How We Choose to Belong Makes a Difference: Belonging (Part 1)

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Desiring to build a more compassionate and cooperative society is a noble goal. Getting there starts with respect. However, respect as an abstract concept may be as empty as cocoon after the butterfly has emerged.

Active respect acknowledges and defends another person’s needs and dignity. We started talking about needs several weeks back. Following Abraham Maslow organization of need into five groupings or levels. Maslow uses a pyramid to display the different levels, with the lowest layers being foundational for those placed on top.

In prior weeks we have lifted up the basic biological needs of food, clothing, shelter, air, water, and rest. We then turned to safety. Recognizing a desire for safety drives the compulsion of many to arm themselves—the results quite often are the opposite. An increased number of guns in our homes, cars, and on our persons makes everyone less safe. However, the motivation is understandable. I’ll have more thoughts about these issues in the weeks ahead.

But for now, we turn to the third of the five levels in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need—Belonging. To belong involves developing social relationships. I want to think about relationships in three different categories: Given, Tribal, and Chosen. Continue reading “How We Choose to Belong Makes a Difference: Belonging (Part 1)”

Building a Better World Starts with Safety

fullsizeoutput_25Crafting a better world starts with satisfying human needs—not necessarily everything we want—but what we truly need. Abraham Maslow stated that after meeting the basic biological needs of food, clothing, shelter, air, water, and rest, we must turn our attention to safety.

Whether it is the cave dweller avoiding being eaten, children avoiding abusive parents, or women avoiding sexual assault—safety first becomes the issue. So how do we protect ourselves? Continue reading “Building a Better World Starts with Safety”

Creating a Viable Future Principle 5: The Common Good

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe fifth and final principle for creating the kind of future envisioned in the novel, The Doorkeeper’s Secrets is supporting the Common Good. In many ways, this is the most important of the five.

Without the “leveling” influence of the Common Good, each of the other four principles could be distorted—either deliberately or by the over-enthusiastic supporters.

For example, Faith could be turned into an exclusive measuring rod projecting one interpretation as superior to all others. Vigilance could be shaped into mob-like squashing any deviance from the “accepted norm.” Even community can become a collection of people who look and think alike; effectively banning anyone with new ideas or perspectives. Finally, Respect could be interpreted from a self-serving perspective: “if you don’t respect me, I don’t have to respect you” attitude.

However, the Common Good serves as a check against the various abuses that can be misconstrued from the other four. The Common Good becomes the fertile soil where Community Respect and Faith can take root to produce fruit enjoyed by all. Likewise, Vigilance takes up its stand to “ensure the Common Good;” not to impose the will of one group over another.

 

When each of the five principles remains in balance, we have a built-in guard against the excesses which seem to inevitably arise out of human nature. Human nature is imperfect, so there will be people who resist any limitation on their so-called freedom.

In our culture “freedom” has been used as an excuse to enshrine excesses. A common axiom is “One person’s freedom ends when it infringes on another’s right.” I don’t have the freedom to construct a house on someone else’s property. In like manner, no one has the “freedom” to end another person life by violence. Yet it happens every day—and we continue to debate the right of gun ownership, opposed the right to live with less fear for the safety of ourselves and our children.

Suppose we replaced the current axiom with another. “One’s freedom is unlimited until it threatens the Common Good.” That is the basis of my vision of the future. There will be more discussion of weapons and safety for the future in later blogs. For now, let’s look at the role Common Good plays in shaping a positive speculative future.

 

It’s easy to identify things that diminish the Common Good. Listing a few might be helpful in establishing some of the parameters to our thinking.

So, what inhibits support for the Common Good? Inequalities of any kind: racial, gender, age, lineage, nationality, education, financial rewards, physical strength, honors, weapons, or power over others. We could name other places where there are imbalances in our society: access to health care, clean water, healthy food, knowledgeable advocates, jobs with advancement potential, warmth in the winter, and comfort in the summer. Of course, any of us can add to the list.

The goal of the Common Good is not to reduce everyone to the lowest common denominator, but to encourage and enhance everyone’s gifts for the good of all. There will always be differences—it is our differences that give every life value.

One person is a skilled artist, and another can’t draw a stop sign. Assuming the artist desires to pursue art—the goal of creating the “best” for all is to encourage and enhance the artist, so that we may ultimately enjoy or appreciate the art. The Common Good is served when people are encouraged and supported in doing what they enjoy.

But the good of all is not served by having an excess of mediocre artists (or doctors, or teachers, or any other profession). In my vision of the future, there comes a point when those who are performing less than adequately will be encouraged to think about their next career. At some later time, it may become more than a suggestion. Standards for each profession are clear, and regular evaluations confirm progress or suggest issues needing attention. These standards are created and reviewed by practitioners with input from clients for each service.

 

The Doorkeeper’s Secrets version of the future has everyone receiving sufficient income to meet all their needs, have adequate housing, healthy food, highest quality medical care, transportation wherever they need to go, and education to train or re-train for any job for which one qualifies (by temperament and intellectual capacity). The Common Good is served when stress and worry over these things are minimized. Then one can give their attention to their families, their work, and their avocations (hobbies and services).

