All people throughout the world are human beings: We each are human beings having a human experience. However while, at base, we are very much the same we are also very different. Between individual to individual we can observe differences, as well as identify similarities. Moreover, individuals living within the same society are more alike—perceiving and experiencing life in a similar way—than those living in very different societies.
Why is this? Surely societal differences are not genetic. It is due in large part to the differences in the system of values, beliefs and behavioral norms—in short cultural differences—that guide and contextualize experience in a given society. Living in different societies leads to different ways of being-in-the-world, and thus to different perceptions and experiences.
And so why is this so? Through their formal institutions or human activity systems societies advance different beliefs: about how the world works; about the nature of people; and about the role of people in society.
Human activity systems produce or exhibit the behavior that they are designed to produce and exhibit. If this was not so, why would anyone bother to design one!
In short, we pre-figure our experiences by the very beliefs and values we enact. We enfold beliefs about us when designing our institutions (e.g. economic, educational) and (at minimum) correlatively our life unfolds consistent with what has been enfolded. People in society therefore structure their life to be consistent with what is largely shared by those in society. In other words, what unfolds is what has been enfolded.
In most industrialized societies a classic illustration of this enfolded-unfolding dynamic is revealed in the economic system. What has been designed is the belief that maximizing self-interest gain is the foundational driving force in human action—homo economicus. Accordingly it is not a surprise to see people structuring life in society in pursuit of their own material gain.
As a result most claim that people are competitive by nature, that self-interest is our nature. Acting on this belief they create more human activity systems—such as business organizations—designed to leverage our capacity for self-serving behavior and consumption. Unfortunately such a belief represents a very limited and limiting view of people—yes of you and of me.
Yes people have the potential to be very self-serving and competitive and we also have the potential to be very caring, compassionate and collaborative as well. If you doubt this look to any human catastrophe (e.g. Chilean mine collapse, Thailand tsunami, etc) and you will see people lending a helping hand not for self-serving reasons but for feeling care and concern for people they have no connection with apart from a shared humanness.
As consciously aware beings we enact and participate in the creation of reality. Our conscious awareness also affords us with the ability for: higher-level thinking (e.g. critical thinking, creative thinking); higher levels of learning (e.g. learning to improve learning, double-loop learning); and thinking beyond the moment. If we wish care and concern for all human beings to unfold in our world—to be the prevalent way-of-being—then don’t you think we ought to enfold it into our human activity systems, especially our economic and educational systems? You see we aren’t destined to be self-serving or harmful to others any more than we are destined to be compassionate and helpful. It is our choice how to be in this world. I think it is time that we choose to use our capabilities for the betterment of all.