Our Global Community
Before contemplating our own culture as a global community, first consider an ant community. There are interesting parallels and differences to be found.
The ant is a social creature. Within its community (the ant hill and its immediate surroundings), there are different roles for individual ants. There are no entrepreneurs in the community; all activity is for the well being of the community. Each ant contributes to the health of the community. Ants even possess two stomachs (one for itself and another for transporting food) so that at any time, an ant can provide part of its own food storage to another ant in need of food.
Within the community, there are a few basic roles: the queen (that lays the eggs to maintain the communities population; there can be one or more queens in a colony), the diggers (that manage the hill), the foragers (that seek and return food to the hill), the soldiers (that defend the hill from intruders) and the nursers (that tend to the eggs which must remain under very specific environmental conditions to properly mature). As the health of the community changes, the distribution of these roles will change (i.e., the numbers of those in the different roles will vary, based on the relative 'health' of the community). The queen lays only male and female eggs; the care and feeding of an immature female ant determines its caste while the male ants only mate with a queen. When the community is healthy and the time is right, queen(s) and drones are produced to extend the community to other locations. When these new members are mature, they leave the community to start a new community elsewhere where the queen lands. (If you wish to learn more about ants, click on this excerpt from the User Manual for the computer game SimAnt.)
The food (both quality and quantity) for the community changes by season, weather or other environmental conditions (affected by factors such as a warm, damp period or a drought). From a bystander's perspective, these food cycles will seem to be just a part of the community's environment, not a result of the behavior of the ants. Food might also appear arbitrarily, such as when people drop food items or particles. From a bystander's long-term perspective, this accidental food will appear at random, never as a result of the behavior of the ants.
Accidents and disasters will occur (such as floods from rain or deaths due to predators and human activities, such as a lawnmower that takes away members and a foot step that kills members that happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time). From the ants' perspective, these disasters will occur rather arbitrarily, never as a result of their behavior (with the exception perhaps of the ants killed by pesticide while in a human dwelling).
Man is also a social creature. First let's consider a Christian community of a just few hundred years ago perhaps among the early American settlers or in the 'western' frontier.
There are usually a number of roles in every community. There are teachers (to educate the youth), farmers (to provide food), trappers/hunters (sometimes for food, clothing) and business people (to provide goods and service to the community, including grocers, blacksmiths, etc.). I assume there was usually a social organization as well, that might have been a church but other entities (like a PTA) would also serve the purpose of bringing together people on a regular basis. The community would look after its own needs; if a role needed filling (such as a teacher), someone in the community (this could be someone in the local governing body but it would not have to be all it just takes one or more people that take on the responsibility of ensuring the needs of the community are met, and some will take on this role without needing payment) would either step forward to fulfill the role or search outside the community for someone that would join the community and satisfy that need.
The health of the community was dependent both on its constituents (i.e., how well all the needs of the community were satisfied) and on its economic health. If the local farmers fell on bad times (e.g., inefficient agricultural practices, bad weather, drought, etc.) or if the local businesses failed (e.g., poor management, inefficient supply chain, lack of a labor pool, etc.) then the community might collapse and the people would have to find another community to join.
If the community had clergy in the old Christian mold, I assume the sermons were often based on the traditional fire and brimstone theme. If good times endured (good weather, excess food supplies, successful businesses, etc.) there would be a strong tendency to thank God for the blessings. If bad times developed (bad weather, insufficient food, loss of needed businesses, etc.) there would be a strong tendency to pray to God for help in the times of need. Depending on what is included in the bad times, there might be blame assigned to those involved. The blame might be appropriate in some cases (like poor decisions) but it might not in other cases (like behavior being linked to unrelated causes the punishment from God for sin!).
It is interesting to note that any community will always have good times and bad times. The health of the community determines how well it handles those transitions. Unfortunately, the Christian tradition has often been to thank an external God for the good things but also to assign blame on people for bad things. For example, in any year there will be good weather and bad weather. It is odd to believe the good weather is a reward from God but to assume the bad weather is punishment.
Now let's consider a modern American community. This view holds for small towns up through large cities.
There are still many different roles in every community. With the literacy and mobility of Americans, the community is much more alive than with previous generations. Often there are different segments of the community watching over different roles. The local city government tries to maintain the presence of the necessary businesses both for the products they might offer and for the jobs they provide. The local school board tries to maintain an adequate education system. The businesses try to make a profit to stay in business while they also stay involved in community activities. Any community with a mix of businesses will have a variety of jobs to fill. The businesses with those needs have to adapt to the community to get those jobs filled. If no one wants the job as is, it will have to be changed to get an applicant, perhaps it will have to pay more or it will have less hours. In any community, there will always be a mix of skill sets in the labor pool so just about any job (unless it is too specialized) should have potential applicants. Unique jobs will have to be filled from outside of the community but the contemporary labor force is very mobile so moves and transfers are possible. If the community has a need for a product or service, entrepreneurs will arise within the community to meet those needs. If no local entrepreneurs can satisfy the need and there is a strong demand within the community, then an outside person or entity will start/move/transfer to the community to satisfy the need.
