The material you have read so far may lead you to believe I have created a bubble of idealism that is not connected to the realities of today. Ironically, the reality that most people have assumed and are not consciously aware of is that most of the world continues to use an archaic morality that is not capable of pointing the way forward to sustain individuals, their organizations, and governments.
This chapter will briefly compare the archaic morality that has been in use for over 4,000 years to the proactive morality that is based on the values that have sustained our species for over 200,000 years. Again, this will present us with a question, “Do we stay with the old reactive morality or do we begin using the proactive morality that points the way forward to a sustainable future?” Moving to accept the proactive morality provides answers to difficult social, political, economic, and environmental problems. Let’s compare the two. 5
Historically, the moral code of western civilization has changed little over the last 4,000 years6 from the time that Sumerian King Ur-Nammu of Ur (2112-2095 BC) wrote it. It was later adopted by Hammurabi and Moses, among others. It was written as a means of preserving and maintaining social order and the functioning of society through a uniform standard of social conduct, i.e., a moral code.
It was designed as a personal morality within a small community. It was never codified as a social morality to guide the moral conduct of social processes, organizations, governments, or corporations. Neither was it intended as a global moral code for nations of the international community. The development of the traditional moral code, however, was an incredible advancement in normalizing social relations at the time.
The traditional moral code is man-made using the values that King Ur-Nammu and his advisors thought would be of help. Because the traditional moral code was based on man-made values, rather than being based on the innate values of our species, it was not able to keep pace with the social evolution of people. That moral code was not capable of evolving with the evolution of people’s needs to improve the quality of their lives. To improve the conditions (read, “social evolution”) of our lives today, the moral and ethical needs of our evolving contemporary communities and societies also need to evolve. Because the seven values are proactive to encourage our growth, social change is a permanent and inherent aspect of the value system of our species.
Invalid Assumptions. King Ur-Nammu’s moral code is retrospective and punitively based. One of its assumptions has been that the punishment of immoral behavior would cause citizens to become moral in order to avoid subsequent punishment. We know all too well from the history of four millennia that punishment is not an effective deterrent to immoral behavior.
What is wrong with this moral code? Nothing really, as long as it is applied as an unevolved person-to-person morality in very simple communities. But when it is applied by a social agency (courts of law, juvenile, divorce, and custody litigation for example) its performance comes up short. What is missing is an evolved morality that empowers social agencies as the courts to determine the sustaining needs of litigants and of society.
Historical Corrections. Perhaps the greatest fallacious assumption of the traditional moral code is that it tries to correct the behavior of the wrongdoer, a very familiar theory of “modern” criminal corrections. When we look more closely at its “corrective” function, we soon realize that it proposes the ludicrous notion of correcting the faults of the past. Because punishment occurs after the fact of the immoral behavior, it is truly 100% ineffective. Further, Ur-Nammu’s moral code does nothing to proactively improve our societies. It simply punishes the wrongdoer with the victim, family, community, and the public no better for the wrongdoer’s punishment. Said another way, the incarceration of a murderer does not bring about an improvement in the social sustainability of the community from which he or she came.
Reactive, Not Proactive. The traditional moral code provides only a moral accounting of righting wrongs, never urging citizens to aspire to higher moral standards of living, or to add to the quality of their life, or the lives of others by the decisions they make. The old morality provides no incentive for proactive good behavior, other than to avoid getting caught.
Because the traditional moral code has not been proactive to work toward social sustainability, after centuries of its use we have begun to see the moral and social disintegration of whole communities in our larger cities due to drug use, violence, property crimes, and sexual, physical, emotional, mental, and social abuse of infants, children, and the elderly. Social status and economic elevation have not exempted members from family abuses, community delinquency by adults or fiscal malfeasance by executives with their victims numbering in the tens of thousands.
Bad Code. From a contemporary technological perspective, the traditional morality of western civilization for the last 4,000 years is a form of morality that in computer terms is “bad code.” It is “bad code” because it is not based on a logically integrated set of values. It may solve some problems but not others, and it may solve problems inconsistently depending upon who is using it.
Grievously, the ethics that emerge from the “bad code” of traditional morality do not provide a universally level playing field for all people of all races, cultures, ethnicity, nationality, and gender for all times.
A Conclusion. The traditional morality that all of us have been raised with is based on values that are man-made and not capable of enduring the rigors of time and vast array of moral challenges that have come about over the centuries and millennia. What is needed now is to activate the proactive moral code of decision-making by all people and all organizations. These values are in innate alignment with each individual because they are already a part of each of us.
For democratic societies a proactive moral code is needed to provide a structure of logic for making decisions that provide clear and unambiguous outcomes, for everyone, equally. It offers three functions to sustain future generations:
First, to define the proactive moral decision-making and behavior of individuals and organizations to contribute to the social stability and social sustainability of individuals, families, communities, and societies.
