Existing approaches to social change
Existing approaches to social change; some fundamentals of a new contemporary approach and movement
In modern times, the process of social change has witnessed the following broad approaches. One, the Liberal Democratic approach, currently reigning in the developed Western world. The spelt out agenda of this approach talks of raising the standard of living of common people—improving access, reach and standards of health, and education, basic utilities provision, and poverty alleviation—addressing population issues, and improving the state of environment, governance, liberal human values and rights. What this really boils down to is that the legal and basic social structures should be left untouched, and the existing economy should also be left to itself, with minimum intervention. In essence there should be no fundamental changes, but only improvements in the condition of people, which should consequently improve their loyalty and commitment to the existing liberal democratic process. But there is not even a commitment to take responsibility for ensuring these improvements; it is only a commitment to try for them. In this sense these attempts are a kind of credential to enable them to sell to the people of their own and other societies, a commitment to the status quo. So the actual commitment of this approach exists only in relation to the status quo.
This commitment is sold to people in the Third World or developing countries through the NGO model of social development based on regular and conditional monetary inputs from developed countries. And this also becomes the model for political thinking and practice. In reality this model of socio-political development in developing countries is only a marketing approach for the existing Western liberal democratic societies. The main purpose behind the dependency-inducing monetary inputs (which are not to be generated from within that society) is selling the liberal democratic status quo to the people of these developing countries. The hitherto track record of this approach tells us that it has not yet delivered anything of serious substance; which works for all the dimensions of man and his long term social existence. Its main focus has been the physical/biological and material dimensions of man, where he has made significant and extensive improvements and developments but even these are not of a fundamental nature. Similarly, we do not find any fundamental changes in terms of rebirth or maturing of his emotional/sensitivity, intellectual and spiritual dimensions. His growth in these dimensions has been ad-hoc, limited, largely in aid of physical and material dimensions and primarily quantitative. Overall, therefore, we find no real fundamental changes, and yet a persistence to continue with this approach.
The other approach, which for all practical purposes has now been consigned to the graveyard of history, is of a radical revolutionary change in the social structures of a society based upon some variety or version of Marxism. The problem with this approach is that there are no serious takers of it today. There is no foreign funding available for it; neither from China, Russia, and Cuba, nor from Vietnam or Algeria. And without serious massive funding this approach is a complete nonstarter. This is why we find the proponents of this approach, the ‘Leftists’, now enmeshed with the Liberal Democratic approach. Instead of a radical revolutionary approach to social change they now profess piecemeal social and political development within the Liberal Democratic framework. The third approach is the radical religious approach, based on the rigid, dogmatic version of any religion, which inevitably and eventually degenerates into a sectarian approach. This means it is not a holistic approach pertaining to the fundamentals of a particular religion. It is not based upon the connection of a human being to God but to a particular sectarian version of religion, which is essentially about social behavior and constructs. Moreover, it is extremist, violent, anti-modern, anti-science, anti-economic development, and has an adversarial position directed at all those individuals and groups who do not belong to or fall within the purview of that sectarian approach. It addresses and targets both the lowest disinherited elements within a society and that small elite segment which has a vested interest and stake in this approach as it provides them with a high and fancy standard of living.
Apart from the above approaches there is one other approach driven by various segments of the existing political power elite, which are a direct part of the political power structures in the societies of both developed and developing countries. These various segments are the leaders of the various political parties which are represented in governments and in parliaments. Their approach is of shameless rhetoric, which is unconcerned with results. This approach is more blatant and visible in the third world countries, where the rhetorical approach of the power and political elite is really fueled and driven by the second tier of their hangers-on. And their main platform is the media and not any mass movement or organization. In view of the above we find the present state of social thinking highly stagnant and unsatisfactory. The pursuit and achievement of economic progress in various degrees, at different times and places and by various stake holders is there. But the problem is that the individuals and groups who are practically engaged and involved and tangibly achieving this progress through providing employment, opportunities, greater circulation of money and a growing market, have no serious long-term social approach. They have a primarily business or balance sheet approach and criteria. Recently there has emerged a concept of ‘Corporate social responsibility’ in the private sector but it is a substitute for any serious holistic long-term social approach. The main mode of social doing is broadly divided between social charity and technology-driven social development projects. At the Governmental level, portions of budgets are allocated and spent on developmental and social sector activities which have varying degrees of economic impact, but that is still not able to produce substantial economic and social development for the majority.
