by Hugh M. Lewis
In the real world, might has always been made right. The powerful conquer the weak and superimpose their own sense of values, civilization, history and ideology upon the cultures of the conquered. This has been the hard learned political lesson of human history. It is a lesson sometimes difficult to understand because it is usually the memory of the dominant culture which survives, while the many other cultures are soon forgotten. And when looked at from the standpoint of a dominant culture, it is hard not to believe that one's own values, civilization, history and ideology is indeed morally justified and inherently correct--of living the illusion that right made right.
Another difficult lesson anthropology teaches us is that in the world of human reality, people are neither good nor bad, right nor wrong. There is indeed evil in the world which is perpetrated by people, but the people themselves rarely if ever act with the deliberate purpose of being evil or wrong, except as rare perversions of nature. Even many criminals act within a narrowly rationalized world view of their own legitimacy of being. People and their parties may make many mistakes, or be misguided down the wrong path by some sick or selfish power mongers, but they always usually act within a moral and semi-rational world view which construes their behavior as morally legitimate and proper. Evil is largely a consequence but rarely a cause, in the world of humankind. People are just people, doing what people have always done. The lesson learned by anthropology that there is no right or wrong in the world, but many small rights and wrongs, is perhaps the hardest lesson to be learned, but from the standpoint of a value free science based upon the observation of human behavior, it is a necessary one.
In the metaphysical world of philosophers there is right and wrong in human reality, if in name only, regardless of the lessons of history and anthropology. The real world may burn their books, imprison them to silence their words, or put bullets in the back of their heads, but philosophers will still argue their case for a moral bottom line in the human world. Human existence and behavior will always pose basic moral and ethical dilemmas, whatever the vagaries of power in history or the realities of people in anthropology. Philosophers are not only arguing for the legitimacy of right versus wrong in the human world, if in name only, but they are also fighting for the general relevancy of their own metaphysical orientation and for the primacy of philosophy in the historical or anthropological lessons of humankind. They are in a sense defending their own legitimacy and sense of morality in the world, and though the world may never prove them right, it also can never prove them wrong, either,
Politicians follow the path of power and tend to deal with people as if they were the objects of power, to be controlled and manipulated. Anthropologists follow the path of science and deal with people as behavioral entities for scientific inquiry and for the elucidation of scientific principles. Philosophers follow the path of wisdom, and see human beings as the bearers of knowledge and understanding. Philosophers see that human existence is frequently challenged by moral dilemmas which have no simple scientific solutions or political resolutions. They see that human being is a wise being, whose reality is always complicated by questions, paradoxes and contradictions which demand responses. The problems of philosophy, they claim, come before problems of science or power, because it guides the many choices that people must make, from their world view and attitudes toward reality and predetermines the different directions we eventually follow. The path of philosophy can lead to wisdom and enlightenment and can eventuate in a better world if its way is correct and clear.
Wise human beings live in realities bound by their mind, and formed by the abstract relations of words and their many meanings--it is this life of the mind as expressed by words from the mouth which makes humankind unique in nature and especially problematic from a philosophical point of view. We cannot simply be studied as if we were rocks in the ground or manipulated or controlled as if we were mere brute beasts of burden.
To defend themselves, primarily from themselves, philosophers have adopted a position called 'meta-ethical'--they can study ethic from a disinterested and distant stance that is purported beyond the involvement with ethics. They study different ethical systems and moral philosophies in order to understand how, why and what it is they say, to ferret out all the possible implications and inferences and to try to construct various counter arguments in its critique, but as philosophers, they do not adopt moral stances either for or against any particular kind of normative orientation, or seek to judge systems in a prescriptive way. In this they are not too different from anthropologists, except that they deal with systems of words and their meta-relations, where as anthropologists as scientists purport to study systems of people, their behavior and their values in a naturalistic way.
A meta-ethical position is necessary for philosophers as it gives them a handle on possible truths which are non-relative from the standpoint of either power or values. Meta-ethics provides them a means for addressing the problematics of a universal normative system, or set of values which can be claimed to be applicable for all people, in all cultures and in all time, regardless of the relativity of power or values.
Philosophy remains important in our human world, for if its path of wisdom is followed long enough and pursued hard enough, it will eventually lead us in the right direction, which we would never find without it, and being irredeemably wise, we could never rest easy unless we looked for it.
Justification of a world order of humankind has always depended upon a political ethical philosophy which successfully proposes a valid meta-ethical argument of what is pan humanly good and right. Such a philosophy has always had other important metaphysical and ontological ramifications--economic, social, educational, scientific, religious, political, legal--much of which has been frequently left on its own. Such meta-ethical argument has always had to confront and has yet failed to successfully resolve certain fundamental dilemmas of rational truth versus empirical relativism which are inextricably bound up with what it means to be human in the world. Such final justification depends ultimately upon our collective definition of 'pan humanness'--what is universally means to be human in the world.
No world order which lacks such meta-ethical justification or which is based upon false or erroneous political ethical philosophy, can claim such legitimacy which has non-ideological, ontological status in the world. Discovery and elaboration of 'pan humanness' as a meta-ethical set of organizing values and universal philosophical principles which are non-ideological leads to the question of what is genuinely, fundamentally universal about human identity in the world which could claim the status of 'pan humanness'.
We can find evidence of a pan human identity in certain natural traits and needs shared by all members of a common biological species. We find a common capacity for linguistic competence and evidence for the psychic unity of humankind along emotional, symbolic, mythological and rational aspects. But none of these are adequate for the purpose of a universal meta-ethical orientation, for these innate universals also comprehend a tremendous amount of difference and variation, and none provide the necessary linkage to explain that while humanity has the capacity for good and right, it also so often fails to realize this capacity. With ethical questions, people have choices to make, in regard to natural characteristics, they have no choice.
The necessary linkage is the human conception of the ideal of human equality--that in theory and in practice all people are treated equally and have the same basic human responsibilities. Humankind shares the same basic humanitarian ideal of human equality, which applies to every individual regardless of basic differences between people. The value of Homo equus forms the ground for a meta-ethical orientation which is pan human and which is non-ideological in status.
Recognition of this potential equality underlies our natural human identity as a member of common humankind--in that we recognize in other people the same basic natural traits, needs and capacities, that we find within ourselves, constituting our common ground for being, and this allows us a choice between acknowledging differences or sameness between human beings and with the affirmation of sameness, we get by extension ideal equality.
But posing human equality as the ground for a universal meta-ethic creates more problems philosophically that it solves, and having posed it, now it must be proven, philosophically at least, if not politically and anthropologically.
Human equality underlies the philosophical legitimization of universal human rights as the universal normative framework upon which to establish global order, and it is in the understanding of both human equality and human rights as necessary universals that we arrive at a more complete comprehension of pan humanness.
Human rights remains mostly misunderstood, and there is a convenient kind of power to usurp and violate them derived from such common misunderstanding. For the most part, the values of human rights remains itself contextual and implicit, always lurking in the background of critical attention which tends always to focus upon the immediate conflicts and events of their instantiation or violation--thus they are largely construed indirectly as something to be inferred in relation to other things more concretely and directly evident. But the doctrine of these values demands explication as something more important in and of itself.
