Covid-19 has revealed the fragility of our global system, showing that institutions across the world are vastly unprepared to handle this crisis. Countless social, economic, and political failures now illuminate underlying dysfunctions like greed, inequality, and discrimination. These inhumane dysfunctions not only exacerbate the crisis, but reflect the precise inverse of what is needed if humanity is to emerge from this crisis with thriving colors.
Humanistic Management offers a proven model that makes universal and sustained cooperation possible, and it begins with a simple principle: By safeguarding the dignity and well-being of others, we guarantee our own freedom and rights too.
Guiding humanistic design principles are:
- All humans are valued: The inherent worth of each person is affirmed through actions and policies that promote equity and distributive justice. Differences are viewed as a source of creative potential and thus celebrated.
- Change efforts are coordinated to serve the ecosystem and work synergistically: A societal problem is a systemic problem; it affects people both as individuals and as a whole. Any effort to make change has to mobilize and coordinate the efforts of every part of the system (e.g., social, economic, political, technological) so that the synergy raises the entire collective to a level above the problem. Because everyone is affected by the situation, everyone has a stake in getting past the situation and should be contributing in whatever way they can (and the system should be supporting these efforts).
- Planetary health is critical: Human systems will thrive to the degree the planet does — harming nature and others harms ourselves, whether in the short term or the long.
- Profit is put in the service of elevating well-being and flourishing: Profit is not an end; it is a means. The entire point of making a profit is to put the surplus into the service of another entity that promotes the welfare of both the profit maker and the system and stakeholders that produce and consume the goods/services made for said profit. Centralizing wealth into a tiny number of hands serves only to destroy the systems of production and consumption that stimulate growth, creation, and profit.
At the industrial level, healthcare, food, education, and the creative arts are in overdrive, countered by the relative standstill of the hospitality, transportation, and oil industries. Information wars form a second plane of division, fracturing a society that is already divided along political, social, economic, and/or religious lines. The first step in addressing our challenges, then, is to see how all of these constructs fit together into a higher-order whole, and how this complex perspective can offer a means to recovery.
Each individual’s actions in this pandemic can have global implications. When we stay at home, we protect not only ourselves, but each other. When we support small businesses, we promote the creativity and individuality of many different producers and maintain a level of diversity in this world that gives us the myriad options that we consider standard in this internet age. When we ensure that front-line workers are paid fairly and given protective equipment, we are protecting the infrastructure that allows us to stay at home and keep others from suffering in the first place. Every move we make as individuals affects a larger system that, through many steps, affects us all in turn.
Putting Principle into Practice: Examples of the Interconnectedness of System Elements
The first step in addressing our challenges, then, is to see how all of these constructs fit together into a higher-order whole, and how this complex perspective can offer a means to recovery.
Education, for instance, is a crucial part of being an effective global citizen. It provides people with the ability to think critically, tolerate ambiguity, be patient and diligent, develop passions, counter boredom, and come into contact with a wide range of people in order to understand how many different types of well-being there are in the world and the different ways in which people go about achieving them. One learns that there are many ways to seek their own good without harming others, and that in fact we often best serve our own good by contributing to the proverbial rising tide that lifts all boats. Certainly, we learn that we are part of a system, and that when we take from the system, we must also put into the system or else risk destroying it. Anyone who eats from trees without planting their own has not only insulted the tree planters, they have destroyed the future for their offspring and their line will die out. That is as true for businesses as it is for people.
From this, it is clear that education is a key part of being an effective consumer, problem-solver, and participant in globally-coordinated solutions. One could have started with any element and shown its integration into the broader scope.
Belief systems, writ large, is one of the backbones of human society, often providing insights into how to elevate daily living above the level of the mundane. Religious, agnostic, and atheist people alike ascribe to a way of living, moral code, and/or culture whose core is recognizing the sacredness of human life, which implies that everyone should do and be their best and contribute to the betterment of all life as they do so. It is when they ignore these codes/cultures/ways, and worship gold and human sacrifices, that they step out of the interconnected web of humanity and raise themselves up by standing upon the suffering of others. We need look only at how we make a living, or how we eat, or how we recreate, to see how each of us has a set of sacred needs just like every other human being, and likewise see the role that a large human system plays in every aspect of our lives. The simple act of eating an apple requires one to note how apples are grown, how they are brought to the table, how one earns the money to get that apple on the table (not to mention getting the table!), and through this one can appreciate the many hands involved in one simple act.
Both of these infrastructure examples shows how each aspect of the construct contributes both to the larger whole of the construct and to the larger whole of humanity. In every aspect of our lives, it is crucial for us to recognize the interconnectedness of the people, systems, and planet in which we find ourselves, and to let that understanding guide our approach to living humanistically.