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Wishes for the Family of Humankind
Offered by Paula D. Gordon, Ph.D.
January 10, 2013, with minor modifications June 19, 2023
The original version was authored on July 18, 1996, and submitted to The Millennium Project at a World Futures Society Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. That version has been slightly augmented and modified by the author.
- Cultivate and realize the fullest possible expressions of love, harmony, humanity, civility, and cooperation. Recognize that if we fail to recognize and move toward a fuller expression of our essential nature — our essential humanity, and as many would say, our essential divinity — that life on earth will become increasingly brutish, cutthroat, deadly, anarchic, and chaotic.
- Recognize that the ills that have arisen and that can arise from the uses of technology can be prevented, mitigated, and addressed so long as we remember that we have it within our power to make technology our servant. We can use technology to serve the needs of humankind and to improve the quality of life. By using technology in these ways, we are acting to free ourselves to explore and to live and experience life to the fullest. The value of technology lies in the extent to which humankind can devise ways of using it for the betterment of humankind. Humankind is taking part in its own self-destruction to the extent that it acts in ways that divorce the use of technology from basic human values of life itself, human health and welfare, and the freedom with which to enjoy, experience, and realize all of these values to the fullest.
- The rigidification of rules and regulations, micro-legalisms, and micromanagement that fly in the face of common sense, understanding, experience, judgment, and wisdom, are creating conflict and problems; seriously restraining creative uses of energies and resources to address our problems; as well as threatening our mental and physical health, sanity, freedoms, and our very humanity.
- It is essential that widely held views regarding the role and nature of science and scientific endeavor and the explanatory usefulness and applicability of Newtonian physics to the understanding of human and societal behavior need to be reconsidered. The "soft sciences" have failed to increase in any profoundly human way our understanding of human and societal behavior and problems. This widely accepted "value-neutral" approach to "understanding" is widely sanctioned and rewarded in academic and professional communities, including business and public administration. The widespread acceptance of this scientistic, value-neutral approach has been responsible for the destruction of idealism, realism, human understanding, and common sense in untold numbers of human beings and, importantly for the future, of unknown numbers of students and graduates. This approach has impaired our capacity to address with humanity our most pressing problems. This approach has too often kept persons in roles of responsibility from even recognizing and coming to terms with the nature and root causes of the problems that face us. The embrace of such value neutrality and such superficial and inadequate approaches to analysis and understanding has too often led to actions that are divorced from human consideration, feeling, insight, experience, knowledge, wisdom, common sense, and judgment, and from common human values and humanity. Arthur Koestler made some of the same observations. In recent years, Margaret Wheatley is among those making a similar case.
- Recognize, as Mary Parker Follett in her works had noted, that the definition of the purpose of democracy can be seen as the unleashing of creative energies. Recognize that these unleashed creative energies can be used for the benefit and the betterment of individuals as well as society as a whole. In fact, Ruth Benedict's notion of the healthy, "high synergy" society was one in which individuals acted in a way that served both their own interests and the best interest of the social whole. A "low synergy" society was one in which the actions of individuals were counter to the interest of the social whole. Another way of looking at healthy and unhealthy groups and societies was suggested by Herbert Shepard. He said that the "mentality assumptions" of competition, compromise, and coercion typify unhealthy organizations or cultures and that the direction that we need to move in if civilization is to survive is toward a healthier set of "mentality assumptions" that includes cooperation, collaboration, and consensus-seeking, and one would add, caring.
- Encourage the adoption or re-adoption by the nations of the world of a concept of the public good and the public interest which emphasizes the need for governments in free societies to act in ways that maximize the values inherent in a free society — values of life, health (individual, group, institutional, and societal health and harmony), and freedom (individual, societal, and political freedom). These values may be derived transcendentally, culturally, or existentially. Values can be derived existentially by deciding that life itself is the ultimate value and that in order to live life and embrace life and one's humanity to the fullest, the values of health and freedom, and love need to be embraced. However one derives one's values -- transcendentally, culturally, or existentially -- the highest value is living life fully and freely with the possibility of realizing all that life can hold. Encourage and help others to value life and a life well and fully lived through example and education.
