We can proceed toward cohesion pleasantly, or keep stumbling along the rocky trail we have been treading for so long
About a week ago, I received an email from John Doe. The name did not surprise me considering the fact that it came from the email address: someguy…@gmail.com. In the mail, Mr. Doe complained that I was too preoccupied with what is happening in the US and described it as “disgraceful.”
As I did when Mr. Dan Mogulof, the spokesperson of UC Berkeley, complained about my disapproval of an anti-Semitic course at Berkeley, I thought that I should openly reply to Mr. Doe’s mail, too.
Dear John (I know this sounds like a farewell letter, but it’s not):
First, I would like to tell you that I have the highest respect for American citizens. As a scientist specializing in systems analysis, I shifted many years ago from studying physiological systems through medical bio-cybernetics to exploring human systems using the wisdom of Kabbalah, and later on my professorship in Ontology. From my professional perspective, I see the US as having a key role in the global scheme of things not only at present, but also going forward. What happens in the US directly affects every country in the world, not the least of which is Israel, my country of residence.
(Incidentally, Americans seem to have no inhibitions when it comes to expressing their views concerning Israeli affairs, or even in attempting to influence them, but when the tables are turned they are far less “liberal” about it.)
There is another reason for my interest in the US. Over the years, I have published dozens of books in English (look up Michael Laitman on amazon.com) and I have tens of thousands of students in the US, if not more. Many of these students attend our annual congresses in the US, and I hold them very dear.
The Undisputed Economic Leader of the World
Approximately since World War I, the United States has played an increasingly prominent role in global, social, and political developments. Can we even imagine the results of World Wars I and II had the US not joined the Allies? Since the end of WWII, the US has been the undisputed economic leader of the world, especially after it sent global shockwaves during the stock market collapse that started the Great Depression and then helped rebuild the Western world in the wake of WWII.
Since the establishment of the state of Israel, and especially after the Six Day War in 1967, the US has been Israel’s staunch ally. But the undisputed support in the face of constant existential threat has been eroded since 2008 when Obama came into office and declared that there needs to be more “daylight” between the two countries.
The uncertainty about America’s intentions concerning Israel, its involvement in the disintegration of the regimes in Egypt, Syria, Libya, Yemen, and other Middle Eastern countries, the signing of a nuclear agreement that has paved the way for a nuclear Iran, and its channeling of millions of young, healthy, mostly male Muslims into Europe and now across the Atlantic and into the US, have all made many Israelis, myself included, very troubled with what is happening in America.
Additionally, Hillary Clinton clearly had every intention to continue Barack Obama’s foreign policy. Had she won the election, Israel’s international status would have plummeted exponentially, beyond its already miserable state.
Even worse, Obama was on a collision course with Putin. Had Clinton won, we would have been at risk of a third, nuclear world war. With Trump as president, there is at least a sliver of hope for change.
In light of all the above, I think that every sane person in the world should be very attentive to everything that is happening in the US.
A New World Order Begins with the Economy
Everyone realizes that a change is imminent. The distrust among the superpowers, approaching collapse of the EU, escalating economic tussles among Russia, the US, Europe, and China, have all made the world an unstable and precarious place.
In the US, the absence of real industry and heavy reliance on financial wizardry to maintain a bogus growth while ignoring the spiraling debt, have widened the gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots” to the point where the middle class is on the brink of annihilation. Too many indicators in the US resemble those of Third World countries for its economy to be considered robust or even solid. If eight years after the Great Recession, one in seven Americans still live on food stamps, a change cannot be too far ahead.
Donald Trump saw this and made the economy his ticket. It turned out to be an ace.
However, the change that Trump promised in order to get to the White House cannot be done. It is too late to turn the Rust Belt back into the Steel Belt. American assembly-line workers cannot compete with Chinese, Vietnamese, or Mexican workers because the price-point of the products would not be competitive and their quality would not surpass that of current manufacturers (compare Japanese cars to American ones, for instance).
Even more importantly, today, everything is going nano, if not altogether virtual. There is simply no need for so many working hands, and in many cases there is no need for hands at all. In the coming years, accelerated automation and robotics will render tens, and potentially hundreds of millions of people jobless. They will not simply be unemployed waiting for the next job; they will be indefinitely jobless. Their professions will have been taken by machines that do their work much faster, better, and cheaper than they could ever do them.
Therefore, the transformation in the global industry that is taking place today will impact every country in the world. America, which has been at the forefront of every major change for the past one hundred years, is facing either another breakthrough, or a breakdown. The economic decisions of the US administration over the next four years will determine the fate not only of America, but of the entire world.
