By Paul Palmarozza
Our Society Today
The daily stream of newspaper articles and numerous scientific reports about the increasingly high degree of stress, depression, obesity, violence, broken families, drug addiction, self-harm, participation in perverted sexual practices – the list goes on – all seem to point to the fact that we are not following the right path. There is need to first acknowledge the problems and then find a way to improve the conditions.
Here is one view of the main problems:
- Major values of the day are wealth, power, fame & pleasure. While not wrong in themselves, the problem is that excess in these domains has become the norm. For example, pornography and marijuana are now rapidly expanding businesses. In the business world large company CEOs make 2-300 times the average annual salary of their employees and only stay in that position for 3-4 years. ‘Take the money and run’ seems to guide them, the short-term gain mentality permeates many aspects of businesses and what is ignored is how best to serve the needs of our society, which is the right way to success and sustainability.
- We are a predominantly materialistic society wrongly believing that greater happiness will be attained by having more wealth, power, fame, and physical pleasure. Media continually lists the 100 richest, 100 most famous and 100 most powerful. Do you see listings of the 100 most Compassionate, Generous, or Humble?
- There is little or in some cases, no spiritual education offered to young people and participation in the traditional religious services has substantially decreased for the older generations.
- The family, which is the fundamental unit of a culture, is in a dangerously weakened state causing increased stress and tension in young people raised without the love and discipline offered by both parents. Divorce now is an accepted norm and there is even talk of allowing people to do it online.
- Highly advanced technology has resulted in increasing dependence on the internet and social media, with unregulated damaging material available, even to young children. Artificial Intelligence will bring even greater dependency on technology, without proper understanding by individuals.
- There is an overemphasis on my freedom and equality; my rights – not my duties. Ego-based thinking dominates in our highly competitive society.
- A wake-up call has sounded by Climate Change, which has become a global problem. Examination has revealed that several decisions based on short term financial gains for business, have caused a serious violation of Nature for which the world is beginning to pay a very serious price.
A Good, Truly Rich Life.
These issues must be addressed if a more empathetic, ethical, and healthy society is to be developed. How can this happen?
The essence of the new direction is first honestly acknowledging the problems and challenges we are facing and then turning the attention inwards by quieting the moving mind; surrendering the excess baggage of ego-based ideas and feelings; and simply connecting with our true ‘inner being’.
By addressing the more spiritual dimension of our being we are accessing a great power which has always existed, but has not been availed enough. In recent years several useful practices have been introduced and successfully used to improve the state of being. The main ones are:
A practice to help bring us to stillness, to be in the present moment with full attention, instead of relying solely on past experiences or letting the mind wander into the future imagining what will be. With a quiet mind and heart, we are then better able to objectively consider important questions, in order that right and good decisions are better able to be made.
Meditation has been practised for thousands of years in the various cultural traditions. While there are different systems of meditation, the practice itself is universal. It helps create a real sense of unity, which is crucial in our world today. The essence of the practice is about attention, one-pointed attention, be it on a mantra or on a flame. There will be the inevitable distracting thoughts which consume vast amounts of our energy. We need to let go of these attachments and stay faithfully with the mantra.
Other practices such as Yoga or Silent Retreats are also observed with the same purpose, to quiet the ever-moving mind and calm our feelings to bring one to a more balanced state so that true reason and love can prevail in our daily decisions.
Living Natural Human Values
We will then be prepared to follow the natural human values in how we think, how we relate to others and how we act in our daily life. A natural value is one which is inherent in the nature of a human being. For example, when you ask anyone what it feels like if they consciously tell a lie, the overwhelming response is that it is not comfortable, physically, mentally, or emotionally. This is valid and it is the reason that lie detector machines can work, as there is a natural reaction within when we do not speak the truth. To speak the truth is natural, to lie is unnatural.
Here are some brief examples of the application of these natural values:
How We Think
We should establish a stable and balanced state of mind when making decisions.
