When we talk about what is happening in our lives that is outside our personal experience, in other words when we talk about society in general or in particular, the issue of what should be done or not done is almost always raised. We talk about all this because in most cases it affects us directly. And of all the questions that should not be asked, the most important is the following: But how are we going to pay for it?
That is the key question that reveals where we stand. Just for a moment, imagine all the important historical situations where asking that question would have changed the entire course of human progress for the worse. All our inventions, from the wheel to our trips to the moon, have had a cost that was difficult to calculate, and because that absurd question was NOT asked, today we have all the benefits of that progress.
Well, the social cost is exactly the same. Bringing all of society without distinctions of any kind to a place of stability in terms of economy, education, housing, transportation, nutrition, etc. is of enormous importance for the welfare of any society. Well-being, balance and development are only possible if we do not ask that question, but instead ask: How are we going to achieve it? What if we study how others have achieved it? When do we start?
If we want to cross a river to an ideal place on the other side, we do not ask ourselves how much it will cost. On the contrary, we begin the work of building a bridge without even worrying about the cost, since all the possible benefits of doing so are in plain sight.
That attitude is called “vision.” Vision and the lack of it are what often determine the situations we find ourselves in, both individually and as a society. It is when we lack vision that we ask questions like, “but how are we going to pay for it?”
At the base of this ominous question we find fear. Whenever fear speaks for us, the result is either inaction or calculated, disproportionate or fanatical action. It is curious to notice that this little question that we ask without vision is almost always asked when we are talking about social spending, and almost never when speaking of an individual expense or an expense that directly produces benefits. And when it is not perceived as such, then we appeal to the question that should not be asked. In simple words, this is called selfishness, or if you like, social selfishness.
Selfishness is incapable of producing visionaries, and is therefore a defect that brings with it a flat, fearful and suffering mentality, a mentality that sticks to objects, profits, expectations of security, exploitation of others, etc. Selfishness is incompatible with social welfare because selfish people do not perceive others as part of themselves; they do not perceive society as multidimensional, as part of our humanity. Instead seeing the other as a reflection and an extension of oneself, they regard “the other” with distrust, fear, suspicion and contempt.
Paradoxically, we live an historical moment when these mentalities have been installed in power, first in economic power and increasingly in political power. Many of these rulers are businessmen, as they call themselves, but they certainly embody that selfish mentality that we are talking about. They rule for their families and their small circle of friends. They are characters without vision, without social awareness and without any interest in obtaining it. We will not go far with them – that is for sure.
It is actually possible that this whole system in which we are currently living is not going to exist tomorrow. But it does exist today and it is important to understand it fully. It is the prevailing system of the historical moment in which we find ourselves and which, whether we like it or not, we are part of.
In the near future we may not need rulers because we will understand the need to govern ourselves. We will not need businessmen because the economy will depend not on businessmen but on us. We will not need a justice system that colludes with big business. And if we achieve real cooperation, where the sources of production are in the hands of many and work and profits are structured as equal parts of an economic whole, we will not need entrepreneurs.
Then science and technology will be at the service of the human being and not of those who have temporarily appropriated what truly belongs to the whole. It is possible for power in the hands of a few to be transformed into a collective and intelligent power that does not need to exploit others, that does not need to discriminate, that does not need a top-down organization to function. All this and much more can be envisioned without any problem, as long as small and selfish questions are not asked.
And what will happen then with these little souls, without any vision? They will probably be transformed, enlarged and adapted to the new circumstances. They will probably lose their fear and overcome themselves internally.
And why would they do such a thing? The simplest answer is that the new society will not have money as its central value, but rather the human being, and the deepest needs and aspirations of the human being.