This section completes the first founding book of the Society of HumanKind. It has a structure that emerged only while as it was being created. 'Foundations' begins with the Axioms - exact and specific statements of universal application; and ends with this Discourse - general, not to say vague, comments applicable only to its author. Each succeeding section, as I can now see, follows a progression of increasingly general statements about ever smaller aspects of our lives.
Writing this book has been an exhausting effort of years. I now know what is meant by the description I once heard of how a work of art comes to be on public view. It is not that it has been completed. It is just that it has been abandoned. I also better understand the often heard claim that creative works tend to develop a life and consequences of their own, a view Professor Sir Karl Popper extended to include social institutions. This book bears only a remote resemblance to the document I set out to write. It is much the better for it.
But I must say that its tendency to go its own way has had some unexpected effects. I notice now that there seems to be a definite three fold rhythm in it. Three Axioms (there have been four and two in earlier drafts), three Principles (there were six up to quite a late stage), and nine Treatises (in a section which just stopped when I felt I had said all I wanted to). Each Principle is in the form of three statements, and the Dogma consists of three propositions. Even membership of the Society of HumanKind is tenable in three categories.
There is no particular reason for that pattern as far as I am aware. It is certainly not the result of a deliberate design on my part. My skills as a writer do not extend to that kind of subtly. All I can say is that it just seems to have happened. Indeed I can now re-read my book and see and feel other things in it that I hadn't realised were there, which shows how little I foresaw the eventual form of the work.
I see nothing mysterious in this effect, no hidden power guiding my hand as I write (or rather type). It is just that the process of writing the book has been a true exploration of the consequences of the Axioms - a journey through uncharted territory into the unknown. Since I did not know when I started where to go or what route to follow, it is not altogether surprising that the result is sometimes as fresh and interesting to me as I hope it is to my readers.
In a way, that exemplifies how I would summarise my reaction to the book as I now re-read it. It seems to me to be pervaded with uncertainty. I feel I have described a world in which nothing at all is certain any more - except, perhaps, my own uncertainty. On reflection, I realise that when I decided to abandon the God of my childhood I first sought another certainty on which to base my life. My failure to find it finally drove me to consider the unthinkable; that none existed. Once through that barrier I did not find the open air beyond it terrifying and chaotic as I expected and others predicted. I found it liberating and even exhilarating. I came to understand that fear of the unknown had shuttered me in a closed world from which I had escaped into a new freedom. With all my horizons gone I found I could move in any direction and for the first time choose my fate for myself. I did so, and this book emerged.
In that process I think I also learned true humility. In the limitless spaces created by the Axioms there is no scale against which to measure the value of any individual. Let me illustrate that point in the clearest way I know. Suppose, just for the sake of discussion, that the publication of this book actually results in the establishment of the Society of HumanKind. To take the illustration to its extreme, suppose also that, in due time, the Aim of the Society is achieved. At that moment how will my contribution to that momentous event be assessed? How will it be compared to that of others?
My answer begins with question. How will the contribution of Alan Sugar be assessed? "Who", you may well ask, "is Alan Sugar?" depending on when and where these words are read. Well, for the benefit of those who may not be familiar with my milieu, Mr. Sugar is (or was) the proprietor and main instigator of Amstrad Consumer Electronics plc. That is the company which supplied the Amstrad PCW8512 word processor (and subsequently the Amstrad PC) on which this book was initially composed and written. I doubt that I would ever have begun this kind of book without computerised word-processing. Even a slight change in any part of its interlocking sections means that the whole work has to be extensively reworked. I have written and rewritten this book, back and forth, up and down, over and over again, each change generating further changes in a cycle I sometimes feared would never end. With word processing it is possible (just!). Without it I doubt that I would ever have got down to the task, let alone have completed it. Proof of that statement can be found in the fact that I had the Society in contemplation for many years. I only began serious work on it however, after Mr. Sugar had produced an efficient machine with a sufficient capacity at a price I could afford.
So to return to my original question, how do you compare Alan Sugars' contribution to the appearance of this book (and to any of the consequences that might follow from it) with mine? As I write he doesn't even know about me and my writings, although I hope he soon will. I think however that, if he wants to, he will be able to claim that my books could not have appeared without his contribution. And if you allow his claim, what about my parents? Or the man who taught me to type? Or my wife Sandra, and my family and friends who indulged me in my solitary obsessions? Or the originators of the LocoScript word-processing system with which I began? Or finally, Denise Holmes, friend and collaborator, who designed and created the world-wide web-site that solved the otherwise impossible problem of getting the books out to those who might need them?
