By Luis A. Marrero, author of The Path to a Meaningful Purpose
April 7, 2015
We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.
~ Benjamin Franklin
Reading the latest news one can easily conclude that our aspiration to form a more perfect union continues to be… well, still a work in progress. This not only applies to my fellow citizens in the United States of America; it should concern citizens in others countries too. Some examples will make it apparent.
Here at home, for instance, the recent fiasco and self-inflicted damage brought by Indiana’s legislation on religious freedom has pitted the rights of one group against another. No perfect union there.
Women’s’ rights also need fulfillment in order to attain our desired perfect union, not only for America, but for the whole planet. Just to mention a few, there are still serious gaps granting women equal opportunities in professional settings. Add to this the practice of human trafficking, and the assault on women’s bodies and minds as if they were objects lacking dignity, respect, and potential.
People of color, Latinos and other minority groups here in the United States also lack the peace of mind they deserve because of hostile attitudes and apathy, many times from those in the dominant culture. And religion, that supposed haven for our better selves and harbor of humane values and unity, is being challenged to its core. Even today, the most violent crimes against humanity are being fought in the name of religion all over the world; and most apparent in the Middle East.
I propose that this injustice happens because too many are ready to demand and fight for their or their particular group’s rights, but not for the rights of all. Rather than having a prosocial orientation, the transgressors have a strong proself or selfish orientation. The prosocial oriented individual is inclusive and ready to cooperate, while individuals with a strong proself orientation are less concerned about others’ rights and their well-being. You will notice when they speak, even when trying to be politically correct, that they display an “I am better than…” or an “I am correct and you are not” attitude toward others.
By the way — and speaking of politics — many politicians, despite the very low approval ratings on their performance, are not getting the message that they are part of the problem. Unfortunately, too many politicians continue to act as if the problem is attributable to the members of the other political party; and not to them personally and to members of their own persuasion. I argue that as long as political figures don’t show meaningful prosocial behavior, things will not improve. Being prosocial, however, not only applies to politicians, it applies to all of us.
According to meaningful purpose psychology, being free and exercising genuine free-will demands two conditions: first, acting responsibly toward others; and second, acting responsibly toward self. In a genuine free society if one member is not free, neither are the rest of its members.
We offer that the moment we make exceptions by denying others their rights to be free, we are creating a license and conditions for someone to deny ours. When we tolerate exceptions to genuine meaningful freedom, the power of the dominant rules, not self-determination, independence, free-will, and equal rights. To form a more perfect union requires respecting everyone’s right to freedom. This applies not only to US citizens committed to achieve such an ideal union, but to countries and communities who yearn meaningful liberty.
Being responsible entails following a meaningful prosocial orientation. We are responsible toward others when we understand their needs and aspirations, and when we assert and protect their liberty. And we are responsible toward ourselves when we voice and actively engage in helping others understand our needs and aspirations. The final product — to paraphrase Alfred Adler — is that common space of shared understanding and collective concern called cooperation.
Finally, we would be well-advice to follow Benjamin Franklin’s admonition, “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.” Both literally and figuratively, we must all hang together as free people, or we risk hanging separately doomed by injustice and plagued by meaningless discord. Abraham Lincoln, in turn, reminded us that “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” So let’s roll up our sleeves and accomplish the high calling for a perfect union by affirming the rights of all, and by being responsible on how we exercise ours.
Our future lies on how well we practice E Pluribus Unum “Out of many, one.” Let’s do it!
© 2015. Luis A. Marrero, Boston Institute for Meaningful Purpose.