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Fluid social change can only materialize if two circumstances are met. One, the human value system, which consists of our understandings and beliefs, must be updated and changed through education and thoughtful introspection. Two, the environment surrounding that value system must change to support the new world view. The interaction between a person's value system and their environment is what influences human behavior.
For example, in our culture, "ethics" is really is a matter of degree, for our social system promotes and rewards competition and self-interest. This perspective doesn't just "lead" to aberrant behavior... it creates it directly. Corruption is the norm in our society and most people do not see this, for since the society supports this behavior, it is considered right and normal... or as a matter of degree.
Given this understanding, there is a fallacy that has emerged where certain groups are deemed "corrupt" and everyone else is "good". This is the age old "us and them" world view which has no basis empirically, for it is, again, all a matter of degree.
For example, there is a large movement of people who constantly talk about "The New World Order" and this notion that there is an elite group of people who have been trying to take over the world for a long time and have manipulated society in various ways to further their goals.
This, of course, is true to a certain extent.
BUT, the failure of awareness is that this "group" is not a group at all. It is a tendency.
If you took out all the people at the top who are engaged in global hegemonic rule, it would simply be a matter of time before another group stepped in to seek the same ambition. Therefore, it isn't the individual people or groups that are the problem. It is actually the conditions upon which those people have been accustomed and indoctrinated by. Of course, many argue against this view with the escapist notion that it is "human nature" that causes this competition and need for dominance. This is unsupported by the facts. In reality, we are nearly clean slates when we are born and it is our environment that shapes who we are and how we behave.
Therefore, in order for TRUE change to occur, we must spend less time battling the products of this sick social structure and more time trying to change the root causes. As difficult and daunting as it may be to think this way, it is the only way our world will change for the better.
We can continue to stomp on the ants coming out from under the refrigerator, but until we remove the spoiled food behind it, they are just going to keep coming.
Psychology is often defined as "The science that deals with mental processes and behavior".
In the modern day, there are basically two prevailing schools of thought. 'Geneticists' and 'Behaviorists'... the old notion of "nature vs nurture."
The Geneticists are inclined to think that human behavior is derived from heredity and instinct. Often on the news, reports detail how some study claims to find the 'genetic predisposition' 'to being republican' or 'smoking cigarettes'. This supports the world view that we are 'hardwired' in some way and that even subtle nuances of behavior, such as an inclination for addiction, is genetic or "instinctual" in some way.
The Behaviorists, on the other hand, see the human being as a product of conditioning, as based on the environmental exposure of that person. Therefore, the actions of a person have a source that is derived from experience or a triggered train of thought, brought on by a learned understanding. The mechanism of action/belief therefore is sourced in learning, not heredity or instinct.
Which is more relevant? Obviously, both views are relevant in certain ways. Our interest in surviving and reproducing is imprinted/genetic in some way, as it is directly associated with fundamental survival. However, the means by which survival is obtained is entirely based on the social conditioning of that person. If a person grows up in a scarce, poverty stricken environment, with limited access to employment, they will have more of a propensity to engage in illegal activity to survive... more so, then say a middle class person who has basic needs met.
On the other side of the spectrum, if a person with great wealth has grown up in an elitist family and is thus conditioned into thinking that his or her wealth/class serves as a status symbol, they might often exploit those who work for them or perform illegal activities to conform to the identity and social arrogance they think is real.
The bottom line is that it is environmental conditioning that really affects 99% of our actions, and all diligent behavior studies have proven this time and time again.
People become alcoholics not because they have a genetic predisposition, but because of the influence of their parents or friends. If you abuse a child, very often they grow up to abuse other children. When the mass media promotes a certain idea in society, such as "terrorism", the public is conditioned into believing this is true and a real threat, regardless of reality. The fact is, we are emergent, vulnerable organisms and always undergoing influence, conditioning and change to a certain degree.
