A Progressive World
What would the world be like if we committed ourselves to the progressive values found in all religious traditions and in the enlightened reasoning of secular people – love, generosity, kindness, respect, gratitude, honesty, awe and wonder at the grandeur of the universe? What if we rejected the notion that productivity, efficiency and success are defined solely in terms of maximizing money and power? What if we measured productivity, efficiency and success in terms of maximizing love and caring, kindness and generosity, peace and social justice, and ecological responsibility. Here is some of what that world could be like:
All families would have a living wage, full employment, flexible work schedules, affordable high-quality child care, affordable health care, and access to excellent education beginning with preschool. Society would nurture love, gentleness and kindness in families and oppose physical, sexual and emotional abuse.
We would support families in all their various forms – one parent or two, heterosexual or homosexual, biological, adopted or no children. The more love flourishes, the stronger all families will be. Restrictive and damaging sex roles would be reduced by supporting men capable of being nurturing, gentle and intimate and women capable of strong family leadership so that all families are led by fully functioning adults. We would encourage responsible family planning and reasonable population growth.
We would honor each person’s value, support each person’s aspirations, respect personal privacy, and practice only respectful speech avoiding demonizing those with whom we disagree. Good citizenship would mean being well informed about what is happening in the world, capable of making positive change and capable of challenging illegitimate authority. We would honor and learn from elders, help them share their life experience and wisdom, and view aging as an accomplishment rather than a disease to be cured or an affliction to be hidden. We would strive to alleviate suffering whenever possible and would view death as a natural occurrence subject to the individual’s self-determination requiring compassion and comfort rather than as an enemy to be fought at the expense of pain and dignity.
We would require government regulators to protect the common good. We would halt the revolving door between boardroom and government that leads to so many ethical scandals, increases cynicism and promotes self-serving hypocrisy. We would reduce the increasing gap between rich and poor. In recent years, the salaries of corporate chief executives have gone from forty times the average worker’s pay to four hundred times. As a society we would recognize and honor the contributions of ordinary citizens to society. Employers would provide time for volunteer activities, and government employment would become the public service it was meant to be. A sense of civic mindedness would be revived, and government service would be viewed as an attractive place for our best, brightest and most compassionate people. We would reward institutions, including corporations, that promote the value of caring for others. Corporations with incomes above 50 million dollars would be required to apply for a new charter every ten years and would be granted a new charter only if they could demonstrate to a jury of ordinary citizens a satisfactory record of social responsibility.
Education would teach critical thinking, creativity, intellectual curiosity, and love of learning. Schools would help children become responsible, ethically and ecologically attuned people destined to be full citizens not just cogs in an economic machine or obedient consumers. Children would learn the skills of cooperation, conflict resolution, and emotional self-regulation as well as standard subjects. We would measure success of schools by how well they grow healthy, fully-functioning human beings, not by how well they teach to a standardized test.
Everyone would have affordable health care. We all bear the financial burden when people are sick or disabled. And we all bear the psychological burden when we live in a society that doesn’t care whether we live or die unless we have enough money for expensive treatment or costly insurance. Our worth as a human being should not be measured by the size off our paycheck. Our healthcare system would allow us to choose our doctors, hospitals and treatments and would leave healthcare decisions in the hands of healthcare professionals and their patients or clients and not in the hands of profit-motivated insurance bureaucrats. Healthcare would include emotional, mental and physical health because being well is more than not being sick.
We would protect and preserve our natural environment because we are part of it. We would halt the reckless over consumption and wasting of the world’s resources and dedicate ourselves to sustainable technologies and sources of energy. We would dramatically reduce pollution of our air, water and land. People would have the information they need to make informed decisions about how and where to purchase food and consumer goods that have been produced in safe, ethical and environmentally sound ways.
