We are approaching another decade with much confusion, insecurity, hostility and violence.
Let’s reimagine the world that we could have. For me, that world is a coming together of three things: love, respect and reason.
I am talking about benevolent love. It requires a cultivation of kindness and compassion as a practice of everything we do from education to politics or economics. It emphasises our service to humanity so we can put aside self-interest and dedicate our lives to helping others.
I am talking about what Martin Luther king called “the love that does justice”, signifying a consciousness about equality rather than hierarchy and disparity.
Love is not a particularistic kind of love that often come with conditions or conditionings that segment society to create hierarchies and privileges. Love is about a universal kind of love – equanimity – where we see others the way we see ourselves, and we love others the way we love ourselves, no more no less.
Love releases us from fear and insecurity and our diminished sense of self – the true SELF – the self that we and others are the same, and that others are all beings: humans, animals, nature. Recognition of that sameness will give us empathy and hope to expand our empathy and openness to others instead of closure.
The respect I want is not the kind towards materiality through endowment or accumulation of influence, money or status. It is about respect for empowerment of others, for truth and authenticity of others.
Respect has to be active in everything we do as we engage with others in public spaces. It means considering the effects of oppressive or exploitative systems that impact the welfare of others so we can change that. Change is about respecting the liberation for all not just our immediate self and circle of family and friends.
Respect goes hand in hand with love because it requires a thinking and doing in and for the public. It is putting the common good above the individual good. It is about respecting socially just systems even if the unjust systems make our individual lives more comfortable.
I am talking about respect as a social science of love which is symptomatic of ethics and moral values. It is a social science because it is exercised in a certain way based on theories, models, methods and empirical evidence of culture, social, politics, economics etc. But these are often done within ethical and moral principles that are also based on existing power and privileges that govern a return of power and privileges to some and not others.
Respect here requires a recognition of such just or unjust systems and practices in order to respect the benevolence of love for the collective so that we can truly live with compassion, altruism and non-hierarchical engagement.
Reason is about reasoning in the public sphere for the public. It is about recognising truths are subjective truths where all have views, and all can be heard.
Reason here is about “public thinking”. Democracy is a concept often used and understood in talking about public reasoning. But, as a political science, it is typically associated with a certain of governance rather than the actual freedom it depends upon to deliberate in the public sphere.
Reason thus is about recognising politics of freedom but with an understanding that for polity to work, the polity has to care for the common good and have to the capacity to for all to deliberate democratically.
This kind of reason requires embracing love and respect in ways that we can engage in civil dialogue where no one has a monopoly over the truth and that everyone has an obligation to reason their truths with others.
Reason needs to be separated from rationality, which is often confounded in economic terms, where people are assumed to make choices based on rationality. Rationality is a myth because we make choices based on moral values, processes bound by institutional structures, and personal feelings and intuitions. None of this make us “rational”. Indeed, we are quite irrational. Reason is about recognising the irrationality in our lives and our place in society.
Reason is public because it means recognising that we have an important role in the pubic deliberation by all and for all. Reason is private because it asks how we as individuals can gain or use our individual capacity to make change, to speak truth to power, to love and respect others as we love and respect ourselves.
These ideas of love, respect and reason seem so abstract and distant from the very real day to day pressures of our lives. But if we can recognise that those pressures are so systematic that they appear natural and objective, yet they are conditions as well as conditionings that have been imposed on us, by us, in complicity with each other as we live in the collective.
If we can recognise that, at the intersection of love, respect and reason, lies also our future.