The beginning of a new year is a good time to breath deeply, sit back and survey the health of the world, it’s past and its future directions. We have traveled a long way to arrive at this point in time with 7.4 billion fellow human travelers on space station earth. Many people sense that the world is coming to a transition as the population reaches a critical mass, and as the technology of intercommunication moves us towards a transformative threshold of shared awareness.
What is looming next for humanity and for the world, and how will we fare as a species? What will trigger the transformational change in how societies function that most people feel is necessary for true progress?
Many put hope in a messianic perspective in which a powerful just being returns to set humanity straight. This tradition exists in Judaism (Messiah), Christianity (Christ), Islam (Masih), Buddhism (Maitreya), Taoism (Li Hong), Hinduism (Kalki) and Zoroastrianism (Saoshyant). In some faiths the coming of the messianic figure triggers a great war as the messiah contains existing earthly powers and topples the existing social structures in order to set up a new, just, worldwide government. In other traditions the messianic figure comes as a teacher of men. Although there are many different views and timelines, many hearts yearn for this messianic figure with power to transform the world, while simultaneously fearing the possible end-time scenario and the large-scale upheaval that it represents.
Others who, like John F. Kennedy, stared into the abyss of nuclear holocaust hold out hope that humanity itself can resolve the problems that it has created. In his commencement address of June 10, 1963, JFK expressed the importance of developing new strategies for peace and dialogue between countries including joint space exploration with the Soviet Union and a direct phone line between Moscow and Washington. He emphasized the danger of dehumanizing communists and promoted the idea of a world-wide peace where all people could obtain a better future for their children.
JFK was assassinated five months after this amazing speech. This tragic moment in history reminds us of the ruthlessly violent, self-serving social forces that, to this day, continue to obstruct the path to true global health.
But what exactly are these doomed social structures that hold back human progress and how would we expect them to change? Which changes, if any, are feasible and or necessary in the near term?
Humanity in the Balance
People often agree on the problems that humanity faces but there is much less agreement on the root causes of human suffering. Capitalist economies appear to have the advantage of creating freedom for some at the expense of oppression for others. This freedom for some appears to have positive benefits for technological innovation. On the other hand communist and socialist economies appear to restrict individual freedom in order to equalize opportunities for all, potentially limiting the extremes of innovation that emerge from individual freedom. Thus there is the bizarre result that the USA ranks highest in per capita prison population while simultaneously expounding the importance of individual freedoms.
The list of global health problems to which there is some agreement includes:
- Incessant war and the threat of nuclear holocaust
- Starvation and poor distribution of wealth
- Environmental destruction for the sake of profit
- Joblessness, low wage jobs and degrading jobs
- Substance abuse including drugs, alcohol and smoking
- Depression, suicide and homelessness
- Profiteering from behavioral addictions – i.e. gambling, porn
- Lack of supportive, nonjudgemental, loving communities
- Barriers to education
- Apathy and lack of civil participation
- Waste, sedentary living and obesity
- Oppression through violence and threats of violence
- Racism, prejudice, scapegoating, intolerance and lack of empathy
- Disease and overpopulation
In spite of these profound social flaws we remain positive because of the many virtues and strengths that have brought us this far, such as:
- Many people have sacrificed their lives for others, and many are willing to do so. This is the true meaning of love. The power to love is humanity’s greatest asset and hope. All parents everywhere want a better future for their children.
- The collective creative intelligence 7+ billion human brains is mind-boggling. We can accomplish amazing technological feats when we set our wills to it. The problem is avoiding the ‘brain-in-a-box’ syndrome where intelligence is used foolishly by social forces.
- The Gross World Product (GWP) is estimated at a whopping 107.5 trillion. There are many great jobs and the world economy is powerful. This productive capability, though astronomical, could be increased further with social improvements to allow more individuals to reach their full potential.
- Enough food is currently produced to feed every person on the planet.
- Sustainable living technologies are currently available.
