Thursday, January 19, 2006

Fate, Destiny, and Society 2

This post and the previous post offer an explanation of how belief in these metaphysical concepts arose and an explanation of the consequences (good and bad) for us and for society.

What does it mean for society that people belief in fate or destiny? Well, let me back up a step and describe some of the personal consequences. The personal consequences produce social phenomena, as we will see.

The major impact on people who put a lot of faith in things like fate and destiny has got to be a reduced sense of control over their lives. A feeling of personal control gives us the energy to try and make positive changes in ourselves and in our surroundings. Whether this feeling is mostly fact or mostly fantasy is of no importance for the individual. A reduced sense of control causes people suffer three general types of problems:

1. Career failures/problems - which often leads to money problems and to...

2. Relationship problems - money problems cause fights. We have our mates picked for us by fate (even the choice to pair up and produce children is experienced as "destiny"!).

3. Goal setting - which obviously comes before goal getting; Why worry about it if you have some destiny to fulfill.

(SIdenote: I'm focusing on the metaphysical belief in unseen forces that shape our lives. The related subject of religious belief in divine will is going to be the subject of future posts.)

So, what about social consequences? There are at least six types of consequences:

1. Lower quality of life - conditions are determined by metaphysical forces we can't control so why bother to try harder? This probably is not a consciously-held perspective but one that can still color decision-making in many cultures.

2. Slow economic growth - a weak commitment to taking charge of things may reduce the rate of growth; not a bad thing inherently, but many countries are too poor!

3. Political apathy - the government is controlled by metaphysical forces beyond our control so why bother? Maybe we were destined to suffer (for no clear reason or to produce a "better" society in the future).

4. Inequality - there is no way, really, to control who is rich and who is poor

5. Exploitation and oppression - It is our desitny to rule the continent, rule over black people, or whatever.

6. Acceptance of natural disasters - What can we do? It was destined to happen sooner or later.

Next Time: Life after death


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