4. Ideology, Morality, and Decision-Making Using The Values of Social Sustainability

A Sustainable Ideology —

I know of only a handful of people who are consciously aware of the values they use to guide their decisions. Even fewer are aware of the values that have sustained our species for tens of thousands of years. Here, we will make them visible as an ideology of social sustainability so that we can appreciate their importance to how we make decisions concerning everything in our lives.

A friend recently asked, “How does social sustainability work, anyway? And what is an ideology, anyway? I don’t ‘get’ it.”

“Think of social sustainability,” I explained, “as another ideology that affects almost everything that is important to you. Everyone uses money as an ideology. The ideology of money pervades almost every aspect of our lives, every day, even every hour, and sometimes every minute. When it is of great concern to us, we equate the amount of money for almost everything. The extreme of this is that the value of people has become “monetized” to the point where corporations equate the presence of its employees in terms of their cost to the company and in terms of the corporation’s profit-making per employee.

“Using the ideology of money, most people equate their home, cars, furniture, entertainment, your children’s education, vacations, job promotions, and added education – almost everything you do, especially your job and the income it provides in terms of money, income, per hour, week, month and year; money per paycheck, per client, per closing, per sale, and per square foot for retail businesses.

“The ideology of social sustainability operates very similarly. The ideology of social sustainability uses the three primary core values (quality of life, growth, and equality) as the baseline for making decisions by individuals, families, companies, organizations, governmental agencies, executives of all types, and even legislative bodies. The three secondary core Value-Emotions (empathy, compassion, and “Love”) provide the qualifying values that assure socially sustainable decisions are also humane.

When we begin to interpret all that occurs to us in terms of socially sustainable values and use them as the basis for our decision-making, its ideology can help us create options, choices, decisions, and actions that support and contribute to the social sustainability of our lives, communities, and societies.

A Sustainable Morality —

When we develop options, choices, decisions based on the six values of social sustainability, our actions take on the morality of social sustainability. Our actions become “moral” ( + ) according to those values; or, “neutral” ( ), neither contributing to nor being detrimental to social sustainability of another person, an organization, or a national, international, or global organization. Those that are detrimental are “immoral” ( ), in terms of social sustainability whether committed by an individual alone, or as a decision-maker of an organization of any type or size. (Organizations do not make decisions, executives do.)

A sustainable, humane morality. Ironically, options, decisions, and actions that are moral and contribute to social sustainability may not be humane. Actions that contribute to sustainability must also be validated as being humane. Fundamentally, empathy, compassion, and “Love” support the development of a higher quality of life for our self and with others. The three Value-Emotions (empathy, compassion, and “Love”) provide us with the motivating energy to grow into a more complete, mature and functional individual within our self and within our social environment. They allow us to see the common good as societal rather than selfishly personal.

The combination of these six values provide the means to define “the common good,” “what is fair,” “social equity,” and “social justice” that motivate us to act with empathy, compassion, and care of humanity — individually, socially, politically, and economically.

What it is not, and more. It is also important to say what a morality for a sustainable civilization is not. It is not a morality based on religion, politics, money, power, fame, race, ethnicity, gender, nationality, or personality; and, further, it does not subscribe to those orientations. It does support the survival, existence and sustainability of our global civilization as a social organism, and it is as applicable to the international community of nations as it is to individuals, families, communities, states, and nations.

Our Traditional Form Of Morality —

You may be puzzled about this new morality. Yet, when we examine our historic form of morality we discover that it is deeply flawed and incapable of addressing many contemporary social issues. Our traditional morality was developed over 4,000 years ago and was never intended to be a proactive morality to develop and improve the lives and sustainability of current and future generations. It was developed as a “one size fits all” sort of code that has been handed down to every generation from the earliest of times.

Morality (from the Latin moralitas "manner, character, proper behavior") is the differentiation of intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are good (or right) and those that are bad (or wrong) . A moral code is a system of morality (for example, according to a particular philosophy, religion, culture, etc.) and a moral is any one practice or teaching within a moral code. The adjective moral is synonymous with "good" or "right." Immorality is the active opposition to morality (i.e. good or right), while amorality is variously defined as an unawareness of, indifference toward, or disbelief in any set of moral standards or principles.8

Our traditional moral code exists for only 3 reasons:

1. As a guide for decision-making for person-to-person behavior. 
2. As a guide for social authorities, like legal courts, when individuals make immoral decisions and actions. 
3. To provide a known method for maintaining social stability. 