 

So, friends, tell me what you think about this kind of future. Does the concept of increasing the Common Good introduce some sanity into some of our current discussions? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Creating a Viable Future Principle 4: Respect

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The fourth of the five principles undergirding the collaborative society envisioned in The Doorkeeper’s Secrets is Respect. Community, Vigilance, Faith, Respect, and the Common Good are the five foundational principles needed to create an interdependent society.

One definition says “due regard to the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of others… avoid harming or interfering with….” While deep trust needs to be earned—respect should be granted.

Like Vigilance (the second principle) respect starts with the individual. Just as awareness of the world around us is an attitude one must adopt and practice, treating other’s rights, feelings, and traditions in a manner that will not harm them start within the individual.

So, what does it mean if I grant respect to every person I meet or never meet but only hear about from others or the news? Continue reading “Creating a Viable Future Principle 4: Respect”

Creating a Viable Future Principle 1: Community (Part 3) Obstacles to Community (continued): Biases & Values ​

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Continuing our discussion of community, we must consider the impediments to building a more desirable future. How we associate with; connect to, and support one another is key to undergirding a more resilient tomorrow. In other words, we must create a better sense of connectedness.

  1. Biases. Call them what we will: racism, sexism, nationalism, ageism, snobbery, elitism, homophobia, tribalism, prejudice, intolerance, bigotry, chauvinism, or narrow-mindedness–our biases get in the way of collaborative community. To the degree we indulge one or more of these attitudes, we prevent ourselves from entering into deeper understandings of what it means to be human.

Whether we learned them from our parents, school, others, or simply our limited experience they serve no useful purpose. Most of us will not overcome all our intolerance, but building community demands that we keep it from warping our decision making.

 

  1. Values. For the most part, having solid values is a good thing. As long as I am operating in an arena with others who share similar visions things are fine.

The problem comes when we assume “everyone thinks as we do,” or try to convince others “our way is the only way.” That’s true whether we are talking about our nation, political party, economic theory or religion.

For example, I value education. I believe everyone should have opportunities to learn. But that doesn’t mean I approve of everything happening in schools (bullying, abuse of power, stifling creativity, waste of resources). Nor does it mean I believe there’s only way or time for people to learn.

But when I run into people who believe education is a waste of money, kids don’t need to learn to write or add, much less art, history, literature, science, or music–well, that poses a roadblock to my being in community with that particular person. It doesn’t make it impossible–just a barrier.

The same would be true if we were talking about a political position or deeply held point of faith. Shared values help solidify community.

Differing values cause us to work harder—to find those things that bind us together. All too often we decide not to do the work, but simply exclude that person from our tribe. But, when we behave that way—we miss an opportunity to expand our horizons—and settle for an incomplete vision of our future.

If we hope to move toward a future that has equality, dignity,

and respect for all–not just “the few,” then we must begin by strengthening our community building skills. Are there other significant barriers I have overlooked?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Next time we will look at Vigilance the second of the key principles, that need to guide us.

Creating a Viable Future Principle 1: Community (Part 2) Obstacles to Community: Distance & Boundaries

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In the future envisioned by The Doorkeeper’s Secrets, five key philosophical principles function–the first is community. Last time we looked at some factors creating community. Now we need to address the impediments to building community. I see four main stumbling blocks to forming a sustainable sense of community: distance, boundaries, biases, and values.

 

  1. Distance. Traditional definitions of community include something about being “in proximity to others.” In the distant past, a village, tribe or clan needed to work together to secure the necessities of life and fend off danger from animals or enemies.

But as the centuries have passed, some of the original needs for binding together have changed. Other than our family of origin we regularly make choices about our lives. School, work, friendships, religious connections, professional associations, avocations, clubs, as well as community and civic responsibilities are all examples of connections we choose (at least in part).

With our capability to travel long distances and instantaneous access to events anywhere in the world, one could argue that geographic closeness is no longer required to establish community. “Virtual communities” are limited only by our willingness to find, or create one around a subject or connection of our choice. We often select a LinkedIn or Facebook group based on our interest, or a real “time connection” with some of the other members.

There are obvious limitations but much of our “emotional need” to be connected to people “similar to us” can be met through social media as well as personal interactions.

 

  1. Boundaries. Mostly arbitrary lines divide us into cities, counties, states, nations, or ethnic groups. Some of us believe those divisions should carry less significance than they do. Of course, practical reasons remain for some of these lines regarding responsibilities, taxation, or voting. Those demarcations used to define a community “within the lines” but not so much anymore.

Yes, there are those who would like to make some of the lines harder to cross. However, my being born Caucasian male in the US is purely an accident. Why should I then have more control of my life than people from Mexico, Egypt, India, Japan, South Africa, Palestine, or anywhere else? We are all human regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, nationality, age, education, language, or favorite sports team. None of those distinctions should inherently impact the respect and dignity granted to everyone.

However, there is another type of “boundary” needing attention. I refer to the “personal space” and privacy surrounding each of us. Everyone has a right to expect those boundaries to be respected. We (especially us white males) must rededicate ourselves to observing other’s boundaries.

This is about inappropriate sexual behavior. It is also about respecting others’ information and creating a safe, respectful environment all around us.

I can’t prevent someone from using a racial slur, or vulgar “joke” when elsewhere, but in my house, my office or my presence such behavior will not be tolerated. Respect needs to become the norm; division the exception.

Next time the obstacles of bias and values.