Carrots and Sticks: Building a Civilisation – Part II

If I can summarise a great deal of discussion about the fair order of things in modern society, it could be said that there is too much regulation and too little of the right sort of regulation.

Government is so big these days, it is quite impossible to reduce the amount of regulation upon the individual. Yet because the problems with the current amount of regulation, governments continue to introduce additional levels of regulation to shore up the failure of the previous. Yet the fundamental problem with regulation is in the lack of self-regulation, self-reflection and ethical self control by many of the citizens, especially those gifted with wealth, or other highly developed talents for trade.

Baha’u’llah taught that there are two major human gifts that apply to the proper regulation of the society: “Take heed, O concourse of the rulers of the world! There is no force on earth that can equal in its conquering power the force of justice and wisdom”
The foremost is “Wisdom” … (as) man’s unfailing Protector.., God’s Emissary and the Revealer of His Name the Omniscient …; through (which) the loftiness of man’s station is made manifest and evident; is the foremost Teacher in the school of existence; the Guide invested with high distinction; imbues (people) with a gem-like spirit; the unrivalled Speaker in the city of Justice.” Baha’u”lah then provides us with a practical indicator of wisdom, that it “is illumined with the two luminaries of consultation and compassion”
The second is “Justice .., upheld by two pillars, reward and punishment .., the sources of life to the world… (upon which) the structure of world stability and order hath been reared, and will continue to be sustained. ( Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 218, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 26 p. 66, p. 126)

Baha’u’llah continues to explain that, “The purpose of justice is the appearance of unity among men. The ocean of divine wisdom surgeth within this exalted word, while the books of the world cannot contain its inner significance. Were mankind to be adorned with this raiment, they would behold the day-star of the utterance, ‘On that day God will satisfy everyone out of His abundance,'[Q’ran] shining resplendent above the horizon of the world. Appreciate ye the value of this utterance; it is a noble fruit that the Tree of the Pen of Glory hath yielded. Happy is the man that giveth ear unto it and observeth its precepts. Verily I say, whatever is sent down from the heaven of the Will of God is the means for the establishment of order in the world and the instrument for promoting unity and fellowship among its peoples.
Justice hath a mighty force at its command. It is none other than reward and punishment for the deeds of men. By the power of this force the tabernacle of order is established throughout the world, causing the wicked to restrain their natures for fear of punishment. (Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 66, p. 164)

Baha’u’llah’s son, Abdu’l Baha, reminded government that the two main motives actuated in the life of people: hope for reward and fear of punishment must be greatly taken into account by Government and policy-makers. He points out that without a sense of Divine faith among administrators, there is a tendency for despotism, and the tyrannical and unjust execution of laws. For unless administrators have a sense of their own judgement at the end with his earthly life, “he will lack the incentive to just dealing, and the inspiration to destroy oppression and unrighteousness.” (Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 157)

However Abdu’l-Baha points out that the fundamental values behind a proper system of Justice must be educated. “There are some who imagine that an innate sense of human dignity will prevent man from committing evil actions and insure his spiritual and material perfection. That is, that an individual who is characterized with natural intelligence, high resolve, and a driving zeal, will, without any consideration for the severe punishments consequent on evil acts, or for the great rewards of righteousness, instinctively refrain from inflicting harm on his fellow men and will hunger and thirst to do good. And yet, if we ponder the lessons of history it will become evident that this very sense of honor and dignity is itself one of the bounties deriving from the instructions of the Prophets of God. We also observe in infants the signs of aggression and lawlessness, and that if a child is deprived of a teacher’s instructions his undesirable qualities increase from one moment to the next. It is therefore clear that the emergence of this natural sense of human dignity and honor is the result of education. Secondly, even if we grant for the sake of the argument that instinctive intelligence and an innate moral quality would prevent wrongdoing, it is obvious that individuals so characterized are as rare as the philosopher’s stone. (Abdu’l-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 97)

And, those values, in this day must extend beyond parochial self-interest so that people aren’t only obeying “their governments either with the hope of reward or from fear of punishment” but as “the well-wishers of the government, obedient to its laws and bearing love towards all peoples. (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 293)

Governments can only truly de-regulate when there is a sense that the greater mass of the population is culturalised and educated towards serving their fellow citizen and supporting the government. Leadership for this must ultimately come from the economic leaders of the planet, but everyone must take up our responsibility. Support for government requires government to build wisdom through consultative processes and compassionate attitudes. The value of this approach is that the carrots and sticks become more refined, more relevant and appropriate to the nature of the problem, more equitable, more clear and concise in dialogue (and therefore more readily understood by all).

So the biggest carrot is for human being to be happy, enthusiastic contributors to society. The biggest stick to be known that you have failed to live up to the potential of your contribution.


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