Second, to clearly define immorality as behaviors that violate one or more of the seven values, and,
a) destroy the potential of (an)other citizen(s) to make a positive contribution to the sustainability of themselves, their family, community or society;
b) behavior that diminishes the capacity of a citizen(s) to make a contribution to society;
c) behavior that squanders the resources of society as it works toward social sustainability; and
d) behavior that requires society to come to the aid of an injured citizen to recoup their capacity to make a contribution to the sustainability of themselves, their family, community, or society; or, support them in their incapacity for their lifetime or until they are healed.
Third, to clearly define social predators — those individuals and organizations that take actions as those above, a-d, that violate the morality of a society that is moving toward a socially sustainable future. Those individuals and organizations create an immense drag on society’s forward inertia to achieve social stability and peace.
The actions of social predators are in opposition of the efforts of society to develop the innate potential of people individually and collectively, and greatly retard the maturing social evolution of our societies and cultures. How they are dealt with by courts that have adopted the logic of these values and morality is a question that cities, counties, states and the nation will have to determine, eventually. Whatever sanctions are meted out must as well work to fulfill society’s intent to become fully socially sustainable.
A proactive morality that is based on the seven values offers a holism to all of human behavior — one that draws individuals, families, communities, national societies and our global civilization into a socially sustainable future. By using this morality, we will immediately recognize what is moral or immoral, what is ethical and what is not. Only a proactive morality such as this is capable of creating positive social and cultural change, a first stage of social evolution and sustainable peace. It is simply a matter of using those values in billions of daily decisions made by billions of citizens, organizations, and social agencies.
First, a proactive model of morality clearly points to the long term benefits of proactive decisions made by individuals and organizations that use it. Doing so, organizations and individuals then become symbiotically entwined, socially stable, peaceful, and eventually more sustainable.
Second, a morality that is based on these values provides a decision-making process with results that are consistent with the inherent characteristics of those values. In a symbiotically entwined relationship between individuals and organizations, this morality inherently assigns reciprocal value and responsibilities to individuals, families, and organizations. Symbiotically, each individual is seen as a “social asset” whose contributions to organizations ensure that society becomes socially sustainable, and the organization’s contribution to the individual supports their growth to make that contribution.
Third and strategically, the benefit of a proactive, sustaining morality acts as a guide for strategic planners for developing congruent short and long term goals. Planning for the achievement of short and long term goals will be made easier because option-development, choice-making, decision-making, and action-implementation will be guided by the logic and integrated nature of these values.
Fourth, and not to be overlooked, moral and ethical behavior that is generated by the use of these values is fully complemental to our human nature. These values are embedded in our DNA and are an innate part of who we are. People are naturally and innately good — the genuine and authentic nature of us all — evidence of our true human nature. Social predators, those who choose to use their own priorities of what benefits them, define themselves as not human — NON-human. The moral implications of that statement will cause a great deal of heated discussion among traditional moralists and ethicists. The furor of their discussion will lie in how to prevent the appearance of social predators, and what to do with those who are entrenched in such decision-making and behavior.
Fifth, societies will have logical, moral, and rational arguments in the courts for dealing with individuals, organizations and their executives, social agencies, and global agencies that choose to work against the sustainability of individuals, organizations, communities, societies, and national publics. Having a consistent, integrated, and permanent morality to guide the development of laws and social policies that support social sustainability is essential to bring the decisions of thousands of local, national, and international social agencies into complemental alignment.
Sixth, for civil government, these seven values expand its vision far beyond the routine of civil maintenance to include its moral role as a contributor and upholder of social stability and social sustainability of its communities. One of the greatest problems of civil governance is that when the status quo is accepted as normalcy, widespread mediocrity of performance soon follows. With a vision and model of social sustainability to fulfill, communities and cities, for example, will have a vision to always work toward. The status quo, standing still, and maintaining what is already in place, will become a historic reference to the mediocrity of the past. Historically, traditional morality protects the stability of mediocrity as an acceptable social model. What is needed now and into the future is a proactive standard of excellence for all decision-making that inherently guides families and organizations into a positive future.
Seventh, intentionally developing integrated social systems in a society is a major shift in culture, and the thinking of individuals. As population increases beyond the quantity needed to sustain a society, the less quality of life is available to everyone equally, and the less value each new citizen has. This is contrary to our historic moral roots where the value of each person is seen as being unique and valuable as they are.
The reaction we have seen in middle and upper-middle class families is the increased value-investment made in each child, while the value-investment of economically marginalized children decreases. Giving value to individuals is evidence in more socially conscious groups of the necessity for an integral wholeness of our societies. We are beginning to give value to the integral wholeness of our society, even as we witness the disparate aggregation of racial, ethnic, national, and religious groups tear our societies apart politically.
In the frame of three simple proscriptive definitions, where “social sustainability” is defined as the morality of the four primary values:
● No individual shall diminish or impede the social sustainability of another person, organization, or association of organizations without moral justification.
● No organization shall diminish or impede the social sustainability of another organization, individual, or association of organizations without moral justification.
● No association of organizations shall diminish or impede the social sustainability of another association of organizations, organization, or individual without moral justification.