That 'degree' is largely influenced by the social/ideological identifications which many have been conditioned to think are immutable. This particular state of awareness is where paralysis comes in, for there is nothing in nature to support the conclusion that anything we think about today will not be outdated in the future, for one of the few patterns we can stand behind with a certain degree of confidence(so far) is the reality that all elements of nature are emergent. The 'identification' with a set understandings for the sake of ones integrity is a serious distortion in our world, for it is considered a 'weakness' when a person is proven wrong. This is, of course, absurd, for to be proven wrong is how most learn and it should not be a feared circumstance.
Fritz Pearls once said that "The human species is the only species that has the ability to interfere with their own growth". This is an important understanding, for our belief systems, which we think we must keep to support our identities, often stand in the way of new, changing understandings and personal growth.
The most dominant institutions which perpetuate this paralysis seem to be Theistic Religion and The Monetary System. Theistic religion promotes a fixed world view, with a "faith" based understanding that rejects logic and new information. The Monetary System ( in all countries) is based on Competition for Labor and thus Labor for Money. Very simply, the "competitive edge" can only be sustained through self-perpetuation, and self-perpetuation/self interest naturally leads to a static institution which prefers not to change, for it threatens the survival of that business, government or the like.
This is unsustainable.
Sociology is often defined as "The study of society; human social interaction".
This field considers social structures, both Cognitive and Material. An example of a Cognitive Social Structure is the established institution of religion and how its operation affects the collective awareness. For instance, Prolife Christians share a disposition that human"life" is a separate element of nature and that killing an unborn fetus is wrong. Concurrently, the competition based monetary system has proponents putting forth ideas such as how competition is the most productive social state that humans can engage in.
Material Social Structures, on the other hand, are very obvious and they exist in the form of corporations and governments, each having a strong influence on society. Of course, all Material Social Structures bleed over into the Cognitive realm, for they always have an ideology behind them.
Now, a common sociological issue has to do with "Human Nature" and its effect in a collective sense. For instance, most people have been taught that human beings are naturally competitive with each other, along with the assumption that social stratification or hierarchy is also a "natural human tendency".
This is a fallacy.
If you look to, say, a pack of lions, you will see social hierarchy and violent competition for food in most cases. This comparison is what leads people to think it is a natural occurrence in human society as well (war, greed, ego, etc.). What is overlooked however, are the Environmental Conditions present in each case. The pack of Lions exist in a world of Scarcity. They do not have the ability to create traps for food, nor is food accessible in an 'on demand' basis. They have to hunt and fight with each other. This creates competition naturally, for in order to survive, the lions MUST be aggressive with each other. In turn, hierarchy is developed for the strongest of these lions wins the most, and in turn exert their dominance in a stratified way.
Likewise, in our current Human Society, the exact same thing is going on. Humans have been living in the same sort of scarcity since the dawn of existence. However, as time has gone on, we have become more and more "civilized" due to our ability to Create. Unlike the Lions, humans are able to create tools and set in motion processes that free the human being from a particular chore or problem, reducing Scarcity.
Given this "insight" we then see that on a fundamental level that if scarcity could be eradicated, then human behavior would undergo a dramatic change, moving away from competition, dominance and stratification.
Likewise, outmoded ideologies that do not stand up to the test of time, such as theistic religion, compound this myth that humans/society are built a certain way. For example, the Catholic ideology states that humans are "born with sin".
This is absurd, outmoded and based on a primitive understanding of human behavior.
There is no difference between a Ghandi baby or a Hitler baby... it is the environment that shapes the person and hence the society (and vice versa).
Therefore, true Sociological change will come from removing the conditions that cause the aberrant behavior patterns which pollute our societies. Prison, Police and Laws are mere patchwork and, in fact, tend to make things worse over time.
Ultimately, it is going to take a redesign of our culture to change human behavior for the better.
When we consider the relevance of our social structures and ideologies in society, very often we view governments, politicians and corporations as the guiding organizational and catalystic institutions responsible for the quality of our lives. This is, of course, true... but only to a certain extent. As time has moved forward, human beings have become more and more aware of nature, its processes, and thus have been able to derive inference about how to imitate nature in all its creative glory.
