I like that my two terms, Ecoism and Egoism, differ by only one letter. This is symbolic of the reality that these two methods of human organization are separated only by a turn of view or perspective. An individual or an organization moves from one to another as the person—or people—involved decides to live their life from either an ego or an enlightened orientation.
Examining the descriptive lists in Part III, we can also see that Egoism or Ecoism can apply across the board to any type of organized system, including the CSC designations. This is the purpose of these terms; they allow us to move the discussion of human social activity to a new level of consciousness and awareness. Thus “private property” can be used in either an Egoistic or an Ecoistic manner, as can a government program or ownership. Similarly, certain areas of policy or law can be conducted from the Egoistic or Ecoistic perspective. Because these tools can free us from the CSC conceptual prison, we can now look at ideas and policies in a new light and can, hopefully, rid ourselves of unhelpful jargon. To illustrate how this new process could work, I want to engage a specific issue from the perspective of these new terms: healthcare. These reflections will hopefully be good examples of how new types of conversation might unfold with these new concepts.
Healthcare in the US is provided through a complex network of “public” and “private” institutions. The private institutions are further divided into “for profit” and “non-profit” entities. These include the vast array of healthcare clinics and hospitals and also insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, medical device companies, nursing homes, IT companies, and others. We know the results of this current arrangement: healthcare in the US is among the most expensive in the world, millions of people cannot afford it, and millions more are making vast amounts of money off of the system.
Most of the arguments around how to change or fix the system fall into the “socialist vs. capitalist” lens, a debate that has been going on for a long time. I remember a friend of mine in high school (which was sometime in the late 18th century) telling me that his father, a physician, was planning on leaving medicine because he was sure that we would soon have “socialized” medicine in the US and he couldn’t stand the idea of working within such a system. This capitalist/socialist view of the argument has produced little substantive change in the system and has certainly not given us a healthcare system that is helpful for all.
How would we engage the discussion from the Egoism/Ecoism lens?
First, we could see that the current arrangement, with a public/profit/non-profit mix, is highly Egoistic.
- It benefits some,
- leaves many out,
- destroys families through bankruptcy even as it supposedly is helping them,
- focuses on cures of diseases and not the wider view of systemic prevention,
- denies the reality of death by providing the bulk of our care in the last few years of our lives when such care rarely adds to a quality of life,
- and does little to help people with their psycho-spiritual wellbeing.
So even though we have both capitalist and socialist elements to the system, the overall result—the result created by both of these approaches—is Egoistic.
To move from this to an Ecoistic solution would require that we start at the beginning and ask: What is suffering and what are we trying to do to alleviate suffering?
Suffering is an inevitable part of our material existence. As such, it is potentially infinite. Recognizing these two facts, which we cannot change no matter how much we may wish to, will immediately lead us to the conclusion that if a society allows some to profit infinitely from suffering, then the cost of such care will always go to infinity. Furthermore, if part of the societal desire is to try and avoid death through healthcare, then this will also result in infinite cost of care, much of which serves no helpful purpose. Recognizing and accepting these realities are part of an Ecoistic analysis which takes into account the truth of the ecological system of which we are an inseparable part and highlights the need to limit self interest for the good of the whole.
Building from these observations, an Ecoistic system would wish for the following results:
- provide helpful care for everyone,
- allow those who provide that care a living wage but not an endlessly increasing profit (as such a system would always go bankrupt),
- create a system that helps people suffer as little as possible while also accepting the reality of death and suffering,
- create a system that attends to the widest possible view of what contributes to health and illness, which includes things like prevention, ecological health factors etc,
- and situates healthcare in society as a service and not as a commodity to sell on the public market.
These parameters could enable us to design a system that would be far more beneficial for our entire population than our current system. Also note that such parameters say nothing about the particular organization of such a system in terms of who runs it, who owns it, or how involved the government might be. One could imagine the system providing such outcomes being either public or private, or, as we have now, a combination of the two.
This is the purpose of the new lens: it moves the discussion off of the old, unhelpful, categories, and onto a new set of categories that focus on actual outcomes and metrics that can be viewed and, in many cases, even measured. This brief analysis demonstrates how I would hope these two new terms might be used for any policy issue and conversation. They provide a new way of analyzing an issue and viewing solutions to that issue.
They also give us specific insights that can help us pinpoint where the problems lie in a current situation. Are some groups routinely being excluded in a given situation? If so, it’s probably Egoistic. Are we advocating for a wide systems view when we analyze what we are doing? That’s likely an Ecoistic approach.
I’d encourage you to spend some time with the lists in Part III and then apply them to a situation or issue that’s of interest to you. What do you think of this approach? Let me know, I’d love to talk more.
Reality Changing Observations:
1. How does removing familiar labels change how we analyze a complex issue?
2. How does removing familiar labels help us reconnect with our values (particularly as people who follow Jesus, if that’s you)?
3. What effect would it have on our different institutions and systems if we could apply the suggested Egoism/Ecoism criteria to policy and laws?