Love, Compassion and Governance
Love and compassion are associated with the highest ideals of the human spirit; however their expression is manifested within the individual whereas governance is a collective concept performed by groups who claim to be representing the best interests of others.
Although the expressions of love and compassion are generally easy to identify within the individuals that we meet, identifying them through the actions of our institutions and our leaders whom we only know through the media and their PR machines is much more difficult. This is a subject that is rarely discussed but pivotal to justice and the creation of fair societies.
Love and compassion are found at the core of all major religions and are also expressed in many of our greatest philosophical works, yet are rarely expressed as the motivation of government action or seen in their operations. There are no Ministers of Love and Compassion in the governments of the world nor are there any campaigns that I know of which are aimed at creating one. Governance seems to be more about the execution of policies and the delivery of results than it is about love or compassion. This may be fine providing what guides the execution of government policy is some form of public good. Therefore what is important is to somehow see what the results of a society’s governance practices are and how to determine whether they conform to what we would consider loving or compassionate behaviour.
One of the fundamental questions is ‘Do societies shape the individuals or do individuals create the societies within which they live?’ It is clear that both have an effect on one another and separating which is causal from the other is very difficult, therefore the concept of virtuous or vicious cycles comes to mind. Well attuned governments create the space for individuals to be more loving and compassionate and more loving and compassionate individuals create the environment for governments to become better attuned to their needs. If societies can be thought of as a system, then focusing on the dynamics of the system should create a virtuous cycle from which all benefit. But what are the dynamics we should focus on and measure? They can be broken down into two parts, the personal and the societal.
The personal can be captured through asking people how they feel, what is important to them, do they feel loved, when was the last time they felt compassion and what they would like government to do. This can be done through surveys with the aim of improving the results over time, this is a virtuous cycle.
Governance gets much harder to understand whether it’s a vicious or virtuous cycle as there is no clear understanding of what governance actually incorporates. I have therefore adopted a broad definition of governance, which looks at the attitudes, institutions and structures that create and sustain peaceful societies and then use these as a mirror to determine how loving and compassionate the societal outcomes are. These aspects of peaceful societies also act as a system where the direction of the momentum is what is most important.
The societal structures and attitudes that are associated with peaceful societies are many, but consist of rule of law, low levels of corruption, the free flow of information through society, the acceptance of the rights of others, strong business environment, good relations with neighbours countries, high levels of human capital as well as an equitable distribution of resources through these items are important but so are the development of all individuals and as a society focuses on these issues individuals will become more knowledgeable, be less distressed, and have more resources and experience less fear. This creates a virtuous cycle in which members of society have the freedom to become better human beings; however in the end it is an individual’s choice to become more compassionate or less.