The world has had poverty and greed, war and famine and all of the assorted social ills that plague us today, since the earliest proto-humans walked the earth. When the first religions and governments were being formed, a general awareness that these conditions were ills began to develop. Religions generally condemned the problems as the results of evil and tried to convince the oppressors to change their ways. Neither threats of eternal punishment nor temporal punishment here on earth had any significant, lasting effect.
And, except for the occasional benevolent dictator, governments generally tried to hide or destroy the ills by punishing the afflicted. Debtor’s prisons, slavery, banishment to distant places and sometimes destroying massive groups of people were common approaches to solving the problems. Somehow, it seemed that increasing oppression would somehow eliminate oppression.
In the last couple of hundred years, many governments have initiated efforts to improve the situation of the oppressed. During the same period, religions also began to take actions to help the oppressed. The awareness and recognition of the destructiveness of the presence of the oppressive behaviors has increased dramatically during this period.
However, most government efforts to address these problems, while well intended, have consistently been poorly devised, poorly executed and frequently counterproductive. The efforts of religious groups and private charitable groups have likewise suffered from the same problems, as well as being limited due to lack of resources. Today, we have more people suffering with oppression, hunger, war and homelessness than we have ever had throughout all of our history.
It has been said that only the insane believe that repeating the same action will produce a different result, yet we have been trying to solve these problems with the same solutions for generations. Giving charity to the oppressed without removing the oppression, not only fails to solve any problem, it infuriates those who are receiving the charity.
The problems are many and are easy to see; the solutions though, are very difficult to find. Solutions to these problems need to be inherently different from what has been tried and failed. The world needs to have those people who have been given the greatest intellectual abilities to focus on developing solutions to these problems. While love and kindness and good intentions are all positive and wonderful things, they are not sufficient to solve our societal problems. We need new thinking, thinking that does not build on past mistakes, but creatively devises new ideas that have the potential to actually solve a problem.