Relationship between People

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Moving Forward Towards New Value Systems

The global ideals of freedom, equality, and fraternity

The ideals of freedom, equality, and fraternity are common ideals that the entire world has aspired toward since the French Revolution. These ideals are also enshrined in Chapter 1 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, although 200 years have passed since the French Revolution, humanity has still not realized an ideal world based on these values.

Capitalism, which is based on the principle of “free” economic activity, has been criticized for prioritizing the value of money, causing environmental destruction, and exacerbating inequality. Socialism and communism, which purport to champion “equality,” appear to increase the risks of inefficiency, corruption, and totalitarian dictatorships. Freedom and equality are both ideals; however, they are, ironically, also the cause of various social problems and conflicts.

Individuals seeking happiness

It is natural for people to desire to be happy. A society that lacks either freedom or equality is unable to ensure the well-being and happiness of its inhabitants. Each individual is unique and possesses their own personality; however, individuals also belong to their family, society, and, to a large extent, the planet. People are also strongly influenced by the individuals and environments that surround them. Is it really that difficult to aim for both, not just one or the other?

The third ideal: fraternity

The third ideal, fraternity, serves as a link connecting freedom and equality. The individual who cherishes fraternity values both themselves as well as others, as the value of fraternity involves respecting both freedom and equality—that is, it involves respecting both the individual and society. Just because one declares “Fraternity is what is important!” does not mean that the world will become a better place. History shows that the word “fraternity” is often misused. Truly embracing the value of fraternity requires combining wisdom from various areas of life, including politics, economics, society, history, and culture.

The opposite of justice is “another justice”

The confrontation between justice and evil is actually just a confrontation between different definitions of justice; that is, each side thinks that they are just and the other side is evil. Justice is nothing more than a set of values that one believes to be righteous. That is, justice is a relative concept that is defined according to one’s perspective. By changing one’s perspective, it is possible to understand that the confrontation between justice and evil can also be interpreted as two parties fighting over the definition of justice. Forced diversity and wars fought over justice… do you sense the contradictions and vague unease lines contained in these?

An Environment that Fosters Happiness

Let us consider environments that make us feel happy. When trying to identify factors that contribute to people’s sense of happiness, we find that happiness can come from material things, such as money and goods, or from immaterial things, such as positive and meaningful relationships. We will now consider two types of happiness: material happiness, which derives from material possessions, and spiritual happiness, which derives from spiritual fulfillment.

The social system of today and its challenges

Broadly speaking, there are two main social systems: liberal and socialist systems. However, both systems rely on economies based on money, and both of them contain elements of capitalism. Therefore, it is possible to regard liberalism as “corporate capitalism” based on corporations and socialism as “state capitalism” based on the state. Corporate capitalism encourages competition among companies and aims for efficient resource allocation and economic growth through the market. State capitalism also involves competition; however, emphasis is placed on state-led management and control. Both forms of capitalism are vulnerable to challenges, such as wealth concentration and the abuse of power, making them prone to inequality and oppression.

Views of equality

Under state capitalism, there is a tendency toward the compulsory distribution of goods in accordance with the principle of communal wealth. This approach emphasizes equality of outcomes. Under corporate capitalism, in contrast, fair competition is considered essential for growth and efficiency, and insider trading and other forms of fraud are strictly regulated to emphasize equality of opportunity and rights.

The limits in wealth distribution

There is a growing debate over the need to more actively redistribute goods from the rich to the poor to eliminate inequality, which is seen as a negative byproduct of capitalism. Increasing taxes on the wealthy is one way to achieve wealth redistribution; however, is this the only solution to eliminating income inequality?

Please refer to Fig 1. Assuming that the size of the wooden boxes in the figure represents the amount of wealth, some people’s problems may not be solved even if they are redistributed “equally.” Additionally, if we try to distribute wealth “fairly,” more wealth may be required, and we may have to seek out sources of funding from others. The distribution of goods is based on someone’s endurance and sacrifice. For example, examine the rightmost figure. Is there any way to remove the fundamental barriers rather than discussing only the distribution of wealth? To achieve this, it is necessary to think not only in terms of “material happiness” but also in terms of “spiritual happiness.”

Fig 1. Limits of Equality/Distribution and the State of Happiness

Harmonizing material and spiritual happiness

The concepts of equality and distribution as well as growth and efficiency have so far been viewed from the perspective of “material happiness.” However, when you give something to someone, it always decreases in amount. Therefore, sacrifice and competition can arise. In contrast, “spiritual happiness” does not decrease when given to someone else. Instead, when the number of like-minded people who can empathize and resonate with each other increases, their satisfaction levels are likely to increase. Moreover, it is also commonly believed that building a society founded on trustworthy relationships and tolerance will enhance spiritual happiness. In an environment where such psychological safety is ensured, it may be possible to cultivate a way of thinking that emphasizes the balance between the individual and society, the economy and nature, and so on. Therefore, the alleviation of various negative consequences stemming from the concentration of wealth and power can bring society closer to a state where more individuals can experience a sense of contentment and well-being.

