ESSAYS
on
The Society of HumanKind

  THE POOR

SUMMARY
Social difference is dismissed as either natural to, or inherent in, the human species . The attitude of the Society toward such differences where they nevertheless exist is then discussed. It is concluded that the Society has obligations to the poor and disadvantaged which are limited only by its commitment to its Aim. It is also found that the enduring poor gain and enjoy moral superiority over their more fortunate contemporaries.

The moral stance of the Society of HumanKind on social difference in human society rests on the Principles of Unity and Peace. Those Principles, and other implications of the Axioms and Dogma, are applied to this aspect of our social lives in the Treatise on the Individual. The Treatise dismisses the possibility that social difference is natural to the human condition or inherent in our species. The conclusion must be that such differences as do exist in our societies, whether based on standing, status, power or on any other criterion, are a consequence of our own actions, or of our inability to control all those factors in our environment that have an influence on our social life.

The uncertainty of all human knowledge and understanding, set out in the Treatise on Knowledge, reinforces that conclusion. The limit on our ability to understand ourselves, or grasp all that affects us in our environment described in that Treatise is such that it leaves open the possibility that we may never be able to determine fully, or control effectively, the structure and outcome of our relationships with each other. In effect, the Treatise suggests that we may not have the faculties or abilities required to eliminate difference between individuals within our societies.

In sum, the first founding book of the Society, the 'Foundations', rejects difference between individuals as an inherent or natural condition of human society while accepting that it may nevertheless be unavoidable. However, 'Foundations' does not then go on to discuss the question raised by that conclusion, i.e. that of the attitude of the Society toward that aspect of our social order where it exists. That issue is examined in this Essay.

It is best to begin the discussion by repeating the inference drawn from the Axioms, Dogma and Principles in the Treatise on the Individual. Acceptance of the Axioms and choice of the Dogma removes the possibility of there being any necessary correlation between the social position of an individual and their merit or value. The Society will reject any implicit judgement of the worth of any individual based on their occupation of any particular position in our social hierarchy during life. Final adjudication on that issue must always be deferred to the period beyond the achievement of the Objective of the Dogma.

However, as has already been noted, that stance does not address the problem of the attitude the Society of HumanKind and its membership should take toward social difference. In particular, it provides no advice or guidance on whether they should tolerate hierarchical systems of social relationships or willingly accept any social position other than one of their own choosing.

To the first of those issues the Principle of Progress applies. It requires adherents of the Society to accept the need for a level of social order which is compatible with the maintenance of the Conditions of the Dogma, a demand also directly derived from an acceptance of the Axioms and choice of the Dogma. When the effect of the Principle of Unity is added to that of Progress it is clear that social difference can properly be tolerated by those who choose the Dogma. The Society and its adherents can therefore accept such distinctions where they can be seen to be necessary to maintain the level of social order required by the Conditions of the Objective of the Dogma and the Aim of the Society.

If however, human society ever progresses to the point at which social difference is no longer necessary for those purposes then, at that moment, all followers of the Dogma, and thus every adherent of the Society of HumanKind, will cease to regard difference and disadvantage as justified. They will come to that conclusion even if those features of our society remain unavoidable due to our inability, identified by the Treatise on Knowledge, to effect the changes in our social structures that would finally remove them.

That stance of the Society has a consequence for the second issue raised earlier - that of the attitude of members of the Society to their own social position. While social distinctions and disadvantages do remain either necessary or unavoidable to the maintenance of the Conditions of the Dogma, they must be endured by all who choose the Aim of the Society. That requirement on adherents to the Society arises from the Principle 3.2. Every adherent of the Society of HumanKind should therefore be prepared to accept and tolerate whatever social position it falls to them occupy in life.

However, that tolerance should not preclude them from striving to change or improve their social standing or advantage, provided always that they do not breach the Principle of Peace in consequence. The Society requires all its adherents to confine any self-serving effort they may make to improve their own lot strictly within the limits set by their overriding obligation to discharge their Responsibility to further its Aim. Which, in simple terms, means that they should not put the stability of our social order at risk by any attempt they may make to change their social, political or economic standing.

