At some point a decision must be made and a stance taken to alter the unjust components of the system we are part of, or injustice and harm will continue to flourish as a result of our failure to act. It does matter how we got to this situation. It is important who was and is responsible for the suffering that people are compelled to undergo. However, regardless of who the guilty parties are the reality is that we all are the ones responsible for permitting the injustices to continue or for developing solutions to the problems inherent in our system. I believe it is our duty to do more than what is expected of us by the standards of a system that permits nearly ubiquitous suffering because the status quo is synonymous with more of the same. I believe it is not only possible, but achievable for us to improve on the systems we have inherited and the history of countless generations of humanity will confirm this conviction. It is true that it will not be easy. It is also true that we will most likely make many mistakes as we experiment with alternatives. However, if we do nothing different than what we have been doing then there is no chance that we will improve and people will continue to suffer undo and unjust conditions. Yet, should we but believe that at least something minimally better is possible and provide the most meager amount effort to see it through, then—and I am staking my life on this—we will see and feel revolutionary changes and evolution in human culture. A decision will be made and a stance taken regardless of whether it is to do nothing different, or to seek beneficial alternatives.
Genetically speaking, human being have not evolved for millennia. It has been our culture that has evolved, which has enabled us to adapt to our environments and to thrive as a species. However, evolution is not merely something that happens all on its own. Rather, evolution only occurs when an organism must respond to adversity in order to survive. Evolution however, is not a genetic mutation that occurs to a specific organism within its own biological life-span. If the organism is not predisposed to survive the factors of an environment then it simply will not be able to survive. However, if there is enough genetic variation within a population, and if some of those variants are predisposed to overcome or be unaffected by those factors, then they will have a chance of survival. Culture is a strategy for survival, but it is unlike genetic variation in that it can be adapted within an organism’s biological life-span. Like genetic variation, culture is a response to environmental factors and it has evolved over time to adjust to contemporary circumstances and conditions. The evolution of our culture has resulted in the formation of the systems by which our society operates, much like biological systems have adapted to circumstances. The relevant components of the analogy between genetic evolution and cultural evolution are sound and lends itself to this conclusion: as a democratic society we are faced with a set of factors that we as a political community are compelled to adapt to for the sake of survival, but instead of the variation or mutation happening by necessity it must freely be chosen and enacted.
A decision must be made and a stance taken if our culture is to evolve to meet the circumstances and conditions questioning our ability to survive as a species. Segregation was once a strategy that was perhaps necessary for smaller groups to survive. Today, segregation is primarily a tool of those who have power and privileges to maintain the status quo while others suffer the unfair distribution. Furthermore, those with power could share in this distribution without even remotely coming close to the level of subsistence. Since segregation is no longer a strategy that is necessary for survival it is also no longer a necessary cultural practice because the survival of those who maintain the segregation is not in question. Jim Crow was shown to be an unnecessary strategy and that it was in addition an unjust practice. Much like the wall that Donald Trump is proposing will be shown to be unnecessary for survival and unjust. We must be willing to critically analyze our practices for the merit they have in so far as they have the potential to assist us in surviving. The choices that we have to make, cannot and in fact should not be made arbitrarily, but rather, they should be investigated for their practical and moral qualities. The decision which will guide the stance we take that will also be made democratically, will only be an improvement on what has come before if people believe, and that it is fact true that their contributions matter.
The principle test of a system should be whether or not it achieves the goals for which it was implemented. If the system does achieve the ends for which it exists and it continues to contribute to our survival then chances are good that we should maintain that system for so long as it continues to satisfy these conditions. However, if the system does not achieve the ends for which it exists or it does not contribute to our survival, then chances are good that we should cease the practice entirely and seek an alternative. For example, the system of prisons is prefaced on the explicit goals of rehabilitation and deterrence, and the implicit goal of retribution. The prison system has a recidivism rate of nearly 95% and that means that almost every single person who enters into the adult penitentiary system at some point returns to prison. This reveals that the prison system fails at the explicit goal of rehabilitation. The United States has but 5% of the world’s population and yet 25% of the world’s prison population and save for the last few year has witnessed an exponential increase in population density. Therefore, the prison system is also failing at the explicit goal of deterrence. Lastly, when a person is indicted for a crime it is the public the plaintiff and the contest is between the individual accused and the state. This entirely removes the person who was harmed so far from the process that often times not even an apology from the person responsible is possible to the person who was harmed. The system also fails at its implicit goal of retribution. Yet, the prison system as it exists today has an ulterior motivation which has nothing to do with these other goals and that is profit for corporations. This hidden goal of the system is not something that the public has agreed to and are mostly ignorant of. In addition, this goal also undermines most of what the public agrees the criminal justice system should be aimed at, which is entailed within both the explicit and implicit goals of the prison system. Therefore, since the prison system fails on all counts and in addition fails to be consistent with democratic principles, this is a system that should cease to be a component of our culture.
