Features, For The Health of It

Creating A Shared Vision For Society

Image of Elizabeth Serieux PhD, MPH
By Elizabeth Serieux PhD, MPH

WELL here we are again! This week, we’re talking about creating a shared vision for society and pinpointing some strategies to achieve that vision. So, let’s get to it. I’m a firm believer in systems and logic; therefore, let’s start from the very bottom. Let’s assume nothing; instead, we’ll define every concept, every step of the way in order to increase the likelihood that we will share a similar understanding of what exactly we are talking about. This, in turn, makes it more likely that we will find a mutually-beneficial solution.

So to the basics. We are “creating a shared vision for society” – let’s start with this: “What do we mean by society?” What exactly are we referring to? Take a minute and examine what came to your mind when you read the word “society”?

I’ve taken the liberty of looking up some definitions of the word and here are the results:
Society:
1. “The aggregate of people living together in a more or less ordered community.” (Oxford Living Dictionaries).
2. “A large group of people who live together in an organized way, making decisions about how to do things and sharing the work that needs to be done.” (Cambridge Dictionary).
3. “An enduring and cooperating social group whose members have developed organized patterns of relationships through interaction with one another. (Merriam-Webster)
4. “The environment within which you live with other people.” (Random St. Lucian female)
5. “A group of people who live together under rules and regulations.” (Random St. Lucian male.)

So, we have five definitions of society. I thought it was important to include what our people think, so I sought out and included the thoughts of female and male St. Lucians. Our perspectives as individuals and as citizens of this small and beautiful island are important; we don’t have to completely embrace and immediately accept what we are told and what has been fed to us for generations upon generations.

The smartest thing to do is to listen, think, question, consider our circumstances and then find an answer that is most relevant and applicable. In this particular situation, with the word “society” the definitions are very similar — four out of five of them revolve around the concept of a group of people living together according to defined, shared guidelines. Works for them (international definition) and works for us (local perspective), so let’s go with that!

Our accepted and shared definition of society, therefore, is the group of us St. Lucians living together on this island, in an organized manner.

Okay, so that being established, let’s look at “organized” – why do we need to be organized and what is the basis or foundation of our “organization”?

To answer this one, let’s look at the basic desire that we share – what do we want out of life? The most common answer that I have found to this question is “the opportunity to have a good life and to leave a better world for our children”. Great! How does a group of people living together in a confined space, surrounded by water, accomplish this? By establishing a common “code of conduct” that gives each person the latitude to explore, to strive and to achieve while also ideally preventing them from exploiting as well as from being exploited.

A good useful “code of conduct” ensures that each person can uncover and nurture their own unique gifts while being respectful of the freedoms and rights of others. We, as St. Lucians, have more than earned the right to be free to enjoy life on our own terms, to decide our own destiny. The catch is that we have to do it collectively. In other words, my right to enjoyment must not and cannot infringe upon yours. If it does, then neither of us is truly free. Nelson Mandela left us with some words perfectly applicable to this context, especially in the coming month of January which lies right between our celebration of National Day in December and Independence Day in February. These words are:

“The truth is that we are not yet free; we have merely achieved the freedom to be free, the right not to be oppressed. We have not taken the final step of our journey, but the first step on a longer and even more difficult road. For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. The true test of our devotion to freedom is just beginning.”

We can be devoted to the illusion of freedom, to ourselves, to our pockets, to our vices and desires or we can be devoted to true freedom; to ensuring that we all enjoy the same rights and have the same opportunities in theory as well as in practice. We can come together and logically create an organized society, for the benefit of us all. It will take some work, but we can do it. We are smart, we are hardworking, most of us have integrity and most of us love our country and each other. Let’s talk again next week. Until then, thank you for reading, for your questions and/or comments. Reach me at LiveSmart758@gmail.com.

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