Society

Posted: August 10, 2011 in Uncategorized

Society is a very fragile thing at the best of times. As individuals, we all have an innate desire to look after our own well being first and foremost. We, as a rule, tend to be greedy, self absorbed, self righteous and self serving creatures. We look to community as a way of ensuring we have our own needs met and under the best circumstances, have a comfortable and generally peaceful existence. We feel comfortable in the fact that with a minimum of individual effort we can go about our everyday lives seeking our own self fulfillment without having to worry about the tedious details which might otherwise overwhelm us. Like it or not, socialism is the tool we employ to achieve this. In its simplest of forms, this would mean being able to share our own resources with our neighbours in order to obtain those things which would otherwise be too difficult for us to obtain on our own. It all sounds very simple and when everyone does their part the system tends to work pretty well.

Our societies rely heavily on socialism even if we chose to believe otherwise. In this complex world we live in, with all its wonders and terrors, we rely heavily on each other. We need to have government and law and police to ensure that laws are kept. We need to have fire departments to protect our property, hospitals and doctors to protect our health, garbage collectors and sanitation departments to ensure cleanliness. We sadly also require militaries to protect us from invaders and prisons to protect us from those wishing to do us harm. These are just a few of the classic examples of socialism embedded in our everyday lives. I think that everyone could agree that without socialism, no capitalist system could function. I will go one step further however and suggest that given human nature, without a strong capitalist system, socialism would quickly deteriorate into a authoritarian system. Capitalism is the check and balance of the system that ensures that each of us contributes in kind.

Any society functions best when we include safety nets to prevent extraneous circumstances from destroying the lives of unfortunate individuals. We share what we can with those less fortunate to ensure that should we fall to those same situations, we can rest assured that our own well being and needs will be taken care of. Should we lose our health, or our jobs, or even our youth we can sleep well knowing that a system is in place to provide for ourselves and our loved ones. This feeling of security is what gives us peace in society and stops us from allowing our own desires and selfishness from inflicting harm on others. When we feel content with our own lives, we are much more likely to show compassion towards others and be respectful of their stations and views.

In order for this wonderful system we enjoy today to work, we need people to oversee it, and money to pay for it. There will always be required a government (preferably a representative one) and a taxation system (preferably a fair one) to pay for all these things that make society work. What our true needs are and what we can afford, will always need to be assessed and debated in order to ensure we are not overwhelmed with taxes. In the same way rules and laws need this same scrutiny to ensure that they do not become burdensome, and are fair and balanced for all members of society. Again this can only be accomplished with a degree of compromise of all parties involved. It is this balance between anarchistic chaos and oppressive order that makes the system function. Socialism and Capitalism are simply the tools employed to achieve this.

Balance within society begins to break down when the people become disenfranchised. When times are reasonably prosperous, individual discontentment tends to be muted. When things begin to go bad these same discontentments become exaggeratingly magnified. People who were once content to share of their wealth become increasingly guarded of their own property and resent those who they begin to believe are attempting to take it away from them. People of limited means become convinced that all of their own problems are the result of the greed and selfishness of the wealthy. This inevitably leads to some form of societal breakdown. Even in its mildest form, this leads to increases in crime and social disorder, and in the extreme, to rioting and even civil war. The longer this divide is allowed to fester, the chances of it reaching extremes increases.

What’s needed in times such as these is dialogue, understanding the need for sacrifices on both sides. The wealthy need to understand that helping those less fortunate is in their own best interest. It provides them the security needed to enjoy their prosperity and provides the stable environment essential for continued prosperity. The poor need to make sacrifices as well, and understand that their own prosperity is deeply diminished through acts of crime and destruction. Everyone needs to take a step back and see for themselves that the costs associated with this increasing divide, both tangible and intangible, far exceed the costs associated with peaceful coexistence. Maybe this is the only true measure of our worth as human beings.

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