On the other hand, although there are problems with it, the system of education when it is not interrupted by the prison system, does in fact contribute to our survival and achieves it goals. The explicit goal of the education system to prepare citizens for a diverse array of roles within society. These roles are vital to the functioning of society and thus, for the survival of the members of that society. Reading and mathematics are basic requirements for survival of the members of most societies and the citizens of the United States in particular. Education is a system that imparts these skills unto the people and thus transmits important characteristics of our society. True, that the system often fails many and these failures can often be measured along the lines of class and race. This while revealing a shortfall in the system also reveals the relevant aspects for improvement, not wholesale cessation. Nonetheless, it is apparent that when analyzing our systems, that is, our strategies for survival we may discover that they are or can function to meet the needs of our civilization, or they may not. It is at this junction that a decision must be made and a stance taken by the people about how to respond: to remain stagnant, or to evolve; that will be the question.
There is more than enough blame to go around the world multiple times over and while it will at some point be the right time to hold particular individuals responsible. However, at this moment that will neither help us to achieve justice, now to improve the conditions of the lives of those who are suffering. Responsibility aside for the moment, the truth is that we are most likely not going to make this world a better place factionalized. It will most likely require all of us to fulfill some role, many of them vital to our cultural evolution because of our experience and knowledge. At the same time, it will be incumbent upon many of the people who are in positions of power to analyze the systems that are in place and in practice that limit or completely bar cultural evolution. When practices or structures like these are discovered it will be their responsibility to disassemble them and to get the necessary help from the people most impacted and affected by these practices and structures to create new strategies so that positive and beneficial change can begin to take form.
Our world is turning upside down on itself and the consequences of our actions are quickly catching up to us and are going to leave us with a set of conditions that are going to be nearly impossible to address unless we do what we can to adapt to them before them emerge. Climate Change is a latent phenomenon that grows exponentially as the factors are compounding over time. There is still yet time to make the necessary cultural transitions to adequately address this threat, but time is running short to evade the impacts of the negative feedback loop that is ahead of us. Countries are at odds economically and militarily, and the tension is so tight that one slight move in the wrong direction and the entire structure will come cascading down. The victims of such an atrocity will not be the people who make the decisions, but rather, the general public of our societies who are merely attempting to get by relatively well. It may seem as though my sense of urgency is unfounded, but that is only because our energy sources have not been tapped, desertification has not destroyed most of the arable land we depend upon for food, and borders are not being flooded beyond capacity with millions of starving and terrified human beings seeking anything better than what they are fleeing. When these conditions begin to be felt, then the economic constriction will follow and the protectionism that is a major component of our cultures will be expressed with the military. Those who have not fallen victim to the former calamities, will be present for the latter.
None of this is necessary though and it can all be avoided should we choose to make a decision and take a stand on experimenting with alternative strategies. It is imperative that we stop thinking and acting in the realm of the short-term, and from the perspective of the micro-personal, and began thinking an acting in the realm of the long-term and from the perspective of the macro-personal. We only have one world to live on and we have to share with all the people and other species that are here. Because we have the capacity for rational thought and forethought, it is our duty and our responsibility to be responsible stewards and wise planners. The conditions and the factors that require evolution are present or soon will be. We have the unique opportunity to choose what and who we evolve into as oppose to either facing extinction or evolving into something unwanted by necessity. Culture can evolve by choice, it does not have to be compelled. Whatever the choice of the people is though, it is us, all of us who are responsible for these decisions and the actions that they will guide