Even if we all agree that our world needs a good overhaul in the area of ethics and morality, it is still a slightly frightening prospect as so many atrocities have been committed in the name of doing exactly that – improving the morals of our societies. So how do we approach this revamp and not run the risk of creating totalitarian regimes?
It should be remembered that most of these disastrous attempts to ‘clean up our act’, were based on a conceptual framework of human nature that is founded on the notion that human beings are inherently bad. Therefore, if instead of hyper-vigilance against evil, our starting point is one where we see human beings as inherently good, this will help protect against totalitarian paranoia and the oppression it engenders. Because if we approach everything from this viewpoint, then we will be actively seeking to unleash this great capacity and goodness in human beings, rather than struggling to keep the imagined evil bottled up.
It might also help if we change the type of approach we use when dealing with people and society from a linear, industrial model to one more suitable for complex, dynamic systems. As all human society and all human endeavour are organic processes, it might be more fruitful (literally) if we opt for an agricultural-type model of development. As Sir Ken Robinson, the British educational innovator, puts it,
…farmers do not make plants grow. They don’t attach the roots, glue on the petals or colour the fruit. The plant grows itself. Farmers and gardeners provide the conditions for growth. Good farmers know what these conditions are, and bad ones don’t. Understanding the dynamic elements of human growth is as essential to sustaining human cultures into the future as the need to understand the ecosystems of the natural world on which we ultimately depend. (1)
If we identify the elements needed to allow healthy, dynamic human environments to flourish then once those elements are in place all we really have to do – like the farmer – is relax and let nature take it’s course.
(1) Ken Robinson, The Element, p. 258