One indication of a matured and intellectually developed individual is his or her ability to transcend the confines of narrow parochial thinking.
There are so many people who get lost or carried away in small and petty issues that they lose sight of the bigger things in life that really matter to people. Put in a different way, we need to think big.
There is a saying in Singapore which runs thus: ‘Community before Self; Country before Community’.
This is quite a profound reminder to us all that the collective good can best be served when we subordinate our own self-interest to the overall good of the country.
We have to make conscious effort to guard against individualism and naked self-interest. There is a much greater purpose in life than simply looking after our own individual wants and needs.
I know there are some who may see this kind of outlook as essentially ‘communistic’. Actually, there is nothing fundamentally wrong about this kind of thinking, since if the laws of societal development are to be taken seriously, then all societies, whether market-driven or socialist-oriented are headed in the direction of a classless society where individuals will be rewarded not on the basis of how much they contribute to society, but on the basis of how much they need to live productive and satisfying lives.
For sure, such a society will not materialize in my lifetime or for that matter in the distant future, even though it may very well be the ideal society if the dream of an equitable and just society are to be fully realized. The gap in living standards between the rich and the poor are so wide that it is bound to prick the collective conscience of humanity as a whole.
One only has to look at what is taking place in Somalia and other parts of the Horn of Africa to come to an appreciation to the magnitude of the problem facing humanity and the degree of inequity that exist in the world today.
Over 29,000 children have died over the past weeks from preventable illness, mainly
lack of food and water, a serious indictment not only on the country, but on humanity as a whole.
The troubling thing about all of this is that whereas millions of people are dying annually out of starvation, millions of tons of food are being wasted in the developed countries on an annual basis, enough to meet the food needs of the whole of humanity.
The late Dr.Cheddi Jagan repeatedly said that the food resources of the world are more than adequate to meet the food needs of the whole of humanity, but it is the skewed distribution of those resources that is the source of the problem.
There are those who, on the one hand, are dying due to lack of food and there are others, on the other hand, who are dying due to over-consumption and therefore suffer from food-related illness such as obesity and diabetes among other illness.
An obvious solution would be for a more equitable distribution of the food resources since it would redound to the benefit of all – those who over-consume and those who under-consume.
It is this huge gap in living standards that is the driving force behind the desire of philosophers and sociologists to come up with theoretical constructs of a future society in which there will be no exploitation of man by man, and where every individual will be rewarded not on the basis of how much they give to society but on the basis of how much they require to live full and rewarding lives.
A more humane society must be found where all human beings benefit from the fruits of human labour.
Capitalism as the dominant mode of production, distribution and exchange has not fulfilled the expectations of humanity for an equitable and just society.
This is so because the main objective of capitalism is not the satisfaction of human wants and needs, but the extraction of surplus value and the optimization of profits.
In other words, capitalism is not concerned about the distributional aspect of the fruits of collective productive effort which is concentrated in a few hands at the expense of the excluded majority.
This is why philosophers and politicians seek to come up a model of social formation which allows for a fairer distribution of wealth, where the surplus value extracted from human labour is filtered down to meets the needs of the wider society.
Karl Marx came closest to such a society when he posited that under communism, towards which all societies are evolving, there will be a classless society where people will be rewarded not on the basis of how much they give to society, but by how much they require meeting the physical and cultural needs of themselves and their families.
For this to happen, the intellect of society as a whole would have to develop to such a point where people would not only recognize, but readily accept, that the good of one depends on the collective good of all.
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