By an extension of that individual precept it follows that the only acceptable justification for any purposeful effort by the Society as a whole to change a pattern of hierarchical relationships, or the social structures that support such distinctions within any human society, arises from its obligation to pursue its Aim. Only the pursuit of that vital purpose will allow the Society, in rare and unusual circumstances, to seek to use its authority to bring about a change in the degree of difference or disadvantage as between individuals or groups within any community. Even then such action by the Society should only emerge as an incidental adjunct to actions designed and clearly intended to achieve its Aim or discharge its Responsibility to its successors.

The negative form of that argument can be set out to reinforce the point being made. None of the exceptions mentioned in this Essay will justify a forceful change in either the position of an individual or the structure of any society when it is undertaken solely for the purpose of increasing, removing or reducing social difference as such. The limitation on the range of choice available to the Society in these matters is set by the Principle of Progress. The Society and its adherents should always tolerate an unjust or unequal social system, or a position of personal disadvantage, rather than risk our future by unnecessarily tampering with the continued stability of the society on which our survival and progress, and hence the achievement of the Aim of the Society, depends.

It will be apparent that the privileged in any particular social system will more easily accept these restrictions and requirements than those who may be disadvantaged by them. It is on the poor and dispossessed of our communities, however that disadvantage may be defined, that the weight of the discipline of the Principles will fall most heavily, a burden which will be especially irksome to adherents of the Society who may find themselves amongst the disadvantaged. They will clearly appreciate that their endurance and tolerance will benefit, not simply themselves, but equally those who might seem to be their oppressors. They will know that the whole of humanity will be the beneficiaries if their sufferings contribute to a realisation of the Aim of the Society.

What comfort then, can the Society of HumanKind offer the poor? First, the Society can support the disadvantaged by an affirmation and proclamation of the moral credit they gain by their endurance of suffering during life for the benefit of others. The Society will value their patience under an unjust imbalance in human society, recognising and appreciating it as a proper effort to discharge their wider obligation to protect the Conditions of the Dogma. It will acknowledge and proclaim that their tolerance of disadvantage contains an element of altruism and self-sacrifice that justifies a position of moral superiority by the poor over their more fortunate fellows.

Secondly, the Society can comfort the disadvantaged by placing a constant injunction on all its more fortunate members to honour and respect the enduring poor, and always have in mind their sacrifice made for us all. The outward expression of that obligation must be an acknowledgement by all adherents that they should give thanks to the poor for their endurance in foregoing all the comforts, benefits and securities available in our present social life in order to allow the whole of humanity to gain the apotheosis which will follow a realisation of the Aim of the Society of HumanKind.

However, the Society and its members should not otherwise ignore the suffering of the poor, nor fail to mitigate their privations in ways that do not conflict with the maintenance of a social order permissible under the Principle of Progress. The Principle of Peace imposes a general injunction on the Society that it should foster the full development of every individual as a requirement for the achievement of the Objective of the Dogma, and hence the realisation of its Aim. Accordingly, the Society is under as clear an obligation never to forget the poor, nor ever cease to have their individual welfare, progress and development in mind, as it is to promote and protect the stability of our society.

All an application of the Principle of Progress to this question implies is that the concern of the Society for the improvement of the conditions of the poor should always be limited by the need to protect the social stability and continuity on which the survival and progress of our species depend. There are some difficult distinctions to be made here, and much for the Councils and Committees of the Society to ponder.

Finally, the poor for their part should draw comfort from the teachings of the Society in the Treatise on Morality and elsewhere, on the subject of our salvation and our life following the realisation of its Aim. From that source will come an understanding that to endure a life of poverty and privation in life is to accumulate wealth and standing in our immortal epoch, when all the moral debts and credits of our mortal era can be fully and finally reconciled.

 
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©Lawrence Thornton Roach
2000-2002 AD