The deterioration of world markets following the sub-prime mortgage crisis in the USA is (another) sign of narcissism in the contemporary societies of the world. The narcissism of the world societies has its birth in the 19th and early 20th century colonial view of Darwinian theory. While I think that the power-brokers got evolutionary theory wrong then, and are still getting it wrong, there is little doubt that idea of might is right because the weak should fail, even though prepared by more moderate language, is a steady state of mind among the insatiable.
Social research has shown that in any community in the east or west, village or city, there is a tendency for 20% of the community, usually related to a particular group of families, that draw to themselves 80% of the wealth of that community. It can be argued this is an improvement on the state of 1,000 years ago when probably 1% (the ruling class) owned 90 – 100%% (including the rights over life of the ordinary person (serf, slave, peasant).
Yet it is also clear that now the population of the world has reached the dizzy billions and is increasing so very fast, the meagre redistribution of wealth among the masses that has happened during the twentieth century is no longer viable for the progress of civilisation. On the one hand, the economic sytems have a tendency to create very unstable financial environments for the masses, while societies find it almost impossible to provide for the basic needs of the society. I describe basic needs in the 21st century as being: housing, nutrition, life sustainable environments, occupation, family cohesion, education, equal opportunities for men and women, community, national and international security, and happiness.
I am a perpetual optimist that civilisation will out. Just as the world ran Adolf out of town, so, eventually, the world will run the insatiable out of town. However, just a WWI or WWII or some of the other lesser conflicts, the cost of running the merciless out of town is so very great in terms of lives destroyed and maimed. It also leaves behind a dysfunctional society supported by many psychologically damaged persons. To wit, we need peacefulness to build real peace.
Yet to apply the great intelligence of society to the building of civilisation requires the building of economic systems which consciously turns its back on the still-popular ‘survival of the greediest’ motto. Rather it embraces the motto of ‘sacrifice and serve’. This is not a motto of weakness or self-destruction. It is not a motto of isolation or asetiscm. It is not a motto of anti-competitiveness or moral relativism. It is a motto of unprejudised engagement It is a motto of virtuous and ethical behaviour in science, trade, family, community and political life. It is a motto supported by the view that one’s life is to create elements for the advancement of all humans, and to this purpose we sacrifice. It is a motto that supports the necessity to build wealth, and build wealth in fairness, so that the wealth of a community or the globe moves to places that best serves the community rather than only the most wiley stakeholders. It is a motto that supports the need for governments to finance their nation’s development and security.
Civilisation cannot be built without a mechanism for recognising the better and lesser approaches, technologies, and skills. Sacrifice and service is built on that recognition as much as the ‘will to power’ is built upon it. That mechanism is provided by competition, a quality that is found within a myriad relevant testing processes. Certainly, in one field of application, the relevant test equates to the ability of a student to learn volumes of information. Another, to engage a potential client in a communication that leads to a contract. Another, equates to the quality (scientific, technical, artistic) of the product that is being traded. Another test equates to the ethical assessment of the relevant value of the trade. This issue of the extractable price is at the heart of unethical trade. In other words is it the motivation of the trader to extort an extraordinary price for the product. (Sometimes in the modern marketplace by trading in an almost abstract product such as is seen with the short selling of loaned shares). It is unethical because it occurs under anti-competitive processes, where the power differentials are so great as to be impossible to compete. It may occur when a government supports a product. It may occur when an organisation holds monopoly over the market, after the market has become dependent on the product or where the product has become a basic necessity for an individual to move with equity within society.
As the twentieth century drew to a close and we entered a new millenuium, those 10 % of the us (globally) with enough an education could see that the huge organisations, the multinational companies, held great leverage over the vast citizenry. While it would be ungracious to say they weren’t producing elements for the advancement for society, the limitations of their motivations and prejudices, have left us in the unenviable position of being 6 billion people among whom large proportions will suffer unemployment, dislocation, and environments unsustainable for life.
Shall we take the now 6 billion, soon 10 billion people, into the future only a pathway of advancement. Shall we reconstruct the current road by building the basics (as listed ablove) for everyone on the planet. Then we need to re-instate the teaching of morals and ethics among the children. We must help the youth understand the necessity of sacrifice and service in our trade relations in life. We must raise the ethical analysis of the complex system of economical decisions by governments and huge corporations to a level of mastery. We do this, we build civilisation. We don’t, then we don’t.