Remaking our World: Basic Needs (Part 1)

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If we decide to restructure our economy to provide everyone with what they need, before permitting anyone excesses, we will need a shared understanding of “Needs.” Fortunately, Abraham Maslow provides us with a starting place with his Hierarchy of Needs.

Five levels of need organized into a pyramid. The first being the foundational layer of the pyramid: Basic Needs. Red in the chart above.

These are the needs required to exist as a human organism on this planet. Air to breathe, water for drink and bathing, and food to eat. Those are obvious. However, we have found it necessary to pass laws to create standards for clean air, clean water, and safe food.  Continue reading “Remaking our World: Basic Needs (Part 1)”

Providing for Needs

IMG_20180420_115253148If we want to prevent future conflicts over scarce resources, we should begin now to ensure that everyone has what he or she needs—not necessarily everything they want, but what is needed. That’s not a new idea. It’s as old as sacred texts in every faith tradition of the world. Treat others the way we would want to be treated.

That’s all well and good, but one person’s need may be another’s extravagance. What is today’s “luxury” may be “essential” tomorrow—consider cell phones as a recent example. Fortunately, the definition of need is not merely subjective, subject to the whims of the speaker. Continue reading “Providing for Needs”

Equality

What if equality meant everyone gets what they need?

IMG_20171025_120811584_HDROne of the concepts undergirding the United States is “All people are created equal.” My grandfather used to add, “… but some are more equal than others.” His way of pointing out that equality does not mean sameness.

We do not have equal resources. There are differences in financial, intellectual, environmental, or safety resources. Those who are poor, women, minority, old, children, non-heterosexual, or a non-conformist in any way have additional burdens heaped on them—nothing equal or respectful about such practices.

When I was in college, we were told the equality is about being “equal before the law.” Anyone who still believes that hasn’t seen a newspaper, tv news, legal drama, or Facebook recently.

So, if we are to searching for some degree of equality—where would our search begin?

As I created a future version of our world based on increased respect and well-being, I consider an “equitable treatment of all” to be a stabilizing principle. Many of the arguments we observe come from a perception that someone else has an unfair advantage. The advantage often comes from a position of power—especially when abuse is possible. Anything from the landlord precipitously raising rents, or pharmaceutical manufactures quadrupling the price of an essential medication, to the bully on the playground picking on the more vulnerable ones.

So, how do we change to create a future where egalitarian principles are the norm?

First, we need to remember: we are all in this together. We have one planet to share. A volcanic eruption in Iceland can impact the air flights over much of the world. Weather changes in South America impact the coffee drinkers everywhere. And the resentment, or anger of one individual with a gun effects the lives of hundreds, thousands, even the whole world. At the same time, when a soccer team is rescued from a cave in Thailand, the entire world rejoices.

We also need to recognize that each of us has something positive to contribute to the common good. Therefore, we must depend on each other. There are many jobs I cannot do because I possess neither the skill nor the equipment to accomplish them. Whether it’s a surgeon saving a life, or a computer tech fixing a problem—they are providing services I cannot. Similarly, tasks are done by others that I lack the time or will to do. Picking the food we eat, building highways, running restaurants, and keeping the utilities on to name only a few.

So, if I’m unwilling or unable to provide a service I need, then I must depend on someone else. So, shouldn’t I be willing to pay the person adequately for their work? Faith challenges us to not think more highly of one’s self, than others. In other words, we should consider the other’s contribution just as significant as our own.

Finally, compensation should provide essentials for everyone. Those include quality food, an appropriate, safe place to live, education for a fulfilling job, healthcare, and transportation when needed. This should be everyone’s minimum compensation. A migrant worker, CEO of a corporation, plumber, typist, teacher, domestic worker, or President of a University all deserve the same essentials.

 

In The Doorkeeper’s Secrets, my version of the future equality is created by giving everyone the opportunity to live productive, secure lives. In my “future” everyone is compensated at an adequate level to provide all those essentials. If one finds the need for a different job, retraining is available. A collaborative social order creates opportunities for satisfying work. We depend upon one another and respect each other. When this becomes the case, there is no place for abuse, prejudice, greed, or arrogance.

If you would like to know more about this future, I invite you to read The Doorkeeper’s Secrets and comment on the possibility of such a future. The second book in the Sheltered Cities Series is expected out in September. More about The Doorkeeper’s Mind soon.

The next several blogs will reflect on an approach for understanding and addressing human needs. You’re invited to join in the discussion.

 

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 3: Faith (Part 1)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe third of the five principles undergirding the collaborative society envisioned in The Doorkeeper’s Secrets is Faith. When pictured in a diagram the Plan is supported by five pillars with Community, Vigilance, Respect, and the Common Good as the four corners and Faith in the center.

When we speak of faith in the first part of the 21st century, we tend to think of some form of religious tradition, or belief system. That is a powerful meaning of the term which we will discuss in the next posting.

I would like for us to begin with other applications of “Faith.” Ones I believe will become universally important in the coming years. I mean faith in oneself and faith in others.

 

Our age has an appalling lack of faith. It is especially apparent in absence of trust we see all around. Conspiracy theories abound. Individuals we used to trust, disappoint us. We feel betrayed by their behavior. We often move off into our little tribes, and complain about those in the “other tribes.”

