Some believe a messiah will save us, others that science will ultimately help us achieve common happiness in a bright society. Some believe a particular economic system is needed, others that a specific party or politician will do the job. Many are the factors at play here, but the starting point of this article is the fact that so many of us, religious or not, believe the solution for multiple of our vicissitudes is out there and that someone or a particular group or even a particular ideology is either responsible for the problem, or for the solution. This is easily evidenced by attitudes of victimization, so common in our times. We finger-point everything, the president, the government as a whole, our relative, our romantic partners, our coworkers, our bosses, the neighbor; everyone but ourselves! Now, what is the probability that all of them need to change and you (or I) are in possession of the truth and absolute righteousness? More, even if this was the case, how much control do you have over change? Just as we do with what we believe to be “problems”, we also do with what we believe to be “solutions” – they are typically always OUT THERE and have NOTHING TO DO WITH ME!!
To understand this issue a bit more deeply, we need to define “heteronomy” – a concept of practical morality introduced by Jean-Jacques Rousseau to describe actions influenced by a force outside the individual; in other words the state or condition of being ruled, governed, or under the sway of another. It is the counter/opposite of “autonomy”, which is the capacity to make an informed, un-coerced decision. All religions are heteronomous (a set system of beliefs and determined moral conduct with a clear reward and punishment mechanisms). Our educational system is heteronomous (a set methodology and progression pathway implemented in mass scale and not taking into perspective personal aptitudes, skills, preferences, etc. Individuals compete with each other). Our press, media and entertainment system have multiple heteronomous characteristics (“sponsored” news or viewpoints that influence – not to say control – what/how you should think about, etc.). Our society’s institutions, in general, have a predominantly heteronomous character and therefore we learned to operate following a heteronomous morality. We educate our kids this way and they grow up to literally take this kind of morality for granted. In a heteronomous society, the needs of each other are not typically considered, the rule is to obtain the maximum benefit in each occasion (“unilateral agreements”) and so we have a world that doesn’t really care what we think or how we feel – we are given rules and we are supposed to follow them. As you can infer; this form of morality works well with materialism since both does not recognize the human spirit – but sees people as biological and programmable machines (and it is for living in a world with such characteristics that so many of us feel lonely, purposeless or with feelings of emptiness and un-belonging). Moreover, the heteronomous system is based on coercion (you do what you are “instructed” to do) and competition (individuals performance/behavior is sorted between better and worse, giving rise to the favor or preference. Not everyone can win), and with competition comes privilege (a head start over others), corruption, etc. If you’ve followed my reasoning, you are now getting a picture of how “heteronomy” and “autonomy” have everything to do with politics, ethics and the very basis of how we organize ourselves as a society. Awakened individuals are those who think more independently, who reason and question things. They are autonomous by nature and with such strength (because autonomous individuals are those who no longer need canes to stand tall), exercised in mass scale comes deep reforms. Competition becomes cooperation (“respect bilateral agreements”) because individual needs are taken into perspective. Fraternity enters the picture and corruption is out. Coercion has no longer a place and freedom finally becomes practice instead of theory. Privilege is progressively substituted by personal merit – everyone have access to whatever their interest and qualifications allow them to do. Everyone can achieve their dreams.
So, how to deconstruct our need for a messiah, a savior, a leader? The answer, as I see it, passes through deconstructing the heteronomous elements of our society and all of its consequences. This change would result in a new and highly improved society, however it can only be implemented from the inside out; the inside of each of us individually! If we are passing through a planetary transition, this transition is from a heteronomous society to an autonomous one. The very ecology of our planet cannot bear the consequences of a heteronomous human organization for much longer, not to mention the economy or governmental institutions. We better not hinge on a messiah, a savior, a leader for our future, but take on the responsibility for autonomous behavior and leadership right away! The hopeful sign is… if you think about the differences between baby boomers, generation X and generation Y, you will notice that we are progressively becoming less subject to hierarchy and coercion. We are becoming more autonomous generation after generation! This is a great thing!! So, to speed up the positive transformational process of becoming an autonomous society, we let’s talk more about this… Let’s question things more… Should every kid start school at the same age? Should they progress at the same pace in every discipline (I learn chemistry much easier and faster than I learn geography)? Should they help each other more (teach what they learn easier and receive help on what they lag), cooperating instead of competing for better grades? Shouldn’t we play less politics at work (help to be helped)? Shouldn’t people participate more actively on governmental reforms, perhaps changing who and how reforms are suggested? Does the election process still make sense? The questions abound in every field… we need to dialog more and break silos. We need to raise the bar in ethics and freedom… we need to build a new autonomous society from the ground up!!