The traditional moral code does not say anything about guiding one person or 7 billion into the future. It does not take much insight to see that the moral code western civilization has been using for over 4,000 years does nothing to identify and point the way to a common social goal that everyone can easily accept. It does nothing to aid individuals, governments, social agencies, corporations, and organizations of communities and societies, to achieve that goal. Perhaps one of the most egregious deficiencies of our old moral code is that it is not applicable to organizations, corporations, or governments. It is solely a person-to-person morality. Even in that simple capacity it does not proactively point the way to socially sustainable relationships.

What is clear is that our traditional morality does not support a functional, sustainable society. In a society that has chosen to move toward social sustainability, all decisions and actions by all citizens, social agencies and organizations, corporations and governments must proactively contribute to their mutual social sustainability; and, cease taking actions that are detrimental to social sustainability of individuals and society. If the quality of life is central to social sustainability, it will not become a reality without an integrated morality of decision-making that supports socially sustainable actions. Much like a key between a drive axle and a drive gear, a morality that proactively orients all social thoughts and behavior of individuals and organizations is the key that fulfills any attempt to establish sustainable social organization.

In more detail. A socially sustainable, humane morality —

  • Is universally applicable to all people of every nation, culture, race, ethnicity, society, and gender. 
  • Will be as relevant and applicable 5,000 years from now as it is today. 
  • Could become a way of thinking and easily accepted by all people without the implicit or explicit implication of a foreign, domestic, political, or monetary agenda. 
  • Could promote positive, constructive thoughts, language, and behaviors of every individual at any level of society. 
  • Would provide the hope of improved quality of social relations between individuals, social organizations, and national organizations. 
  • Would be easily understood and applied by almost anyone, literate or not. 
  • Would proactively promote the social evolution and maturity of individuals, families, communities, societies, and nations. 
  • Would clearly define what actions add to the social sustainability of individuals, families, and communities, and what actions are detrimental to those ends. 

Value-Adding Moral Decision-Making —

Reframing the social value of the individual. When millions of daily decisions and actions are made using a socially sustainable morality, then each individual becomes a more valuable social asset who can benefit their community and society. Such a code of morality adds social-value to a community as the individual proactively makes decisions that add sustainable value to their own life and their community. When organizations make decisions in alignment with the six values, then individuals and society benefit.

Quality, value-based cultures are well prepared to engage social sustainability because they are integrative in nature, where the individual is seen as capable of influencing the whole as much as the whole influences the individual. This type of thinking values the circular systems integrity of the family, community, and society. The individual exists in a relationship of connectedness, integration and inclusiveness, rather than separation and exclusiveness.

Quality, value-based thinking offers individuals the option of giving qualitative interpretations to their world. People are valued because they have the capacity to add quality-value to their community and society through their decisions and actions. To increase the value of an individual’s contribution to society that individual must be seen as an asset whose value to society can be increased. The individual then becomes an investment, an asset who can develop a “return” to his or her family, community, and society.

Reframing social programs. When society takes the proactive initiative to prepare individuals to participate sustainably in society it has taken the high ground to move societies into social maturity and stability. Seen from the opposite point of view, when children are not prepared to live in a socially sustainable society, they are in effect denied the capability to make decisions that add to the quality of their life and living materially and socially, which causes a “drag” on the moral and sustainable evolution of their family and community. They are denied the possibility of adding value to their life without the consciousness to decide.

A shift in culture. The possibility of whole societies moving into social sustainability will be a major shift in culture, and the thinking of individuals. As population increases beyond the quantity needed to maintain a society, the less quality of life is available to everyone equally, and the less value of each new citizen to that nation. This is contrary to our historic moral roots where the value of each person is seen as being unique and valuable as they are. The reaction we have seen in middle and upper-middle class families is an increased value-investment made in each child, while the value-investment of children who are economically marginalized decreases.

To think about the value of individuals as social assets, whose value can be increased for society’s benefit, is evidence of an increasing moral maturity of our society. Reframing societal morality using these values would begin to give value to the integral wholeness of our society, even as we witness a disparate aggregation of racial, ethnic, national, and religious social groups tear our societies apart.

The Social Contract Of Socially Sustainable Moral Duty —

Because individuals are short-lived and societies and civilizations are long-lived, societies provide the context for the survival of future generations of individuals. That outcome can only occur when citizens and organizations make decisions that support the survival and sustainability of society’s future generations.

Most people have forgotten that the social contract between their society and individuals in the past made it possible for them, today, to have a good life. The social contract requires that society provide individuals and families with the capability of fulfilling the three core values of social sustainability: quality of life, growth, and equality. The social contract of social sustainability also requires that individuals and organizations make decisions and take action that support the three core values of social sustainability for the welfare of society’s future generations; and, they may be required to forfeit their lives to thwart threats by foreign invaders, or others, in order to aid their society’s survival and the sustainability of future generations.