- Address the major problems of our times and encourage governments and all segments of society to recognize the importance of devoting time, energy, understanding, and resources to doing so. Adopt approaches and policies that address the underlying causes and unmet needs that give rise to problems that are affecting human health and functioning and the realization of societal stability and viability.
- Recognize that drug abuse and substance abuse of all kinds is destroying the mental and physical health of an increasing portion of rising generations throughout the globe. Recognize that an increasing portion of the adult population is also being affected. Take steps to address the underlying causes of the problem of substance abuse and recreational drug use and experimentation, one of our most pressing human and societal problems facing humankind. Without willpower, without soul power, there can be no initiative; there can be no sense of responsibility for ourselves or future generations. Recognize that substance abuse and other forms of addictive behavior are taking a considerable toll on mental, physical, and societal health, not only on those who indulged but on those around them, including those who love them or depend on them.
- Recognize a central underlying cause of many of our societal ills today is an absence of meaning and purpose in life. This can involve an absence of motivation and a sense of anomie. It can involve an absence of any healthy values and an absence of human feeling and a sense of connection to others. Love, faith, trust, human feeling, purpose, and a valuing of life itself, all need to be cultivated and nurtured. Even the presence of just one caring person in an individual's life can make all the difference. Restorative efforts are essential to the success of any attempts to address such ills. Addressing underlying causes and other unmet needs can also be critical to long-term success.
- Address the problems of unemployment and underemployment by applying human ingenuity and creativity to the solution of these problems. Act to instill and encourage the valuing of all kinds of useful work and service, along with the valuing of other creative contributions to culture and society that enhance the quality of life and contribute to the health, happiness, and fulfillment of individuals and humankind.
- Recognize the inhumanity of any national or global policy that does not have as its goal "zero" unemployed and require that reporting and analysis of the actual number of those who are unemployed and underemployed not be intentionally or unintentionally obfuscated. It is essential that the true extent of the problem be recognized so long as "unemployment figures" are allowed in effect to dictate national or global economic policies.
- Address the problem of crime in a way that takes into consideration the root causes and unmet needs that give rise to such behavior. Adopt approaches to prevention, early intervention, treatment, and rehabilitation that are humane and that foster healthy human development.
- As Abraham Maslow pointed out, recognize that it is crucially important that we decide what it is that we are trying to achieve through education. Question seriously the goal of global competitiveness. If, first and foremost, the purpose of education is to help assure the realization or continuation of a free and democratic social order, then all of our efforts in education need to be imbued with and informed by the values that are essential to sustaining freedom, democracy, and a responsible citizenry.
- Recognize the need for adequate shelter and health care as being a societal goal. Apply ingenuity and resources to address these needs. Avoid taking steps that turn people into numbers and dismiss the preciousness of every human life. Address the symptoms as well as the underlying problems and unmet needs that have given rise to these problems. Take steps to prevent the cycle from beginning in the first place and take steps to intervene at all subsequent stages of the cycle.
- Resist the currently popular impulse and the bias to simply study and research problems. Resist also the impulse to try to address all problems by "committee" or reaching group consensus in a "bottom-up" approach. If we neglect the people who have insight, vision, and understanding, persons with philosophical insight and with first-hand understanding and experience of how to bring about change in non-coercive and non-intrusive ways; we will have failed to use what should be among our most valued resources. Provide opportunities for such individuals to contribute in major ways to the solving and amelioration of problems and challenges.
- Move beyond typical efforts to simply research problems. Encourage and value the development of the human capacities for common sense, understanding, ingenuity, sound judgment, responsible action, vision, and leadership coupled with the all-important courage and initiative to take action. See the importance of the need for persons who are in roles of responsibility to have an understanding of the problem as well as the will and the courage to take action and the capacity and the gumption to act wisely. Cultivate an understanding of the kinds of constraints that can get in the way of healthy change. It is unrealistic to think that persons who have adopted the role of non-participant/researcher observer will necessarily have the needed insight and experience to be able to envision workable or politically and organizationally feasible solutions or ways of addressing societal problems and challenges. It is even less typical that they will have the determination, courage, ethical and moral compasses, and cultivated sense of responsibility needed to carry out solutions or take action to address problems and challenges. While such characteristics typified the finest persons who have served in government in the past; in recent times the focus of academic and professional training programs have failed to develop persons with such attributes, character, capacities, and capabilities. For these and other reasons, the number of such persons needs to grow, not diminish.