It matters not what the subject might be: politics, economics, education, the latest action (or inaction) of our congress, state legislature, governor, president, favorite sports team, the role of the press, gun control or freedom, money, the power of the rich, or who makes the best pizza. When any of those come up, there is an abundance of opinions (stated as fact) and little light directing us toward a shared understanding. We soon find ourselves wanting to be with those who think sort of like us—because—well it’s easier than taking blood pressure medication.

And we haven’t yet mentioned the most significant parts of lives: our belief system, career choices, mate choices (or choosing not to mate). What about how we will spend our time and energy on earth (will we be a life-long-learner or quit when the diploma is in hand?) will we accumulate friends, possessions, dollars, or goodwill? And what’s our attitude toward those who are different from us?

 

Yes, we all know these things. But have you thought of them as Faith Issues? They are. Our lack of trust in large groups of “others” is one reason why we do not have a sense of interdependence in our day and age.

For nearly three decades I worked with volunteer organizations in conflict. Usually, there had been a major disruption shortly before I was called. In the first days, I would see the various camps, plus a lot of accusations and finger-pointing. Early in the process, I state my belief: everyone—even those you disagree with most violently—was doing what they believed best for the organization. In-other-words, everyone was acting in “good-faith.” I then encouraged others to adopt the same view.

Once this process gets started we could move toward the perspective of having a “Problem to solve together,” rather than “Turf to defend against others.” In an interdependent society, people work together to address common concerns. When that happens, everyone uses their skill, wisdom, and energy to address the issue. Even when solutions are slow in coming, we still have confidence that we are not alone—and as long as everyone else has not given up—we will get there.

Another stage is finding what we have in common. What is holding us together? Often it is the commitment to a particular mission, vision, goal. In the process of recovering our “glue” or commonalities, we may begin to trust the others—at least a bit more.

Perhaps we can begin such a process as a city, state, nation or international community. If I reach the point of being interested in what you think, and how you reached your conclusion, then I can stop seeing you as someone to be kept off my turf.

 

Which brings us to the other point for today’s blog. We need to have faith not only in the other but first of all in ourselves. Part of the reason we have so many tribes is lack of trust in our ability to reason out an answer—so we join with others—the group thinks for us.

Even in a group where I agree with the mission, vision, strategies, and general directions being proposed, I am still responsible for raising questions and looking at the broader picture. In other words, joining a tribe does not mean I lose my need to think critically about the issue.

We need to have faith in ourselves: our skills, abilities, curiosity, and wisdom. We need to know our ideas, opinions, values, lives and dignity count. We need to remember that our experiences are different from others, and not sharing our perspective is often a disservice to the overall goal.

We also need to have faith in others: family, friends, teachers, leaders, and those who challenger our lethargy. We believe that our particular “perspective group” has integrity, and is working for the best outcome for all—not just the few. And when we are honest, we must believe the “opposition group” to have integrity and desire what they believe is the best outcome of all.

Then we can begin to rely on a process to bring us closer together. To be discussed next time.

Creating a Viable Future Principle 2: Vigilance

img_20170429_163330584.jpgWhile in graduate school, a speaker at one of our weekly convocations appeared with a patch over his right eye. He explained that he was not trying to start a fashion trend, but had an eye issue.

He had gotten a piece of debris in his eye and tried all the usual “do-it-yourself” remedies. Nothing worked. He even did the unmanly thing of asking his mate to help. That too was unsuccessful.

A call to his doctor got a referral to an eye specialist. After removing the offending bolder from his eye, the doctor said, “I’d like to do a complete exam. The swelling and redness I see could be caused by something more severe.”

Long story short—the specialist found a condition which—left untreated would have produced blindness in that eye in a matter of weeks. Now the doctor could have simply accepted her fee for the emergency, and scheduled a more thorough exam in a couple of months. Instead, she followed the professional practices and saved his sight.

This was a case of Vigilance.

The second of the five principles for creating a more viable society is Vigilance. It has to do with paying attention. Along with Community, Faith, Respect and The Common Good, Vigilance builds the foundation for a self-learning, adapting, compassionate, and egalitarian social order.

Everyone in the US is regularly told, “If you see something—say something.” Of course, that generally is interpreted “if you see something suspicious, or questionable—then say something about it.” We need that sort of attentiveness as long as there is the kind of dangers we hear of too often.

But there is also a positive side to being aware of our surroundings. Those who see someone drop their wallet and point it out, or pick it up and chase them down. Or the one who stops to help a motorist change a tire on the side of a busy highway.

Another positive form of vigilance comes from those who see hard-fought victories toward tolerance and respect being undermined by action or inaction of government or commerce. The reason the US constitution lifts up the press, public speech, and religion for special treatment is to create a voice. Those voices can be raised against the established procedures or dangerous directions which dehumanize, or put tribe and profit above dignity and compassion.

But for that part of the American experiment to work the press, faith communities and all of us with a voice must be vigilant. We need to measure our practice against our best values and speak out about how we can do better.

 

The Doorkeeper’s Secrets is futuristic fiction. However, the social justice envisioned in the book is within our grasp. Next time we will begin to look at Faith as the central essential for a collaborative social order.

 

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.