Each made a contribution, and however small some might think their input compared to mine (or others), each has a valid claim to have been indispensable to the final appearance of the Society of HumanKind. So I hope you will now see how I learned humility and the meaning of the equality of all humanity that follows from an acceptance of the Axioms and Dogma. For my part all I will claim is that I have done my bit in the appearance of the Society, and that I have honestly and faithfully applied whatever abilities I have to that task. I leave it to others to do the same, and shall ignore any attempt to make meaningless comparisons.
Incidentally, I also came to think that perhaps belief in a planned or preordained future for humanity was actually the source of the discord and inequality that had first shaken my belief in God and his competitors. I had originally assumed that those poisons in our society arose from an innate tendency of our species to compare ourselves with others of our kind, and so make judgements about the relative worth or value of different individuals. As I worked through the implications of the Axioms I came to broader conclusions. I realised, among many other things, that a view of the universe based on the idea that there was some kind of plan for our species, be it that of an omnipotent creator or the forces of history or whatever, can lead in some nasty directions. It is, for instance, only a short step to wondering about the relationship of each individual to that plan. And to conclude perhaps, that there are different relationships for different kinds of people, whether distinguished by origins, class, age, gender or even skin colour. Thankfully, an acceptance of the Axioms removes the need to make such comparisons, as well as leaving no basis whatsoever for that kind of speculation.
Let me finish this part of my Discourse on a more serious note. I want to take this chance to say, just for the record, that if the Society of HumanKind does emerge in the form I have set out in the Ordinances, I intend to apply myself to the publication and distribution of this and any other books I may write, and to whatever discussions, exchanges, talks or lectures may arise from them. In the unlikely event that maintaining myself in that activity generates sufficient surplus money, I shall found a fund to further the growth of human abilities, skills and knowledge in some way. I make these statements in accordance with the spirit of the Ordinances. I accept the right of any Elder of the Society to ask questions about my private affairs and to get honest answers to them. I do so despite the fact that I really will refuse to accept any office in the Society, and shall be content with honorary recognition as its Founder.
That is not an announcement meant to be taken as indicating its opposite as is the practice in some communities, and as could possibly be concluded by a certain highly convoluted approach to a reading of the Ordinances. I hope that the Society will develop a rule of practice by which any mention of any kind of attitude toward the possibility of membership of any of the Committees or Councils of the Society will be regarded as a disqualification from consideration for election to them. My remarks here will therefore have that permanent effect on me.
With all that out of the way let me now talk about what the book is not about. To approach that subject from the right angle I need to say a few words in preparation.
One of the things that happened while this book was being written was that it became more and more closely focused on our moral and social life, and on the possibility of the establishment of the Society of HumanKind. I am aware however, that there may be other implications to be drawn from the Axioms in other fields of knowledge, and indeed, perhaps even other possible moral responses to a choice of the Dogma. That feeling is strongest in relation to the Second and Third Axioms. Taken together they seem to me to free each of us to be masters of our own fate, if only to the extent that we have the ability to control those factors in our environment (including the consequences of our own actions) that affect our lives. I think that proposition has ramifications that extend far beyond our moral and social decisions. However, I have had neither the space nor the inclination to explore them in this book.
What I do say however, and at quite frequent intervals, is that one of the implications of the Axioms is that we cannot foresee future problems in our social life. To me that makes sense, but I am now conscious that I have used the word 'problem' in a special way. Obviously if we anticipate a difficulty, for instance by noticing a significant permanent change in our climate from which we conclude that there is a strong possibility that our crops may fail, then that is a problem with which we can plan to cope. However, that is not the kind of event I mean when I use the word 'problem' in this book. In this context a problem is not just a troublesome activity that requires planning or concerted action. It must be taken to mean an unexpected or unforeseeable difficulty. I hope I don't have to prove to anyone that an unexpected event cannot be predicted. It must surely be enough to note that unexpected problems and unintended consequences of our actions are part of the fabric of human life. They give words like drama and crisis their meaning and place in our languages.
After that long diversion I will now return to my theme. Because I want to say is that my book cannot hope to produce solutions to problems that will only arise in the future. It cannot therefore, remove the burden and responsibility of meeting and solving life's problems from the shoulders of humanity. Each generation must face life as it finds it and solve the problems of its own time. In that connection you should note that even difficulties that can be anticipated may still be unforeseeable problems in the sense the word is used in this book. By way of illustration may I say that I am bound to leave to my successors in time the little (?) problem of deciding who (or what) qualifies for membership of our species and/or for rescue from oblivion when the moment for the implementation of the Aim of the Society of HumanKind is reached. I wish them well with the decision and regret that I have no advice to offer. Which, the careful reader will now realise, is the line I have taken in the Treatise on Morality.
