I am composing a symphony to raise funds and awareness for brain health and wellness research. “Can kindness change the world?” is the opening lyric to the Kindness Movement for that symphony. A first draft for this movement’s slideshow is now uploaded on the Humanity Hiker YouTube site. Recent events make this an important slideshow to share.
The slideshow features photos from our walk across the country and amount to a wellness message for an ailing society. The message comes from the perspective of a current student/researcher/expert regarding matters of living well despite adversity, as well as from the perspective of a former student/researcher/expert regarding how our social systems work. The slideshow is embedded here, but first a little context.
While studying how our social systems worked I focused on the causes of trends that never got better. Though I was disturbed by Charlottesville and its aftermath, even more disturbing as “the causes of trends” was a meme I saw on Facebook a few days earlier. The meme shared a criticism, expressed in the twenties, that democracy unleashes the desires of humanity.
When I first came across this idea over a decade ago, the groups espousing it were conservatives and libertarians, fearing our society’s decline through entitlement. The current meme was being shared by liberals, fearing our society’s decline through hatred. In either case the sentiment is an example of group think, which lies more at the heart of societal problems than either democracy or the desires of humanity.
True democracy requires decentralized independence of thought, with a means of aggregating the resulting diversity of opinions. Decentralization, independence, diversity and aggregation are also the Scientific Revolution in a nutshell. Universities shunned centralized dependence on the Church and conducted their own decentralized, independent research, with a method for aggregating and prioritizing the diversity of results. Decentralization, independence, diversity and aggregation are also the ingredients for the “wisdom of crowds,” as discovered and delineated in a book with that title. When working well, democracy aggregates wisdom from a diversity of citizen opinions, no matter how wacky or extreme some of them may be.
Group think changes all that, derails a democracy from the “wisdom of crowds.” Many a political campaign speech reveals what fuels group think, emotions like anger, fear and narcissism. By any consistent definition of terms, confirmed by various research, we have been an oligarchy for decades, serving the interests of corporations, with a huge assist from an unelected Supreme Court. This means that democracy cannot be faulted for unleashing the desires of humanity, because we do not have one.
The intent of a meme that faults democracy for unleashing desires, when in reality we have an oligarchy, is to provide justification for paternalism. “You can’t trust people to think the way we think and we know what is best,” fuels paternalism whether expressed by a conservative, liberal, libertarian or any other ideology. What about that? Would we be any better off if we had a democracy that unleashed our base desires, rather than conforming to the enlightened paternalism of an oligarchy, corporate or otherwise?
If humans are naturally bad, or self-interested, or primitive, or possessed by original sin, then paternalism and group think is in our best interest. This is where wellness research comes to the rescue. Kindness floats our boat. That has been born out by academic research, (the Scientific Revolution kind, not the Church nor the think tank kind). I share often on this site, and will continue to do so, that altruism enhances brain health, emotional health and longevity. The human species is hardwired to help those around them, contrary to the group think that ideologies or oligarchies want their fearful and angry supporters to believe.
We witnessed this on our walk across the country. We witnessed this from conservatives, liberals and libertarians. We even witnessed this from people who are staunch in their beliefs! Local communities can succeed where nation states fail, at feeding and housing all of their citizens. The secret? Local communities are the remaining places where you might find a true democracy unleashing human desires for altruism, autonomy and contentment.
This is only a preliminary draft version, but should at least give you a good feel for the kindness across America. You can find drafts of other movements on the Humanity Hiker YouTube channel as well.