Measures of Happiness

An economic indicator to replace GDP

Philip Kotler, who is called the father of marketing, has also highlighted problems with capitalism, and he argues that instead of gross domestic product (GDP), which is a measure of monetary and material wealth, nations should pass policies that enable more people to experience happiness.

Fig 2. Why GDP Makes People Unhappy – How to Create a Happy World
Source: The Nikkei

Measures of happiness

Have you heard of the country of Bhutan? Bhutan is a small Buddhist country in the Himalayas. It was the first country in the world to institute a gross national happiness (GNH) indicator, and the country adheres to the philosophy that the people of Bhutan deserve to enjoy a sense of well-being in their lives. Gross national happiness measures the happiness of citizens via indicators such as “whether they are fulfilled on a spiritual level rather than a material one,” “whether they are leading balanced lives of both work and leisure,” and “whether there is diversity in mutual respect and connections with the community and the region.”

According to the World Happiness Report released by the United Nations, Japan ranks 54th in the world for happiness. While its GDP per capita is high, its levels of freedom and tolerance are low. Japan is considered a developing country according to GNH criteria, and therefore, the country can be seen as having great growth potential.

Fig 3. Gross National Happiness (GNH) of Bhutan
Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan “International Affairs Illustrated”

Fig 4. 2022 World Happiness Rankings Source: Sustainable Development Solutions Network

Creating a society with high levels of happiness

Based on the four pillars and nine areas of Bhutan’s GNH indicator, let us now contemplate how to enhance the overall happiness of society.

First, national and local governments must establish a general policy of respecting GNH. Moreover, by engaging in business activities that specifically enhance GNH indicators, companies can gain support from customers and stakeholders, as well as national and local governments. As happiness is gradually redistributed, societal values will shift towards prioritizing happiness. The spiritual happiness that remains constant despite being redistributed will become more prevalent in society, and more people will directly feel its impact. Additionally, companies are likely to participate in order to gain certain advantages, which, in turn, will create a positive cycle that leads to the realization of a society with a better quality of life.

Fig 5. Redistribution based on GNH

Circle of Happiness

The relationship between the individual and the group

All individuals desire to achieve happiness. However, in the pursuit of “spiritual happiness,” which does not decrease even when redistributed, it is necessary for individuals to feel responsible for society and understand the desire of others to be happy. Within the common understanding of happiness, one can acknowledge the differences in values between individuals and still accept each other. This can lead to more empathy and resonance, as well as more trust and tolerance, which, in turn, will create better relationships between people. These relationships, however, do not necessarily have to take place in real life. For example, with the advancement of technology, virtual communities have proliferated, and it is now possible to interact with people from across the globe who have a variety of value systems. As individuals participate in diverse communities and recognize their differences from others, they will develop new concepts of happiness. This will become a driving force behind realizing a flourishing society with improved relationships between individuals and between individuals and society.

Fig 6. “This and That” Screw of Happiness

The “this and that” screw of happiness

Fig 6 illustrates how both material happiness and spiritual happiness combine and interact with each other like a “this and that” screw, bringing society closer to true happiness. While maintaining a position of freedom and diversity, building empathy and resonance, as well as trust and tolerance, is a potential shortcut to spiritual happiness.

In other words, spiritual happiness is not something that can be achieved by following a precise strategy; rather, it is achieved by acknowledging and identifying with a diverse range of values that emerge from human relationships. That is, spiritual happiness is a product of thinking “This is good!” and “That is good!” while maintaining one’s own position of freedom and diversity. By trying to understand and empathize with each other, trust is deepened, and tolerance can take root in people’s hearts. Ultimately, a new axis of values will be created that will enable people to feel spiritual happiness.

Conclusion – What is “this and that” screw?

Have you heard of Bakabon no Papa? He is the main character of a Japanese manga called Tensai Bakabon; it is a comedy manga from the Showa Era. In this manga, Pap repeats the phrase “Kore de ii no da!” This phrase means “This is good!” and it may hold a valuable lesson for people today. First, the phrase should make one feel confident and free to choose one’s own values. Second, the phrase “That is good, too!” should motivate people to respect the values of others. Such an attitude can lead to a world where people feel equal through cooperation and mutual support, promoting growth through new learning. Perhaps this will lead to the “fraternity” that humanity has been seeking.

Going forward, everyone should contemplate what they can do to contribute to building a happier society. This could be as simple as faithfully embracing the attitude of “This is good!” and “That’s good, too!” Relationships between people can be approached with the sentiment of “This is good!” and “That is good, too!” (by Bakabon no Papa)