HOW difficult is it to understand that the only way human beings can have collective happiness is to firstly understand that at the very basic level, all human beings have similar basic needs? This fact is actually common sense and I seriously doubt that you need any religion or university education to understand this. On the contrary, it is possible that misunderstandings of religion and formal education can deter you from understanding that basic fact. Let me explain my thoughts further.
It is common sense that we as human beings need certain material things to survive on earth. Whatever religion you belong to, the fact remains that it is you and other fellow human beings that will have to bring into existence and distribute the material things. None of them are going to miraculously appear out of thin air. Hence, we know that human beings need food, water, clothing, shelter, and medical care at the basic level. In a modern society, ability to transport themselves or transportation facilities, education, recreational parks, and such, are basic necessities. I am not even talking about state-of-the-art facilities but decent basic ones so that not even a single citizen is excluded.
Since the nature of things have evolved in such a way that you can no longer grow your own food or build your own shelter, money is required and for that jobs are needed. This is another fact that common sense will tell you and therefore another area that should concern all of us human beings. Whatever material things one human needs for his survival is the same for another human being.
There is another aspect to being a human. He needs to be respected, loved, assured, and treated with dignity. He has emotional and spiritual needs. Let us be honest enough to accept that some of these non-material needs are personal and some are universal. For example, the need to be loved and treated with dignity is universal regardless of the social construct of the person.
On the other hand, what kind of “supernatural power” or dogmas he wants to believe in are personal. If it was universal then everyone on earth would belong to the same belief. The fact is that there are multiple and diverse beliefs and religions in the world. Therefore, let us examine and ask our common sense – what should we do to ensure that we are collectively happy?
As a community, should we be focusing on the personal or the universal? When we focus on what is universal, we create happiness and unity among human beings because that is the natural state of affairs. No one, for example, will get angry nor will there be conflicts if we say that everyone should drink at least 1 litre of water per day.
No one will protest at the message that we should help the disabled and the old. These are universal. On the other hand, pushing and imposing personal beliefs will certainly cause conflicts and often in a violent form. It will cause continuing collective misery and sufferings.
These are very simple things. Regardless of creed, ethnicity, or religion, I am certain you would agree that as a human species we all share similar material and non-material needs. If it was that simple, why then are we continuing to suffer or continue to unhappy. I would even conjecture that most of us are actually living at a level of happiness that is lower that what is easily achievable.
One of the major reasons to my humble mind is this: we actually make it more miserable and difficult for each other in life. Some of us consciously make efforts to cause conflicts, unhappiness and hardships for others. Some do it while being ignorant of the consequences, but many others do it to protect their own vested interests. Vested interests though usually take material forms, it may also be non-material interests.
I would propose that these “misery causing agents” are both at the ground and the puppet master level. At the ground level, they are made up mostly from the middle class, who in their quest to move up the social and economic ladder are prepared to perpetuate and even institutionalise behaviors that would perpetuate conflicts in society. After a certain time, behaviours that create conflicts are accepted as a norm and become justified.
The more dangerous segment of the society are the puppet masters – religious, political and corporate – who condition and control the minds of a segment of the society to do their bidding even though it increases collective unhappiness in the community. A small minority of human beings pretending to speak up on behalf of the helpless majority to advance their own self interests. The sad thing for me is that the majority is unaware of the oppression because like the pet in the house, the comfort blinds it to the slavery. Why do I say oppression? Any system, lifestyle or design of behaviour that perpetuates conflict naturally is oppressive and increases collective human misery.
So, what is the solution and how do we increase collective happiness? This is the question that is often posed to me. My humble response is twofold. Firstly, the question is incorrect. The correct question should be: how do we remove collective misery? (This is because to me, collective happiness is the default position). When this question is asked, the solution becomes very obvious.
Secondly, increasing collective happiness or reducing collective misery is going to be a major challenge because this would require each of us to look inwards honestly and change within what needs to be changed. Are we prepared to look inward honestly?