The original formulation of human rights requires substantial revision largely because the cultural and conceptual context of their realization and violation has changed dramatically. These changes have led to new kinds of rights and new situations, to new ways of realization and new methods for their violation and to a great extent the rethinking of the original formulations have not been able to keep up with such substantive alterations of the environments of their realization and violation. This has led to the erosion and subversion of these rights in many areas of daily living because the forces and powers based upon their violation and usurpation are constantly, deliberately plotting new methods. Human rights are things and values which always need to be protected, because they are always many people who are trying to take them away. Whole socio political economic structures have arisen in our modern age based primarily upon the kind of power derived from the forceful violation, persuasive subversion and manipulative usurpation of such contexts.
It is important to distinguish between basic or primary human rights, and derivative or secondary human rights: the former are the set of core values defining what the principle basis of all human rights are supposed to be, while the latter are those innumerable sets of rules or unspoken agreements based upon the instantiation and adjudication of the basic rights in social life--the contextual extension of these basic rights into everyday life ways. It is the latter set of derivative rights which are primarily the ledger main of lawyers legalese and judiciary arbitrariness. The secondary rights alter as the conditions and contexts of realization and violation change, while the basic rights tend to remain relatively constant.
This is the distinguishing difference between rights considered basic and derivative. Primary rights are general and relatively unchanging, therefore largely rational and orienting in their expression: secondary rights are specific and alterable, context dependent and largely empirically exemplifying in their pragmatic instrumentality--the former set are few and restrictive in definition, the latter many and inclusive. Thus it make sense that if we wish to usurp the power of rights that we direct attention away from the explicit definition of the former and focus attention toward the demonstration of the latter, ignoring the implicitness of both in relation to one another and in relation to the world.
The basic rights are considered universally inviolable and in this sense absolute, but the derivative rights are violable and therefore relative to the contextuality of their interpretation. It is in fact the violability of the derivative rights that the pervasive failure of the realization of human rights, and of their contexts of understanding, are to be found. We may unreservedly condemn a tyrant who flagrantly violates the basic rights of others by torture, execution, imprisonment, and so on, but at the same time we may whole- heartedly uphold the interests of corporations or powerful individuals that chronically and massively manipulate and usurp many derivative rights in order to maximize their profits or promote their powers. And in upholding this usurpation we will say we are protecting their 'corporate' rights and prerogatives.
another important distinction is between true or genuine rights, quasi-or semi-rights or spurious rights, and false, pretentious or hypocritical rights of convenience, or 'un-rights'. We may refer to the latter set as privileges, prerogatives, license derived from power, political economic interests and the irresponsible freedoms and pursuit of 'pleasures'. Such spurious rights will masquerade as the former genuine rights as long as it serves the interests of private individuals or special interest groups to do so. Those rights exist in the gray areas of context between the realization and violation of human rights.
All basic human rights and all true human rights are always and only individually oriented. Their enunciation is the only protection which the individual has against the whimsical social ethos of the group--they are the only guarantee of individual autonomy of will and independence of thought and action. They are the only things coming between the freedom of the individual and the anarchy of the masses or the tyranny of the few.
Groups and collectivities, at whatever level, from the local through the national or regional to the global, derive their moral charter and legitimacy from the recognition and protection of these basic, genuine human rights. Secondary rights pertaining to such collectivities as separate entities are based upon the 'domestic analogy' of the basic rights of the individual--they are treated as if they were separate, individual entities with basic rights--and these corporate groupings ultimately derive their normative and moral charter from the consensus of its individual constituency and from the need for the protection of individual rights and freedoms. This is the source of the moral charter of corporate organization, power and authority and is the exclusive basis of the derivation of their secondary rights.
Though national constitutions may pay lip service to this charter for protection and guarantee of these rights, and may even sometimes instrumentally uphold its charter, no nation has the justifiable privilege or moral mandate to ignore or violate these rights, whatever the circumstances or occasion of their demonstration.
This maxim stands absolutely and grounds the values of human rights in the fundamental meta-ethic of human equality. This includes any manner of violation, whether for 'national security' or national interest. And what is correct at the national level is correct at the international and global levels as well, and throughout the hierarchy of political organization. No alliance of nations, no province or state or municipality, no matter how democratically constituted, may ignore or neglect these basic rights without forfeiting in the process their moral charter, their 'derived' right to rule. Rights and powers of organizations at all levels are derived from the charter of basic human rights--they either protect and guarantee these rights or fail to, but they do not grant them, privilege them, appropriate them or authorize them from above.
We may say that all individuals and all social collectivities are absolutely subject to the 'moral imperative' of human rights.
To a large extent derivative rights are concerned with the power and relations of social collectivities in relation to the individual. So, too, spurious rights and un-rights stem from the arbitrary powers of social collectivities or authorities to arrest and suspend genuine rights, or to modify them contextually in the name of or for the sake of organizational interest or security. It is at these rarefied levels of power, so above and beyond the everyday vision and interests of most people, that such gray areas of power and privilege come into existence, that genuine rights become invisible, acquiring their characteristic social invisibility or silence, and that derived or spurious rights, in their demonstration, become transparent or reified behind the illusive veil of power. We may refer to the characteristic invisibility of basic rights, the reflective transparency of derivative rights, and the reified, hypostatized illusion of spurious rights.
Spurious and un-rights of organizations do not stem directly from the misappropriation of the basic and genuine rights of the individual, but are only indirectly immanent from this moral ground of human reality. They derive from the derivative and spurious rights situated in everyday relations between actors and collectively and cumulatively, from the personal relationships and social networks of interdependency. Rights and their expressions involved in and governing interpersonal relationships, like organizational rights, are always derivative and never basic. The difference between these social interpersonal and organizationally derived rights are that the former are directly derivative while the latter are always indirectly derivative. It is possible to say that spurious rights in both contexts, are always coincidentally derivative or superimposed by authority and that un-rights are underivative.
It is important to recognize that indirectly derivative rights arise from the need to govern and manage correctly the relations between people and to deal with the situations which arise incidentally as conflicts of interest between people which bring the problem to the realization of basic rights into question. In fact all indirectly derivative rights may be summarily reduced to and explained in terms of directly derivative rights between individuals and the interpersonal contexts of their expression. In this way we may say that nomos is derived from ethos and that legal and political institutions are derived from the cultural realities in their articulating and expression. Indirectly derivative and spurious rights always imply or entails some form of direct instantiation in the realization or violation of individual rights in interpersonal contexts.
The immediate concern is not the elucidation of derivative rights, as these carry us away from the more pressing moral issues and lead us down the thickly wooded path of descriptive and prescriptive legal paradigms. The important focus is upon the sense of fundamentality of the basic rights as they are primarily situated in the existentially of the individual actor and the interpersonal ethos of face to face social life, and in the moral imperative this entails for all human social life. It allows a more precise understanding of the role of cultural and conceptual contextuality in the expression, realization and violation of these rights.
If directly derived rights provide the ground for the explanation and justification of indirectly derived rights and spurious rights, then they also provide the primary cultural and conceptual context for the instantiation and validation of the basic rights. They situate the fundamentality and moral imperative of basic human rights in the everyday relations between people. And it is in understanding of this 'situating' effect of directly derivative rights that the philosophical, meta-ethical comprehension and justification for human rights as a universal ideological and moral doctrine is to be found.
The doctrine of fundamental human rights is designed to protect the needs, interests and independence of the individual in relation to other people and in relation to the social contracts and charters between them. The design of basic rights is to ensure the autonomous willpower of the individual--his/her freedom to think, speak and act relatively independently from the constraints of others. This is the guarantee of the normative freedom of the individual's independent judgment, rationality and decision making capabilities. Liberty is what we refer to as the 'emancipation' from social constraint and social power.
