Practical Ways in Which Everyone Can Improve Society

Not many people are Christians these days. However, there is one aspect of Christian thought which is perhaps worth modern atheists considering. That is the idea that improvement needs to come from the ground up – i.e. from the grass roots. We may lament the poor quality of our politicians, the corruption of political donations, the failure of neo-liberalism, and we may feel we are somewhat powerless against these. Christian thought says otherwise. Christian thought sees society as a product of its members, as a sum produced from the parts. Under this ideology, if you improve the parts you improve the overall organism. Thus according to this idea - which in modern language is perhaps associated with the term synergy - individuals are not powerless. In fact, the quality of the whole depends on the quality of the parts.

So how then do we improve the parts – in this case the individual people? Well firstly we must identify the problems. Here are some that I can see (in no particular order):

  • Increasing aggression (road rage, etc.);
  • Increasing impatience with others – we see them as holding us up, not doing what we want, not agreeing with what we say;
  • Increasing selfishness of various types, not considering others in a myriad of ways;
  • Increased ‘transactionalism’ – seeing others as just a means to an end, not as people (eg. Shop attendants);
  • Lack of humility – if others draw attention to any faults – whether rightly or wrongly – the response is anger and/or indignation.

Now these things could all be linked to the classic Christian vices, but even non-Christians would probably agree that most of the above are undesirable. And if we are honest, most of us will admit to exhibiting one or more of these failings regularly. Under the Christian concept, that is fine, and the secular mind is also unlikely to expect that everyone should be perfect. The traditional way of dealing with this is to practice mercy and forgiveness.

So what I propose is that everyone, Christian or not, spends some time each day reflecting on their own actions, whether they were selfish or not, whether they could perhaps have let that car change lanes in the heavy traffic, whether they were viewing the sales assistant at the shop as a fellow human, or just a kind of vending-machine to dispense what they, the customer, wants.

Perhaps if we all reflect on these points, and then try to improve ourselves in these regards then maybe, perhaps gradually or perhaps quickly, society will start to improve. And as a result people may find themselves much happier if they are consciously trying not to rush everywhere. Maybe rushing to get home to relax is not as good as enjoying life as one goes about one’s business? Maybe some decide to try and do less; maybe many are less angry and frustrated with others if they are trying harder to see things from the other’s perspective and value more the time they spend with them. And maybe, just maybe, people will reach the point where each of us can suggest faults and improvements without being confronted with anger and indignation, but rather humility, a humility which is prepared to accept, in the first instance, that the critic is right and then only after reflection make a judgement on the validity of any suggestions that have been offered.

There are many things that are out of our control. This situation is not unique. Soldiers like Simpson may not have been able to stop the first world war, but they could still do plenty to help their fellow men on the field of battle through selfless action. These actions no doubt made a huge difference in the lives of those they helped, as well their friends and family