“How can we build a better world?” should be the focus of us all. In America, the answer given most often is that we should combine the capitalist philosophy with the teachings of our declaration of independence and our constitution. In short, these teachings focus on individualism. The American economy is built on individual efforts as are the political and moral sides of life. These ideas have benefits, but unfortunately, they also lead to negative results. As is true of many laws and rules, these American ideas result in both the good and bad. Capitalism and individualism permit individuals to experiment and this can lead to exciting discoveries. But individualism can result in greed and economic inequality. So: is it possible to have freedom and exciting discoveries without the greed and economic inequality?
I would point to a greater focus on happiness as a goal and a way to permit freedom without greed and economic inequality. Eastern philosophers say that happiness comes from compassion for others. But compassion for others is directly contrary to capitalism, which says that earning wealth and power for oneself improves the society and makes it grow. But we have found recently that growth economically does little for the society because the growth just goes to the 1%.
Instead of insisting on capitalism, I think we should focus on how we can make compassion for others a centerpiece of our society. That would both lead to individual happiness and at the same time eliminate wars and other issues that undercut our society.
Our local philosophy club recently presented discussions on the Jaim philosophy in India. “The four main teachings of Jainism are non-attachment, non-violence, self-discipline and accepting that the truth has many aspects and sides. “ It also teaches that compassion for others leads to internal individual happiness and thus societal happiness. Hard work through self-discipline leads the followers of Jain to the result that its 5 million followers in India pay 25% of all national taxes. Thus, a small part of the Indian population supports a significant part of the government and the society. Jains are encouraged to earn well, but they focus on compassion for others means that they voluntarily spread their own wealth. They do not buy yachts and expensive cars; instead, they donate for the betterment of society. Jains are also honest and honorable.
This proves that one can have freedom to create without greed and income inequality. In other words, one can achieve the goals of socialism without using the power of government if the members of the society believe in the goals of socialism and help to achieve them voluntarily.
We have learned that creating a socialist government without the principles of Jain can lead to corruption, because those with power use it to better themselves economically and not better the society. Think of China, Russia, and Cuba, for example. The important thing is to make the economy work for all. Everyone should work with compassion for others. Those who really help the society should be lauded and should be given political power. Thus, they can achieve happiness through compassion, through recognition, and through political power. The society as a whole gets a sharing of economic gain as well as political leaders who want social betterment.
I do not think that all Jain ideas would be accepted in modern America. For instance, traditional Jains would not kill animals or even root vegetables for food. They travel only on foot. On the other hand, its main principles are not contrary to Christian ideals or the stated ideals of other religions. Jainism is not a religion but a philosophy because there is no belief in a higher being. As such, this philosophy could be taught in our schools and encouraged in our churches. If these principles were taught to our children, after 25 years it would take root and become the foundation of our society, all to its betterment.