- Recognize the need to help cultivate the elements of citizenship that are essential to effective and responsible government. In situations where these fail to be present, adopt educational strategies that will serve to help inculcate them. Recognize that a major problem being faced by newly emerging, would-be democracies, is that citizens in these reoriented nations are without current or recent experience of what it means and what it can entail to be a responsible citizen of a free and democratic society.
- Consider the merit of slower and more carefully considered approaches to change so that populations are not thrown into social and economic chaos. Try to learn from mistakes that have been and are being made.
- Encourage corporations and those in business, as well as others to adopt an attitude of social responsibility and discourage greed and lust for power as ends in themselves. Encourage a balancing of profit-making and giving back to society, in a way that fosters the unleashing of creative energies for the betterment of humankind.
- Recognize that the playing of political games takes precious attention, energy, and resources away from critical human and societal problems.
- Recognize that when persons in roles of public responsibility and trust play games with people's lives and with society’s and civilization’s fragile future, their actions are not only irresponsible, but some would say criminal.
- Recognize that it will be difficult if not impossible to begin to ameliorate the problems that face us until and unless we achieve some agreement that our highest commonly shared value is the value and preciousness of life itself, be it perceived as being God-given or an existential given.
- Recognize that honesty, fair play, and tolerance are essential if the family of humankind is to move in the direction of healthy societal development.
- Recognize the need for focusing attention on nurturing the healthy development of humankind and adopt an attitude of individual and societal stewardship and responsibility for both human and natural resources. It is especially critical that those in positions of public responsibility cultivate such attitudes.
Some have said that we are that we may know joy and love, that we may experience the fullest possible meaning of existence. Others have said that to live life fully, to experience joy and love fully, is to know God and realize a divine destiny.
May we live in such a way and encourage others to live in such a way through example and deeds that all increasingly realize and experience a sense of meaning and fulfillment in their lives and come to contribute as a matter of course to the realization of that potential for the benefit of all of humankind.
“Wishes for the Family of Humankind” © Paula D. Gordon Posted also with the permission of the author to Global Futures Intelligence System of The Millennium Project at https://themp.org/challengegroup/15/resources/.
About the Author:
Paula D. Gordon, Ph.D. is based in Washington, D.C. Her Ph.D. in Public Administration is from American University; her M.A. in Public Administration and her B.A. in Rhetoric are both from the University of California at Berkeley. Her areas of specialization include Public Administration, Public Policy, Management and Organizational Behavior, Ethics, Leadership, and Change, Organization Theory and Behavior, Knowledge Transfer and Innovation Diffusion, Homeland Security and Emergency Management Policy, and a range of national and global health policy-related concerns, including Drug Abuse Prevention, a Unitary Theory of Cancer, and the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Dr. Gordon is an educator, writer, and consultant. She teaches courses at several different universities. She has served as a staff officer, policy analyst, or special projects director for the National Institute of Mental Health, the Federal Energy Office and Federal Energy Administration, the National Science Foundation, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Advisory Commission on Governmental Relations. She also ran for Congress in Contra Costa County in the Bay Area in California. She has an extensive background in a variety of domestic policy arenas, including drug use prevention, emergency management, homeland security, and other public health concerns, including the COVID-19 pandemic, and a unitary theory of cancer.
Dr. Gordon’s websites have included the following:
With the exception of GordonHomeland.com, these websites are now pages on the GordonHumankind.com website. They remain accessible by their previous URLs.
These websites include her work on some of the following topics: transforming and leading organizations, nurturing ethical and value-based behavior in public service, unleashing creative energies in organizations for the benefit of individuals and society, and improving the problem-solving and knowledge transfer processes. Her doctoral dissertation, “Public Administration in the Public Interest” focuses on the role of government in complex societal problem-solving. In that dissertation, she describes a new paradigm of public administration and governance.