Most people would say that the world has never been fair or equitable, and it never will be – so look out for, “number one” and get what you can – because no one else will take care of you. Society reflects the, “winner-take-all” and, “dog-eat-dog” system of democratic capitalism, where life is simply, “the survival of the fittest.” They may also point out that there is a natural progression of responsibility in our society, ensuring that the individual breadwinner and his or her immediate family are taken care of first, while extended family members and friends benefit second in a two-tiered hierarchy of spending priorities. After taxes, retirement accounts, investments, vacations, and college expenses – there are usually few financial resources remaining for charitable purposes or anything else. It’s just the way of the world, and works just fine – as long as you’re a, “winner” – that is.
The problem is that for every winner in society there are just as many or more losers, while the middle-class often hangs on a thread; where on any given day an emergency could move them into society’s, “loser” category. The simple death of a spouse, loss of a paycheck, health care crisis, weather related catastrophe, personal accident or injury can cause hopes and dreams to implode and financial security to completely slip away. With the high rate of divorce in society today, even spouses can experience the uncertainty of not knowing if their future is secure – wondering if their spouse is planning to leave someday – and with them their family’s emotional, physical and financial security. In many respects, the American dream is either hanging in the balance or non-existent for much of society today.
We know that while this two-tiered system of financial security works well for some, a great many people today are not privileged enough to be in anyone’s top or second-tier of financial priorities; and as a result they struggle just to meet their basic needs for survival. While America is one of the most generous countries of the world in both national and individual charitable contributions to individuals, charities and other nations; much of our modern world is simply structured in a way that seems incompatible with the needs of society as a whole. So how do we build a society that provides for long-term growth, excellent benefits for all of its people and protects the environment – while at the same time creating and maintaining quality infrastructure that allows for an advanced and enlightened future for mankind?
Within the traditional framework of democracy there are three traditional approaches: conservative, liberal and moderate. Conservative values can be framed in the context of, “rugged individualism.” Liberal values can be described as, “social-progressive.” Moderate values are sometimes described as a, “middle of the road” approach – that stays close to the middle and avoids extremes on any particular issues. But what if we designed a different version of democracy, one that focuses primarily on people? We could call it: Altruistic or “People Focused” democracy – or, “Altruistic Democracy.”
I had not heard the term, “Altruistic Democracy” prior to thinking of the concept, and when I Googled it I found out that it is in fact an established term – most often used to describe a type of journalism. I think the term comes as close as possible to my concept of creating a free and open democratic society that creates a framework that is supportive of everyone across society, so that everyone is allowed to reach their full potential in life and no one is allowed to slip through the proverbial, “safety net.” A society where the focus is on ensuring that everyone benefits, while allowing people to still achieve their full potential – but where no one struggles just to survive.
When thinking of the concept of, “Altruistic Democracy” I think of the following famous sayings: “All Together, Win Together;” “A Rising Tide Floats All Boats;” “All For One and One For All;” “A Win-Win Solution;” and, “No One Left Behind.” My concept of an, “Altruistic Democracy” is a state of mind where all citizens ensure that everyone succeeds together. It is a throw-back concept to when communities were self-sufficient, where neighbor helped neighbor; and the family, church and charitable organizations were the only line of defense to help someone in dire need or an emergency. The closest example of the concept today, would be the Amish tradition of barn raising; but how could this concept that is used within a small, close-knit and closed society work for a nation of over 300 million people – let alone for the whole world?
Before we continue further to explore the topic, I found a Wikipedia article on, “Altruism” which describes the term as:
“Altruism is selfless concern for the welfare of others. It is a traditional virtue in many cultures, and a core aspect of various religious traditions, though the concept of ‘others’ toward whom concern should be directed can vary among religions. Altruism is the opposite of selfishness.
Altruism can be distinguished from feelings of loyalty and duty. Altruism focuses on a motivation to help others or a want to do good without reward, while duty focuses on a moral obligation towards a specific individual (for example, God, a king), a specific organization (for example, a government), or an abstract concept (for example, patriotism etc.). Some individuals may feel both altruism and duty, while others may not. Pure altruism is giving without regard to reward or the benefits of recognition and need.”
When I started this article – even this entire series in fact – I had no concept of what I wanted to say or how to define it; I only had the notion that people’s hearts needed to change if society was to ever embrace peace and love on a scale where everyone was cherished, and no-one was left out of the fruits of democracy. Now I have a term that I can use to describe my concept, and in Part Four I’ll attempt to define how I see, “Altruistic Democracy” as an opportunity for society to evolve, prosper and flourish in both America and around the world.