Redefining our Relationship with the Future – Part 1

File:Environmental Disaster (6983486731).jpg

The suggestions I have been making on this blog might seem unfamiliar, so I want to explain some of the considerations behind them.

In some states at least, human rights are implemented in terms of laws and institutions. Generally, the human-rights-situation is better in countries that have human rights codified into their constitutional and institutional systems. Such institutions can be destroyed again or heavily damaged, as we could recently observe, for example, in the USA. However, that does not mean we should not strive for the implementation of human rights.

However, even those systems that do protect the fundamental rights of people well have a large gap: they do not protect the rights of people of the future. As a result, our economy is completely unsustainable, i.e. exploitative towards people of the future. We are using up resources at a rate that will finish them within decades. As a result, none of these resources will be left to people of the future. We are exploiting, robbing and killing our own descendants.

Some people propose that we have to change our attitudes and start to treat our resources, and hence our descendants, in a less exploitative way. Such a change of attitudes is certainly necessary, but I do not think it will suffice. Compare this with the topic of human rights. It is a good thing if individual people respect the human rights of others and treat them in a friendly and respectful way, but this is not enough to implement human rights. In order to really guarantee human rights, it is not sufficient if some, even most people think they are a nice idea. Instead, we require institutions that guarantee human rights even if there are some people who do not respect them. Vigilance of the citizens is still necessary (and, at times, a civil rights movement that is very critical with the government, the authorities and any emerging ideologies, especially of “patriotism”), or else such institutions can quickly be hollowed out, as we are just witnessing. But they are necessary and worth fighting for.

As already mentioned, current economic system is extremely destructive and there are no institutions yet to protect the rights of future people. We do need to change our attitudes in order to save our planet from destruction. But that is not enough because the destructive attitudes have become hard-wired into the structure of our political and economic institutions. It is therefore necessary to change these institutions as well. It would not be enough if many people simply had a positive “human rights attitude” towards each other, treating each other in a friendly and respectful manner, just like a “human-rights-attitude” of many is not enough to gain human rights.

Just relying on people to change their attitudes is similar to relying on people to respect human rights without implementing them in our laws and institutions. We hope that enough people will be nice. This is not going to work. Instead, changes must also be made to our institutions. The implementation of such changes will require that enough people change their attitude in order to make such a change politically possible, but as soon as that point has been reached, the human rights of future people have to be implemented by creating laws and institutions to actually implement them.

That point has not yet been reached. Maybe destruction of a a much higher level has to be reached first before enough people wake up, and by that time it might be too late to make the necessary changes, but maybe it would still be possible. If that happens, we should have a clear idea about what changes must be made. So what I am trying to do here is to develop some ideas about how we could change our institutions in order to turn the economy into a sustainable system.

What I am doing here is my part of some public brainstorming to develop such ideas.

(The picture is from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Environmental_Disaster_(6983486731).jpg.)

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5 comments

  1. As long as there’s social inequality among classes, I don’t think it even matters how “democratic” a country may be. The more “democratic” countries may do a bit better with human rights and lobbying for land trusts and other environmental causes. Nevertheless, capitalism is a very hungry organism that feeds on money, and it contaminates and exploits third world countries in order to rise above and keep a monopoly. I am not religious but I do believe in Buddhist philosophy and spiritual growth. To “overcome” the self, or “identity”, requires practice both in spiritual and philosophical realms. Current religions do not teach anything about “asceticism” nor what “Nirvana” means. Asceticism is what taught the Buddha the “Middle Way”. He was born to a rich family, but he had thirst to know more; he knew there was something to learn. This is called the “spiritual” or “philosophical” education, whichever you prefer, that rich countries do not have. They will be educated, but on their “own” survival, not on planet earth’s.

    1. My own views are quite near to Buddhism (without the more religious parts of it, like belief in reincarnation or karma). One could call it secular Buddhism.
      The way of thinking of capitalism, on the other hand, is the way of a parasite or a cancer. We have to change our attitudes drastically and we have to reinvent our institutions.

  2. Capitalism is responsible for this. This is where I bring Buddhism in, to show that we must keep our egos and identities apart from political decisions. Political decisions are made with the money factor involved. This is “identity”, an “ego” going over someone else’s in order to grow materialistically. The human identity seeks “craving”, for its ego and not for other’s. Thus there is the nation’s craving also.

  3. There’s also the inability to “postpone” decisions that will be detrimental for the patrimony that we could leave for future generations. The lack of patience, the “immediacy” of having what we need and when we want it.

    “Bear patiently with a rival.”-
    Ovid

    Patience, is a virtue that I think could help:

    “Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

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