I have a confession to make. I have posted some of the following words in a previous article. Probably more than once. But I do so this time within an atmosphere of change. We have been through a period I have named “The Luddite Period” and survived with the hope that a more empathetic, transparent and credible form of government might replace the ones of Howard, Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison. One that somehow encapsulates these words of Robert Kennedy.
“… the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages… It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom or our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.”
Even if you don’t give it much thought, somewhere in that part of your brain that provides this subject with consideration is a view of what you think a modern society should be.
My view of what a society is and how it should function is encapsulated in those short but exquisite words of Robert Kennedy. He counselled that it must be more than just an economy.
My ideal society is an assemblage of people who desire to express themselves in every human endeavour as a collective: A collective who has aspirations of conducting their humanity, labour, learning, aspirations, spirituality, art, poetry, play and exploration with the most extraordinary possible diversity and at the very centre of my society would be an empathy instilled in their learning – the common good would be at the centre of their politics regardless of ideology.
I mean, equality of opportunity for all would be enshrined in my constitution for the common good.
We judge art not by how it arrived on the canvas but by how it speaks once there.
My kind of society is one where one’s sexual preference or, indeed, one’s gender wouldn’t be the determinant by which one’s character is judged. One’s skin colour would say nothing about anyone except perhaps their geographical origins.
My society would advance the individual’s right to pursue whatever they desire, including the pursuit of economic success, which would only be regulated by the principles of the common good and in consideration of everyone’s entitlement to an equitable share of society’s wealth.
People would be guaranteed freedom of expression, including the right to disagree but be reminded that debate is not necessarily about winning. It is an exchange of many thoughts, Facts, ideas and principles. All have a place. But when broken down, it is simply the art of persuasion.
In my enlightened society, the suggestion that we must legislate one’s right to hate another person would be considered intellectually barren. Free speech would have its limitations based on what serves the common good.
Education or rather the lack of it is, in the main, responsible for racism and should be taught as a subject in our schools.
Access to health and welfare would be assured and treatment guaranteed. Most importantly, the principle that we should treat others in the same manner, we expect them to treat us would be memorable in every citizen’s mind.
My society would have a healthy regard for science over myth and mysticism but simultaneously recognise that each individual has a right to express their individuality or spirituality. Everyone has a right to seek spirituality and practice it so long as it doesn’t harm others. Or so long as it doesn’t corrupt the aspirations of “commongoodism”.
Commitment to the use of critical reason, factual evidence, and scientific methods of inquiry, rather than faith and mysticism, is the best way of providing solutions to human problems.
Free speech’s original intent was to give the oppressed a voice and keep governments honest. If the commercial press instituted a code of conduct similar to the ABC and obeyed it, the government would grant it freedom. In the United States, the 1st Amendment is now used as a justification to incite racism, validate hatred, and promote religious and political bigotry.
In a democracy, the government gives the people’s right to free speech. Therefore, it should be incumbent on everyone to display decorum, moderation, truth, fact, balance, reason, tolerance, civility and respect for the other point of view. Sadly, this seems to have been forgotten here and in the United States.
Will we ever grow intellectually to the point where we can discern and understand the potential for the good within us?
My society would be judged by its welcoming and treatment of its most vulnerable citizens, including the aged, the homeless, the poor, and those seeking asylum.
Accessibility to the law, regardless of stature or wealth, would be available to everyone.
Accepting change would be part of the very fabric of our existence. It would be a progressive society. One that wouldn’t resist change on the foolish assumption that we can make permanent that which makes us feel secure.
My ideal society would acknowledge that a democratic group mentality advances society better than dictatorial individuality. In democratic institutions, our herding instincts are realised by electing quality leaders to form the government.
A “fitness to serve” test would need to be passed by all parliamentarians. The function of Parliament would ensure that experts in various areas assist in our Parliament’s deliberations.
Individual or collective ambition would be encouraged within a social structure built and controlled by an accord with the government.
If we live in a democracy, then it must be the elected officials that decide and regulates society’s advancement and who provide the environment in which to do so. Private enterprises cannot advance without the assistance of facilities provided by the government.
Therefore, every parliamentarian must abide by the principles of a robust constitution independently conceived by the people and a bill of rights under a newly formed republic.
People who disagree with the “common good” society say that it would have to be very ordered and would unlikely work in the United States, for example, where governance structures differ from state to state.
However, in metropolitan areas, governance already consists of overlapping authority jurisdictions and duplication of function.
Brian Kogelman, writing for the Philosophy page “Thinking Small about the Ideal Society” says:
“Disagreement over how our schools should be run, whether we ought to be able to own guns, or whether we ought to be able to smoke marijuana need not result in winners and losers in the political process. In a polycentric governance structure, different political units can cater to diverse individual preferences. Instead of living in constant strife with one another, polycentricity allows us to live better together by, essentially, allowing us to live more apart.”
I fervently hope that the election of Anthony Albanese will change how we are governed and, by extension, our way of life.
In the recipe of an ideal society, there are many ingredients. None more so than the values we pass on.
My thought for the day
Ask yourself: Does the democracy we have make you feel good about your country?
PS Your thoughts on an ideal society, please.
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