But the social reality of human existence inevitably entails that the freedom of one individual must always be balanced against and weighed by the relative freedom of all other individuals. In other words, freedom in the normative sense is not unrestricted and absolute, but is morally bound by the freedom, or potential un-freedom of all other individuals. The normative freedom of one individual is guaranteed as long as its realization does not involve the violation of other people's freedom. From this follow the moral imperative of human rights, the sense of normative responsibility the individual has toward all other individuals (and the collectivity, as 'individual' has towards all other 'individuals'). This normative responsibility and its moral imperative provide the charter for indirectly derivative rights and powers.
In the same way that we refer to a fundamental set of basic human rights, we may also refer to a corresponding set of basic human responsibilities not to violate these rights of others in the realization of their own freedoms. Such basic responsibilities are not 'unfreedom' of arbitrary social constraint. Indeed we have a responsibility to protect and promote freedom. These are the basis for fundamental moral codices in society. We may also refer to the critical difference between the responsibility to exercise one's own rights in the realization of one's own fundamental normative freedom, and in the sense of freedom from responsibility which determines the moral boundaries of our rights. It demarcates the difference between liberty and license. We may also refer to the basic 'unfreedom' which is inherent in the violation of human rights and responsibilities. In the same way that we may distinguish between basic and derived, genuine, spurious and un-rights, and directly and indirectly derived rights, so also may we refer to corresponding kinds of basic, derived, spurious, direct and indirect human responsibilities.
If basic human rights remain consistently unlearned and misunderstood, as we are consistently, habitually taught how to 'unthink' rights in relation to social sanctions and powers, so also basic human rights remains even more poorly understood and less well recognized. Our normative responsibility to ourselves in the realization of our own rights, and to all of humankind in the protection of their rights and common well being and the critical connection between the individual and universal levels of context, is intervened and interfered with by the indoctrination and inculcation of spurious responsibilities and unfreedoms by group bounded norms and narrow cultural traditions. Chauvinism, patriotism, blind loyalty to the collective, in-group/out-group prejudice, are all part and parcel of the ideological propaganda campaign to unthink ourselves out of our basic responsibilities to all of humankind.
From the very beginning of our formal education to the end, from flag salutes and daily pledges of allegiance to prayer readings and organized team sports to rallying around the high school totem mascot, to the professional politics of evaluating papers, class grades and granting diplomas and the guild mentality of professional clicks and elites, we are taught and programmed to be responsible to everything and everybody including the almighty clock, the bell, the whistle, the schedule, the syllabus and the deadline, except to ourselves and the whole of humankind.
The cultural and conceptual context appropriates for the realization of human rights and responsibilities constrains a kind of socio-political ethos which may best be loosely described ad 'democracy'. To the extent that basic human responsibilities entails a non-violent and honest orientation, and to the extent that politics based upon the culturally relative model of 'might makes right' is inherently corrupting and evil, then such commitment constrains a kind of a-political attitude which may well be referred to as 'social anarchy' without the necessary negative connotations of the tyranny of disorder and absolute chaos. To the extent that human rights protects human freedom, government by consent is demanded, and to the extent that educational institutions can successfully inculcate the individual in a firm sense of basic human responsibilities, an acephalous, anarchical socio-political order is resulting. In other words, a participatorial and self organizing political order can be envisioned in the kind of cultural and conceptual contexts of the realization of human rights and responsibilities,, based upon the minimization of the function of political control, military coercion and fascist discipline.
Human rights and responsibilities become balanced in the scales of justice, and this balancing provides the ultimate framework for the understanding of the doctrine of human equality, the normative scaffolding for the meta-ethical justification of pan-humanness in the world.
Our sense of justice may be separated into what be referred to as 'natural justice' and 'social justice'. Natural justice arises from the natural constraints imposed upon human existence as these are manifest in terms of basic human needs. Natural needs may be referred to as those limitations or requirements which guarantee the sustenance of a health and human well being. There has been with the progressive development of convenience a corresponding 'need' inflation--people now 'need' cars to drive to work in to earn the 'money' they need to live upon, and they 'need' gas to fuel their cars. People also need fresh air to breath, clean water to drink, and nutritious food to eat.
In the same sense that we may distinguish between primary and derivative and genuine and spurious 'needs'. Needless to say our inflation of needs occasions the multiplication of many falsehoods, delusions, addictions and greed. Social justice arises in relation to the exercise of human freedoms and responsibilities as these realize or fail to realize the natural justice of basic human needs. Social justice can be seen as derivative of natural justice and in its derivation becomes complicated by a great deal of need inflation.
Basic human needs has always remained the same, so has the fundamental sense of natural justice relating to these needs remained essentially unchanged, but the context of the instantiation of these needs in directly derivative terms of interpersonal human relations has changed dramatically and our thinking upon the problem has not kept pace. Directly derivative social justice demands sufficient welfare--the common well being of the individual and of all of humankind should be one of the principle social and individual concerns. It too has a force of a basic normative injunction on human existence and a moral imperative to collective social action, but this primary concern has been largely vitiated by partisan politics and private special interest groups.
But why justice and why human rights and why freedom, that all these should constitute the moral ground and universal ethic for humankind? In other words, how shall we argue the case for the philosophical justification of this value orientation over any other plausible meta-ethical orientation towards a normative human reality. So far, most of the argument presented has been tautological without an convincing substantive argument, in favor of our acceptance of such a position.
The discussion of human freedom as a basic precondition of a moral human existence seems to fly in the face of many social science orientations, to contradict the doctrine of ethical and cultural relativism and is itself culturally and ideologically rooted in a kind of value orientation which defines freedom as a necessary good and a basic prerequisite of 'the pursuit of happiness'. It is in itself a relative value orientation, so how can it be used as a meta-ethical, trans-cultural and pan human foundation for a normative universal. Not all cultures value human freedoms equally and most of humanity seems quite content to compromise their basic freedoms for a sense of group security.
The doctrine of human rights is itself, like the doctrines of pacifism and non-violence, rooted in heterogeneous hermeneutical traditions which have been themselves culturally and historically situated. But ideological systems accrete meaning and become detached from their origins, gaining a life of their own, independent of tradition. Such systems become organizational in their function, orienting the collective mind. They develop their own conceptual contexts for their understanding beyond any particular cultural tradition.
As such they 'stand for themselves' as symbol systems and create their own meanings outside of cultural contexts or historical influences. Science is such a symbolic system, though its primary and ultimate referents are always natural phenomena. But science does not seek philosophical or epistemological justification though philosophers of science attempt such an understanding. It finds its own justification exclusively in the sufficiency of its explanations of natural phenomena. Similar kinds of sufficiency arguments may be applied to such philosophical religious orientations as human rights and pacifism. They go beyond mere ideology or tautological systems of rationalization in their ability to consistently explain what 'happens' empirically in reference to other 'empirical happenings.'
Thus it is possible to imagine a kind of normative 'science' which sufficiently and successfully, 'correctly' explains events in reference to other events and 'meta-relations' between such events. A good argument can be made that all social science can be construed as 'normative' in orientation to the extent that it concerns human social relations between rational, decision making individuals and ad 'scientific' to the extent that it is concerned with human behavioral reality.
But all this still begs the question of a valid meta-ethical argument for presuming human rights to be fundamental and normatively universal in human reality. At first glance there seems little in the 'nature' of humankind that can be given as an a-priori or sufficient ground for such an argument. Indeed, the original natural human may in fact have been brutal, selfish and short. A good case has been made for natural human aggression explaining innately violent social tendencies. Then why must we necessarily presume a 'moral imperative' of superimposing regime of human rights over an original reality of need, greed and seed. Most anthropological, sociological and psychological evidence would seem to contradict such a presupposition.
