For the canons of good society are, or should be, the same as the canons of art. Form is absolutely essential to it. It should have the dignity of a ceremony, as well as its unreality, and should combine the insincere character of a romantic play with the wit and beauty that make such plays delightful to us.
If democracy, rule by public opinion, is the best hope for earth to reach higher levels of civilization. If we desire dignity and happiness to be within the reach of most of humankind, that every living thing be free to exercise and satisfy all impulses fitting to that species. Then our primary goal must be an atmosphere to perfect the means by which moral opinions are formed. The enduring success of any democracy presupposes a high level of intelligence, creativity and morality on the part of a majority of it`s citizens.
To secure progress and achievements already made it is necessary that leaders and inspirers evolve who reduce corruption and by their creative activity, improve, refine and increase human culture. The "catch 22" being; while we need to improve human nature itself we are a diverse and increasingly intertwined array of human cultures and individuals existing in an ever more delicate biosphere. Any system of ethics which ignores this situation is out of step with our time.
Our world civilization has developed on a multi ethical basis, governed by ethical principles of very different systems which have never been harmonized, but rather are more often in conflict. No one system alone will suffice as the basis of our civilization. One system unmalleable and unchecked by its neighbor, leads to disasters such as war. A universal system unmodified by the recognition of the validity of other systems, must lead to stagnation and decay. Therefore, the great need of our time is some rational and effective interrelation of diverse systems.
The purpose of this book is to make suggestions towards such a mixture, insisting that such a scheme must make two principal demands or prescriptions. First, is a true diversity, consisting in society or family of strong and stable individuals, each sensitive and benevolently sympathetic to the just claims of each member. Secondly, it will prescribe for each individual and group, rights that will enable it to effectively play its proper roll among its fellows. A wholesomely democratic organization, in accordance with the dictates of post-modern aesthetics and required by the experience of beauty.
Diverse Systems of Ethics
To begin there are certain ethical problems confronting the post-modern world and promise to become very rapidly more urgent. They are problems, which will need to be met by moral action on the widest scale and in the near future. Political action, if it is to be carried through successfully and confidently for the settlement of these problems, must conform to principles recognized as fitting and proper. Yet they are problems in the face of which the ethical principals previously accepted by civilized societies give us no sure guidance. This is true of the principles of most civilizations, present and past.
The ethical principles of most civilizations have had much in common, in spite of differences in detail and of emphasis. Compare the Judeo-Christian code with the moral codes of ancient Egypt, Greece or Rome, of China, of Japan, of the Moslem world, of Buddhist peoples or of many tribal peoples. We find that in all these codes the most essential and effective precepts are substantially identical, in so far as they bear upon the personal relations of person to person, within those societies.
To speak the truth, to be mutually helpful and loyal, to be compassionate, to do no violence to the persons or property of our neighbors, to practice moderation and a self-discipline. These are the common stock of ethical precepts, without the cultivation of which, as a strong and effective moral tradition a civilization remains very crude. Various civilizations have emphasized differently these main precepts with various solutions. Each has insisted upon certain detailed applications in a manner peculiar to itself. Such special features of moral code have profoundly affected the course and destiny of each civilization. Such peculiarities of moral codes have played a great part in determining the fates of people and civilizations. Yet the differences as regards personal conduct of one person to another, have been differences of the moral license rather than differences of qualities. In short ethics has been ethics of the individual, within a more or less homogenous group.
Ethics have evolved to regulate conduct between individuals within a group and outline the individual's responsibility toward the group and visa versa. The larger ethical problems outside the individual as member of a societal group have been neglected. Problems arise when one well-defined group comes into active contact with another. One group inevitably endeavors to dominate the other. Especially when one group is more powerful and the other group is a non-represented component of the biosphere. Each claiming rules binding upon the other. In most cases the popular, practical, ethical code by which the mass of human kind has lived is essentially ethno-political. We have seldom sought to apply universal principles to relations of people outside their own group. The only people generally recognized in a full sense are alike fellow-citizens. Everyone else is outside the ethical purview.
In the bio-ethno-diversity of post-modern reality, with its extreme convergence of millions of years of diversification, our world has failed to achieve a synthesis of ethical and political principles with a generally excepted validity.
Since Plato's Republic, ethics and politics were treated as inseparable. Yet these political ethics are severely flawed in their development, by the restriction of looking only at free men of Greek city-states. These national political ethical systems make for extreme conservatism, for national stability and endurance. It seeks to preserve the national type by implanting respect and reverence for national gods and other institutions and also preserving some degree of racial purity. It makes of others aliens, alien to privilege and citizenship.
The modern world has treated ethics and politics as two divided systems. One is a universal individualist and the other a national ethno-political system. China is the paradigm of endurance among nations with its ethical creed, cult of family and hostility toward foreigners. Contrast the Roman Empire with its attempt to assimilate an immense mass of diverse races, creeds and codes into one ethical system. The source of its power and foundation was destroyed.
Systems of national ethics are, by their indigenous nature, incapable of extension to alien peoples. Those that have endured have remained strictly exclusive. The universal systems on the other hand are by character assimilative and missionary. Principally they spread by destroying or supplanting the lesser national codes. Buddhism, Islam and Christianity all spread across diverse areas of the bio-sphere. Any one of them must have seemed destined to supplant all codes.
In each case the multiplicity of contacts of diverse elements of race and culture, crossings and blendings would stimulate immense human productivity. At the same time conserving and stabilizing influences would be removed. Soon the brilliance would dim and inertia would replace vigor. We have continued cycles of rapid expansion followed by stagnation or decay.
When I say conserving influences are missing I distinguish between those that clog progress of the mind and those that respect the past. If conservatism doesn't complement liberalism we end up with race prejudice and national prejudice, ethnocentricity verses dissolution and decay. What we in fact ended up with is the modern era of cosmopolitans. An age guided by pure reason, where passions float on the current of life. We are a society of nations that have accepted the religion of peace and brother hood, yet are constantly at war with each other.