds of them and what they're doing with their short time on this planet. With respect to what it takes to make life on this earth fulfill it's wonderful potential, I think we can categorize people on a four-dimensional framework along these four dimensions: ability to work hard, education/intelligence, empathy and the desire for power or self-aggrandizement. We can dispense for now with talking about the vast majority of the world's people, because, thankfully, most of them are pretty much in the middle on all these scales. These are the Good-enoughs, and if there were no bad people in the world, this would be fine. In fact, everything those of us who desire a better world do, we do so the Good-enoughs can just be themselves. Damage to society (but also it's repair) is caused by a small percentage who fall to extremes of these scales. One type is easy to recognize. These are the psychopathic killers who totally lack empathy, fulfilling their own desires with no feeling of connection to other beings.They may be more or less intelligent and not much interested in power on a societal scale. Other humans are as easily destroyed by these individuals as many might destroy a spider just because they don't like spiders. Fortunately there are a very few of such people. Those who also desire power become sociopathic leaders of movements. The harm they do can be tremendous. People may be taken in by this type but eventually the damage they cause becomes apparent and their badness recognized. There is a third type that most people are able to recognize as bad (but here we get into a gray area where people get a little unsure and sometimes may even admire this type). These people are very hard working, highly intelligent, have empathy only for close friends or family, and have a great desire for power. They mostly come from circumstances which, due to poverty or discrimination, make it impossible for them to succeed in the legal world. These are the world's mafia leaders and gang leaders and successful purveyors of all sorts of illegal things that are damaging to society. They differ very little in personality from the next type, which is very widespread, not generally recognized as bad, and because they operate legally and often have the support and admiration of others, are probably the most damaging type of all. These individuals, like the mafia or gang leader, are hard working, highly intelligent, have empathy only for those close to themselves and have a great desire for power. People of this type come from circumstances which allow them to succeed in the legal world and to rise to positions of wealth, power and prestige. They don't operate against the law, they operate around it, even changing laws to favor themselves. Their intelligence allows them to hoodwink the vast bulk of good-enough people into believing that they are benefactors of society. They are truly wolves in sheep's clothing. The majority Good-enoughs are either unable to understand the damage they cause (This sometimes involves being able to understand fairly large systems, something that not everybody cares about or is good at or has been educated to understand), or because the Good-enoughs are up to their gills in all the work they can handle just with everyday life and don't have energy left over to fight this type, or because the Good-enoughs themselves don't have empathy for much of anybody besides family and friends, so just don't care about the victims. So this type operates generally unchallenged, slowly accumulating power and leaving behind an increasingly damaged world about which they care very little. It is because of these people that our world will continue to become a less happy and healthy place to live for the majority of living things. They may even succeed in destroying the planet entirely. So who are these people? They are leaders of corporations, religious organizations and charities. They are elected government officials and unelected heads of state. They are educated, respectable, law-abiding people with nice homes (usually lots of them) and nice families. They run companies that sell us stuff we want with one hand and with the other hand, keep workers in poverty, pollute the environment, and make us sick. They head companies that sell us cigarettes, sugary drinks and products loaded with chemicals whose safety has not been proven. In the name of profit they cut safety corners and workers die. They tell us to think only of the next life or send us on off on tangents chasing hot-button social issues with no solution. Divide and conquer. They distract us with every possible new shiny gadget and tawdry interpersonal scandal of the "stars". They sing to our love of country and send us off to wars that benefit only them. They play on our essential goodness and collect large sums of money to cure this or that disease. They don't tell us about the people selling us stuff that causes these diseases. So who is challenging these people? Only this type, the ones who are intelligent, hard working, have lots of empathy and very little desire for power. But alas, there are way too few. But we can make more. The few can help educate the many through media both old and new, we can be honest with people whose hearts are in the right place about how much truly hard work it will be to make a better world, how early in the morning they will have to get up and how late at night they will have to go to bed, we can try to help people understand the connections between all of us and our world, and we can be shining examples of the true happiness that comes from helping others, a happiness that power can never bring. The challenge is huge. Are you one of these smart, hardworking, empathetic, humble people? Will you start working hard to repair the damage caused by these predators?