The philosophical justification for the sense of natural justice and a natural moral imperative for normative freedom, rather than a science of natural order and the evolutionary imperative of the law of natural selection, can be found in the 'psychic unity of humankind' which posits that all people are potentially 'sentient' which endows us with a 'spiritual potentiality' of equality. The quality and character of human cognition, of Homo sapience as the 'sentient human being' is the distinguishing mark of human reality setting it apart from other life forms and allowing for human culture. While basic needs may be more or less the same, not all human beings are born equal. We recognize the ideal of the spiritual equality of humankind as a possible goal yet unrealized, as an ideal worthy of our attention and emulation. We do not deprive people of their human rights or basic equality in spirit because there are natural differences in abilities or talents. We do not deprive them of the benefit of a sacred 'soul of humanness' which characterizes the belief in the spiritual equality of humankind.
Innate human sentience is regarded as what defines unique human identity, whether individually or collectively in terms of 'pan-humanness'. It set humankind, and the human being, apart as something special in the natural order. It is a fundamental symbol of the self which applies individually to the collective identity of humankind, forming the basis of what we refer to as 'common humanity'. Its recognition, however implicit, is the beginning of the development of a fundamental religious spirituality distilled from so much ideological dogma, myth and superstition. It is the source of our common humanity or human identity, the beginning of our collective emancipation from the bonds of nature, and our means of coming to terms with or own 'hearts of darkness'.
The appeal to human sentience, the psychic unity of humankind and the spiritual equality of humanity work together in other ways to justify our sense of the primary philosophical importance of the doctrine of human rights, and so much meta-ethical justification is not as straight forward as it is made to seem.
Our sense of justice depends upon a notion of 'equality' however relative or absolute. Thus we regularly refer to values of 'social equality' or 'political equality' or equality of opportunity or educational equality or ideological equality without really explicitly understanding what we really mean. We frequently grant one kind of 'equality' while revoking other kinds--any way we slice the pie we can be accused of discrimination. It is in a world of relative inequality that we find the need to establish ideals of 'equality in spirit'.
Our sense of justice entails a notion of 'fair play' even if in a poetic sense of 'an eye for an eye' or of revenge. Death is called the great equalizer. Western witchcraft believes in 'three fold retribution'. In all these there is a sense of 'fairness' in human relations and the need to restore such a state when conditions turn awry. Such a state of the need for fairness in social relations is related to values of harmony, mutual reciprocity, peaceful coexistence etc.
'Fairness' related to our notions of equality in terms of 'evenness' and the consequent need to 'get even'. Equality comes from the Latin 'equs' meaning 'flat' or even. Equality refers to a state of flatness or evenness in social relations when there are no outstanding disparities between persons or parties in their basic conditions, expectations or relations.
Rarely do we expect or get exact or true equality in any absolute sense. It is usually relative to some standard of measurement, more or less or approximate. Only ideologically do we refer to 'human equality' as being in some sense absolute and non-relative to all contexts, and this is our notion of universal 'spiritual equality of humankind'.
When attributing justice to our world, we are attributing qualities and states or conditions to others, which we recognize as being relatively present or absent in ourselves. We are behaving normatively in our judging and judgment of human relations, and in this we express our rationality and our sentience. Our sentience allows us the possibility of stepping outside or ourselves, of imagining a separate, sentient soul apart from our corporeal being. In this we can imagine ourselves in different states of being other than what we really are, and we can see ourselves in others and find others within us. A refined sense of the primitive justice of 'an eye for an eye' is 'do unto others as you would have others do unto you'. Even more subtly is the mandate 'do not do unto others what you would not want them to do unto you'.
This sense of natural and social justice and the normative need for establishing relative equality are fundamental aspects of our normative reason, and constitute the basis of basic normative human needs in the restoration of social order and realignment of the social with the natural world. It resides in our ability to live vicariously in other people's shoes, to imagine ourselves in their condition and to wish upon other what we will. Even more importantly, it resides in our ability to recognize that what happens to others might possibly happen to ourselves.
One of the most convincing reasons given for the position of holding human rights absolute and inviolable and for attributing them universally to humankind with exception in our ability to recognize that if we allow the violation of a right in a single instance, we create a ground of precedence for the possibility of its violation in all instances. And if we deny them to any one individual, however inept or criminal, then we acknowledge the possibility for denying them to all individuals, especially to ourselves. And this peculiar quality of human sentience to imagine ourselves as others and others as ourselves is what identifies us in a pan-human state of being and allows us to imagine a universal brotherhood (and sisterhood) and to posit the need for universal equality and common justice.
But upon an even deeper level of our collective unconscious, our sentience allows us to understand our own heart of darkness and to recognize it in others. We seen in the possible evilness of all people our own possibility for evil, injustice and violence and or own ability to make normative mistakes and misjudgments. It resides in our recognition of evil for what it is and for its possibility of what it can become. In our ability to understand human evil, we also recognize the need to restore the balance and try to prevent possible future imbalance. Thus it is because we are potentially evil, that we must become potentially equal. It is because there is injustice in the world that we must keep ideals of human rights and justice.
So we must foster forgiveness over vengeance, compassion over retribution, tolerance over punishment and we do not categorically condemn every breach of our pan human moral imperative or every violation of a human right. Indeed our collective history as been one largely composed of such massive breaches and mass violations. The progress of human emancipation has not been based upon the principle of violence begetting more violence. We strive not to indiscriminate but to enlighten and emancipate.
It is from the sentience of humankind that comes our common sense of justice and the ideal of spiritual equality which unites us existentially and morally against the realities of relative inequality and injustice. It allows us to recognize in the law of nature the tyrannies of necessity, in the reign of power, the relative evil of might makes right and the moral tyranny of fear and the threat of violent force and in the chaos of lawless irresponsibility the tyranny of chaos. In this alone we recognize the meta-ethical justification for positing human rights and their realization as a universal moral injunction.
Though this argument must stand alone, not needing meta-ethical justification in terms of any other condition or natural state, it does have a more interesting explanation in terms of what human sentience is naturally and exactly how it related to the need for human rights.
A keystone has been missing from our meta-ethical edifice--individual freedom as the basis for human rights has not yet been sufficiently explained. Why is the granting and guaranteeing of normative freedom and independence necessary for the realization of human rights?
The answer lies in the natural reality of individual human differences and in the dilemma posed by the fact of individual uniqueness of identity and personality. The fact of individual human differences arises from the relativity of human existence--relativeness of equality, of needs, of conditions, of contexts and values. Relative and reflexive recognition of individual human differences creates a sense of individual uniqueness which we value as spiritually sacred and inviolable to our sense of human identity in the world. But this relativeness of individuality poses a grand paradox underlying the existential problematics of human social realities--our common sentience allows us to recognize a natural relationship to humankind. We also hold as sacred this identification with the common body of humanity. It leads is to posit an 'equality in spirit' if not in fact, which we then regard as inviolably sacred. The answer to this fundamental existential dilemma is that the inviolable sanctity of the human soul and the 'equality in spirit' of all humankind are one and the same things--the opposite manifestations of the same source of natural human sentience to recognize difference and sameness--this is the need for normative freedom and independent willpower.
