Western governments are presently redefining, revamping, and restructuring social programs and economic development activities in order to deal with an issue which is as old as mankind itself. The present crisis has been prompted by the dependence of some on government support programs. A system which is now considered unsustainable. The current strategy of restructuring, changing or reorienting these programs, is flawed, because it only deals with the symptoms, not the root cause.
If dependency is to be dealt with, then its creation has to explored and its causes discovered. Present conventional thinking suggests that dependency on government happens as a result of social support – a mechanism originally designed to provide people with basic needs, when they were unable to provide for themselves. The existing dilemma has arisen because we have attempted to provide for peoples “wants rather than needs”.
Fundamental questions have to be addressed. When do wants become needs? When does the provision for these needs generate dependency? When does dependency lead to resentment? There are increasing levels of resentment and anger, present in our society, towards the very institutions providing the support.
It could be argued that there are several basic human needs. They include air, water, nourishment and shelter. These are easy to identify and delineate. The more spiritual requirements (feelings) are much more difficult to comprehend. There is an inherent human requirement for affirmation. This need often is translated into all kinds of emotions, feelings and behaviours- often misunderstood by even those experiencing them. This compelling desire for affirmation can only partially be fulfilled through our own internal thoughts and spiritual development and must be complimented by external endorsement. That is why people experience a strong desire for inter-connectivity, and a craving for family, friends, and community. Support, which is delivered without interaction, involvement, or the opportunity for contribution creates feelings of diminishment and subsequently resentment and anger.
This inherent need for corroboration is perhaps the predominate driving force that contributes to dependency and powerlessness. Aloneness, is perhaps peoples greatest fear, and the need for acceptance is what drives people to seek a sense of fulfilment through myriads of associations, activities and actions.
As a society we continually invent mechanisms to provide the illusion of well being and positive affirmation. Families, religions, communities, and social entities of various structures have been created. People rally around geography, flags, languages, cultures and a myriad of activities. Western societies have created a consumer driven society where individuals strive to achieve material wealth. Such devised forms of identification were created to sustain our sense of being and fulfil our inner spiritual needs. There is the increasing realization that few of the existing support mechanisms are either sustainable or able to satisfy society’s hunger for acknowledgement. In fact, these concepts have only led to greater dissatisfaction and societal disruption including breakdowns of family and other hereditary values.
Present social support was created to provide disadvantaged people with food, shelter and medical support but eventually was expanded to the provision of numerous measures of attention and care. The perception grew that this support was being provided without cost, and indeed, ultimately were perceived as rights. Communities demanded modern services, recreational complexes, sophisticated schools and other facilities without much thought for the ability of taxpayers to sustain this infrastructure. Governments at all levels and of all political movements strove to satisfy the people in order to attain re-election. Thus the present conundrum -that of fiscal strangulation with a resentful citizenry, demanding more, but increasingly unwilling to support present expenditures.
As people were provided with basic material needs, the programs were expanded to furnish them with wants (expectations) which subsequently grew and rapidly were translated into needs and as quickly spawned greater expectations. As others saw more support being provided they were enticed to partake of the programs and have their needs met. The systems that were designed to furnish basic support, to those unable through circumstances to sustain themselves, have become as complex as the growing list of societal aspirations. The resulting complexity of the systems has assisted in magnifying the illusion of well being until the present stage was reached. The illusion has become transparent, its non-sustainability recognized, allowing the reality to show through – the impossible task of providing the total security that people crave.
Attempts at resolving this very complex human issue include the changing, redefining and reduction of support programs. Often the new concepts, which are invented, only give further extension to the illusion. The result has been further entrenchment by those receiving benefits and activist groups who now define these support benefits as rights.
Governments, social action groups and others continue to search for ways to provide for people, yet, refuse to recognize that it is contribution that people seek. There is an inherent human desire to contribute, provide, participate, and to be able to take on responsibility in order to achieve affirmation.
