As humans, particularly those living in the West, isn’t a lot of faith being placed in our capacity for judgement? In every area of life, it seems we have so many choices to make, so many temptations placed on our path, so many distractions to hold us back from fully focussing on any given thing. Yet, still, it’s our choices that are setting so many things in motion.
If we’re being given this much freedom to decide for ourselves what our lives are going to be – which things we’ll buy, initiatives we’ll support, places we’ll go and activities we’ll encourage – it’s intriguing to think how we’re supposed to prepare ourselves for that level of responsibility. How are we to be sure each person’s truly capable of making the “best” decisions for themselves and the system at large? (Notes One)
It hardly seems an insignificant thing, given that each life is conceivably composed of the countless decisions making up our days. How are we to maintain our awareness of every single option and how it fits into all the systems evolving around us at such startling speed? How are the precepts and instructions of anyone’s childhood to “meet” the shifting realities of modern living?
The tasks of education, the media and culture presumably take on a slightly different light if we conceive of them as preparing, supporting and maintaining each individual’s active understanding of both their society and its place in an ever-changing world (Notes Two). If each person is to emerge with a thorough yet flexible understanding of “reality” capable of informing every decision they’ll make, those tasks seem quite weighty.
To be able to judge, don’t we need to understand? Not only our own position, but also the broader context in which we stand. Not only what each option means for us, but also what it means more widely within our social reality. If every decision we make feeds into the bigger picture of all that’s surrounding us, our understanding of that world seemingly needs to be quite vast if we’re to conceive of every possible ramification.
Yet, Western society seemingly trusts us all to develop and exercise our discernment. Where will that “project” go if we’re not deserving of such trust? If we act obliviously or carelessly of the consequences of our actions. If we think only of “us”, at the cost of the broader context we’re all undeniably a part of. Where’s society headed if we’re mainly using our freedom to please ourselves in the short-term? (Notes Three)
If society were filled with people who truly understood it, from every perspective, and cared deeply about what life was like through those eyes, everything could presumably be trusted to go relatively smoothly. If everyone knew the significance of their every role and contribution, the necessity for regulation could conceivably disappear.
All the while we don’t quite understand thoroughly enough or judge in the light of such compassionate understanding, the sense of where society’s standing sometimes seems quite precarious.
Notes and References:
Note 1: Freedom, responsibility & choice
Note 1: The need for discernment
Note 1: Doing the right thing, we erase consequences
Note 1: Too much responsibility?
Note 2: The stories that we hear
Note 2: What is the public conversation?
Note 2: Passing on what’s important
Note 2: What keeps us in check
Note 3: The self within society
Note 3: Having confidence in complex systems
Note 3: Mutual awareness and accommodation?
Note 3: The value we’re giving to things
Turning this around the other way, to look at who we’re asked to trust within modern society, was one focus of Concerns over how we’re living.