This week: The World You Want Edited by: Itty Bitty Scaredy Kitti
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|What kind of world do you want to live in? If you could redesign the society you live in, what would you change?|
This week's Spiritual Newsletter is all about human society, with a dose of Rawls' Veil of Ignorance.
Itty Bitty Scaredy Kitti
|What kind of world do you want to live in? We all have our views, our hopes, and our political stances. I’m not here to judge. I do, however, want to tell you about mine.|
I want a world in which everyone’s got decent, liveable accommodation. A world in which everyone’s got enough to eat; clean drinking water; medical care that is free at the point of use, paid for by taxes; access to all the education they can keep up with; where people feel safe and secure and can enjoy life, rather than find themselves in a constant struggle to survive. We are only on this planet for a short while, and we should get more out of our time here than pain, and fatigue, and hardship.
That is not our reality. Imagine reading about human society in a fictional story: 2.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted, annually, yet millions of people suffer from food poverty and malnourishment. In some countries, people are too afraid to go to the doctor, or the dentist, because healthcare can bring financial ruin – yet billions of taxpayers’ (insert currency here) is always readily available to bail out companies and institutions that wreak havoc on the economy. Veterans who put everything on the line end up on the streets. Many political systems don’t offer any options that large sections of society are even remotely enthusiastic about, leaving them to ponder the lesser evil. Some corporations are as powerful as nations. Corruption is rife. There’s division everywhere, and there appears to be no genuine change or healing on the horizon. It’d be a depressing story, wouldn’t it? You’d wonder what the characters were going to do about it because, clearly, this situation can’t last. Or it oughtn’t. Well, here we are…
Have you ever heard of the philosopher John Rawls’ Veil of Ignorance ? It’s an interesting thought experiment. To try it out for yourself, imagine that you’re part of a joint effort to create a new society. You will have to decide and agree upon that society’s principles of social and political justice. The thing is… you find yourself behind a veil of ignorance about who you are and, therefore, about what your place in this society is going to be. You don’t know if you’ll be young or old. If you’re a man, a woman or non-binary. You don’t know your nationality, nor your ethnic background. Your romantic preferences. If you suffer from any health problems. You may be academically inclined, or struggle at school. You have no idea about your talents, your skills, your hobbies and interests. You may have been raised in an entirely different faith than the one you practice now. So what do you want your new society to be like? Rawls believed, as I do, that you’d want it to be as equal as possible. You’d want there to be equal rights and equal liberties, and equality of access to educational opportunities, employment and the highest offices of the land. You’d also want there to be a good support network, offering all members of society a decent quality of life. You do not want to suffer, and here you have the opportunity to ensure that whoever you’ll end up as, you’ll be safe and secure and able to enjoy a good standard of living.
Whilst this is the intuitive response and tells us something about how societies should operate, people can get quite worked up about others gaining access to rights, or receiving any social support. They’ll exclaim, “Why should I pay for the healthcare of others?” Not realising, perhaps, that we all pay for the other in some ways – I don’t have kids, for example, but a part of my taxes go to the funding of schools, subsidised child care, and other child-related support. Which is great. I don’t mind. Being a part of society means helping the other to grow, and thrive and, of course, being safe in the knowledge that when you need support in turn, you can count on it being there.
Well, ideally. I don’t know where you live, but over here politicians are all too keen to undermine support structures.
I don’t know if my ideal society will ever come to be. It’s not looking positive at the moment. I remain hopeful, however, because I have to – I have to believe that people are fundamentally good, and that we do want to help the other and be there for the other, and that together we can build something beautiful. We deserve something beautiful. We just have to lift the other up, despite our differences. I pray that someday soon we’ll realise that.
Itty Bitty Scaredy Kitti
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Wishing you a week filled with inspiration,
The Spiritual Newsletter Team
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