The well being and functionality of the planet comes from the bottom up.
First from us as individuals. We need to attend to the diverse and, sometimes conflicting, splits within ourselves. Instead of hiding from the parts of myself I don’t like, I can have sympathy for, and understanding of, why I am the way I am, while simultaneously not allowing myself to act out of those parts. Understanding is not the same as permission to act badly. And I am the boss of it.
Then in our families and small social groups. How do we act in these situations? Do we try to get on? Do we insist on having our way all the time? Or maybe we don’t even try to do what we believe to be right and then go on to resent the outcome or blame someone else for what happens? Do we see the need for unity and function in our groups or do we see our families and peers as simply existing to serve our needs? The family is the fundamental unit of society, if our families don’t function in a healthy way our societies will most definitely suffer.
And then we have the bigger national and international picture. How do we view that? Where do we think we fit? Do we see ourselves as part of a whole human race or just a national group? Maybe we see ourselves as part of an élite or even, part of a marginalised group or sub-group? Do we think we are better or more deserving than others? Or worse and less deserving? If we read and think and look around at all it is fairly clear that genetically – and in every other way – we are one human family. Granted parts of our ‘family’ can be annoying, or sometimes even downright bad, but no matter how annoying or how bad they might be, they are still connected to us. And, perhaps more importantly, we are still connected to them.
Change inside ourselves is within our control (not easy necessarily but generally attainable if we have the desire to change). When Mohandas Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world,” I think he was describing the process of human development. The world will change when each of us changes – and not before.
Human society is not a linear process. In a linear process the whole thing can be taken apart and examined piece by piece in order to get a good understanding of how it works. Put it back together and a linear process is the sum of its parts. That isn’t a good description of any group of humans.
There is wide agreement that human society is a complex, dynamic system (like the weather and ant colonies) and like all such systems it is not just the sum of its parts. Very often these systems can be way more than the sum of their parts – for better or worse. However, it is important to remember that a complex dynamic system can’t be well understood (or function properly) if it is broken up into pieces. In fact, not only is each part irrevocably part of the whole but it can’t even be properly understood in isolation. It must be examined as part of the entire system if it is to be properly understood.
So, let’s take a huge goal like world peace. We have high level, international, diplomatic and political talks and initiatives and incentives and disincentives to try and control the conflict in the world. And all of these things are important and I’m not suggesting we stop – but the real peace in the world is a bottom-up process. Which means it starts with each of us and in our families. If we could eradicate domestic violence, for example, I have no doubt it would go a long way towards the establishment of world peace.
If we could learn productive, non-violent non-agressive ways to deal with our own inner and family conflicts, problems and disagreements, that would give us a tool-set that we could bring to work and government and even international relations.
And if we could teach this to our kids – now that might really change the world.