Change The World: One Person At A Time
We live in a society that is inherently unfair. A small minority of people control a vast majority of wealth, power, opportunity and land. These few flaunt their ostentatious lifestyle with mansions, fancy cars, and other emblems of wealth. All this while a large percentage of people throughout the world struggle simply to feed, clothe, and house themselves. Haven't you ever stopped to ask yourself what keeps this majority from somehow correcting this inequity? Whether through riot, revolution, or some more peaceful means of societal upheaval, wouldn't you expect some sort of railing against a system that sees most of the fruits of everyone's labour in the hands of few?
From Marx and Engles down this issue has been wrestled with. Reformers and radicals alike have fruitlessly sought means of dealing with this uneven distribution. In some cases so called classless societies have been developed, but have proved failures as elites have formed to lord privileges over those less fortunate. In the end these experiments have become just as, if not more oppressive then, the flawed systems whose problems they were supposed to solve. What good is a classless society when you are forced to oppress people overtly with secret police and military might? Something has been overlooked, some base element that drives human behaviour as we know it is being ignored in our attempts to bring about equality.
On cursory examination there are few similarities between the so called communist and capitalist societies. But take a second look. Each one offers rewards for services rendered: for compliance with the rules of the game. In the former the promise of privileges, or the withdrawal of same: better living, travel, and other freedoms, were used to ensure compliance with their code of conduct. If you informed on your neighbour, met your quota for the month, or proved yourself worthy in some other way you were rewarded. Stepping out of line could see a drastic reduction in lifestyle if not one's personal freedom. The spectre of prison camps and political re-education proves a mighty deterrent to objectionable behaviour. In the latter there is the promise of promotion to a better position to elevate you above your fellows coupled with the fear of losing what little you have for either doing well or failing at a specific task. While the fear of actual imprisonment may not be as prevalent, debt and poverty are sufficient punishments to act as a deterrent to abnormal behaviour.
The impetus for behaviour is based on self preservation and self aggrandizement. No matter what facade we lay over top, the good of the state, an upstanding member of society, it all comes down to pitting one individual against another. In some sort of twisted race to a non existent finish line we barrel down a track looking over our shoulder with one eye and glancing ahead with the other, never seeing what we are doing. This blindness, this singularity of focus on what's ahead and behind is what traps us. We know there is someone behind waiting for us to stumble just as we are waiting for one of those ahead to fall.
From the moment we are put into the training system called education we are conditioned for competition: spelling bees, tests, grades, all designations of our place. Told that education will be our tool for a better life ahead we quickly are acquainted with our designated place in system. We may all strive to obtain the rewards that are offered to those higher up, but frustrated we quietly surrender to the inevitability of fighting to just maintain our own place. Forlornly we cling to the hope of attaining some of the peaks, whether through luck or perseverance ("hard work is it's own reward") or through our desire to be rewarded on the same level as the lucky few. The carrot of individual freedom through independent means has an allure hard to resist.
As was shown with the fall of communism throughout Eastern Europe these systems can reach the breaking point. Too many people too frustrated by lack of reward and even less promise of that reward being delivered eventually leads to discontent to large to be suppressed. As victims to the success of a few continue to mount (whether the success of a country at another's perceived expense or one section of society at another's) tensions mount and cracks begin to appear. Unfortunately we have no examples of viable alternatives. Everybody attended the same school after all, and unrest is fostered by individual desires not universal good.
Even on the level of interpersonal relationships, between man and wife, this attitude is pervasive. Instead of thinking of "ourselves" as a unit the tendency is to think in terms of individual needs based on how to fulfill them. Driving this is our conditioned reflex of looking both forward and behind at all times. Past treatment leads us to predict future reactions and directs us towards a position of self-preservation. That is the way the whole world works, then why not between the four walls of your home as well?
Do we want to break free of these chains, stop the spinning of the wheel before we are all broken on it? If your answer is yes, then it must begin on a personal level. If you want to free society then you have to set yourself free first. You may not be able to accomplish it in your lifetime, this is not a quick fix, but if you have children you can set them an example with your attempt. Even if you are childless you can set the example for others with your efforts to live with each other. Until we can be selfless with the ones we love, we have little hope for a society that offers more then material reward.
It's not an easy path to take, and there will be many pitfalls and mistakes, because you are going where no one has trod in thousands of years. Don't be afraid to seek help from whatever source you feel comfortable with and no matter how difficult it seems the effort is well worth it. Just think, we may be able to change the world after all, one person at a time.