The Economy of Self-Entitlement
For several years now, economists have known that the traditional indexes that measure the standard of living do not authentically reflect people’s happiness. The levels of depression in the US have been rising for decades, and as acclaimed psychologist Jean M. Twenge explained in her book, Generation Me, the culprit is our increasing egoism and sense of self-entitlement.
And yet, we cannot stop or even slow the heightening of our egoism. Its intensification is inherent within us, and unless we find a way to work with the ego rather than against it, such as by doping ourselves into oblivion, our society will fall apart.
In my book, Self Interest vs. Altruism in the Global Era, I elaborate on the uniqueness of the human psyche. Everything in reality exists by maintaining a balance between two poles created by two forces—one positive and one negative. Our planet would not have existed as we know it had there been only day without night, or sunshine without rain. Cells would not exist without taking from the environment what they need, and giving it what it needs in return. And what is true of cells, is true also of our bodies. Without the organs in our body maintaining the balance we call homeostasis, we would not exist.
However, where humans govern instead of nature, the balance is broken and the negative force is the sole ruler. By and large, we ignore the necessity for balance and operate only out of a sense of self-entitlement, thus creating a dismal life for ourselves.
Picture yourself, Mr. Doe, visiting a town called Misery. Its people are all vying for power, money, and respect, and have no regard for one another. Imagine them leaving their homes into a world where they cannot trust anyone because everyone is an adversary, a competitor. There is no honesty, no bonding of hearts, only temporary alliances that vanish as soon as a more lucrative coalition presents itself. How do you think the people of Misery feel? Would you blame them if they were depressed? Would you hold it against them if they desperately sought an alternative?
A New Source of Power
If the people of Misery knew about the positive force and how to use it to their benefit, they would be far, far happier. As said above, such a positive force exists everywhere, with the exception of human society. But what if we could “harvest” this force out of nature, just as Nikola Tesla harvested electricity from the air? Can you imagine the benefits of such a source of energy?
Although excessive selfishness makes people unhappy, they do not consciously choose to be this way. They are born into it. As the Bible tells us, “The inclination of a man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Genesis 8:21). And yet, we do not feel that we are selfish because we do not know what real unselfishness feels like. Just as we would not know that light exists if there weren’t darkness, we will know how egoistic we are only when we begin to garner the positive force.
An Industry of Social Cohesion
To understand the positive force, think about a power plant that generates electricity. Any power plant requires fuel that can be used in order to produce electricity. Likewise, people’s efforts to unite above their egos are the fuel, and the energy that the fuel produces is the positive force. When this force is applied to human society as a remedy for egoism, it creates social cohesion.
Sports teams are a great example of the impact of the positive force. Any team knows that one of the keys to its success is the level of cohesion among the teammates. It is not easy for competitive individuals who crave personal success to put aside their egos in favor of the group’s success. But when they make an effort to unite, they install the positive force among them, which in turn creates cohesion.
In a country torn by racial, religious, and socioeconomic rifts, social cohesion is mandatory for its success, no less than glue is mandatory to bind the layers of plywood. The only force that can create lasting and genuine social cohesion is the positive force, which we can generate through our efforts to connect, just as with teams. The more positive force we generate through our efforts to rise above our egos and unite, the more we will enhance our social cohesion.
In the coming years we will see a shift in how we measure our contentment. Material worries will become obsolete because the world already produces more than it consumes, yet we distribute it unevenly due to our egoism. In a society based on social cohesion, there will be no such thing as neglect or deprivation. The desire to enhance social cohesion will make us use every opportunity to help each other and rise above our egos.
Remember Misery? How would the town’s people feel if instead of our morose description from before, they would come out of their homes to meet people smiling at them, trying to connect with them in order to increase cohesion?
In Israel, an organization called Arvut (mutual guarantee) has developed a method of deliberation that creates the positive force by rising above the most sensitive political and social issues. As the video in the link demonstrates, the results are extraordinary: Jews, Muslims, Christians, religious, and secular people deliberate freely and warmly, exchanging phone numbers and email addresses after only one session. The experience of social cohesion overshadows any prejudice and suspicion. If this force were generated on a massive scale, America would be transformed, and with it the entire world.
Ours is a time of change, dear John. When we come out of it, we will be wise and strong and peaceful. But the choice is in our hands. We can proceed toward cohesion consciously, pleasantly, and smoothly, or we can keep stumbling along the treacherous road we have been treading for so long. America was once the land of the free and the home of the brave. Now it must choose to be so once again, for its own sake, and for ours.
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