Promote good life for all
Maybe it is not that strange that we humans for a long time have equated material things with well-being. Throughout a lot of our history, exactly this has been our economic problem. Getting enough stuff for shelter, getting enough stuff to be able to be keep going in this messy world. We are after all dissipative structures.
Through the use of the flawed economic concept of utility we continued doing this during the 20th century basing well-being on the flawed equation that the more material and energy flow through our bodies and our technostructure, measured in how GDP/GNP (how much we produce and consume) the better life. However in words of Robert Kennedy GDP
“measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.’
Now we seem to be crashing into limits, not just the ecological limits that eventually will stop our resource use from running amok. There seem to be also a limit equivalent to that of eating too much candy for economic growth and its link to well-being. Sweet and dreamy at first but after passing the limit into excessive indulging, that feeling creeps of that you had to much. You are feeling sick. An extra candy is not that sweet. This is true for candy. This is true for economic growth, i.e consuming and producing more. We are mixing up quantity with quality. More doesn’t mean better. It actually appears do mean worse. Worse for us human, worse for our environment.
For our survival, however, that’s a good thing because if more material things, economic growth, was all that we wanted and needed for our well-being we would be doomed on our finite and fragile planet.
So how can we satisfy our needs/goals, how can we live a good life on a finite planet?
First, every life needs some material and energy to survive and for that “mysterious flux of the enjoyment of life”.
Material resources are limited which leads to the consequence that even grown ups have to do what they often tell to their children: we have to share the resources better. The statistics that 1 billion people are starving or 3 billion people living on less than $5 a day while 26 person owns more than half of world make it more than obvious that future material improvements needs to be shifted to those with less. Sharing seems scary to a lot of people, especially for those with a lot of stuff who in the name of fairness are the one who have to let it go.
But it doesn’t have to be that scary because good life, is not about having a lot. Actually, a few people have ventured into this seemingly subjective and often conflicted area, trying to find out what makes have a good life, and rather than continually increasing your satisfaction with life, being to focused on having more seems to make you feel worse. This might comes no surprise to some human beings that have been listening to history of traditional wisdom but now science also has jumped on the bandwagon riding along.
Second, the good life, the well-being of human beings is intertwined with others well-being, on social fortune. As Tim Jackson says
“That things are going well for me personally is of little consolation if my family, my friends and my community are all in dire straits.”
Seeing the bigger picture, seeing that we exist in real interconnected system, this holds true for the planet with its inhabitants as whole. Meadows said
“No part of the human race is separate either from other human beings or from the global ecosystem. It will not be possible in this integrated world for your heart to succeed if your lungs fail, or for your company to succeed if your workers fail, or for the rich in Los Angeles to succeed if the poor in Los Angeles fail, or for Europe to succeed if Africa fails, or for the global economy to succeed if the global environment fails.”
Well-being of oneself is truly found in caring for well-being of others. Human beings, conflicted by their evolutionary heritage of being selfish and altruistic flourish when they focus more on intrinsic values (sense of community, affiliation to friends and family and self-development) than the opposing extrinsic values (contingent upon the perception of other like image, financial success and power).
Holding these extrinsic values not just makes it harder for oneself to flourish but also for the planet as a whole. Societies and its members peacefulness, their concern for human rights, attitude towards “different people”, caring for the environment all seem to depend on the relative importance they place on certain values in the value circumplex.
In short importance placed on values like universalism, openness to change and self-direction are good, and importance placed on security, conformity, achievement and power values not so good. So as to promote good life for all with peace, a fair distribution of worlds resources and a functioning environment we would be smart if we formed our societies that encourage the former values and not the latter and not the reverse like we do today, our economy as one example of a bad apple.
Placing importance on universalism, openness to change and self-direction seem to go hand in hand with some concrete practical tips in on how to create some well-being in everyday life as evidenced by New Economic Foundation in FIVE WAYS TO WELLBEING
Except for an honest investigation in what makes us human being flourish we need to make sure that the social structures we imagine and create, our society, economy is included, promotes good life for all. References and quotes