Community priorities and the quality of life

By Trisha Fisk

 

Quality of life for most people is simple. It involves having enough, having a sense of purpose, having peace or safety, some fun and a good environment.

 

Look at most war zones in the world or societies where people are troubled, endangered and unhappy and one realises the things that are really important to us are pretty basic. Most people just want to get on with their lives. Most people want to do good things for their families, communities and friends. And most people try to do the morally right thing.

But quality of life for the most of us feels tenuous and history shows it can be easily lost or taken away. Usually by a belligerent minority, a few in power or who do not share the values of the rest of us.

It is important to realise numbers here. And that the majority have the greater rights by virtue of their numbers. So the majority need to stand up and live their values “out loud” rather than in a state of siege.

 

These are the old fashioned values of integrity, courtesy and community. They involve respect for our elders, compassion for those who need help and a vibrant active sense of connection with our community. A living relationship that requires positive input all the time.

 

So let us look at the individual items that make up quality of life for most of us.

Firstly…having enough. While the ads on TV might convince some of us we need this, that or the other, most people are happy with enough. They want enough money to buy enough food to feed and house their families. To have a bit of fun occasionally and to guard against future ill health, or age when they cannot earn in their own right.

Combine this with the second item, a sense of purpose, and you realise that most people actually want to do worthwhile work and be paid a fair recompense.

 

Society has developed a system where a minimum wage has been legislated for. And it is a minimum wage. As anyone who is trying to live on it will tell you. Now why cant our system also legislate for a maximum wage. Or at least for the relativity between the minimum and maximum.

Does the multi million dollar CEO really earn his keep so many many times more than the worker who actually produces the goods. Would he be worth bobsy die if the individuals at the bottom of the feed chain didn’t do their job. Remember the joke about the different parts of the body, arguing who was really in charge and king pin. The brain claimed that of course it was in charge, it was the part that gave out all the orders and had the intelligence to make the system work. But the stomach said, no it was in charge, because without the stomach absorbing food and a morning cup of coffee the brain wouldn’t be up to much. Then the heart said, no it was in charge because it was the powerhouse behind the whole enterprise and the lungs and the kidneys and liver all had their say.

But finally it was the anus, that claimed to be king of all. It simply announced, “if I stop working, you guys all die.”

And so with our communities. All parts are necessary and all need to be adequately recompensed for their efforts.

 

Of course some community members will be more financially ambitious and competitive than others. This is great but only if it can be channelled in a way that benefits the total system first, then the individual, rather than just an individual squirreling a pile for themselves. The total community would be better served by those ambitions being satisfied through clever investment rather than hand outs of high wages. Encourage investment back into the economy and enterprise in productive forms, then both ends of the feed chain would benefit.

 

Let us look at the next item on our list of priorities. A sense of peace and safety. Of course any history student will tell you that when the difference between the haves and havenots becomes too great, then the social structure begins to fray until revolution is inevitable. If not revolution, then certainly social disobedience and increased crime.

And we are seeing that increasingly worldwide with the wall street protests and in our own community with more burglaries and crimes of dishonesty.

But never forget, most people basically want to do the right thing for their family and community. Most people have an inherent sense of what is fair. And most of us recognise that for society to be worth living in, then we have to abide by certain common principles. And these are the people that need to be empowered.

 

This is where accountability comes into the equation. If there is no accountability, then yes crime does pay. If there is no reward for honesty or integrity, then maybe some of us will not bother with it.

Of course accountability is easy to see at work in a small community. If someone steps outside of acceptable behaviour, then word gets around pretty quickly and that person will not be welcome as a worker as a visitor, a suitor or whatever. The old bible adage, as ye sow, so shall ye reap, very quickly comes to light. But in a large city where people are mostly anonymous, then accountability tends to go out the window. Because even if they end up in a courthouse and being tried “by their peers” then it is no real problem, because chances are they will not know anyone in the court or the jury or even the victim.

 

But accountability can be arranged. A couple of recent phenomenons of social evolution are bringing it back into fashion. For instance the success of the internet selling and auction system known as TradeMe has been cleverly set up.  Every transaction a person is involved in can earn feedback. It is the trader’s reputation on line for all to see. Most traders work carefully to earn positive responses to their trades. A single bad deal will scare away future customers or trades. It is immediate accountability.

 

So for accountability to work we need more interaction between community members. Then, as on Trademe it will pay for people to behave with integrity and to have it known. So rather than becoming more closed and withdrawn as individuals within society, the majority of us ordinary good people, need to be out there getting involved and getting known and getting to know others. Then we can earn positive feedback. The minority that choose to live outside of acceptable values, will lose their anonymity and no longer “get away with it”.

 

Which brings us to the last of our requirements for quality of life. The environment. In terms of importance, it probably should have been considered first. But a bit like the argument between the brain and the anus, well, each item is important.

Anyone with any understanding of geophysics and world economics, will realise that on a planetary basis, we have gone past the point known as Peak Oil. From now on, meeting our energy requirements will get harder and be increasingly expensive. There is no getting away from this. And as a society we need to plan how to adapt to the change before the changes are upon us.

 

Of course it is not critical yet, but like the man who jumped off the cliff we are still in midair and under the impression that we can fly. At some stage we are going to be landing. And we need to prepare for it.

What would we get if we pulled together several of the above ideas. Put the concepts of Trademe, accountability, community involvement, concern for the environment and diminishing oil reserves altogether. Mix them up and out could come…

The Peoples Bus. Imagine individuals being verified as Peoples Bus participants. Car owners would display PB on their windshield or number plate. Walkers would carry a PB card. Then on any given road at any given time, a driver with space in his vehicle could be hailed by a PB passenger and if they wanted , could give a lift for as far as their two journeys overlapped. Then the passenger is simply dropped off and catches the next PB going his way. PB people could be both driver or passenger, depending on their plans for the day.

And if you wanted to take the concept further, then allow each participant to go online and give feedback on their experience. Earn enough positive feedbacks as a driver and that could earn rewards in fuel vouchers. From a safety point of view, police could be asked to approve PB members.

 

Not only would we be preserving our scant oil supply, but it would get us out there, mingling with our fellow community members. It is only by walking alongside each other, that we will come to understand different points of view. And with understanding comes compassion, tolerance and respect.

It is these qualities which bring us back to the requirement for a sense of peace and safety. We wont get it by building higher walls between us, but by breaking down the barriers and dismantling the distrust.

Then we could be working together to live with enough, in peace and safety. To have purpose, to have fun and maintain a healthy environment.