Each new program which removes the component of people’s ability to play meaningful roles in their own well being generates further dependency, invigorated anger and often violence against those that provide the support. This has often been manifested in reaction to religious power structures, government bureaucracies and politicians and is demonstrated in the social turmoil, broken homes, damaged cities and countries in despair and destitution. It is evidenced in the social outcasts, the street-kids, the homeless and others who are marginalized. It is obvious in the myriad of social dilemmas that we are experiencing despite our supposedly advanced, modern and prosperous society.
The main mission of those in control and those in power appears to be efforts to sustain our illusions of well being. Yet, these continued efforts contribute and expedite the demise and collapse of the very systems created to provide the props. The more that is contributed in societal support the less efficient and productive, and the more dependent are those who are the beneficiaries. The more that is received the more the resentment towards the givers. Because, by taking away the needs, identities are threatened and the illusions that people have created to affirm themselves are called into question.
The givers (the taxpayers) in our present structures are becoming more unwilling and less able to give; witness the underground economy and efforts by people to avoid further taxation. Taxpayers resentment also continues to increase unabated.
Historically there are many examples of how such resentment grew into anger and ultimately rebellion. Political movements have been decimated, hierarchies disintegrated, business empires collapsed and religious institutions destroyed. There are many current day examples of illusions being exposed and systems being toppled.
Analysis of the inherent human elements of needs, tends always, to be superficial and certainly seldom entertained as a development issue. Obviously, in so doing, those responsible for analysis and those in power would ultimately have to confront their own fears and their own lack of affirmation. In order to create an understanding of the real issue relating to our dependent natures, they would have to expose their own illusions, which have been established around their personal positions and status.
Will only the imminent demise of all that is good and beneficial about our society force us to address the real issues? Is it only then that people will begin to build new realities? More importantly who will begin the process of revisiting the past, in order to, identify the values that were then evident, but, are now lacking? These values are critical to the creation of new mechanisms that will ensure the perception of well being and allow the human path of transition to continue.
It is obvious that each incarnation of this historical process provides us deeper understanding of human limits, and reaffirms our inability to comprehend the ultimate truth that of our identity. Every effort adds comprehension of the inherent need for connectiveness, collaboration and cooperation. These are critical components of the human drive for external assurance and affirmation.
It is all part of the human search for truth, for inclusivity, and for the sense of oneness. It is the drive to be part of something rather than being alone or in any way marginalized. The phenomenon of the “Global Village” with the reduction of economic, political and language barriers is recognition of this pursuit and the progress of human maturation.
It could be argued that there are still many conflicts, social upheavals, and stalled societal progression. But, apparent fundamental changes in most societies are significant evidence that the human quest continues. Despite the apparent reality that if we ever were to achieve oneness, reach the perfection of society and achieve “paradise”, then, there wouldn’t appear to be any further need for struggle, achievement and fulfilment. Inherently, it is this subconscious concern that encourages us to conspire against change, rail against advancement, and resist progress. There is the fear, that should affirmation be achieved, all knowledge and understanding acquired, the ultimate fate would be the demise of human existence. This fear, interestingly, is counter to the messages of all religious and spiritual prophets. They encourage their followers to aspire to the ultimate aim of oneness or wholeness and articulate the aim of a perfect society.
The present process of restructuring must begin with awareness. It must progress with a communication process that builds understanding and knowledge. It must be complemented with an environment of support that allays the fear, anxiety and sense of loss that people experience whenever they feel threatened. It must be understood that so much of our affirmation as humans is wrapped up in our present circumstance, place and status. That is why community, as a sense of place, was so important and why we must start the construction of new communities tied to individual and collective talents and interests. It is critical to a sense of identity and future human progress. Communities provide support, collaboration and cooperation and lead to corroboration for those who belong to them. The structures that are considered communities must evolve as humans progress.
What must be remembered, is that, community is about feelings. Feelings emanate from knowing and knowing comes from awareness. The more we become aware of our environment, our circumstance and those who share the world with us, the more our knowledge grows. Expanded knowledge creates stronger feelings, deeper relationships, an enhanced sense of our inter-connectivity resulting in strong communities. The communication process that allows the sharing and building on individual knowledge is critical to the attainment of mechanisms and structures that will define those communities and lead to a sense of individual identity which will see us through the next evolutionary and development phase of human advancement.