Why do we reject collective happiness?
How difficult is it to understand that the only way for human beings to have collective happiness is to first understand that at the most basic level all human beings have similar basic needs? This fact is actually common sense and I seriously doubt that you need a religion or a college education to figure this out. On the contrary, it is possible that misunderstandings about religion and formal education can prevent you from understanding this basic fact. Let me explain my thoughts further.
It makes good 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 the other human beings who will have to make material things exist and distribute. None of them will miraculously appear out of nowhere. Therefore, we know that human beings need food, water, clothing, shelter and medical care at the basic level. In a modern society, the ability to move or the means of transportation, education, amusement parks and the like are basic necessities. I’m not even talking about state-of-the-art facilities, but decent basic facilities so that not even a single citizen is left out.
Since the nature of things has changed in such a way that you can no longer grow your own food or build your own shelter, money is needed 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 a human needs for their survival, the same goes 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’s be honest enough to accept that some of these non-material needs are personal and others are universal. For example, the need to be loved and treated with dignity is universal, whatever the social construction of the person.
On the other hand, the kind of “supernatural power” or dogmas he wants to believe in is personal. If it were universal, then everyone on earth would belong to the same belief. The point is that there are many and diverse beliefs and religions in the world. Therefore, let’s examine and ask our common sense – what do we need to do to make sure that we are collectively happy?
As a community, should we focus 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 things. No one, for example, will get angry and there will be no conflicts if we say that everyone should drink at least 1 liter of water per day.
No one will protest the message that we need to help the disabled and the elderly. These are universal. On the other hand, pushing and imposing personal beliefs will certainly cause conflict and often in a violent form. It will cause continued collective misery and suffering.
These are very simple things. Regardless of creed, ethnicity, or religion, I’m sure you will agree that as a human species we all share the same material and non-material needs. If it was that simple, why then do we continue to suffer or be unhappy. I even guess most of us actually live at a lower level of happiness than is easily achievable.
One of the main reasons for my humble mind is that we actually make it more miserable and difficult for each other in life. Some of us consciously make efforts to cause conflict, unhappiness and hardship for others. Some do it ignoring the consequences, but many others do it to protect their own interests. Although vested interests usually take tangible forms, they can also be intangible interests.
I would suggest that these “agents causing misery” be both at ground level and at puppeteer level. Basically, they mostly come from the middle class which, in its quest for social and economic progress, is ready to perpetuate and even institutionalize behaviors that would perpetuate conflicts in society. After a while, behaviors that create conflict are accepted as the norm and become justified.
The most dangerous segment of society are the puppeteers – religious, political and corporate – who condition and control the minds of a segment of society to obey their orders even though it increases collective unhappiness in the community. A small minority of human beings claiming to speak on behalf of the powerless majority to advance their own interests. The saddest thing for me is that the majority ignore oppression because like the pet in the house, comfort blinds them to slavery. Why do I say oppression? Any system, lifestyle or conception of behavior that naturally perpetuates conflict is oppressive and increases collective human misery.
So what is the solution and how can we increase collective happiness? This is the question I am often asked. My humble answer is twofold. First, the question is incorrect. The right question should be: how to eliminate collective misery? (This is because for me collective happiness is the default position). When this question is asked, the solution becomes very obvious.
Second, increasing collective happiness or reducing collective misery is going to be a major challenge as it would require each of us to look within ourselves honestly and change what needs to be changed. Are we ready to look inside ourselves honestly?