What is a human society?

Three articles in the ‘Weekend Australian” 9-10 Jan 2010, caught my interest for their various references to a concept of human society.  Let me start with a cheer from Angela Shanahan (P7, Inquirer section) who places the ‘human’ front and centre of the argument about population control. There is much more to be said about the issues relating to human population and the future of humanity, but the core of the argument, we are our children, is irrefutable. In fact, I know few people who argue for population control who don’t have more than one child. The argument about a sustainable future, then, is what sort of society, what culture, must be developed to sustain and Earth with a high population (eg 10 billion people on the planet).

Speaking of children, Emma Toms wades into the community of sleaze, people, I suspect, mainly males, who use the serious question of punishment as an educational method, for titillation of perverted sexuality ie the disturbance of loving-sexuality towards harm-sexuality. Punishment and its anticipation is, of course, a fundamental deterent for all anti-social human behaviour whether of the 3 year old child throwing objects at others, or a nation-state doing the same. Yet violence has few benefits. One is to attract attention and cause the recipient to focus on the issue.  The degree of this violence ranges from the raised voice which alerts the ear to danger, or the momentary pound on flesh that alerts to danger from the touch sensation. I have often wondered whether the visage of an angry father saying loud things in an angry voice is  maybe more, hurtful, than a swipe of rolled up newspaper on an unsuspecting buttock, followed by, once attention has been achieved, a clear calm demand on the child, with a more appropriate punishment eg withdrawal from family contact for a while. The mother and father are working to teach the child how to work fairly in a human group, initially the family, eventually the community, and the global society) When dealing with nation-states we have to be even more careful how we gain the attention of the other for we are not dealing with a paternalistic relationship, but expecting that each peer understands that no-one is above the rule of law and justice. Whichever aspects of justice we have failed to understand as a child, so we will tend to fail to respond to fellow nations as a national society.  If we haven’t understood the role of punishment in the education of fairness and have overpunished children or perverted the cause by disturbed sexuality, then so will our nations response to other nations be perverted.

And, on perversion, the serious but oddly titled article by David Aaronovitch (pg 12 Nation section) , ‘Wowsers show hypocrisy’, deals with that same reality of human life, that our minds can develop in such ways as to tie all types of titillations to that instinctual drive to procreate, to have children,  to have a future. What Aaronovitch speaks to is the great difficulty that many of us have to unravel the disturbances in our minds from other higher order concepts, so that everything becomes disturbed. Hypocrisy might be defined as dissonant and dishonest sets of behaviour, and, indeed we are all blameworthy on that account. However what Aaronovitch also speaks to is the form of power that supports such dissonance. Paternalistic (or maternalistic) hierarchies that have moved the world to this current global enterprise, is incapable of projecting the appropriate sense of justice that is required to allow the global society live together in harmony, such as we would expect of our family.  What is missing from Aaronovitch article is the insight that human society is family at the heart, extended family if possible, which retains a paternal-maternal authority. But the aim of the family is to raise children who combine the traits of both democratic capacity and loving empathy. The global society, can only work, when nations see themselves as brothers and sisters in a great enterprise of democracy, empathy, and support.

What is human society? It is a society that can reflect on it’s own disturbed mind, individual and collective. It is a society that attempts day after day, to bring itself to account against its own dishonesty and dissonance. It is a society that determines to raise another generation of children who have even greater capacity for democracy and love. It is a great global organism that is determined to live.

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