The result has been Technology, which is what separates us humans from the other species as far as functionality. We have the ability to create in very vast ways. If we don't want to clean sewers, we can devise a machine to do it for us.
At the beginning of the Industrial Age, a great majority of people worked in factories. Today, automation comprises 90% of nearly all factories. This has displaced humans and created a large, artificial "service" industry in order to keep humans in employment for money.
This pattern is very revealing. The implication is that machine automation is constantly challenging the role of general human labor. This doesn't mean that humans will have "nothing to do" as time moves on. Quite the contrary... this implication denotes the freeing of humanity from jobs which humans do not care to engage in, so they will have time to pursue what they choose to. As an aside, it is important to point out that society today assumes a very negative posture towards humanity, retaining the belief that if human beings were not "required" to do something, they would just sit around, be lazy, and do nothing. This is absurd propaganda.
The notion of "leisure" is a monetary invention, created because of the oppressive, fascist basis of the employment institution itself. Laziness is, in fact, a form of rejection of the system. It is a quality that only exists due to the oppression and required servitude.
In a true society, there would be no such thing as the separation of "work and "leisure", for humans should be allowed to pursue whatever they feel is relevant. To put it a different way, consider the curiosity and interest of a child. He or she doesn't even know what money is...Do they need to be motivated by money to go out and explore/create? No. They have a personal interest and they pursue it without reward. In fact, the greatest contributors to our society, such as Einstein, Newton or Galileo, pursued what they did without any regard to money. They did it because they wanted to. The act of doing and contributing was their reward.
The point here is that money is not a true incentive for anything and to think as such is to assume that humans are inherently lazy and corrupt. Laziness and corruption are products of the conditioning our social system creates.
Now, coming back to technology, we find that our quality of life, as far as functionality, has been increased greatly by the benefits of the technological tools we create. From a lawn mower to a pace maker, technology saves lives and decreases the amount of time we need to spend on mundane, difficult or dangerous activities. In fact, if one steps back far enough, it becomes clear that Technological development is the most important institution we have and the pursuit of socially helpful technology(not weapons) should be the highest priority of the culture.
At the same time, technological development is brought about by a particular train of thought, or process... this could be called "The Scientific Method". Carl Sagan was once quoted as saying something to the effect of "Society welcomes the gifts of science, but rejects its methods".
This is very true in the modern age, for what the public fails to understand is that science is not just a tool... it is a near universal functionality which can be applied to society in ways many would not think about.
It seems obvious that technology improves our lives and serves as the greatest liberator of human life in the material realm... so why aren't its methods applied to society as a whole?
Obviously, the scientific method is used constantly for isolated systems, but it has never been truly considered in the broadest ways. This is largely due to age old superstitions which battle the logic of science in favor of a dogmatic, outdated and highly romanticized world view.
If we had the option to rebuild a society from scratch, how would we do it to make it the most efficient, sustainable and humane? This is our perspective. Obviously, we cannot build a society from scratch but the point is clear. It is time we stop thinking about monetary concerns and limitations, and begin to think about the possibilities we have here on earth in the broadest sense.
It is this interest that has created the concept of a 'Resource Based Economy'. The Venus project has been working on this concept for a long time and its foundation is very simple. We survey, preserve and maximize our use of planetary resources in conjunction with open information and technological development.
In this view, little is left to subjective interpretation, for it is a scientifically derived strategy for social construction at the very core. From there, the scientific parameters work themselves out as far as possibilities.
When we think of sustainability, often we think of durability, longevity and environmental respect. In general, a sustainable practice is a practice that takes the health of the future into consideration. However, this idea isn't just reserved for the physical, material world- it also applies to thought, belief, human conduct and society as a whole.
An unsustainable practice is one that has an unbalanced negative effect, which, through time, will adversely effect a person, society and/or the environment. A classic case is our current use of Oil as a medium of energy. This could be considered unsustainable due to the fact that oil is largely unrenewable and, when burned, is damaging to the environment. Any practice that causes an irreversible resource depletion or long term environmental pollution is an unsustainable practice.
