The Society of HumanKind
One of the conclusions of the Treatise on Justice is that adherents of the Society of HumanKind should not seek retribution for the wrongs they may suffer at the hands of others during their mortal lives. Humanity has however, a long tradition of revenge, retaliation, and pre-emptive defence, only rarely meeting hatred and attack with love and forbearance. It is precisely the rarity of the quality of forgiveness which gives it value; causes us to admire those few individuals courageous enough to display it; and inspires us to follow their example.
Given the implications of the Third Axiom that there is no-one and no power in the universe to please or assuage other than ourselves, and the difficulty in controlling the impulse of humankind to strike back at those who cause them harm, how can the Society of HumanKind continue to foster and encourage forgiveness amongst its adherents? Why should it attempt to convince its followers that they should suffer injury without response, if they see an opportunity to be avenged with impunity?
While the practical answer to that question is given in the Treatise on Justice, the moral justification for forgiveness is to be found in the Principle of Progress as it is applied to the issues explored in the Treatise on Peace. By that approach the Society is able to argue that we must always be prepared to forgive those who injure or harm us where that is a requirement for the preservation of the social order on which the co-operation essential to the achievement of the Objective of the Dogma, and consequently the Aim of the Society, vitally depends.
In that connection the Society will be able to point to our past experience and suggest that unrestrained individual revenge and redress directly raises the prospect of an anarchy that would shatter the stability of our society, and destroy all hope for the realisation of its Aim. In advocating forgiveness on these grounds the Society will repeat the oft-repeated claim of these Essays that one of the more powerful and beneficial consequences of the emergence of the Society of HumanKind is to bring about a unity between defensible moral conduct and the self-interest of every individual.
Any confusion about the validity of revenge or the benefits of forgiveness amongst adherents of the Society will be due to a failure to apply the Principles to this aspect of their lives. The Principles point to the need to distinguish between the immediate and ultimate benefits of a forgiving nature. They teach us that while revenge may taste sweet in the moment, it will sour as the damage to our chances of achieving the Aim of the Society emerge.
But the practical difficulties caused by this proposition are formidable, and go far beyond those already discussed. Conformity to the Principles in these matters requires people simultaneously to consider the interests of the Society and the whole of humanity in what they do, as well as the very long term consequences of their actions rather than their immediate advantage. It demands that they should do all this in the heat of the moment, and under conditions of great emotional stress.
It is surely unrealistic to imagine that such exceptional behaviour will suddenly become common, and that all retributive conflict will disappear from human social relations merely and only because the Society of HumanKind has established the Principles as the proper basis for our society. To plan our future on that assumption would be highly irresponsible, for it would be to ignore a long established and deep seated threat to our peace and progress. It is not enough for the Society to depend solely on the beneficial influence of the Principles to eliminate the impulse to revenge from human social life, or even amongst adherents of the Society.
What is needed is an effective means to control and divert the retaliatory response; one that will operate in the ordinary lives of people and form part of their day-to-day social relationships. To that end the Society will need to provide effective and immediately available systems and social structures that will allow a harmless vent to instant anger, while providing those who have been harmed or injured with some credible hope for both redress and justice.
The first part of that requirement will be met by the locally based social support systems that the Society of HumanKind creates. The local structure of the Society should generate a network of community activities developed out of, and loosely centred round, the pursuit of its Aim. It is important therefore, that the Society supplements its direct pursuit of its Aim, Duty and Responsibility, with a variety of more general activities designed to provide informal methods of meeting the wider social needs of its adherents. Those wider arrangements should include a range of social and community associations in which individuals in dispute can get together and be given support and encouragement to reconcile their differences. In that work the authority of the Society and its dedication to the welfare of the whole of humanity enables it to make a useful contribution.
As to the second requirement, that of the provision of a hope for redress and justice, the Treatise on Justice to be found in the first founding book of the Society provides a good guide. On that basis the Society can properly develop forums where actions and activities intended toward further improvement in our social and political systems can be discussed, devised and implemented. Always provided of course, that no contravention of the Conditions of the Dogma results.
But it must also be part of the Responsibility of the Society to teach forgiveness in its pure form directly to its adherents. It should constantly remind them of the need to apply the Principle of Progress to all their relationships. By so doing the Society will ensure that its followers never forget that true redress can only be gained by an achievement of its Aim. As is promised in the Treatises on Peace and Justice, conditions will be then created in which the whole of the conduct of every individual may be examined and analysed in full by every member of humanity, thereby creating an opportunity for all wrongs to be righted.
That ever-present determination to apply the Principles to the life of humanity, will bring the Society and all its adherents to live in the understanding that in the era of the Society of HumanKind our duty to forgive our enemies is no longer an unattainable requirement that we should conform to some supernatural or imposed distortion of our nature and impulses. In the light of the Axioms and Principles it becomes merely a simple obligation to conduct our social relations in ways that serve our own ultimate best interests.
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