We don’t need daily reminders about how disconnected our world has become, but we do have them. People rather routinely commit heinous acts somewhere, somehow, for some reason that seems important to them. But why?
Disconnection seems to be a by-product of industrialization. It’s a kind of pollution for the soul and society, a thick gunk that clings to some people and makes them terminally sick. But what will it take to not just stop this, but clean up the mess?
Any of us can come together and have a great argument on how to systemically solve any number of problems. We can be idealistic in our solutions or immensely practical, minding serious constraints. But in all honesty, it doesn’t matter one bit if people are fundamentally disconnected from the world around them. Any system we can come up with is not going to work if it is not by and for the people that need it.
More to the point, the process of coming together and having a productive debate is largely a fantasy at this point in most of the developed world. The basic tools for arriving at consensus are missing largely because very few people see the need to have even a rhetorical connection to the world.
This has to be addressed if we are ever going to get past the poisonous industrial outlook on life and on to anything better – regardless of what you or I think that might be.
If economics is just sociology with a way of keeping score, as I like to joke, this is sociology at its most basic. It may seem like it has nothing to do with economics, and in most important ways it does not. Yet it is clear that incentives to cooperate and work together have broken down, largely because very few people believe what we have now matches any definition of “fair.” Systems and institutions themselves appear to be nothing more than cover for a process of stealing, denigrating, demoralizing, and otherwise enslaving us all.
Which is where we have to start. Any new arrangement has to be a two-way street, a situation where people honestly give to the world and feel that something comes back to them of greater value. There has to be tangible proof that we are better together. But to make this happen, there has to be a feeling that trust in each other is not only reasonable but wise and useful.
This is where some kind of moral code is essential. No one likes to be lectures on ethics and morality, but it is exactly what has broken down. In the West, there is one thing which dominates morality whether we like it or not. Christianity washed over the cultures of Europe and replaced or defined everything in terms of a personified deity.
There are those who tell us that rejecting this particular unifying concept leads directly to a breakdown of all moral order. In a sense they are right. Leaving aside how disrespectful and rude many who call themselves “Christians” can be, pluralism on a global scale does require all of us to re-think the most basic concepts of fairness, politeness, respect, and decency. How do we connect to our world?
This is what I meant when coining the term Syndesics. It is vital that we return ot a more universal view of the most basic concepts of connection in our world, beginning with ethics and morality. They have to come hand in hand with any People’s Economics for the simple reason that putting people first means that people have to in fact lead on a constant basis.
Unity of action and clarity of purpose require at least a basic understanding of how to get along. Sadly, this is what is missing most. Any discussion of systems or institutions is missing the point in such a world. Yes, whatever comes after Industrial Nationalism has to provide benefits. But most of those will come from people working together at times, competing together at others, in ways that they know are inherently “fair.”
So let’s start at the very foundations of this thing called “civilization.” What basic morals, ethics, and other displays of decency are universal? What are absolutely needed to clean the gunk of alienation away from our world?
I was wondering if you were going to return to this syndesics thing.
Yes, there will be more about this. I don’t want to go too far into pure sociology, but to me this is the main issue. How do we connect? How do we not disconnect some in the process of whatever we’re doing?
Despite your idea that Christianity is a basis for morality, I’m going to start with a pagan basis: First, do no harm. This, to me, is a cornerstone of morality and for functioning in society and the wider world. Are our actions or words going to hurt someone or something? There are gradients to this, for example, a surgeon is causing damage but with the intent of healing. But in most situations, we can easily answer this question.
The Golden Rule follows closely (not original to Christianity, but most well-known to westerners by that name). How do I want to be treated? Treat others that way.
Fairness and equality are two more basic policies that should underpin every society. While we all have our own talents and intellect, and these are not evenly distributed among us, we are all nevertheless worthy of equal existence, treatment, and opportunity, within society and the law. This can involve things like universal health care, child care and family support (parental leave, paid time off for caregivers, and community infrastructure for children of all ages), and true fairness and access in our legal systems.
This is a start in what basic morality looks like.
Thank you, and I agree completely. This is where I’m going with this, after the initial setup. I will be talking about Confucius, who I think organized the most universal concepts of ethics as succinctly as anyone ever could.
But I had to introduce the concept. I now think that a universal sense of ethics is critical, much more than any system we choose. We have to belong first and foremost to be an open society. That’s where I’m going here.
I’ll focus on details next. 🙂
Absolutely. Can’t wait for the details. Good luck!
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