We would value national safety and security while recognizing that no wall, no matter how long or how high it may be, can block international threats. An over reliance on military might does not make the world safer. We would understand that our wellbeing ultimately depends on the wellbeing of everyone else on earth. We would support a strategy of international generosity to ensure homeland security, not just because it’s morally right, but because it is in our best interest. Only when we heal the pain caused by hatred, poverty, hunger, avoidable illness, ignorance, and domination by ruthless oppressors and selfish corporations, will we be truly safe on this planet. We would lead the way with a Global Marshall Plan proposed by Rabbi Lerner. The US would dedicate a part of our gross domestic product – perhaps 5% – to eliminating hunger, poverty, homelessness, inadequate education, and inadequate healthcare throughout the world within 20 years. We would serve as a model and encourage other nations to join us – not in imposing our culture on others but in respecting and supporting the best in the cultures and traditions around the world. Terrorist organizations would find it almost impossible to recruit people who are angry enough to give their lives to hate and violence when those people have what they need in their own lives. The best way to be safer as we travel together on this tiny globe through space is to make more friends and fewer enemies. Swami Beyondanada reminds us that “There will indeed be peace on earth. Whether we humans are around to enjoy it is up to us.”
We would show pride in our democratic system and make it a model for the world by perfecting it here. We would dramatically reduce the influence of money in elections because democracy is built on the principle of one person one vote, not one dollar one vote. All candidates would have guaranteed access to the media, and elections would be completely open, fair, verifiable, and above reproach. The election process would be administered and monitored by people with no conflict of interest or with a balance of people from different political affiliations, not by partisan officials. Voting would be easily available to all eligible voters with no unnecessary restrictions. We would hold our candidates and office holders to the same moral standards we hold our children – no lying (including half-truths, spin, disinformation, or exaggeration), no stealing or cheating (including secret deals or undisclosed self-interests), and no unfair fighting (and that means no viscous attack ads, character assassination, name calling, mud slinging, or demonizing the opponent). We would insist on vigorous, honest debate of issues that makes it clear where each candidate stands. Office holders would practice functional cooperation with those of differing views, not rigid partisan power plays, and they would cast their votes based on principles not party lines. Special interest groups could supply valuable information and points of view, but in the end, office holders would respect and serve their constituents – the general public.
We would have strong international institutions working for nonviolent solutions to international conflict and protecting people everywhere from genocide and oppression. We would have a strong International Court of Justice to confine and rehabilitate violators of human rights. And torture would be banned throughout the world. Nuclear and conventional arms would be greatly reduced. We would show for the first time in human history that a superpower can be respectful of others and not resort to dominance through force.
We would continue the revolutionary experiment started by our nation’s founders who established the first secular government with freedom of religion and from religion. All religious and nonreligious points of view would be protected from the tyranny of any majority. Although some of our highest national values may be consistent with Christianity, we are not a Christian nation, and we would prohibit the establishment of any theocracy. Maintaining strict separation of religion and government would allow safe public discussion of fundamental questions of meaning and values.
Science would be independent of religious, political and corporate influence. Science is a self-correcting process designed to test assumptions to determine verifiable facts. People would trust science because it would not be tainted by religious dogma, political self-interest or corporate profit motives. Science cannot provide all the answers. As a sign in Albert Einstein’s office said, “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” We would respect wisdom from literature, poetry, music, art, and the spiritual heritage of the human race.
Is this vision of the world a silly fantasy and unattainable? Only if we all think so. Every major social change in human history was considered impossible until it happened, then it was considered inevitable. Why is it important to get involved now? As Swami Beyondanada says, “Because it is too late to do it any sooner.”
Each of us has both fear and hope within us, and we face a continual choice, as clearly illustrated by the story of the Native American grandfather who tells his grandson about two wolves fighting inside of him. One is the wolf of love, cooperation and peace, the other the wolf of fear, conflict and warfare. “Which wolf will win, grandfather?” asks the boy. The grandfather replies, “Whichever one I feed.”
The Left Hand of God: Taking Back Our Country from the Religious Right by Michael Lerner
Swami Beyondanada http://www.wakeuplaughing.com