- The world is interconnected through technology and the internet allowing us to respond to needs around the world with unprecedented speed.
- Many of the most crippling diseases can be prevented with proper lifestyle and environmental modifications.
Social Transformations for Global Health
Given the ruthless nature of the forces that obstruct human progress one could conclude that the current condition of the world is the best possible scenario and that nothing can change drastically unless a divine Messiah intervenes, or until humanity self-destructs.
However, the ultimately miraculous nature of the present moment described by teachers such as Thich Nhat Hanh, indicates that divinity can manifest within any human at any instant. We have to begin with a concrete dream of what ‘should be’ before it can be made manifest. One should dream, but not limit oneself to dreams. The next step is to communicate with others to propagate the dream. This is what JFK did in his June 10, 1963 commencement address. He was not able to fulfill the vision but he passed it on and it is still alive today.
In order to transform global health we must take on the distribution of wealth and money. Money appears to be at the root of all man-made global health problems. However, money is only an elaborate proxy for controlling access to goods, services and resources, and for facilitating institutionalized favoritism / oppression and inequity. Thus any attempt to correct social flaws must deal head on with the design and obfuscation of money and with the social forces that misuse it.
The following social transformations are needed to promote optimum global messianic health:
- Debt Free Governments and Societies – Monetary systems based on issuing debt are at the core of most human setbacks. Democratic governments must take back control of their monetary supplies such that they are controlled by the people and not private interests. Governments must be wealth creators not debtors. Societies also must transition to debt free models because debt and slavery are very close cousins.
- Inflation Protected Savings and Salaries – Inflation is a tax that disproportionately affects lower-income people, and ultimately steals our savings. It is the result of a flawed fiat monetary system. A government system must be designed to correct or prevent losses associated with inflation. Prices of essential commodities such as staple foods, fuels, home and car prices should be closely monitored and justified to control inflation.
- Minimum Wage Control – Minimum wage should be set based upon a desirable standard of living for a family of four. This requires that all jobs that are not self-sustaining be supplemented by government wages.
- Paid post-secondary education. Students over the age of 18 should be paid to study and maintain good grades. Their salaries should depend upon the cost of tuition, room and board and stipend.
- Food and shelter first policy. No person should starve while others gorge themselves and no one should be left out in the cold.
- Non-Monetized Industries – All economic activities should not be monetized for profit. Many activities such as building roads and bridges should be paid by the government through direct creation of wealth. In a society where there may be excess money individuals may need to be drafted (through a fair and non-coercive process) for certain intervals of service to make sure that vital products and services are delivered.
- Salaries connected to civil participation – Time should be alloted for all individuals to partake in local government and local community involvement. Salaries should be supplemented for reinforcing this level of connectedness in the community.
- Health coach assigned to each person – just as everyone is expected to have a primary physician, each person should have a health coach to help set goals and evaluate progress towards improved health behaviors. The goal should be the transition to a prevention model of health care.
- Specific population growth plans – Each country would promote a targeted sustainable population based upon the available resources and have a plan for meeting the desired goals through education on target family sizes. The assumption here is that education is sufficient for guidance. Induced termination of pregnancies should not be advocated.
- Sustainable environmental use – all forms of energy use must be renewable and sustainable with respect to carbon footprints.
- Redistribution of wealth and guaranteed income – The extreme gap between haves and have-nots needs to be reduced. The right to a salary should exist for every person willing to work or be trained. People in transition or looking for work should also receive salaries and guaranteed employment. The right of individual ownership should be protected but limits must be set to prevent abuse. For example, the number of acres owned by a single person should be limited, as should the maximum allowed individual net worth.
- Retirement wages for community work – retired individuals willing to work in the community should receive an additional stipend. There is much work that is necessary (but not profitable) to make communities places of true interrelationship.
The list goes on and on as there are plenty of steps and changes required to achieve messianic global health. All change must start with a vision. What is your vision of messianic health? What changes do you believe can be made now?
Have a happy New Year!