Let’s conduct a quick thought experiment.
Society may be fragmenting deeper into tribal groups. Groups which isolate themselves from each other and play the blame game. We see it manifesting before us on social media and the news, towns and districts, commercials and sports teams. My concern with this fragmentation is that eventually, these groups will begin tearing each other apart. Tearing each other apart so much, that even the individuals in the groups aren’t safe from those they once blamed alongside.
My apprehension is that people will begin prosecuting everyone to the extent that society as a whole is fearful of sharing the good in their life out of fear of unjustifiably being prosecuted by ill-informed strangers. Strangers who are defining individuals as the homogeneous sample of the population they represent. When we examine a scientific study, there is an understanding that the individuals making up the sample have unique variables that cannot be accounted for regardless if we take into account larger variables such as sex, age, education, etc. We know that although the results are the findings for the group being examined, they are an average of that group, not an imprint of any single individual. In other words, the sample does not accurately represent the people who represent it. Yet, in society we pretend the sample captures all of the attributes of a group and we unjustifiably prosecute each other as a result.
This concern got me thinking. People are not the problem, in my heart, I believe humanity is inherently good. Knowing this, society’s concern is not its people, rather its framework from which it operates.
As it stands now, society is functioning on an ethics operating system. People are going through life judging everything on its ethical merit. This concept sounds great until you actually take a moment to think about what ethics means and break it down. Ethics is a dichotomy, a two-way conversation between right and wrong which when applied to society is translated into rights and responsibilities. We are all very familiar with the rights conversation, but rarely hear the responsibilities dialogue over all the noise.
This one-sided conversation over whose rights are more worthy leads to a problem. If the dichotomy is not balanced, we start replacing equality and joy with envy and anger. Envy and anger are the bickering between tribes we cannot escape anytime we view media. For this reason, I recommend society switch its operating system from one based upon ethics to one based upon virtue. Virtue means excellence, it is the strength of one’s character, or The Good.
The Good is a discussion about what is good for humanity as a whole. The Good stems from striving for a flourishing society. Flourishing societies are ones with strong individuals driven toward excellence that then can contribute to the greater good. This discussion innately entails rights and responsibilities, because to discuss what is good for humanity you must keep rights and responsibilities in balance, there is no room for envy or anger. When we look at the picture from a whole, if we do not hold ourselves responsible for our part of the bargain, we are missing our mark and not achieving virtue. The Good life was first brought to fruition by Plato is his dialogue about Socrates’ Death when Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” What Plato (or Socrates) meant was, if we want to live the best life possible, we must invest time questioning how we live. We have to evaluate the choices we make and examine if how we treat ourselves and others is good for humanity. Virtue is everyone striving toward a goal, whereas ethics appears to be chopping others down in order to replace.
The good of humanity includes the group and the individual. It does not fully sacrifice the individual to the collective nor the collective to the individual, rather both to each other. Society is a puzzle. People as rational animals gravitate toward solving puzzles. Unlike an ethics-based discussion where people can leave out pieces, the search for The Good by definition, cannot leave out pieces.
The search for The Good solves both what is tearing society apart and people’s search for purpose. It provides society with an operating system that links everyone in a web. People want to be part of something larger than themselves and solve problems. The search for The Good accomplishes this desire by redefining people’s problem into, how do we improve the individual and the meta-tribe that is humanity? Virtue aims everyone at the same good, one that will bring fulfillment to their lives.
If you like this article, my latest book A Vigorous Life: A journey of purpose and fulfillment, searches for the good. It looks to discover the best in people while finding their higher purpose and fulfillment. A Vigorous Life can be found on Amazon, if you enjoy the read, please leave a five-star review.