Likewise, if a particular company outputs large amounts of waste byproducts during production, polluting the environment, this would be considered an unsustainable practice as well, regardless of what they are producing.
Similarly, if materials or knowledge used in the production of a particular kind of product are not of the highest known quality, very often the integrity of that product is compromised inherently, leading to the eventual creation of more waste when that product fails or becomes obsolete. Given our current system of profit, most everything that is produced is done so with a built in weakness, due to the need to compete for market share. In other words, if two companies are each competing to create a certain item, both will need to be strategic in the materials and designs they use, very often compromising quality for the sake of affordability. The result is a product which breaks down much faster than a product which was given the greatest care and highest quality component materials.
This doesn't happen in our system for two reasons: 1) If a company was to use the best known design and the best known materials, they would likely have a much higher production cost and would likely lose a competitive edge. 2) If products were made to last for extended periods of time, people would not need to repeatedly replace, update and fix their items as much, and a vast amount of revenue and jobs would be lost by industry at large, slowing the economy.
This is, of course, unsustainable by definition, for the inherent inefficiency of the economic system eventually creates unnecessary multiplicities, waste and pollution.
And this leads us to unsustainable ideologies.
An unsustainable ideology is one that inherently leads a person or group to unsustainable practices. For instance, the reason a production plant might use poor materials to create unsustainable products, while also outputting a disproportionate amount of waste, is really the result of a larger force, known as the Monetary or Profit System. In a Profit System, there is no reward for sustainability, for the system is built upon competition and regeneration. In such a circumstance, sustainability is always second to profit, for the survival of a company is based on profit, and profit is partly based on reducing costs and expanding income. Therefore, the unsustainable practices that exist in all industries are the result of an underlying flaw in the ideological economic structure itself.
In theory, most would agree that having an abundance of resources, along with products that are made of the most endurable materials for maximum sustainability and efficiency, is a good thing. However, these notions are not rewarded in our current world monetary system. What is rewarded is Scarcity. Scarcity and planned obsolescence are rewarded in the short term, for it creates a 'turnover' of profit, while also making more jobs. Sadly, this 'short term reward' is at the cost of 'long term destruction'.
The Free Enterprise System, along with all other subgroups, such as communism, socialism and fascism, is an unsustainable ideology, for it has built into it a propensity for environmental and social abuse. To put it more clearly, a world that is in competition with itself for labor, resources, and survival is an unsustainable system inherently, for it lacks an external conscience.
So then, what is an sustainable ideology?
While this question will always bring new answers as human evolution continues, in the present day we have a concept called The Scientific Method. Very simply, the Scientific Method is a process of investigation which, though the most modern methods of learning, measurement, testing and experimentation, works to demonstrate the validity of a particular understanding or possible resolution to a particular problem.
An example would be a problem with a car. If your car doesn't start, you would begin a train of thought, based on logic, to find the source of the problem. Logic would guide your focus, likely beginning with how much gas is in the car, moving towards the ignition mechanism, etc. This is the scientific method applied to problem solving. A non scientific method for such a problem would fall under the category of 'irrational'. For instance if you car doesn't start, it would be irrational to start looking at the tires, for the tires would likely have nothing to do with the mechanisms associated with the problem.
Sadly, our approach to social operation is largely without logic or methodology, but rather it is submerged in tradition, superstition and outmoded methods of conduct. A scientific approach to society, using logic and reason to assess and react to social issues would have a natural gravitation towards sustainability, for nothing can be isolated or detached in such an approach. In other words, we need to stop looking at the world through the blinders of the systems and ideologies that have been created in the past, and start looking at the world in the most broad, unbiased way we can. The only medium which supports this approach, is Science, and the gifts of science have proved its validity without question. Therefore, it is time we utilize the methods of science in our approach to society itself.
