There is just no doubt that people need to be motivated to "do the right thing" with their lives. Without any motivations, mankind would never survive as a species because even the will to survive is one of our motivations. As mankind has become more civilized, we have learned to adopt increasingly sophisticated motivations to get those around us to perform according to our own desires. This section will examine several different types of motivations and the morality associated with each.
we now accept that mankind evolved from the animals, it should not be
the least bit surprising to us to find that many of our motivations
arise from deeply felt animal motivations. Hunger, discomfort, fear,
and desire (for something as basic as survival, or for anything else we
want, up to and including any luxury, fame, or fortune, and even desire
for sex) are all to some degree or another motivations which mankind
has in common with most kinds of animals.
As civilized people, we tend to treat the use of animal motivations on people as a form of barbarism. We view as various forms of tyranny those who would exercise control over people by using different types of "hydraulic despotism."12 We rebel at the thought that we, ourselves, might be subject to control in this manner. We view as a penultimate goal of a civilized people to eliminate from our system all forms of tyranny and despotism.
But that does not mean we do not feel those motivations. It is just that we try to assure ourselves that our "basic needs" will always be met, somehow, and that we will thus not be subject to control on such a primitive level. In many ways, we are just fooling ourselves, but it is a game in which we all engage. We agree to not call the truth of our situation by words which describe that truth in these primitive ways, but we are nonetheless controlled by civilized versions of these same primitive motivational factors.
tentatively indicated above, we find that we have basically sublimated
our animal motivations by calling them something else. In the earliest
forms of our various civilizations, we were more brutal and direct. We
would motivate the lower class workers with straight fear of painful
punishment. The power of brutality is a major motivator when the task
to be performed requires no particular brain power. Any number of
classic stories from our history illustrate successful and unsuccessful
attempts at motivation on this kind of basic animal level. This is
particularly true of any situation involving slavery or prisoner
status. We do not need the brainpower of such individuals, they are
presumed to be recalcitrant, so we revert to basic kinds of motivation
to get compliance with our wishes.
But civilization has found it always best to leave an opening for the "best and the brightest" of the underclass to find a way to advance into the upper classes. If you do, you achieve two separate objectives: 1) you deprive the lower classes of a possible leader for a revolt; and 2) you make better use of the available talents of the people under your control. So, the winner of the gladiator games in Rome would achieve some substantial reward, while the losers would simply die. The "Law of the Jungle," otherwise called "survival of the fittest," operates at this basic level.
Poor people who are barely eking out a living by farming or fishing are easy for the rich and powerful to control. They do not have the resources to stand up to any sort of tyrannical behavior by their rulers. If the ruler is in a position to exercise "hydraulic despotism," it is all so much the easier. Prohibit fishing, or shoot fishing boats out of the water, and a fishing village will starve to death. The people will be eventually forced to grab their belongings and flee for their lives.
From the perspective of the liberalism of modern America, we tend to view those people who are still subject to this kind of motivation as unfortunate primitive peoples, and we do tend to attempt some sort of intervention when it is politically and economically feasible to do so. Nonetheless, major portions of the population of our planet is still faced with this kind of brutal motivation in their day-to-day lives.
founders of the United States only found it necessary to enumerate
three "inalienable rights," those of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of
happiness." In fact, only the last one is of any real importance. The
first two are really pre-conditions to the third. Without life, nothing
is possible. And a lack of liberty almost certainly involves a
significant lack of happiness. There is something inherent in our
makeup which makes us abhor slavery, at least if it is ourselves as the
slaves. Any people who undertakes to keep slaves must establish the
means to deal with escapes, because it has always been true that "real"
will look for any decent opportunity to make a run for it, in somewhat
of a direct proportion to the overall brutality of their existence.
So, the great insight of the fathers of our country was the fact that we are all motivated, to one degree or another, to seek "happiness," and thus our most basic "inalienable" right is the "pursuit of happiness."
For many of us, the "pursuit of happiness" first takes the form of the pursuit of money, as money is the great fungible source of property which we can use in order to achieve many forms of happiness. The difficulty, of course, is that money does not directly provide happiness (at least for the sane among us). For most people, most of the money which flows through their hands has little or nothing to do with true happiness. Instead, it has to do with the pursuit of more basic human needs, such as food, clothing, and shelter. If our budget is at all pinched, for any reason at all, about the first thing most of us will do is to cut back on the portion we allocate for our own "pursuit of happiness" in order to ensure that there is enough money for us to meet our "basic needs." This is the essence of our modern struggle for a livelihood: we are forced to deny ourselves happiness in order to meet our most basic needs.
The problem for the design of a new society which uses Western Civilization as its point of departure is that the things which we have devised as our primary goals are not, in point of fact, directly related to the pursuit of money. So, as an initial suggestion, I believe we should study the establishment of "accounts" for us to keep track of the "knowledge" and "happiness" which we provide to others and which we receive from others. If nothing else, creating such accounts would allow us to determine whether or not our life is "out of balance" in some significant way, thus allowing us to meet our requirements under the Social Goal of Balance.
12 This phrase is derived from the old "water wars" of our own West. It signified the activities of the person who controlled the upstream flow of a source of water, and who could thereby deprive people downstream of the water they needed if they did not comply with the wishes of the despot. In a broader sense, it has nothing particular to do with water. It signifies any person who gains a monopoly power over any resource which one or more other people need for their own survival or happiness and who uses their control of that resource as a major factor for the control of the behavior of those dependent people.
13 Many slave owners in our own South treated at least some of their slaves much like members of their own families. At least those upon whom the owners relied for food and personal service of various sorts would have to be trustworthy, and the best way to ensure trustworthiness was to give good treatment to those slaves. Thus, even our own slaves had a hierarchy for advancement, from field workers, to house workers, and occasionally, even to be freed men.
Please send us your feedback!