(Politics and the Human Spirit – Installment 7)
Human society is a hodgepodge of energy and activity. Each one of us (and there are 7 billion of us alive today) thinks our own thoughts, speaks our own words, and does our own thing. Each of us belongs to groups (family, friendships, clubs, companies…), and every group does its own thing. Most groups belong to bigger groups (communities, associations, industries, nations…) and each of these big groups does its own thing.
Lots going on within and among societies all the time. Things would be total chaos were it not for regulation.
There are probably as many ways to define regulation as there are names for it: management, leadership, administration, governance, ordinance, superintendance, guidance, direction….
If we tossed them all into a pot and boiled them down, we would probably wind up with two basic ingredients of sensible regulation — monitoring activities and making changes when necessary.
Monitoring doesn’t have to be a constant vigil.
- We might monitor environmental degradation, weather patterns and the growth of civilization on the planet’s surface with an occasional series of photographs from satellites orbiting the earth.
- Monitoring a child at play might require an occasional glance.
- Monitoring employees in a company might involve an occasional progress report by employees on the status of their projects.
Making changes is easy, but making the appropriate changes at the appropriate time is harder:
- When to restrain the rapid growth of societies and industries to protect the oceans, atmosphere and rain forests…
- When to call an exploring child back within easy earshot…
- When to interrupt an enthusiastic employee whose project is moving ahead quickly but is starting to veer off-course…
These are difficult situations to judge. Excessive restraint can stifle enthusiasm and innovation. Excessive liberties can lead to chaos and crisis.
Monitoring and Making Changes Through Insightful Decisions
Effective regulation involves intuition and foresight while deciding how closely to monitor activity, when to make changes, and what changes to make. The decisions involve parents in a household, teachers in the classroom, managers in a corporation, governments in our cities or nations, and members of the United Nations in a tense and troubled world.
Insight is the key to good decisions… and insight comes not from the brain and physical mind, but from the finer spirit within. It’s more an intuitive thing, not so much a rational thing.
Life on Earth is too complicated—people within families, within cities, within states or provinces, within nations… —to come up with a rigid set of rational rules or commandments that apply in all cases. Maybe the best we can do is to assess each particular situation and determine who is best suited to make decisions in that case… who has the most reliable foresight.
So here’s the big question: When it comes to making changes in the complex nested structure of society, who should decide what in any given situation?
And here are four ‘rules of thumb’ I’ve come up with after talking to various experts over the years:
1. Every decision should be made at the lowest possible level, but high enough to take into account the needs and well-being of those affected by the decision.
Most decisions in human affairs, day in and day out, are made by individuals. That’s the way it’s always been, and that’s the way it probably will always be. But, as people start bumping into each other and stepping on each other’s toes (metaphorically speaking), larger regulatory groups have to be set up to help sustain peace and order. Parents make decisions for the family, city councils make decisions for the community, state and provincial governments make decisions at that level, national government makes decisions for countries, and the United Nations, ideally, would be empowered to make decisions for the planet.
2. Decision-making bodies should reflect the diversity of the people they represent.
A society of men and women shouldn’t be regulated by a group of men. A society of blacks, whites, and Orientals shouldn’t be regulated by a group of white people. A world government shouldn’t be run by a bunch of Nazis or Romans or Egyptians or Americans; it should consist of representatives of all nationalities, cultures, and religions. (Say, that sounds kind of like… what… the United Nations?)
3. Forge a balance between the right of individuals to be free and the right of nations to be stable.
Essentially this means finding a balance between freedom and equality… balancing human rights with equity and justice among all people.
Here’s how things have worked among some of the more influential players in world politics over the past century.
- Autocratic socialists (communists) rate equality high, freedom low. Cuba, China, and the former Soviet Union are examples.
- Democratic capitalists rate equality low, freedom high. The USA is an example.
- Autocratic capitalists (fascists) rate freedom and equality both low. Recent examples (during World War II) include Germany under Hitler, Italy under Mussolini, and Japan under Hirohito.
- Democratic socialists rate freedom and equality both high. Japan, Canada, and most European countries today are examples.
That practical model (by the late Canadian researcher Hanna Newcombe) suggests that the best-balanced governments are democratic-socialist in nature, such as those throughout most of modern Europe. Most problematic are the fascist governments, such as Japan, Italy, and Nazi Germany in the 1940s, when industry and government formed a tight alliance, forged a nationalistic agenda, and forced the people to align to it or to be ostracized.
Democratic socialism has its flaws, but it’s probably the best-suited government form for the foreseeable future.
4. Foster our intuition through spiritual practice, especially meditation.
This, arguably, should be high on the list of personal priorities for every human being alive, but in particular those who aspire to any sort of leadership or regulatory role in life. If you want to make good decisions, you’ll have to rely on the gift of intuition and foresight. Otherwise, everyone you represent will suffer to some degree.
Developing foresight starts with the realization that we’re brilliant, timeless spiritual beings enjoying a brief carnal roller-coaster ride here on Earth.
Having a good, rational mind isn’t good enough.
The “rational” human being is essentially a short-lived animal with a pretty good brain. But that animal also has hormones and an ego that force it to behave irrationally from time to time. It’s always a struggle for the rational mind.
The “intuitive” human being is the animal who has trained its brain and physical mind to connect to the finer, infinitely bright spiritual mind within. Meditation is the most effective way to forge and sustain that connection.
Once the connection is made, brilliant insights and transformational visions can stream into the carnal mind from finer realms.
This all traces back to what I call our “noble-savage” nature. Our noble qualities of love, trust, wisdom, and good will emerge from the finer spirit within us, while our savage emotions of fear, greed, and hatred spin out of the hormones and egos that were hard-wired into these carnal bodies long, long ago.
The more we meditate, the more of these noble qualities can stream into these savage carnal body-minds that form the rough outer core of our humanness. We can give these carnal bodies a golden aura through our spiritual practices.
And the golden glow can spill over into the political machinery we call government and society.
Without spiritual practice, we’re just a crowd of clever, moody animals waiting to react to whatever happens next in this brutal world in which life preys upon life to survive.
Politics and the Human Spirit series:
1 Introduction 2 Privatization and the public good 3 Military 4 Information 5 Spirit of Society 6 Education 7 Regulation 8 Economics 9 Managing the World in the 21st Century – 10 The carnal line between noble and savage – 11 Embrace the divine; it’s where we shine – 12 Who decides what? – 13 Finally… good politics
Best and worst countries to be born – Election fraud 2012 – Best and worst US presidents – Humor in politics – Biggest political news – End of the American dream – Blown to bits in the computer age – Standards, the key to peace – What Obama and Stalin really have in common – Bad counsel and a short leash – Capital punishment & the human spirit