With this we come to that remaining segment of the population belonging primarily to the urban middle class, which does not subscribe to any of these approaches, or wishes to become their partners, and is dissatisfied and disillusioned with the present situation. The individuals of this segment have retained their intellectual and emotional sensitivities towards society, mankind and their future. The problem is that their exclusion from the above approaches and sections results in their having no approach. They opt for being nonpolitical, which practically and in reality means that the vacuum in their social thinking is filled up by a single minded focus on their personal agendas from the standpoint of pre-existing material and status patterns, or in other words the status quo. So this segment basically seeks personal success within the status quo.
The movement that Evolutionary Mentology seeks is addressed to this variety of people. So the attempt is to construct the vision and reality of a social movement, which despite being long term is verifiable on the basis of its relevance, practical work, performance, and growth as a movement. And this verifiability includes being rational, transparent in its functioning and structure, and not having a dogmatic position and approach. The fundamental premise of this movement is that it is the common people who have to accept responsibility for changing their present reality and their society, and producing real, measurable results. So this movement takes responsibility for producing real and measurable results and is bound to be answerable to the process of verification in the minds of the common people; whether they find it real and capable of delivering or not. Another basic premise of this movement is that in today’s world, the means of knowledge, and the material inputs required for translating that knowledge into social reality exist. The human and the material resources are within reach and can be mobilized and organized. And fortunately knowledge, in spite of all the handicaps of our time, is in a continuously increasing and developing mode which is unstoppable. So a guaranteed continuous growth in knowledge is a fundamental asset of this movement. A critical social audit of the potential of the present dynamic knowledge fund makes it clear that man can change himself, his inaction into action and his current position of being ineffective to being effective. In fact, he is capable of becoming decisively effective in transforming society, and the society is certainly capable of being transformed, in reality. This knowledge fund unequivocally informs us that this transformation is possible only if we have individuals who get involved, take responsibility and believe in the potential of their own change and that of society and are then able to produce that change in reality. In other words, they are perfectly capable of overcoming the inertia and the deviation inherent in the other approaches mentioned above.
Thus the critical factor in this approach is the ability of those good human beings—who are not hopelessly tied to the pre-existing approaches, and are presently passive but neutral—to change themselves to adopt the vision of the potential that exists today for real change in both individual and social terms. Where ‘social’ includes a radically better governance, democratic process, and a more productive society with diminishing wastefulness and fissiparous tendencies. The challenge however is to what extent that passive and neutral segment of people can be pulled out of their inert state into an active one which is in accordance with the potential of the times we are living in. It is a question of changing their existing passive mindsets into an active contemporary mindset, or more precisely changing their mental and emotional culture. This would involve an intelligent and not a dogmatic change in their mindset. It is only an intelligent mindset that can convert the masses of the good people into an effective instrument of historical change which is not only possible today but also long overdue. So it really boils down to changing the existing mental and emotional culture of this neutral and passive segment. This is to be the struggle and criterion of this new movement of our time.
It will be the beginning of the process of rebirth of the human potential of our times, existing particularly in the educated urban middle classes. This is why this movement has to be directed towards these classes and has to measure itself at all stages by this criterion, coupled with the above-mentioned vision. To sum up, the building blocks of this movement are the elements of potential, the accumulated growing knowledge fund, and a practical possibility of man changing his emotional as well as intellectual mindset, and culture, as understood through Evolutionary Mentology. In that sense this is a contemporary ideological movement, but not a dogmatic one.