05 October 2010

Pro-social Living

Here is a very challenging question for you: Does your behaviour always benefit society?

The reason I ask is because an awareness of pro-social living may be part of the answer to the prevalence of anti-social behaviour. The latter often makes people who suffer its consequences feel powerless, intimidated and frustrated at the lack of official recognition for their distress.

Anti-social behaviour is likely to be implicated in many cases of mentally unhealthy actions, both for the ignorant or insolent perpetrators and for the innocent perceivers. You may have noticed that I refer here to "mentally unhealthy actions" rather than "mental illness" as many mental/cognitive processes depend the healthy or unhealthy functioning of the brain.

Here are a few links to think about:

Wikipedia - Cognition

Wikipedia - Anti-social behavior

Wikipedia - Crime

Wikipedia - Tort

BBC News - Police 'need to reclaim streets', police chief warns

In my view, pro-social living is neither reactionary, radical, retaliatory or motivated by the desire for monetary compensation, especially when seeking redress for past or ongoing wrongs. Yet redress needs to be sought, and acted upon. The question then is: Who should be responsible for acting against anti-social behavior?

It may be better to redirect the question as follows: Who should be responsible for supporting and promoting pro-social living, and how? Perhaps you have found that many of the posts in this blog support and promote pro-social living in one way or another. I hope so!

You may be wondering why I have used Oath of the Horatii by Jacques-Louis David to illustrate this particular blog post. To me, the painting represents an inappropriate way of dealing with anti-social behaviour. Traditionally, the family and the church had the authority to expect loyalty first, followed by the state (however "the state" may be defined). The painting reflects loyalty to the state, giving it a superior claim over that of the family or the church.

Yet what of the claim to authority of society as a whole? The state, the family and the church (and other religious institutions) are just a few of the institutional branches of a wider society. It is within the wider society that each individual is meant to be treated with equal respect, at least in effective democracies. How, then, is this equal respect to be defined and achieved?

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