When any rhythms are interrupted or altered, they tend to veer out of control until measures are taken to restore balance. The all too evident apprehension, stress and despair which can be seen everywhere today would indicate that this point of imbalance has been reached. Whether one considers the natural environment or human activities, these current problems are indications that the natural rhythm and flow of everyday life has again run askew. Attempts at balance have been reactionary causing aggravation, greater gyrations and growing despair. This is apparent whether one considers cultural migration, governments, religious institutions, private economic sectors, or individual neighbourhoods and people.
Many issues indicate a society out of sync: western corporations use Japanese models while the Japanese adopt aspects of conventional Western systems; people in the traditional Christian countries are looking at Eastern philosophies while countries like China are adopting Christianity; and developing countries are creating consumer cultures while the more developed ones struggle as people spend less and question consumerism.
Again, governments of all persuasions rush to solve crime, social disconnection and economic malaise. New programs, new policies and ultimately, as these attempts fail, new governments are the usual outcomes. What follows is usually a predictable shift to the right as strong minded individuals and organizations offer simplistic solutions for change, most often the elimination of government. This shift is time honoured through history each time institutional rhythms are out of step with those of the people. The fallout is usually exacerbated when people’s individual rhythms are out of sync.
The mantra for most governments has become privatization and a renewed role for the private sector. But this sector isn’t private -it comprises everyone. Managers of `private sector’ institutions are deemed to have special talents to solve our every malady – despite sharing backgrounds and training with the general population. Perhaps, they are considered by policy-makers to have achieved a degree of sophistication that is beyond the reach of others.
Consumer conditioning had led us to believe that if people had more money and could buy more things then all other issues would disappear. Now that this myth has been largely dispelled, these private sector managers are offered as champions of societal well being. People continue to hope that someone will come to rescue them from life and living and take on the responsibility of it. Ultimately, as religions and governments have fallen before them, when solutions prove themselves beyond the reach of `the private sector’ its leaders risk vilification as well.
Meanwhile, religious institutions seem to have abrogated their role as moral authorities and taken on many aspects of traditional community responsibility in social support, often with the aid of government funds. They have subsequently developed business and administrative frameworks and institutional hierarchies. Conventional lines of “authority” are blurred with both governments and main stream churches in a constant struggle for recognition and subsequent control. Yet, the spiritual quest for fulfilment and balance continues unabated with people gravitating to countless new and trendy teachings. Most often these experiences result in further disillusionment and greater imbalance (some even end in tragedy) for those involved and the public who frequently are exposed to the consequences.
The abrogation of personal responsibility to society has helped to create the present increasing unease. Apparently no one is interested in responsibility any longer – only in their rights. Others are held responsible for most aspects of ones wellbeing (the government for income support, the private sector for jobs, professionals for moral and psychological help, and so on). Unfortunately, a new generation is bearing the cost of such presumption.
Ultimately, efforts to displace responsibility create institutional and administrative substitutes. Whether government, non-profit, or private, these structures end up responsible for their employees or owners and accountable largely only to their management. There are numerous examples of management in private companies receiving substantial bonuses despite large corporate losses. Public bureaucracies receive little, if any, retribution for faulty programs or expenditures. The general population, membership, or shareholders have become disconnected from both accountability and responsibility.
Leaders, in addressing any of these imbalances, have focused primarily on economic issues, with those such as scarcity and hoarding (not saving) dominating. Individuals share less, corporations cut expenses to increase profits and reserves, and some churches are even threatening layoffs of clergy to “save” money. Getting as much as you can “while there is still time” is actually evolving into a cultural trait. Thus, obvious wealth expands as privileged individuals and organizations amass resources for future use or to stave off imagined catastrophe. Eventually such a catastrophe will evolve if the oscillations of unbalanced rhythms aren’t redressed.
Eventually, however, people might once again recognize that there is no secret formula, no hidden source of well being. They could discern that individuals trying to survive in this world need to come together and create environments that allow meaningful existence by caring and sharing. They may understand that their role is to evolve a basis of understanding of life and living that is transferable to the generations that follow – something that has largely eluded this generation so far. The essential role of human values and the importance of human relationships has to be understood and separated from raging political and special interest debates about individuality and the structure of relationships. When “family values” are discussed most often it is the structure, power or control that become the issue, not the values. In deciding societal values, the focus must be on the perspective of people sharing a caring alliance that provides them meaning and support. Unfortunately, the debate most often degenerates into questions about power and gender.
A world view of relationships with shared benefits and shared accountability has been forfeited by a society caught in the worship of individualism, as if, isolated existence were desirable or even possible. Life with its joys, frustrations and sorrows is little if not shared. Today relationships (personal and business) are deemed useful as long as they provide some benefit to one or the other partner. When usefulness to either is through, then the affiliation is terminated. The context of sharing has been lost.
This is particularly evident in traditional male – female relationships, where we have been witnessing a dramatic shift in roles. The resulting marginalization of both sexes is traumatic. Some have even come to believe that such relationships are fundamentally harmful. Gender polarization intensifies with the advent of new interest groups and organizations who all suggest that they speak for the majority of yet another disadvantaged segment of society. A sense of society that is built on democratic principles of majority precept appears lost to one constructed on the edicts of `minorities’.
People must recognize that the present imbalanced rhythms are human issues, not economic or social, because economic and social issues are but results of human interactions. Re-balancing means encouraging and developing relationships that support and share. Meaningful relationships depend on shared beliefs that have their basis in value, sanctity and respect for all things living. People must reach back to their cumulative history and explore both the values and the processes that sustained others through the changes wrought by social, economic and natural upheavals. Fundamentally, people must put aside their biases and intolerances, at least long enough to hear other’s points of view.
Sharing honest and open communications can lead to better understanding of one another and its corollary compassion, can lead to appreciation. Only then can it be seen what genuinely motivates others. Only then can real relationship, based on caring, begin. Bad behaviour is largely caused by fear. Relationship can allay fears, foster openness and greater sharing and bring positive economic and social benefits. The rhythm of life and living will once again be stabilized – until the next generation decides it must “perfect” the process.