A quick glance at the modes of operation used in the world today reflect a gross negligence of reason, logic and scientific application. Our economic structures are based on mediums of exchange and values which have little relationship to true resources and reality. Religion continues to preach worldviews which have long been overridden by progressive scientific thought. Our labor system is setup so that people must be "employed" in order to gain money to survive, while the actual contribution that these occupations have to society are highly suspect, showing that "jobs" often exist simply to keep people doing "something" in order to live and support the economic structure. This is a waste of human life...
There are many, many facets to the understanding that our current social institutions are unsustainable. To summarize the issue, our life on earth must have a foundational premise by which our operations relate. This premise must be as empirical as possible, and not based on opinion or projection. From a scientific perspective, we see that resources and human ingenuity are the most valuable issues at hand. Human intelligence and awareness, coupled with the thoughtful management and utilization of earth resources are really the only two core issues. Everything else is built upon this. Therefore, we need to begin an approach which maximizes education, technology and resource management.
Until this is done, sustainability will be in jeopardy. This is the goal of The Venus Project and The Zeitgeist Movement.
Spirituality has a different meaning to each of us, it seems. A standard definition would be: "A sense of meaning and purpose; a sense of self and of a relationship with 'that which is greater than self".
Currently, Religion and Mysticism seem to have the monopoly on Spirituality. Theistic religion often regards a 'relationship with god' or divine creator, as a spiritual relationship, while Mystics will often find a relationship to a 'supernatural' force or power. The bottom line is that, almost universally, spirituality has to do with a 'relationship' on one level or another. In most perspectives, it is associated with a person's 'place' or 'meaning' in life... whatever that may be.
As subjective as these things can be, we begin to recognize changes in these notions, for social progress tends to carve a path for understandings that stand the test of time. In the modern age, we have the ability to look far in our past and examine what our ancestors used to consider 'real', and then compare those ideas to what we understand today. Many "spiritual practices" which have existed in the past, no longer exist due the understandings that have come about in regard to natural phenomenon. As a base example, early religions often 'sacrificed' animals for certain purposes... this rarely happens today, as the relevance of such an act has proven pointless in its desired effect. Likewise, rarely do people perform 'raindances' in order to influence the weather... today we understand how weather patterns are created, and ritual practices have no provable effect.
Similarly, the idea of 'praying' to a god for a particular request, has also statistically proven to have little effect on an outcome, not to mention the evidence to support a personified creator doesn't exist in any scientific way...rather it is often derived from ancient historical literary speculation and tradition.
Establishment Religion, in many ways, seems to be rooted in a perceptual misunderstanding about life's processes. For instance, it presents a worldview which often puts the human on a different level than other elements of nature. This 'spiritual ego' has led to dramatic conflicts for generations, not only between human beings, but inadvertently between us and the environment itself.
However, as time has moved forward, Science has shown how human beings are subject to the exact same forces of nature as everything else. We have learned that we all share the same atomic substructure as trees, birds and all other forms of life. We have learned that we cannot live without nature's elements... we need clean air to breathe, food to eat, energy from the sun, etc. When we understand this Symbiotic relationship of life, we begin to see that as far as 'relationships' are concerned, our relationship to the planet is the most profound and important. The medium by which this is expressed, is Science, for the Scientific Method has allowed us insight into these natural process, so we can better understand how we 'fit' into this life system as a whole.
This could be called a 'spiritual' awakening.
This realization, which has been proven by science, is that humans are no different from any other form of nature, while our integrity is only as good as the integrity of our environment, to which we are a part. This understanding presents an entirely different 'spiritual' worldview, for it forces the idea of interdependence and connection, at its core.
The interconnection of the whole of life is undeniable in the most basic sense, and it is this perpetual 'relationship' of total interconnectivity that is not fully realized by society overall. Thus, our modes of conduct and perception are largely out of line with nature itself... and hence destructive.
Nature itself is our teacher, and our social institutions and philosophies should be derived from this foundational and, invariably, 'spiritual' understanding.
The faster this spiritual awakening spreads, the more sane, peaceful and productive society will become.
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"It takes far less effort to find and move to the society that has what you want than it does to try to reconstruct an existing society to match your standards." - Harry Browne, How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World
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