There are many decisions that need to be made every day, usually with several options. These may involve significant external pressures, for example, to meet expectations of other people, or internal pressures, such as, I want to win and gain personal recognition. We need to concentrate in order to be clear about our motives and the guiding principle that should be used as the basis for the decision. Key values in this realm are:
Inner Stillness; Self-control; Calmness.
How We Relate to Others
We should establish and maintain a harmonious environment for all activities with other people.
When a high level of voluntary co-operation is in place, the results are greater than the sum of the individual parts. Crucial to the personal efficiency, motivation and satisfaction, is a positive atmosphere, where mutual respect and an active concern for the needs of other people prevails. The values:
Co-operation; Respect; Compassion
How We Act
We must learn to deal effectively with challenges, mistakes and uncontrollable external factors.
As life is full of uncertainties, the best way to respond to the inevitable challenges, be they self-imposed or from an external source, is to maintain a balanced and unattached state, then our full faculties are available to discern the best response. The related values here are:
Equanimity; Steadfastness; Determination.
By putting these values into practice, by living them, great benefits accrue for all; family, friends, neighbours, work colleagues, the community, nation, society at large, and you. This is real success. The natural results here are:
Happiness; Peace; Unity
When one lives these values then a natural motivation arises to serve the needs of others, to give. A wonderfully relevant quote from Winston Churchill on the subject: ‘You make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give.’
In considering the fundamental nature of service, there are three vital elements that influence the quality: Intention – the motive behind the service, that is, for whose benefit is the service. Attention – relating to the execution of the service which is at its finest when done attentively with love and care. Retention – refers to the degree to which an individual claims credit for their actions. The less the better.
Service in Practice- Make a Positive Contribution to Climate Change
The key elements of the problem; the greed and corruption of a few and the misuse of Nature’s resources have been noted. A very brief summary of the way forward: Rational Laws, Planting Trees- Protecting Existing Forests, Engaging the Power of the Young & Politicians and Personal Contributions e.g., Support renewable energy either by installing solar energy or using a power company that has good credentials.
There is a long way to go, but we need to start now and continue marching together on the value-based, sustainable way forward. If so:
Considerably more detail on these subjects is offered in the book Cultural Cycles & Climate Change, which offers a Nine-Step Action Plan from More Quiet Time to a Good Life. The lessons learned for history, from not only Western culture but also the Chinese, Indian and Arabic culture over the last 2500 years, are covered. More detail on the Climate Change problem and the proposed solution is provided, along with other examples of the application of natural values. All the subjects covered have benefited from the guidance of respected experts in their field. The book has been published in the UK, US and India and is available on different versions of Amazon.
Paul Palmarozza has 58 years of business experience including founding a company specialising in e-learning in 1987 which grew and became a listed company on the London Stock Exchange (AIM) in 2001. He retired from the organisation in 2011. Currently he the Founder/ Director of If I Can…CIC, a not-for-profit Community Interest Company which offers free Mindfulness based Values apps, and E-Books. If I can… www.ificanapp.com and Ethical Entrepreneur www.ethicalentrepreneur.org are examples. He is a Guest Lecturer at Regents University Business School, UK and has lectured at the Stillman Business School at Seton Hall University in the US and other business schools in India and UK.
His published books include From Principles to Profit- The Art of Moral Management (co-author with Chris Rees); If I can…Timeless Values for Today; In Praise of Silence; and Ethical Entrepreneur E-Book. His latest book, Cultural Cycles & Climate Change is published in the UK, US and India. The book explores the lessons learned from the Western, Chinese, India and Arabic cultures over 2500 years. The recommended Nine Step action plans involves honestly acknowledging the problems, more quiet time to enable better decisions and then living natural human values and serving the Common Good. The need to serve the Climate Change issue and the way forward are offered. https://culturalcycles.timelessvalues.co.uk/
For 45 years he has been a tutor of Philosophy for the London based School of Philosophy and Economic Science. He has also delivered lectures, seminars and courses and authored numerous articles on the subjects of Spirituality, Values and Principles in Education, Business and Life. See www.timelessvalues.co.uk His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org