Understanding the Social Issues
How can we improve American society if we do not understand it? We Americans are already the most innovative, productive, technologically advanced people in the history of the earth. But we have obvious social problems and current approaches for bringing about positive change are clearly not working.
How can we improve society if we do not understand society? A society is made up of the culture that occupies a geographic area of the earth. Cultural societies are created and perpetuated by the people that live within them. But they are difficult to understand and change because people live within their culture from the day they are born. A related question may help understand the challenge. What does a fish know about water? Like a human living in a society a fish is born into and lives its life surrounded by water. Does a fish know anything about water? Probably not much.
Sometimes using a hypothetical approach can help us understand the realities around us. Consider the following regarding the possibility of levitating the American people and the people of India, switching their geographic locations. Instantly the American people would find themselves in India and the Indian people would find themselves in America. Nothing else would be levitated. All banks, wealth, libraries, knowledge, technology, health care systems, governmental buildings, everything except the people would remain in each nation.
The World Health Organization estimates that 900,000 Indians currently die each year from drinking water contamination and breathing polluted air. A large percentage of the Indian people live in abject poverty, having little food, shelter, health care, educational opportunities, etc. Being a hierarchal society a small percentage of the Indian people control the economy and government so that they enjoy wealth, good living conditions, and opportunities not available to most of the people. After levitation how many years would it take for us Americans to create a society on the Indian sub-continent that would reflect current-day India? How many years would it be before 900,000 Americans, living in India, would die each year from drinking water contamination and breathing polluted air?
The Indian people would instantly inherit the wealth, technology, money in banks, health care, governmental systems, educational systems, etc. created by Americans during the last 400 years. Would the Indian people maintain and perpetuate our social, economic, political system, continuing to create historic wealth and make technological advancements?
Of course, none of this would happen after levitation. The Indian people would recreate their current cultural society in America and the American people would recreate our current cultural society in India. It would take a few years for this to happen, but a cultural society is based on what people think and do, not where they are located.
To improve society we have to understand that it is our culture that makes us what we are as Americans. This is difficult because our culture has been around us since our birth. We are so close to it we have difficulty objectively examining it. To improve society we have to know more about ourselves and how to bring about positive change. At this point we are not doing very well. We have persistent social problems and current approaches for bringing about positive change are not working. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Know thyself.” Only when we can objectively study ourselves in our society will we be about to know what to change and how.
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© By Joseph L. Bass, EdD and Barbara P. Starkey-Bass - 2016 ABetterSociety1@aol.com