Humanity is a truly complex organism, and it is now – in the 21st Century, that we are learning how to go beyond our individual organic bodies into the interconnected possibilities of a greater collective Self. But it is a conceptual process that can be traced back to the ancient Greek ideal concerning which required them to be educated and self-disciplined to withstand the constant temptations of power, self- gratification and other inherent biological instincts. Yet humanity has, in spite of the destructive nature of many leaders and malcontents, gradually advanced arising in new forms from the ashes of failed efforts to enslave the poor and uneducated.
Large metropolitan centers, as the ancient Greek city- states were, are crucibles for the coming together of diverse and disparate individuals and groups. Today these urban centers usually bring together large populations of different races, creeds, cultures and lifestyles. In these modern mega-communities, individuals are able to live alone with little interference, yet they also depend intimately on services and conditions that can only be sustained by the collective effort and commitment to each other. Thus, a metropolis becomes a protector of life, self-expression and opportunity that is impossible to achieve on farms and other less populated areas of human groupings where it is understood first-hand how close loss and death are to the individual and to nature itself.
Humanity is one. Yet you and I think that we are “one,” that when I take something from you “I win.” In truth, humanity loses when anyone makes another less, when anyone wins over another. In fact we make jokes about this, where we describe how different parts of the body are the “boss,” and the only part of the body that no one thinks is important ends up controlling everyone else. Similarly, too many of us let bullies and abusive people take charge and “defend us.” Yet change comes and we have evolved from warlords to chieftains to monarchies to democracies and we are now facing different ideals that are manifested in different types of elected governments and representation.
But can the dream of a humankind that works together overcome the individual desires and fears that make individuals want to benefit personally even if this means hurting or controlling others? Can we as individuals actually learn to think of long- term goals and deferred gratification as being more important than the short- term benefits and immediate gratifications which can in the longer term destroy our communities and organizations?
My international experience with corporate, public, non- profit and volunteer groups has shown me that we can do marvelous things, but that temporary success usually breeds complacency and an unwillingness to continue working towards a better, stronger civilization. The long- lived Chinese civilization has cost many individuals their lives and self- determination as the price paid for its longevity, while Western civilization has gone through many iterations of revolutions and phoenix- like rebirths from the ashes of war. The Islamic grandeur of the past was brought down by Western civilization and its warring factions, and consequently Western civilization developed an unconscious belief that wars and destruction are excellent ways to promote “growth and expansion.” But is it?
Certainly, all living organisms are composed of cells that die and are replaced, but aggressive groups of cells that grow with no concern for the whole organism are actually destructive and are called cancers. Could this be the what humanity is facing? We are certainly actively destroying not only huge populations of species in our environment, but we also are interfering in natural processes that maintain conditions necessary for humanity’s survival. Farmers think of their own needs and experiences, nerds often seem to think only in terms of video game logic, and entrepreneurs often only focus on making money:- We are all necessary for human well- being and growth. In fact, I propose that there is no “useless” activity for humans, since we are such adaptable beings and history demonstrates that a single lifetime is usually not long enough for substantial change to take place — it is usually a multi-generational effort that brings about the change of major growth and development. Democracy, for example, was an ideal and dream for at least 200 years before it became a popular notion for people around the world. Capitalism itself developed slowly as a product of the legal concepts born in ancient Venice and Europe and the Industrial Revolution.
Yes, I insist that we are one, that “no man is but an island” and that individuals and groups who focus only on their own opinions and self-benefit are actually limiting themselves when they propose win-lose solutions to issues they confront. In fact, I invite you the reader to start questioning all statements, including mine, and ask whether you agree or disagree. I ask that you look beyond your immediate thoughts, responses and conclusions; think of what you want from life and how you can leverage your connections to others to achieve what you want. If you want to ensure a future with growth, don’t focus on what you don’t like, as you’ve done so many times before.
Let’s work together to achieve that future.
Obviously, you can count me in!
Manny Perez, MPA,,, http://www.facebook.com/FriendsManny