The Search for Perfection is Off

Posted on 17 April 2016

The human population currently seems to be in a crisis of control. People are terrified of what the future holds and are therefore scrabbling for all the control they can get.

Cooperation is what’s called for to stave off the effects of a failing economy, and worse, a failing environment. However, cooperation requires trust. Our culture has become one built on distrust, because distrust sells product and makes people manipulable.

What people have been attracted to: absolute answers. The feeling is if you have the answers, you have control.

Religion and spirituality have definitely been used in this way by some people. Some document has the convenient bits taken literally. Life is seen as utterly pre-determined. The good are rewarded and the bad are punished way beyond the degree of their crimes, and it is a simple equation for a Divine Being to determine who is who: your people are the good guys.

Engineering, mathematics, computing and cosmology are appealing to some people because two plus two is always going to equal four. If they can then obliterate anything that introduces chaos like emotions and biology, they feel they have control. Just upload your knowledge into a computer and you’re set. Some people even suggest the elimination of democracy in favour of a technocracy.

I recently read an op/ed article about how Australia shouldn’t have a bill of rights. The argument was that first of all, there’s no way we would get such a document absolutely right. Next, it was argued if two rights came into conflict, both rights would be eliminated in the process.

The author was assuming that such a document must be everlastingly perfect: a biblical document in its own right. He felt such a document should be above question. However the moment it is above question, it becomes tyrannical. Society has no room to be human, compassionate, or to grow. Such a document stops thought and personal responsibility. You don’t have to think for yourself about what is the most compassionate and life-affirming, the document does it for you and you just float along with it not having to care.

The argument about rights in conflict assumes we can create a work where that’s unlikely to happen. The problem is most events where people have experienced negative outcomes are messy. Different rights may have been violated in different ways for different people in the same event. This is why we have courts of law: to negotiate the complexities and nuances of life and justice. Do the courts always get it right? No. But it is still valuable having them ask the questions and search for answers. This does not negate laws or eliminate rights, it merely requires we keep thinking and be prepared to find nuance.

This terrifies people who wonder how are they going to know when they are doing right or wrong? How can they ensure the punishment of those who hurt them? The fellow who wrote the article was terrified that allowing for nuance was just going to ensure only the rich will receive “justice”. For me the answer is we need to socialise the justice system as well, so we are equally part of the journey to ensure public well-being.

We already have examples in democratic societies where rights are taken on thoughtlessly and with religious fervour. The main one is freedom of speech. This has been used to excuse life-threatening behaviour. Few people have stopped to think that we don’t want absolute freedom of speech. We want freedom of political debate and creative expression. We want freedom from harrassment for divergent ideas. We want freedom to speak the truth when it is in the best interests of ourselves, humanity, and the planet. We don’t want under freedom of speech to give someone the right to lie in court. We don’t want freedom of speech to result in cyber-abuse and doxxing, resulting in perhaps assault or suicide.

Nuance is hard to teach children and sometimes just as hard to teach adults, which is why we resort to speaking in absolutes. This doesn’t help in the long run.

If people really want to be as safe as is possible, then we have to give up living in an illusion of knowing and an illusion of control. As messy as they are we have to embrace emotions and learn how to negotiate them in a mature manner. In that way we are better prepared to work with one another. We have to be willing to consider for ourselves what to do in each eventuality that arises in our lives without expectation of easy answers. What comes first is considering the well-being of all parties, and it’s okay to take the time needed to find the best outcome.

Peace and kindness,


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