The need for normative freedom is demanded by our natural sentience. Human beings are all equally unique and equally different in spirit. And this we hold as inviolably sacred. The expression of these differences and fulfillment of this sense of uniqueness demands a maximization of normative freedom in our social relations. Though there are common sameness of being and universal human traits, human beings are not all the same and should not be constrained to be all the same. Normative freedom is a necessity because it is prerequisite to the realization of these differences and uniqueness of individual personality.
The distinctive characteristic of our sentience is our ability to imagine--to imagine ourselves as self, as others, to imagine other possibilities, to live vicariously and symbolically, to see ourselves as unique, separate and as sacred and as simultaneously the same and united and yet sacred. We are able to imagine alternative traits, attributes, conditions and states in ourselves and in others, and to allow this imagination to be the guide for our actions, and our 'instantiations' of such possibilities. Our imagination allows us to sense discrepancy, to fill gaps in our understanding and to make inferences and judgments about our reality.
Successful cultivation of such imagination, the so called 'open mind' requires relative normative freedom from overburdening social constraints. It requires the private freedom to decide right from wrong, good from bad, better from worse, in our everyday thoughts and actions and to explore options, possibilities in our everyday choices and most of all, freedom to make and correct mistakes. The exercise of our normative freedom allows us the opportunity to test our evaluations of the world and to learn by the wisdom of our choices. It also entails allowing others the same kind of normative freedom.
In every case, violation of human rights entails directly or indirectly some kind of social constraining force, whether active or passive, external or internal, upon an individual's normative freedom. Such constraining forces which so impinge upon our existence in the debilitation of the individual's normative capacity to act autonomously and therefor responsibly.
The innate, natural normative capacity of human sentience accounts for the distinctive characterizing trait of pan-humanness called creativity. Definitions of creativity embody operationally regular behavioral phenomena which is amenable to scientific method. It is 'self-organizing' and 'pattern generating' behavior of the imagination at the border of chaos. The vitality and adaptability of our common and collective creativity depends upon the cultural realization of normative freedom as a necessary and sufficient precondition. It defines the human capacity as a culture bearing, culture inventing 'creature', allowing the unique human ability to create culture and for the creation of alternative conditions for the realization of human possibility. Providing the kind of cultural and conceptual contexts required for the cultivation of individual creative capacities through the optimization of normative freedom is the essence of a common education for collective emancipation and enlightenment.
This argument successfully resolves the dilemmas of cultural relativism which so far has prevented philosophical meta-ethics from constructing a universal normative system. Cultural relativism posits an irreducible relativeness of value orientations embedded in differing cultural contexts. This leads to the realization that there can therefore be no single correct system of values immanent or a-priori in human reality which may apply equally well in all cultural situations. It also leads to the further realization that, in fact, in our collective history, 'might makes right' and whomever has the power to constrain and change people's lives, therefore has the power to refashion and reconstruct cultural values. This is an historical reality founded in empirical fact which no amount of ideological truth or philosophical rationalization can undo. Understanding the realities of human moral existence therefore depends scientifically upon understanding the realities and meanings of social power and undermines any argument to establish a universal meta-ethical system for humankind.
But a genuinely meta-ethical approach, being both 'beyond ethics' and of and about 'ethics' need not be inimical to the realities of power and cultural relativity. To be effective our meta-physical rationalizations must effectively deal with the dilemmas of the real world and effectively overcoming the 'paradox' of cultural relativism is the principle purpose and problem of any realistic and reasonable meta-ethical argument. Cultural relativism is properly interpreted provides the solution to our meta-ethical dilemma.
If wholeheartedly and unreservedly embraces, cultural relativism demands that we account for differences of cultural context in the justification of our normative systems. Cultural differences are a contextual and social derivation of individual differences, the reality of the former is dependent upon and a function of the realization of the latter. Similarly, uniqueness of cultural orientation is derived from the reality of individual uniqueness. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that to the extent individual differences and uniqueness demands a context of normative freedom, cultural differences and uniqueness of context require as well a relative freedom for its expression. It follows that part of the problematic of collective emancipation is the recognition and cultivation of cultural differences and the reality of cultural multiplicity, as this is essential to the context for the development of collective human freedom.
This argument is similar to the one which distinguishes basic and genuine human rights from derivative and spurious rights. We may say that cultural freedom is contextually derivative of individual normative freedom, and we may refer to a derivative kind of cultural creativity as well. Both individual freedom and creativity and cultural contextual freedom and creativity are directly manifest in interpersonal social relations and can be explained and expressed in terms of such relations.
But there is an important limiting qualification to this argument in defense of cultural relativity of values. Where individual freedom is held as inviolable and absolute, and leads rationally to the need for enculturation of human responsibility, cultural freedom is always relative and subject to constraining violations and results in the need for collective social limitations and sanctions. The realization of human rights demands a cultural and conceptual context and the relative nature of this realization provides the acceptable parameters for defining this cultural and conceptual context.
In other words, cultural freedom and difference is allowable and preferable as long as it promoted the realization of human rights or at least does not constrain such realization. But when its realization eventuates in the violation of human rights or in the constraining of the basic freedoms upon which these rights are based, then the cultural freedoms and differences are no longer morally sustainable.
The paradox of cultural relativism is rooted in the same existential paradox of individualism and the solutions are the same as well. Recognition of the pan-human identity of both individuals and cultures in terms which are regarded as inviolably sacred--equality of people and of cultures--are found in the realities of differences and relative inequalities between both individuals and cultures. Both lead to the same sense of basic human responsibility and the same kind of universal moral injunction of human rights. Cultural freedom and difference is regarded as sacred as long as it does not violate its own inviolability based upon the absolute character of individual freedom and rights--cultural context is always relative to individual difference. These define the natural and social parameters of human freedom and responsibility, both individually and culturally.
The difference between a cultural orientation which sustains or cultivates individual normative freedom and one which leads to its neglect or violation is similar to the difference between genuine and spurious human rights and responsibilities. In this way we may refer to a genuine cultural orientation as opposed to a spurious one based upon the above distinction.
To say that all people are equal in spirit or that all cultures are equal in values, is not to say that people may do whatever pleases them or that cultures may acceptably violate human rights, nor is it to necessarily deny the realities that not all people are created equal and not all cultures share the same, or even similar sets of values. Cultural relativism, as an empirical reality or as an ideological doctrine, and the doctrine of human rights as a meta-ethical philosophy, are not necessarily inimical or irreconcilable but are in fact mutually necessary and concomitant in the understanding of human rights and the problematics of their existential realization. Nor does the fact that most cultures throughout most of human history and prehistory have chronically and habitually, customarily and traditionally violated human rights en masse require us to deny these doctrines as unjustifiable or unrealistic. Recognition of inviolability does not depend upon the knowledge of its chronic violation, just as an infinite number of wrongs do not make a right or an infinite number of false incidences cannot prove a truth.
There remain real and important reasons why we regard such values as inviolable and universally absolute, reasons which transcend the facts of their disproof. The fact is that it is in our very recognition of evil for what it is, in our very ability to recognize violence as the violation of human rights and values of non-violence as promoting human rights, that we can in our sentience and normative independence acknowledge the tyranny of power and necessity and anarchy and can imagine better worlds with such tyranny, that leads us to universally value the pan human realization of such possibilities of human equality and freedom. Our very recognition of the critical difference between possible right and actual wrong, between good and evil, even as only an imagined potentiality of human spirit, creates the very ground for our meta-ethical justification. Our sense of justice is not only rooted in our cultural values, but also in the recognition of evil in the world of evil and in the possibility of human good.
