I have been following a course on anthropology looking at the ways in which the management of countries evolves, from tribal groups, through chieftains to democracies which most seem to trend towards. This all happens slowly in western societies, most of which have reached what we refer to as democracies. We tend to lose sight of where we came from, and where we could go to achieve a fairer democracy which would result in greater equity for all citizens.
Early groups depended more on reciprocity in which gifts, of time or goods, were exchanged. Once money took over as an intermediate bargaining tool the personal aspect of reciprocracy was lost. The early system seems to have led to a fairer share of wealth to all. Currently statistics seem to show that the gap between rich and poor keeps rising in democratic countries. The trouble is that those who are suffering most under this system are hidden from view so we tend to be less aware of them.
From my own personally biased view it seems wrong that any society could allow some of its older people to be homeless. Ageing, and the physical deterioration which accompanies it, is not easy to live with when you are surrounded by all the mod cons but it must be even more difficult when you have no roof over your head. I’m sure those working with other disadvantaged groups would make the same arguments.
This raises the question of what we mean by an advanced society. It tends to be measured by gross domestic product, in other words the value of total production in any country. This puts countries such as India and China right at the top of the list, simply because they have large populations producing goods, even though this wealth has to be shared among huge populations, resulting in enormous levels of poverty.
This takes me back to the original question about democracies. Are the current versions of them the best way to run countries? Could we produce a better model and are we looking for one? Because this aspect of our progress towards successful societies, in terms of wealth fairness, tends to move slowly, or even not at all, are we just accepting that this is what it is and should be?
If current efforts to move on to other planets is successful have we thought about the type of societies we would want to set up there? Will we replicate one version of the democracy we currently have on earth and if so which one- the American, the British etc.?
If we start thinking along these lines maybe we will come up with a better one to use on earth, one in which there will be more equity and people will be discouraged from amassing large quantities of wealth for themselves and taking it, albeit indirectly through use of money as a tool, from those who are disadvantaged. The early groups of people had much more openness about who had what.
One primitive tribe used yams as a measure of wealth. The chief had a house outside his own, with the size dependent on the number of yams he had, to house them (they were later distributed to the rest of the tribe). I couldn’t help comparing this with our own wealthy people who display their wealth through large, well equipped houses, for their own use, and numerous expensive cars, again for their own use. In many ways we have come a long way backwards!