Cooperation and it’s pre-requisite, reciprocity, require us to learn how to get on together but real human development needs us to be able to do this in a truly diverse and inclusive way. Easier said than done.
So, how do we interact as individuals? How do we see ourselves? How do we see others? Ourselves in relation to others? Does it matter what we think about others and who they are and what they do? How sure are we ourselves about who we are and what we do? And what difference does it make anyway?
A fundamental feature of ethical and political thought is the attitude of an individual (“the self”) toward other people (“the other”). One perspective acknowledges three modes of engagement. First, is when the other is viewed as an object – a subject of research or victim of oppression that is merely a recipient of the actions and judgements of the self. In the second mode, the other, is human, but the self claims to know the truth about the other completely, engaging him or her from a distance, offering certainty and authoritative direction, an example is the traditional relationship between a doctor and patient. The third mode is one of reciprocity and mutual recognition; the self influences the other, but when the other speaks, the self must also be prepared to be called into question and, perhaps, to change. (1)
The real question then, as we learn how to live together, is how open we are to learning and changing in all our encounters with other people. Especially when we believe (and we might even be correct) that what we think is right.
The human race is a complex, dynamic system of oneness – in spite of how we act. This type of system requires high levels of reciprocity if it is to function properly. And it is this interaction between ourselves and others – at all levels of society – that forms the basis for the creation of human environments where everyone can flourish.
Tomorrow – And in the beginning…