In giving a name to human rights and in situating them in reference to cultural values, human sentience and the natural need for normative freedom, and in locating them in intellectual terrain in reference to related value orientations we have also given a name and an identity to human evil.
Mete-ethical justification for the moral imperative of human rights is neither self evident nor amenable to common sense rooted in relative values and folk psychology. We must learn the wisdom of the way of the human equality and freedom--we are not naturally born with it except in spirit and potentiality. Human rights are held sacred in their function of identifying the uniqueness and value of human individuality in relation to all of humanity. They are held absolute in the sense of also being absolutely inviolable. Their sacredness defines our basic humanity and our basic human identity. They also serve as a counter reference by which to define our inhumanity. We find that their moral justification in the recognition of the evil that attends their failure and in our resulting need to resist and counteract this violence. In their realization we refer to what is basic and genuine as contrasted with what is derivative and spurious, knowing that its understanding is always relative to cultural and conceptual contextuality.
It is in the day to day derivation of these basic values that the possibility for their violation comes into play in interpersonal social relations. We justify the moral imperative in our sentience, our imagination, our sense of justice and on our compassion for suffering and understanding of the humanness of evil. We find its ground in our common heart of darkness--the ability to recognize within ourselves the possibility of our own evil and the subsequent need to come to terms with and conquer this sense of darkness.
Notions of freedom and responsibility, justice and equality, needs and social constraints, all come into play in the elucidation of the meta-ethical basis for human rights.
We accept the call and charter of the moral imperative of human rights as the price we pay for identity with common humanity and citizenship to humankind, which necessarily transcends all other identities, loyalties and chauvinism. They exist because we exist as something more than blind followers or sycophantic believers. The virtues of human rights are nor innate or a-priori or even necessarily logical or utilitarian not natural to our sense of understanding. There are no preexisting constraints demanding that we live by such a doctrine. If there were then it would be clear that their violation would have been the extreme exception than the pervasive common rule. This observation is nor borne out by any history. Realization of human rights often demands degrees of self abnegation, sacrifice and sense of social responsibility which appears foolish in many circumstances and frequently proves inimical to other divisive commitments which may seem immediately more urgent, more powerful or more necessary. And yet human rights as a doctrine of commitment remains the only meta-ethically justifiable value orientation after all the other moral contradictions of our common existence has been distilled away.
This work has begun with the issue of human rights to emphasize their central importance, both to the understanding of pan-humanness as an alternative philosophical paradigm and to the understanding of the dilemmas and theoretical problematics which confront humankind today, the resolution of which will determine our collective future.
If the problem of human rights and pan-humanness were left to the end, as originally intended, then its imperative sense of priority and importance would have been buried beneath the mountain that is to follow.
Pan-human-ness is an awakening of awareness of being fully human in an earthbound world. It is a state of collective conscience of the universal relationship between individual human identity and the identity of the whole of humankind. It is the state of full realization of humanity on our world, of human potential, of human rights and human equality. It frames our reason for being in our world and constitutes the ground of meaning of our world. It is humankind finally coming of age upon the earth, with the mature sensibilities and sensitivities of a universal world view.
PRIDE AND HUMILITY
We must recognize all forms and examples of self pride as manifestations of over inflated and insecure 'ego' which we can ill afford to hang on to in our new earthbound environment. Jettisoning false pride as a dangerous value, we must embrace the value of humility in our social relations as a more adaptive way in the new age. Hubris and nemesis. The humility of the lowly turtle begets a long life. Our humility stems from the fact that in the face of natural forces we are indeed powerless to control change and to preserve perpetually the status quo of power. Embracing the humility of fundamental powerlessness will allow us to come to terms with our own natures and to resolve the Oedipal conflicts which plague our lives with anger and frustration.
HUMAN RIGHTS, REVISED
Everywhere human rights are proclaimed, but nowhere are they fully realized. The Bill of Rights was the singly best thing any group of politicians has ever done for humankind but now the recognition of our rights, and our collective need for their realization, demands radical revisioning in the face of unexpected global changes.
The full realization of human rights perhaps itself only an unrealistic utopian dream, is not necessarily an unworkable or impracticable impossibility. There is nothing intrinsic to the nature of state organization or of social structuration except perhaps the threat of violence which makes the chronic and massive violation of these rights an inevitability.
Like, pacifism, the doctrine of human rights is an ideological orientation which is based upon the commitment to certain kinds of values which depend upon a cultural and conceptual context for their appropriate comprehension and realization. In fact, human rights is concomitant with the value orientation of non-violence--these sets of values go hand in hand in the emancipation of humankind. A working definition of what constitutes violence (to use force) is the violation (from the Latin violare--to use force or violence) of human rights. Pacifism, as an ideology of non-violence, entails a commitment toward the realization of human rights in our common world and the cultivation of the kind of cultural and conceptual context which makes this realization an efficacious possibility.
The doctrine of human rights requires substantial revision because the cultural and conceptual contexts of their realization and violation have been dramatically altered. These radical changes have led to new kinds of rights and new kinds of situations which contest them, to new ways of realization and new means of violation. To a great extent the rethinking of the original formulations has not been able to keep up with such substantive and contextual alterations of the social environments of their instantiation.
A revised list of new Human Rights would include the following:
1. The Right to a Home. No more homeless, no more refugees, no more slum lords, no more ghettos, no more tenements. Homes with yards, children, animals, peace, security and freedom.
2. The Right to Work. Real jobs that pay enough to live on and then some to save with. Jobs that do not consume an entire life time. Jobs with benefits and security. No more unemployment, no more underemployment, no more systematic discrimination or obfuscation. No more labor exploitation.
3. The Right to Health. Health is a human right, not a privilege of the few and wealthy. Dying of cancer should not entail a life time of debt. No more unaffordable health insurance.
4. The Right to Eat. Adequate nutrition is a human right. No more starving poor or malnourished children. No more hunger.
5. The Right to Education. Education is in a privilege of the wealthy but a right of all people. Education to as high a level of attainment as a person decided, in an open and public forum.
6. The Right to Life Choices. We have a right to be what we want to be, no one can decide what we can or cannot become.
BASIC HUMAN RESPONSIBILITIES
Basic human rights are constrained only by a corresponding set of basic human responsibilities, such that the normative freedom and realization of our own rights does not entail the violation of the rights of others.
These responsibilities are universal--we apply them in regard to all human beings and we expect them of all human beings. No nationalism or ethnocentrism or familism can deny or preclude such pan human responsibilities.
A brief incomplete list would include the following responsibilities:
1. The Responsibility to Non-violence. Non-violence in any way, at any level or distance of involvement. Violence is the principle means of the violation of human rights.
2. The Responsibility to Non-exploitation. We cannot use, dominate, manipulate other people for our own gain, greed or aggrandizement, however indirect our involvement.
3. The Responsibility to Respect. We must respect the basic rights of all others and show people the basic dignity which comes with a common humanity and collective human identity.
4. The Responsibility of Honesty. We cannot lie, cheat, deceive other to our own advantage or their disadvantage. We cannot disseminate information which distorts, deludes, deceives or persuades others in underhanded ways.
5. The Responsibility to Independence. We must think, speak and act independently of others. We must not become sycophants, true believers, proselytizers. We must regularly and courageously exercise our normative freedom even if it entails persecution and punishment.
6. The Responsibility to Intervene. We must intervene in the violation of the rights of others, if and when their rights are clearly violated and when we are able to do something constructive in this intervention.