In the past few years, I have had the opportunity to see in person communities in Germany and Taiwan. I see the same framework of a modern human community that I see here in Wisconsin. All these communities are alive. I see small business owners providing special goods and services. Big companies provide the general goods and services as their economies of scale provide the best value to the consumers. Companies of all sizes also compete beyond their communities, shipping their products to other communities and other to countries, while drawing on the local labor pool for the necessary time and effort. Outside companies also create branches or franchises in the community to satisfy the local needs but the expertise/product/service has been developed/produced/perfected in another community first. In any community, there are always the small shops that arise from the entrepreneurial spirit the desire to bring a new/needed product or service to the public, and make some money doing it.
In modern society, I see each community as a living entity that changes and adapts to its environment. It has also evolved from the culture in the past. People are more educated than before and technology has changed between people and cultures interact. Even in rural, less sophisticated cultures, it is still the human community that shapes the lives of its members, even if the economy of that community consists solely of hunting and gathering food for the common good.
Even though we are in the 21st century, there are still those that try to credit God for the good that happens and blame the behavior of people for the bad that happens. I have heard from my kids that some adolescents are still taught (in their Christian education classes) that women were burdened with painful childbirth because of the actions of Eve. I sometimes listen to Christian radio broadcasts in weekday mornings to hear a different perspective on life and religion. I still hear references regarding God offering his own son to suffer for our sins. I am always disheartened to hear the talk of 'God's Plan,' 'the Word of God' and similar concepts. I suspect that any of these speakers or listeners has not appreciated the true wonder of nature. Perhaps they should spend a little time watching an anthill, perhaps dropping small bread crumbs nearby. The ant community will take whatever you throw at it because the colony is part of its environment. It is not waiting for you to dictate the rules of behavior to be followed. It is not waiting for you to give it food. It does not dread that you might step on it. The Biblical book of Revelation describes how God will take vengeance on the nonbelievers - like God will step on the anthill of mankind (although even the Discovery Channel pointed out that the likely object of the warnings is the Roman Emperor Nero, dreaded by early Christians).
People are like ants in that we are all social creatures. However, we are much more advanced creatures as we also have intelligence and ambition. I was brought up in a strong Catholic environment but I have thought about the big picture that it is presents (with a three-person God managing our lives and with an eternal life after death in heaven or hell) - and it is not logical or practical. My hope here (on the pages within this web site) is to offer a different perspective and perhaps shake someone loose of his/her shackles.
The simple rule of being considerate of others should be at the heart of our human society. The Christian preoccupation of a life after death does not direct an attitude of sympathy, tolerance and consideration. I often find that a fixation on ancient Bible verses can result in persecution and intolerance rather than consideration. I strongly believe our contemporary culture needs a more considerate perspective or mankind might not survive the technologies it has created.
The ant community has certain traits to help it survive, including wars, slavery and gruesome treatment of those it conquers. Some of those traits arise from the ant's survival mechanisms with other competing ants. Even in our 20th century, when our earth's civilizations have reached unprecedented levels of literacy and technology, we have also witnessed incredible atrocities under Hitler (the persecution of the Jews, as well as the Russians and the other conquered nations), Stalin (the abuse of the Germans and his own political enemies), Hirohito (the atrocities in China and Korea, and with the American prisoners although these horrors were rooted in cultural animosities rather than personally driven by the Japanese leader), Idi Amin (the ethnic killings in Uganda), and even at the turn of the millennium with Milosevic (in his recent 'ethnic cleansing') and the suicide bombers in the Middle East.
As long as mankind keeps a narrow perspective on its existence, it jeopardizes its own future. All of the earth's human races are of one species. With the development of the internet and of (relatively) inexpensive air travel, mankind could finally grasp the concept of a global community. In previous generations, it was much easier to insulate one culture from the outside influences. Even as the current regime in mainland China attempts to prevent the real stories within its borders from being known to its own peoples (in addition to those outside of China), the internet is making such free speech possible. (I started this page shortly after the elementary school explosion in China, where the children were tasked to work with explosives in school.)
The world has moved to a more precarious position, now that the playing field for terrorism has reached a different level. The multiple plane crashes on September 11, 2001 and the subsequent mailings of anthrax have worried many in the civilized world. The incredible aspect of these terrorist acts is that they might be the work of those doing it on religious grounds. Who can believe in a God that supposedly directs the killing of innocent people, and promises a reward for the murderer?
The world has to cease its conflicts and especially those that are so emotionally charged when based on ethnic or religious grounds. We really are in this (the planet earth) together. Mankind forms a global community. Until we as the entire race of humanity realizes that, true world peace seems impossible.
created - April 2001
last change 04/06/2003
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