What the book also does not describe is a detailed code of individual morality, or any set of rules to cover the kind of personal conduct that falls short of interfering with the rights of others, or of posing a risk to our social order. What I have in mind here are standards of honesty and truthfulness, of consideration for others and respect for their privacy, beliefs etc. All those attributes which used to be regarded as the mark of a civilised human being. This is actually a startling omission. As you will all find when the Aim of the Society of HumanKind is realised, one of my principal motives for writing this book was a growing perception of an increasing lack of consideration for others in my world. Indeed I was greatly troubled by the emergence of a generation of human beings who seemed to have no understanding of even the need to be considerate, let alone any of the necessary skills.
Yet despite my determination to lay a foundation for just such a personal moral code, I found I could not do so from the Axioms. The Treatise on Morality simply says that we are responsible for any moral code we may adopt. We can't say we are obeying orders since the Axioms preclude the possibility of there being anyone available to give them. All the Treatise can offer in the way of guidance on these matters is to say that if we choose the Dogma our moral rules should not conflict with the achievement of its Objective. But that is not advice on which moral code an individual should follow. It is merely a method of narrowing down the range of options if such a choice needs to be made.
I realised that this was a gap in my work only when I came to the writing of this Discourse. The lateness of my discovery provided the clue to my eventual understanding of the omission. I had not noticed the absence of a personal moral code because I had assumed that the Treatises on Justice, Morality and Relationships had covered it. The common assumption in all of them is that fear of the opinion of the rest of our species is a sufficient motive for living a good life, both during our mortal existence and in the period of our history that will follow the achievement and implementation of the Aim of the Society,. That sanction certainly works for me because whenever I now have any dealings with anyone else I am conscious of the possibility that at some time in the future I will have to account to that person for what I do. And I will have to do so under circumstances in which he (or she) will be able to examine for themselves my every action and perhaps even my thoughts.
Let me try to illustrate the way I think that sanction on human behaviour will work, using my favourite method of the discussion of an extreme example. Suppose for some reason one man feels that the moral code he is following justifies him in imprisoning and torturing another, perhaps even ending by killing him in a particularly brutal and agonising way. At the reunification of our species the torturer will have to explain his actions, not to some independent judge or some abstract entity, but to his victim. He will have to convince the man who actually suffered and died at his hands that his torment and death were appropriate and justified. I cannot imagine how the victim's questions can be answered, especially since there is no possibility of lying or concealment when every moment and place in history can be exhaustively discussed and examined. And the 'court' before which this 'trial' between torturer and tortured will be conducted will be the whole of humanity with whom the torturer will have to spend eternity. So it will be with all our actions, no matter how slight and no matter how secret we may think they are.
For me that provides an entirely sufficient motivation to ensure that whatever I do will be done for the best (that is the most defensible) reasons. You will note however, that the sanction being applied is the opinion of others of my species, and my desire to stand well in their eyes. It has no external (to me) basis. Not everyone is like me, however. Some people may be willing to live totally selfishly, (which can be defined in Axiomatic terms as accepting the possibility that the Objective of the Dogma will be achieved but nevertheless deciding to make no contribution to that endeavour, nor any preparation for that event). They may thereby earn, and perhaps deserve eternal contempt and disdain from the rest of humanity, but they will not need to worry about their personal standards of conduct in life. I could not imagine anyone being willing to accept that penalty, and therefore initially failed to see that my work had not resulted in the establishment of a code of personal morality.
I now recognise that I cannot do so from the Axioms. I have therefore, to accept that, beyond the general rules set out in the Treatise on Relationships, my book does not lay down any universal code of personal conduct. Nor does it provide any means to force anyone to justify what they do to anyone else. I am bound to concede that, in the end, it is a matter for each individual to decide how they live their own life, and what they can or cannot justify to those who may be affected by their actions.
My only comfort is that, in the main, systems of belief preceding the writing of this book also failed to provide any effective method to stop people making their own decisions in these matters if they were determined to do so, and were prepared to accept the consequences. In short, I have to acknowledge that all I can do, and indeed all I have tried to do in this book, is to provide a framework on which people can build a moral life if they so choose. The decision whether or not to make use of my works rests, as it always has, with the individual.
