It is essential, in building the Renaissance, to do as conventional governments rarely do well and generally neglect to do altogether — which is to define what it is we are actually trying to achieve; and this, I’ve suggested, should be
“To create convivial societies that allow and encourage personal fulfilment, and to ensure that the natural world remains in good heart”.
All three are important — society; individuals; and the living world. Each is important in its own right, and each is compromised unless all three are taken care of. Societies after all are compounded of individuals, and the society as a whole cannot be truly convivial if the individuals within it are unfulfilled, which means they are discontented. And everyone needs to be fulfilled, insofar as this is possible. Societies in which a few people flourish and the rest suffer – or at best “lead lives of quiet desperation” as Henry Thoreau put the matter – fall far short of what’s desirable; and in most societies– not least in Britain – this is the case, and always has been. But humanity as a whole will go to the wall if we don’t treat the biosphere well – and we all suffer personally, psychologically and spiritually, if we fail to engage with nature, and begin to appreciate its wonders. We need to restore the sense of the sacred.Destruction of nature should not simply be unlawful, but unthinkable. The ancient moral/metaphysical concept of oneness is essential.
Of course, this somewhat glib agenda raises huge questions, such as:
- Is “convivial society” even possible? Are human beings really able to be truly “convivial”? Aren’t human beings conditioned by their evolution to compete, one with another, fighting to “get ahead”?
- Why “fulfilment”? Why not simply “happiness”?
- What do we mean by a “flourishing biosphere? How can we keep the biosphere in good heart? And why bother? Shouldn’t we just treat the natural world as a “resource”, as seems to be the official mindset?
Overall, I suggest that all action and all policy, and all serious thought that affects policy, should be rooted in the bedrock principles of morality and ecology; and all should be directed towards the Goal of conviviality, fulfilment, and a flourishing biosphere. Only those actions and policies that are so rooted, and which lead us towards that Goal, should be called “Progress”. Everything else – which is most of what happens now – is either a diversion or, at least in the long term, is seriously damaging.