Saturday, April 23, 2016

Human Values Versus The Values Of Institutions

Our institutions have failed us. Our government does not represent us, our media lie to us, our corporations care only about their short term profits.

That is to be expected.

Institutions in time become their own entity. They begin to look out for the institution’s interests rather than the interests of the people they were created to help. It happens inevitably. And then the institution begins to tell those who are part of it that they should behave in ways different than a human would, that common sense and morality no longer apply within the confines of the institution. The commandment “Thou Shall Not Kill” does not apply to those in the military. The ethic of not evicting a widow from her home does not apply if you work in the banking industry, the idea of setting a good example for children is not in the interest of the entertainment industry, nor is justice a primary concern of the politician or the lawyer. Institutions have their own requirements and seek to bend humans to their will.

We humans have created human values over the millennia and when practiced they work quite well. They are the laws and values handed down by the great religious, by moral and spiritual leaders. But religions have warped such teachings in ways that promote their own well-being. They place the individual at their disposal rather than seeing their main function as being to serve the individuals. They place themselves between God and man, interpret the words of the prophets and set them down into rigid codes and laws rather than allowing humans to interact directly with them and have a direct communication with them.

Our political parties too place themselves in between individuals and the government they are supposed to control. We are no longer in control of choosing our fate but are instead played upon by one party or the other that insists on blaming the other for all that is bad in the nation. They both realize our instinctual fear of the big institutions, the conservatives playing upon our fear of big government, the liberals playing on our fear of big business. And each is right to a degree, but neither is interested in revealing the bigger picture. Few are the politicians from either party willing to admit that it is the parties and their donors whose interests are being served rather than the interests of the citizens.

Institutions create secrets. They hide away all the truths they do not wish you to see. Few of us are shown the factory farms and processing plants that treat animals the way no society would if they were more fully aware. If the greater populace were to see what life in prison was like we would transform them into places that helped cure prisoners rather than creating new diseases for them to suffer. The harm our system of doing business is doing to our environment is seldom shown on television, we see only what is done in our little part of the world, and then only when we step outside and away from our televisions.

If we give them the opportunity, our institutions will crush us individually. Individuals matter little to institutions, they are so much larger than us. But institutions cannot crush humanity, not if we commit to human values rather than conforming to the values of institutions. We don’t need religions to explain to us what “Thou shall not kill” means, nor “Love your neighbor as yourself”. We don’t need our government to tell us what country is our enemy, nor do we need corporations telling us what we need to have in order to be happy. We, human beings, must be masters of the machines we create, not their slaves. We must decide upon a morality that works independent of the needs of our institutions, that like to distort our most basic truths.

And the most basic human value is that we are all brothers and sisters, all members of the same family. Institutions are always seeking to make us forget that, to emphasize our differences rather than our shared beliefs and needs. Institutions create the lie of the “other”, the “not us”, the “them”.

Institutions create fear and doubt, and when we fear and doubt, we seek protection and safety. Institutions, after evoking our fears to begin with, offer us protection from what they have caused us to fear. They offer us a unity that we as humans are always striving for, but it is not the natural unity but a selective one. It is a partial unity at the expense of the greater unity, a promise that something is better than nothing. It is the kind of unity that requires an enemy, the kind that promises peace and security but only gives us war and a perpetual sense of fear and distrust.

Do not allow yourself to belong to any institution at the expense of your humanity. Do not put your country above the needs of the planet. Do not put the company you work for above your need to do what you feel is right. Do not place your religion above God, nor your political party above the nation it is supposed to represent. Institutions are useful and often necessary tools, but we must never let them become more than that. Instead, be a human. Trust yourself, be yourself. Trust your human qualities. Trust what you know and feel and believe in as well as the examples of those who have sacrificed to put humanity above the interests of institutions that would belittle both the individual and the entirety of humanity of which each of us are a part.

You are a human being and that is a beautiful thing. You are a part of humanity, and that is even more beautiful still.

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