It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.
~ Jiddu Krishnamurti
~ Jiddu Krishnamurti
How would you define society? Is it just a group of individuals that function collectively in a way that ensures achievement of group objectives? Or, is it a group of individuals that follow a common set of values and adhere to a given code of conduct in their mundane existence?
Well, as far as human society is concerned, it has to be a combination of both - adherence to a common set of values and code of conduct, and collective efforts - which ultimately leads to achievement of both individual as well as group objectives.
Anatomy of Human Society
More often than not, when we plan a course of action, it is usually determined by what goal we strive to reach. In other words, the end often decides the means.
Now, if we look at the various different human societies in today's world, we will see that they only differ in terms of cultural beliefs, religious philosophy, and level of progress in the fields of education and technology; all flavored by flecks of regional influence.
On close scrutiny, you will find that the personality of any society today, is marked by any combination of all or any of the aforementioned differentiating factors, with regional influence intact, irrespective of the different ratios and permutations of the other factors.
Despite, these individual differences in their character mark-ups, the ends or goals of all societies are, more or less, the same - general welfare and progress.
The question here is, why despite having the same end, do human societies differ radically from each other? The answer is as simple as it is complicated - it is the means a society adopts to reach this common end that makes it different from others.
No "Mean" Business
Talking about means, they are nothing but specific courses that are available for reaching the ultimate goal. What means a particular society chooses depends a lot upon how it interprets "general welfare and progress".
For one society, the ultimate objective of common welfare and progress mean spiritual upliftment while for other, it may imply progress in the field of science and technology. We can see both examples in the world around us. Both views may be exclusive or interconnected, depending on the melding of discern factors define the personality of these societies.
Any person having basic common sense would understand that a mutually exclusive situation would ultimately lead to severe distortion of values in such a way that either spiritual enlightenment would be sacrificed to make way for scientific progress or vice versa. In either case, victory would be incomplete as the achievement of the end would not be holistic.
This would, in the long run, lamentably skew the personality graph of both societies for the worse. Spiritualism would assume radical proportions and the ambition for scientific progress would take the shape of a remorseless technological juggernaut that has no regards for the trail of destruction it leaves behind, as it marches towards greater achievements.
Therefore, it is extremely important for a society to have a holistic understanding of the end that would, in fact, lead to the spiritual, intellectual and emotional upliftment of its people.
A rounded approach towards a well-understood goal automatically ensures the selection of a diverse variety of means that expose a society to a manifold path of holistic illumination. Such a path can only lead to the achievement of general welfare and progress for the entire society as well as each individual in it.
All's Well that "Ends" Well
Look at the world today and you'll see classic cases of two-dimensional interpretations of societal goals all around. There are nations that uphold radical religious fanaticism and there are those that throw their weight around on the basis of their technological prowess, boasting of gargantuan caches of nuclear energy.
From a distance, both types appear as awe-inspiring forces that, at their best, make uneasy allies and, at their worst, make formidable foes. A close look would reveal the moth-eaten corners of their societal fabrics.
The oppressed lifestyles of their people, the lack of privacy in their mundane lives, the despair and uncertainty their eyes betray when talking about the future - these can never be the symptoms of a healthy, well-functioning system!
How can a society, having for centuries, thrived upon a two-dimensional end-vision, and acquire a holistic understanding of "general well-being and progress"? By adding the third dimension of acceptance and tolerance. You can accept and tolerant of differences only when you open your mind to the possibility that the different ideas are just - different.
They are neither right nor wrong, neither better nor worse. They merely differ from what you know, believe, and the way you have perceived spiritualism, religion, philosophies and enlightenment till now.
Opening up to differences is liberating as it expands the horizon of your cognizance. By being aware of more, you welcome more into your life, your mind and your entire sphere of existence. In fact, you expand your existential experience!
Now, think of opening up to differences and welcoming more on the societal level. Even if a society decides to stick to its age-old ideals and carry on as before, the act of accepting and tolerating a unlike point of view would liberate it from the wasteful ambition of imposing its will and ideologies upon the rest of the world!
Imagine the amount of resources, efforts, and time that would be saved, that can be used for more productive pursuits!
A world where societies, cultures, and nations are more concerned about improving their own lot and learning from each other (instead of policing each other's affairs) is a world where general welfare and progress can truly assume its optimal, holistic form.
Such welfare and progress is transcendental in nature insomuch as it cannot be contained within the confines of a particular society or culture. But then again, is the world, as we know it today, mature enough to understand this simple wisdom?