My purpose in these meanderings is to identify the “contact lenses” through which we view reality, by which I mean the rules and assumptions we take so much for granted that we do not even notice them, let alone question them.
First I will make the case for their existence by describing a time when they did not exist, when everyone wore a completely different set of lenses that they were equally unaware of, so that if you had taken someone from one time and put them down in the other, they would be completely lost and unable to function. If such fundamental social change happened once, it can happen again, and those ideas that replaced the old ideas can give way in their turn to new ideas and ways of living. They may have been useful in their time, and may even still be useful, but we need to pull them out and dust them off and look at them with a critical eye.
I will try to identify and illuminate some of those ideas that we need to let go of, or perhaps understand at a deeper level. I will suggest ways of thinking that might serve us better in ordering our affairs in the future. I will take some of the ideas that underpin our whole structure (such as, for instance, the survival of the fittest) and try to understand them in a new way that open up new possibilities.
I believe in the principle that a problem properly identified is two thirds solved. The reason that we are unable to solve our social problems today is that we tend to deal with each separate problem in isolation, rather than seeing the bigger picture. I believe that if we can examine the true unexamined values and principles that guide our actions and bring them in line with those that we would like to think we are guided by, the proper way forward will become much clearer.
It is not my purpose to propose immediate fixes for the problems that face us. Most of them are so fundamental to the way we live and think that their solutions require a whole new way of thinking. I believe that all of the current strains of political thought suffer from the tendency to take some part of the truth and elevate it into the whole truth. Consequently everyone on each side can stand on his or her own ground, and feel that they are upholding the one true way, and that those people over on the other side are evil and badly intentioned and just completely wrong. But trying to persuade them that they are wrong is futile. They feel the same about their point of view as you do about yours.
Now this is not to say that everyone does in fact have a little portion of the truth, and all we need to do is get together and figure out how to accommodate everyone’s views in one way forward. It is certainly far from that simple. For one thing our political discourse is contaminated by the fact that moneyed interests have managed to perform a hostile takeover of most of our social institutions, including the political system and all of our mass communication tools, and fed us a steady diet of distraction and falsehood.
One response to all this is to simply throw up the hands and give up. Why even bother to pay attention when the mass of the people are so stupid as to support (insert crazy candidate or insane proposal)? I believe that this is an abrogation of social responsibility. It is simply surrendering without even putting up a fight. In a world of manifest social injustice it is the duty of every person who enjoys a standard of living that is incomparably higher than that of 99% of the world’s population to do whatever tiny thing they can do to make it better. I am not saying that we should all give away all our possessions and feed the hungry, but at the very least we can pay attention to what is going on and participate in our own tiny way.