If we see society as those values and patterns of behaviour that sustain our shared way of life, then what does it mean that modern society seems to be straining apart? Is it that we don’t believe in the values themselves, or in their application? That we don’t trust the system’s acting in our best interest, so we pull back against it? Or maybe we don’t believe in society at all and prefer to act on our own?
And I’m not sure how you get in such a predicament: whether it’s a failing of the processes of educating society in youth or adulthood; whether it results from market forces pulling at social and cultural realities; or if individualism is simply leading to disinterest in collective agreement (see Notes One). Understanding ‘why’ might be useful, but are there too many variables to reach comprehensive, actionable conclusions?
In one light, society’s this interlocking set of systems that evolved around the outworking of certain values: principles or starting points that rose to the surface through the twentieth century and worked themselves into the structures of the West. And whether that’s held together through the incentive of reward, threat of punishment, or conscious intention of understanding might make all the difference (Notes Two).
Alternatively, we might view society as a contract we’re born into, a fundamental part of our identity and a set of commitments we must work ourselves around. Of course, being born into something you could argue we did little to deserve or ask for it: inherited advantages, obligations, struggles being, in a way, ‘unfair’ as they alter a playing field we might hope were equal.
How well society reflects our ideals is a powerful question. As children, we often seek fairness, justice, inclusivity, recognition, acceptance; these basic sentiments around our worth and the place we’re offered within our community. That idealism might be crushed out of people far before adulthood, but conceivably we might be better off if it weren’t: if values found their place.
Really though, perhaps we ‘need’ to understand systems we’re living within? It might be expedient to coerce people with promises or threats, but I’m unsure how stable things are when they’re not based on true understanding (Notes Three). I mean, you can motivate in many ways; but if we don’t appreciate what we’re doing, how it fits, and the value it’s bringing will we care to sustain it?
Practically speaking, it’s our actions that serve to maintain social realities. Our awareness, intention, and consistency create the lives we lead individually and collectively; modelling and upholding those things we know to be important for building healthy, sustainable lives that integrate well with others and with the natural environment. That seems ‘the picture’ of existing consciously of our surroundings.
Maybe we’d be better off if fostering such awareness were woven throughout society? If we had a comprehensive sense of meaning that allowed us to correct areas not fully embodying the values we wish to build our lives around.
Notes and References:
Note 1: What we know to pass on
Note 1: Responsibility in shaping this reality
Note 1: Value in being informed
Note 2: Testing times
Note 2: What holds it all together
Note 2: Working through mind & society
Note 3: Tell me why I should
Note 3: Fear or coercion as motivators
Note 3: Freedom, what to lean on & who to believe
Note 3: Smart to play the system?
Striking a different note in how we might respond to the challenges we’re facing, there was We may as well laugh & Anger as a voice.