  • This contract breaks down when the larger society fails to add value to the sustainability of its citizens, and when it also fails to act responsibly to curb social influences and social predators that cause harm to citizens. 
  • This contract breaks down when individuals and families fail to teach their children how to become contributing members to the social sustainability of their community society, and the future of that society.

Socially Sustainable Moral Duty —

The primary moral duty is to do no harm to another that impairs their ability to survive, exist, and become socially sustainable — and neutral to make contributions to the sustainability of themselves, their family, and community.

Our secondary moral duty is proactive to make decisions that contribute to the social sustainability of the individual, their family, community, and to society. The emphasis is on responsibilities that improve the quality of life of the individual, the family, and community, and the whole of society, for organizations and individuals.

1.  The Individual. Because the individual is the organic base of the sustainability of our global civilization, his or her responsibilities and actions are toward family, community, state, nation, and global community. The individual becomes a value-asset of society as she or he is able to contribute to the sustainability of their community.

Primary Moral Duty: Preserve life; do no harm directly or indirectly to another.

Explanation: Protect social and material assets, existent and potential, of social sustainability — the future of that society. Protect and develop those social assets (gene pool, infants in utero, infants and children, and adults) so that added value is given to each person, who has the potential to make a contribution to the sustainable future of society and civilization;

Secondary Moral Duty: Make a social contribution to social sustainability of self, family, and community.

Explanation: The first purpose of an individual’s life is to make a meaningful life of their own existence; second, to make a meaningful contribution to the sustainability of their community, society, and to civilization. Each individual is responsible to protect, develop, and utilize social resources to make social sustainability possible for this and all future generations.

The emphasis is not only on the survival and existence of themselves and society, but the sustainability of that individual and society — a society of sustainable individuals in a sustainable social context — enjoying a sustainable quality of life.

2.  Organizations — Community and Society. “Organizations” includes all social, governmental-political, and financial-economic organizations and includes sole proprietorships, governmental agencies, offices, bureaus in every branch of government at all levels, companies and corporations, and foundations, for examples.

The moral duty of a democratic government in a society that is moving toward social sustainability is to generate its vision, intention, operating philosophy, mission, goals, and objectives that not only aid the survival, existence, and operational maintenance of society, but also support the development and evolution of that society into a stable and mature society.

Government’s responsibilities are to aid communities and the larger society to preserve, protect, and develop the social sustainability of its citizens, while also removing individuals, associations of individuals and organizations that violate the social sustainability of others.

Decision-makers of organizations are as morally responsible to make decisions and take actions as individual citizens. It is the socially sustainable moral responsibility of organizations to make decisions and take actions that proactively work toward the sustainability of their host society and its citizens.

Primary Duty: Protection and preservation of the integrity of family organization and functions, and then the community of that family.

Explanation: The emphasis is on the survival, existence, and sustainability of the individuals of that society to ensure the sustainability of their society. The individual makes a contribution with their life to that end; and, society aids the individual to have a meaningful, purposeful life that empowers that contribution. It is a relationship of symbiotic sustainability, where the social forces of the individual and society are joined, and both benefit without being used by the other for their separate ends. Both have an intention for their mutual benefit.

While this may seem utopian to readers in the early 21st century, it is based on necessary pragmatic moral decisions by each individual and by public agencies and corporations that enable social sustainability to develop in families, communities, and national societies.

Secondary Duty: To discharge its moral obligations that the public is not morally capable as individuals.

Explanation: At the level of societal morality, civil government has as its responsibility and obligation to carry out societal level moral actions that at the personal level would be considered immoral if carried out by individuals.

3.  Global Organizations — Nations and the Community of Nations. The moral duty of nations and the community of nations is virtually the same as that of "Social Organizations".

The Three Moral Imperatives Of Social Sustainability

1.   No individual shall diminish or impede the social sustainability of another person, social entity or global entity without moral justification. 
2.   No social entity shall diminish or impede the social sustainability of another social entity, individual or global entity without moral justification. 
3.   No global entity shall diminish or impede the social sustainability of another global entity, social entity or individual without moral justification. 

Social” relates to two or more individuals.

Entity” relates to any permanent or temporary social group and may be organized or unorganized. For examples, a corporation, governmental agency and the whole government would be considered permanent, organized social groups. A Tupper Ware® Party and a “Meet Up” cyber group would be considered temporary, unorganized social entities.

Organized” relates to a temporary or permanent group that has an organizational structure, even if that means a single organizing person as a sole proprietorship.

8 - Wikipedia - Morality