On that last point let me return to an idea I touched on at the start of this part of my Discourse. There I mentioned the possibility of there being moral responses to a choice of the Dogma other than a decision of join the Society of HumanKind. Only during the first writing of this Discourse did I recognise that a choice of the Dogma alone is not of itself sufficient to create the powerful sanction on individual moral behaviour that I have been describing throughout my book. Only at that late stage did I begin to think about the possibility that someone might choose the Dogma and then not go on to subscribe to the Aim of the Society and hence create the expectation that at some time in the future the whole of humanity will be reunited outside the constraints of time. Someone who stops at the choice of the Dogma will have no reason to fear the prospect of facing the judgement of their peers in person. So it is not the achievement of the Objective of the Dogma, but rather the possibility of the realisation of the Aim of the Society of HumanKind that is the main force behind my moral prescriptions, by its introduction of the prospect of a direct and personal accountability for their moral conduct into the lives of members and adherents. To choose the Objective of the Dogma will lead to a good life, but it is the decision to join the Society that adds the carrot of a prospective of an eternal life and the stick of a powerful sanction against misconduct. I will leave the reader to imagine the range and scope of the effects on my earlier writings of that realisation, in terms of their redrafting and reworking!
As I come towards the end of this Discourse let me return to the theme with which I began; to the subject of our uncertainty. I have said that my thinking has led me to describe a world in which nothing is certain, not even the foundations on which we must seek to build our knowledge of ourselves and our universe. I have no doubt that there will be some readers of this book who will reject it on those grounds alone. For myself I have taken great comfort from another subsequent discovery. During the composition of this work I found that a principle of uncertainty now underpins the most advanced developments in theories of mathematics and quantum physics. I hope therefore, that outright rejectionists of my ideas will be few.
But before they finally close their minds against the ideas I have presented, let me ask them to consider what they think the benefits of certainty to be? For my part I have come to realise that I had taken it for granted that certainty was a 'good thing' to have in your thinking, almost a definition in fact of a 'good' set of ideas. Well, I have come to doubt it. I now believe that the illusion of certainty leads to many evils. It is only those who are certain they are right who are able to justify the silencing and suppression of those who disagree with them. It is the certainty of salvation that drives people to blow themselves to pieces provided they can take a sufficient number of 'unbelievers' with them. It is the certainty of superiority that enables one group of humans to justify the enslavement of another. And it is certainty that restricts human curiosity by dismissing some lines of thought as irrational or impossible.
Yet our history is full of examples of ideas and beliefs that in their time were taken to be so self-evidently true as to be beyond doubt or dispute, and which were later found to be laughable nonsense. With that evidence before us, how can we ever be so certain of any of our ideas that we are prepared to kill or be killed to protect them from criticism? Or risk the destruction of our whole species in an attempt to proselytise, or to prevent the spread of, a particular political or religious philosophy? But that is what has happened (and is happening) in my time, and at every earlier period of human history similar examples of the pernicious effects of certainty can be identified.
My work on this book has convinced me that the desire for certainty is a mark of immaturity in our species. So I will make no more apologies for uncertainty: for its tendency to make people listen to others and to seek advice before deciding; for its effect in making people cautious and willing to consider the long term consequences of what they do. And I will ignore any attempt to equate it with indecisiveness, which to my mind is the result of mere confusion. No-one needs to be certain in order to make the best decision they can on the information they then have.
I will instead celebrate its rejection of the idea that it is better to destroy the world rather than to tolerate an idea that you dislike. I will join the hilarity with which the uncertain will greet any proposal that a mere failure to agree with an opinion is, in itself, a sufficient justification for the suppression or destruction of any human being. Most of all, I will enjoy the heady air of real freedom which an acceptance of uncertainty brings; freedom that comes from having no boundaries to constrain our ambition.
Out of that freedom, if you will accept the invitation of this book, will grow the Society of HumanKind as a means for us to take control of our destiny for the first time. The Society will not be an alternative to the political and social structures of human life, nor a vehicle to unite the world. Rather it will be an institution to protect and preserve those interests we have in common; the survival of our species; growth in our abilities, skills and knowledge, and our hopes for the future. Other social institutions and structures will no doubt continue to meet the needs of humanity they now serve. But the special concerns of the Society only arise from an acceptance of its Aim, Duty and Responsibility. Its activities should therefore supplement existing social and political structures, not replace them.
There will be more than enough for the Society to do in its search for a means to liberate humanity from the prison of oblivion in death. As has been repeatedly said in the Treatises, we cannot predict where the keys to that puzzle may be found. It will be the Society, therefore, that will encourage and fund research in those areas of human enquiry considered unprofitable or useless by others. It will be the Society that will seek to preserve diversity in human qualities and characteristics; to increase the range of human experience; to fight against conformity and standardisation, and to conserve all the life forms and resources found in our environment against the unforeseeable future needs of our species.
And it will be the Society that will foster the acquisition and development of human knowledge, skills and abilities for their own sake; be concerned to encourage their cautious use in the preservation and advance of our species, and so lead humanity out of childhood into its maturity.
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