7. The Responsibility of Knowledge. Knowledge creates responsibility. To know and do nothing is irresponsible. It ignore and fail to know is irresponsible. We have a responsibility to be informed and to inform.
8. The Responsibility to Health. Health is not just a human right, but a human responsibility. We have a responsibility to amend unhealthy habits and reneging such a responsibility violates our own as well as the rights of others.
9. The Responsibility to Equality. We have a responsibility to treat all others equally, to not dominate others or submit to the subordination by others or by systems of authority.
10. The Responsibility to Non-discrimination. We must not be prejudiced or projective towards others, or treat people unequally or unfairly on the basis of human differences.
11. The Responsibility to Open-mindedness. We have a responsibility to not become closed minded, to allow our ideologies to obscure our vision of the world, to not adopt in-group/out group prejudices.
12. The Responsibility to Pan-humanness. We have a basic identity to be our own basic humanity and to all of humankind, we have an obligation and a loyalty to uphold and support this pan human identity.
These are some of the possible human responsibilities of our world. The list is imperfect and needs to be amended but it points in the basic direction.
THE RULE OF VIOLENCE
Theories of state organization, of imperialism and the history of human civilization, attest to the predominance of the rules of violence. Even pre-historic patterns unearthed everywhere, and the stories of early hominid evolution, show how the rule of violence has been deeply buried and well rooted in our collective past. This has led some skeptics and pessimists to assert scientifically that violence is an innate human universal which must somehow be socially counteracted or deterred by punishment. Indeed. There is a great deal of evidence to support such a 'realistic' view.
The rule of violence is based upon the coercive power of the threat of destructive force--to harm, injure, terrorize, torture, murder. It's power is also subversive in a totalizing sense, as its threats fosters and reinforces fear which pervades and permeates every dimension of existence and tends to cumulatively undermine all resistance. Fear as a primary organizing principle in life leads inexorably to totalitarianism. Its power is very strong and effective, almost complete, in its ability to predetermine the organization of our lives. If human beings are not innately violent, at least the fear of violence and the efficacy of its threat seems inherent.
The rule of violence has its own kind of cultural and conceptual context. It is embedded within a moral ideology based upon a postulate that 'might makes right'. Ethical philosophers have ardently contested such claims, but there is a great deal of historical evidence prejudicing people in favor of such 'amoral realism'. The problem in arguing against such a doctrine is that, while there are many instances in history indicating that indeed, 'might makes right', there are a few if any clear illustrations of the counterexample of that 'right makes might'. Usually government demonstrate their might force before they go on to proclaim the sacredness of their ideologies and actions. If Hitler had won the World War, our sense of right and wrong would have been very different than what it did become. If communism had gained world control like capitalists so feared, our sense of social responsibility would be quite different than it now seems to be.
But does this mean that because a new world order has prevailed, the moral ideologies and principles upon which it has been founded are necessarily the 'right' ones? There is a strong suggestion that our own common sense of what constitutes right from wrong is not without some important contradictions. The present capitalist world system is one world order which lacks clear and unambiguous ontological status of a meta-ethical universal value system. Its values of consumption, development, progress, utilitarianism, materialism, private censorship, exploitation and that wealth makes virtue must be highly suspect as meta-ethically justified when superimposed upon a diverse world. Capitalism itself is a fundamentally 'chiliastic' ideology with its own sense of destiny in the making.
Though the principle of 'might makes right' may have historical justification in a real sense, philosophers would still argue that might is not necessarily right in any ideal sense. This is the critical difference between disappointment of the way it is--of the realities of the collective state of humanity and the common condition of humankind as they have been and come to be, and the expected ideal state of enlightenment and emancipation as it should and hopefully will become.
The rule of violence and injunction that 'might makes right' is not completely useless to rational philosophers in their metaphysical worlds--indeed they cannot do without its naked realities and sense of realism in anchoring their feet to the ground, for it provides the baseline and dialectical counterpoint upon which to base their destruction of its sense of realism--a common senseness which has great appeal to masses--and from which to reconstruct a meta-ethical philosophy, and a teleological state of reality, in which 'right does make might'. And this is to be found in the violation and valorization of human rights.
NONVIOLENCE AS A VALUE ORIENTATION
The values of non-violence require a cultural and conceptual context by which to be understood. These values and their orientations in which they are bound are foreign to western ideologies, even though the dominant Christian ethos espoused is one of brotherly love.
The two kinds of value orientations share some important similar attributes of non-vengeance, respect and appreciation for the sanctity of life. But there are also important differences of context which need to be explicitly contrasted. It is possible that these differences constitute one of the most fundamental cultural orientations separating East and West as distinctive historical civilizations.
From an occidental standpoint, the values of non-violence tend to be understood as a fairly radical orientation, the essence of which is a live and let live ethos, universal toleration and respect for life in all its different manifestations. Non-violence is construed as a passive orientation, encouraging non-resistance to force, acceptance of difference, forbearance and toleration, but also leading towards a kind of pervasive apathy, neglect, complacency and ignoring of suffering in the world. It is a commitment to not hate, but not to love.
Love is not a commitment to not hate, as hate is often only a pathological substitute for the failure of love--that which we are denied love often becomes the perverted object of hate. Universal love, on the other hand, embodies an active principle to not ignore--an altruistic command to alleviate suffering in the world and to demonstrate one's devotion by sympathy. But it sometimes proves difficult in such an orientation to simply accept extreme differences, and can lead to acts of intolerance and a proselytizing orientation of minding other people's business.
Being habitually non-violent towards one's neighbors does not necessarily entail loving them as brothers or equals, but being committed to loving one's neighbors sometimes demands that we treat them in ways they might not really want to be treated, 'for their own good' and also implicitly demands that they must love us in return.
Non-violence does not require compassion, and having compassion does not always lead to non-violence, but both pathways do lead to conceptions of emancipation and enlightenment as somehow necessary and important aspirations of human spiritual life. The oriental path to enlightenment is by detachment from suffering and devotion to the emancipation of the inner life--spiritual nirvana or satori. The occidental path necessarily carries us down the road through rational idealism, enlightenment from the darkness of ignorance, to the emancipation of external existence from the bondage of vice, sin and uncertainty. Both paths lead to eternity in the here and after--one by escaping the karma of reincarnation, the other by going to heaven, to the city on the hill.
For two millennium we have actively promoted dominant shared ideologies based upon the value orientations of brotherly love, and it has consistently failed to prevent violence in the world. And yet we cannot fail to simply ignore suffering in the world. It is only when the values of love and non-violence in all their existential ramifications become consistently and coherently conjoined in our common world, that we can hope for a better collective environment in our future.
ENLIGHTENMENT AND EMANCIPATION
Enlightenment, the state of being illuminated or act of giving clearer views, to enable to see 'truth' began as late as the 18th century movement in Europe which emphasized rationalism, education, skepticism, and empiricism in social and political thought. An implicit part of this doctrine was to free the mind from ignorance, prejudice and superstition and to this extent can be linked to a kind of spiritual emancipation from the bondage and restraints of an unfree and biased mind. Still enlightenment was, and still is, held to be the way to the eventual emancipation of the human being, and of humanity, from the bondages of our own prejudices and errors. Through our enlightenment we are supposed to become aware of kinds of servitude we have been subjected to and to realize in ever greater degrees our need for freedom from control. Implicitly this spirit of emancipation extends to corporeal and existential freedom, construed as prerequisite to spiritual salvation and liberation.
Truth and freedom are deeply linked in the tradition of our beliefs--attainment of truth leads to our freedom, as a state of being metaphysically, existentially and normatively free, and perhaps, becoming free leads to our attainment of a condition of final truth, as well.
The ideology and philosophy of our secular science embodies and reflects this tradition. The scientific attitude is typically skeptical and rational, a frame of mind tempered by a strong and severe sense of empirical vision. The freedom it seeks is freedom from ignorance and superstition.
Eastern enlightenment remained one of religious and philosophical attainment, it remained spiritual and aimed at the emancipation of the soul from the bondage imposed by the body. Western enlightenment was from it beginning rationalistic, aiming at the emancipation of the body from the bondage of blindness and false beliefs. Eastern enlightenment and emancipation remained 'other worldly' while Western enlightenment and emancipation became 'this worldly' in orientation.
Emancipation has been linked to normative freedom and liberation from the threat and force of violence--as violence is to be seen as primary means by which involuntary servitude and bondage are enforced. In this way the rule of violence and threat of force is to be considered as antithetical to the doctrine and spirit of enlightenment. Threat of force is irrationality based on fear, punishment is counter educational and prejudice and ignorance come from and lead to its rule.
If emancipation comes from enlightenment it also precedes enlightenment. Freedom, both normative and existential is the road to enlightenment.
(STARTING FROM PAGE 102)
East and West, the traditional ideals of emancipation and enlightenment are the distinguishing themes of human civilization, providing the context by which to measure qualitatively our attainment of human civilization. The technological development and advancement of our science are held to valorize these ideals as truth. They provision the theme of rational truth with an empirical sense of realism difficult to deny and harder to criticize.
Pacifism is the ideological orientation based upon a commitment to a non-violent value orientation. Entailing being more than merely a conscientious objector or a demonstrator for peace a militant police force, pacifism entails a whole way of life and a way of thinking which influences many areas of day to day living and which has symbolic resonances throughout our cultural universe. Pacifism as an ideological commitment, as a way of living and thinking, provides the necessary cultural and conceptual context required for the appropriate understanding of non-violence as a necessary value orientation.
In one way or another, most existential dilemmas of human social life relate in one way or another to the issue of relative non-violence, and pacifism as a theoretical and practical orientation, promoting and understanding non-violence becomes a fruitful approach to the interpretation and possible resolution of such problems. By defining a universal human problem set in the framework of pacifism, we are thereby outlining as well a pacifist paradigm for the normative comprehension of human reality which incorporates the necessary context for the elucidation of non-violence--teaching us a genuine and sublime appreciation for its values as a human way of life.
Learning what non-violence is and how it affects our daily life and our everyday social world is an important prerequisite to the creation of a common well being in our collective future. It is a primary value orientation which cannot be suspended without doing further harm in the world. And most of the violence in the world is due to the fact that either directly or indirectly we have consistently failed to cultivate either culturally or conceptually a non-violent value orientation and have failed ideologically to realize a genuine commitment to pacifism.
We even lack the appropriate terms with which to talk about it in any interesting or relevant way.
A pacifist orientation does not entail only a rejection or a refusal to participate in any way in the promotion of violence in the world--it also entails an 'activist' form of 'passive resistance' to all those aspects and things in our earthbound environment which have some direct or indirect relationship to the promotion of violence in the world. It begins n our own daily personal lives and extends outwardly beyond any narrow sense of identity or loyalty to encompass and embrace the collective well being of the whole earth and all of humankind. It entails redressing the evil of 'Great and Impersonal Organization' and its depowerment in the world.
The poor are the only experts about poverty. It is in their hidden and untapped potential that the poor dwells to cultivate a ground swell which will eventually bring peaceful change in the world. It is through their grass roots and ad hoc organizations and networks, created in the face of dire need and extreme circumstance and in the absence of any screens of social support that the designs for an alternative kind of future exists for the world.
The possibility of world peace must be recognized and promoted through understanding towards its realization. The ecological movement is founded upon the notion of Green Peace, one which deliberately demotes the idea of a single world order as inherently unstable and prone to evil, and instead promotes a greening of the world by a political economic fissioning into small, provincial sizes states any of which would lack the power to dominate globally through the threat of force.
The notion of the necessity of global peace, and of the likely destructiveness of future wars, and of the likelihood of the escalation of future conflicts past the nuclear threshold, threatens devastation not only of human civilization but of the very biosphere upon which our civilization depends.
Besides contributing to the understanding of the problematics of the world system, a major contribution of anthropology has been to the understanding of the central problem of ethnocentrism as a basic human bias in inter-group relations and cross cultural contact, and its promotion of the notion of cultural relativism as an antidote for ethnocentrism based upon an appreciation and tolerance of many cultures.
In the study of culture shock and cross cultural contact, it is apparent that there is only one healthy way of promoting cross cultural relations and exchange, one which is free of ethnocentric bias. This is referred to as 'cultural integration' and requires mediation between cultures. It leads to a form of 'multiculturalism' in which an individual may function adaptively in more than one culture setting, with equal facility in each. Such individuals serve the function of culture brokers or mediators for cross cultural contact situations.
There has been the development of a third culture of the world. Composed of 'multi-cultural' people who no longer identify exclusively of primarily with a single cultural configuration or value orientation. These people develop an independent values system which transcends cultural boundaries, incorporating multi-cultural paradigms, and allowing them easy access between different cultural realities.
An extension of this notion of multiculturalism is the notion of the 'cultural continuum' as a symbolic syncretism in which individuals may choose to configure the symbolic elements of their life into highly individualized paradigms derived from a plethora of different cultural orientations, selective choosing what serves them best from a wide range of available options.
Another aspect of this is education not for intellectual development alone but for social normative growth as well, for maturation of the 'ethical quotient' to a transcendent, 'post conventional' stage of moral conscientiousness and normative independence which embraces cultural relativism as a value orientation of universal tolerance, equality and multiculturalism and eschews the conventional morality of ethnocentrism.
Unfortunately, most individuals do not mature much beyond a 'conventional stage' of moral conscientiousness, reached at high school. The conventional morality is one which does not transcend cultural ethnocentrism, but remains bound symbolically to the narrowly defined loyalties and 'amoralisms' of the culture in which it is configured. Colleges take kids to the first level of post conventional development characterized by rebellion against conventional morality, such a stage of rebellion is tied to the very morality it is bent on destroying and represents a counterculture rather than a genuinely transcendent third culture. Most college students graduate with a keenly developed sense of self importance and power in the world that comes from striking a compromise and making a contract with its conventional morality to uphold it whatever the criticisms. Very few individuals have ever achieved a genuinely transcendent post conventional stage of moral maturity--Albert Schweitzer's and M.K.Ghandi's and Martin Luther King's are few and far between in an increasingly authoritarian world. Such individuals define their moral duty independently of any cultural value orientation and allow their existences to be guided by such transcendent values in spite of the social costs it usually entails.
It is not too much to expect that schools could in their advanced curriculum carry the individual beyond the rebellious stage and into a transcendent, independent level of normative development and socialize individuals for a sense of moral responsibility which transcends narrow ethnocentrisms and has a pan human frame of reference and an individual human focus. Such instruction is not very problematic nor difficult to implement and its effective implementation would have long lasting consequences in both the individual's lifetime and in the lifetime of the world.
Blanket Copyright, Hugh M. Lewis, © 2005. Use of this text governed by fair use policy--permission to make copies of this text is granted for purposes of research and non-profit instruction only.
Last Updated: 08/17/06