This article explores society and human life. Humans form a society by living together; their daily lives bound by moral rules. Whether material life or spiritual life, no one can achieve anything without the support of others.
In any society, relations are important: the relation between people, the relation between man and nature, the relation between man and spirits. A person in society has to deal with five relations: the superior and inferior, father and son, husband and wife, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends. The relation between man and nature is how they can and should maintain a harmony. Ancient rulers paid much attention to their people’s life, foods, funerals and sacrifices. Among these four aspects, funerals and sacrifices are somewhat superstitious, related to gods and spirits. To have faith in gods and spirits and awe of heavens and earth constitute an important part of people’s spiritual life.
The Bible said that after the creation of man, God created a place in the east called the Garden of Eden, where man was placed, with rivers, trees, and gold and agate. God’s purpose was to let humans have children, form a society, and live a happy life. However, the humans were unruly, and God put them away.
In Plato’s Republic, he believed that a government combining the monarch’s virtues and freedom of democracy was the best and most stable. In such a “republic”, people lived in harmony. Although there were class differences, this ideal system of government was desirable.
We don’t really know how ancient people dreamed as an ideal life, but we can imagine from what Lao Zi described in his Dao De Jing. “In a state with a small population, though there were individuals with the abilities of ten or a hundred men, there was no employment of them; though the people looked on death as a grievous thing, they did not yet move elsewhere to avoid it. Though they had boats and carriages, they had no occasion to ride in them; though they had buff coats and sharp weapons, they had no occasion to use them. The people used knotted cords instead of the written characters. They thought their coarse food sweet, their plain clothes beautiful, their poor dwellings places of rest, and their common simple ways sources of enjoyment. There was a neighboring state within sight, and the voices of the fowls and dogs could be heard all the way from it, but the people to old age, even to death, did not have any intercourse with it.”
The history of Chinese oracle inscriptions and Egyptian hieroglyphics were only ten thousand years away from modern times. As to how humans lived in ancient times, we have not been able to trace their footsteps. As the records of Buddhist scriptures seemed like myths and legends, only believers who have faith in Buddhism see them as true.
When heaven and earth were just formed, floods were everywhere and the wind was blowing. When the world was to take form, the heavenly fairies from the Heaven of Light and Music descended to the earth and became human beings. The human body shone, could fly, without sex difference. The ground had a natural taste, as sweet as cheese. These humans tasted the ground and felt full. Gradually as they started to grab food by hand, their body light disappeared, in addition to their ability to fly. When they ate too much taste of earth, their bodies became heavy and their skin rough. There were still some people who ate less and maintained good appearances. When they started to have the idea that some were good looking while others ugly, differences, disputes, and conflicts appeared. Soon the earth surface no longer tasted sweet and good as cheese, and people became very upset. Later a layer of land emerged on the earth surface; it looked like a pancake and tasted like a wine of peaches. People ate the land and laughed at each other. The layer of land disappeared. Then there were plants and grains growing up the earth. After eating them, human beings took physical forms and there were men and women. Then there was sex desire as men and women were attracted to each other. Thus they lived together to form families. Later they built houses for warmth and protection.
Later, some lazy people selfishly hid the grains because their fields were not fertile and the harvest was poor. Very upset, they requested a re-allocation of fields so that they had their own possession of grains. Some people had their grains stolen, and they needed to resolve other disputes. Thus a person was elected to safeguard the interests of the majority. So there was a democracy, and later a government. In the beginning, human beings lived a life of eighty-four thousand years, later several thousand years, later hundreds of years, and finally one hundred years.
According to Chinese legend, at the time of Pangu, humans had a life of eighteen thousand years. When the Three Emperors and Five Emperors ruled, human life was reduced to a thousand years. It is said that the Heavenly Emperor had thirteen heads and thirteen brothers, the Earthly Emperor had eleven heads and eleven brothers, while the Worldly Emperor had nine heads and nine brothers, each governing a country respectively. Some tribes lived in nest houses among trees, some lived in caves. They lived by hunting and fishing. Later they learned how to use fire, open mines to produce weapons, grow grains, prepare medicines, and make musical instruments.The Yellow Emperor was born to have supernatural powers, able to speak at a very young age, and had great wisdom when grown up.
The Xia, Shang and Zhou Dynasties were the beginning of Chinese written civilization. According to Confucius, the birth of the ancient ceremony came from the people’s diet. At that time, people had not yet invented pottery, they put grains, piglets on hot stones to bake; they dug pits in the ground to hold wines and used their folded hands to drink. They made a drum with earth and placed it on top of a stone, a way to express respect for the spirits. That was the most primitive rites for sacrifices. When a family member died, they climbed up to the roof and shouted northwards: “Oh, your soul so and so, please come back!” With this evocation, they put rice into the mouth of the dead and at the funeral, said farewell to the spirits while offering sacrifices wrapped in leaves.
Offering sacrifices to spirits used to be the most important content of social life. This practice could not be held too often or too less in frequency. If that happened too often, people would hate that; if too less, people might become lazy. The year had four seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter, and thus there were four times for sacrifices annually. People paid sacrifices to the mountains, rivers, the sun and the moon, and their ancestors, to show their respect and remembrance.Their worship made these events solemn and brought dignity to life and death. Because of these sacrifices, there came filial piety, etiquette, respect, and blessings from Gods and spirits. Because of sacrifices, there were cultural events, gatherings of celebration, the calendar, religious rites, pilgrimages. Because of sacrifices, there came Christmas, the Easter, Lantern Festival, the Moon Festival, the Dragon Boat Festival, and many more events of celebrations. These make up our social life. Sacrifices are the root of morality and human civilization. When humans began to take sacrifices lightly, civilizations went downhill.
Modern archaeological discoveries directed us to Africa where the earliest human civilization might have taken place. Scientists in different regions of the world used mitochondrial DNA and chromosomal DNA to determine the common ancestor of human beings, and this ancestor, a long time ago, was said to be living in Africa. This theory told that Adam and Eve were not in the same era. According to the molecular genetics estimates, Eve’s age was about 200 thousand years ago, the location in East Africa; while Adam’s life was also in East Africa, but much later, about 60 to 90 thousand years ago.
When the Chinese entered the Western Zhou Dynasty, the Egyptian pyramids had long been built. Before the arrival of Europeans, Africa had agricultural civilization. The sub-Saharan Africa’s agricultural population was mainly Bantu. When the Europeans came to the southernmost tip of Africa, in the Cape, lived the Khoi-san people, known as the Hortuttons by the Europeans. The arrival of Europeans had a tragic impact on African civilization, as the natives with simple weapons could not resist the invasions of heavily-armed barbarians and missionaries. At the southern tip of Africa, the first contact with the Europeans disintegrated the Khoi-san society, its survivors quickly retreating to the Kalahari desert in the northwest of South Africa.
Africa used to have civilizations much earlier than Europe and Asia, and may have disappeared in the ice age of more than 10,000 years ago. In the Ice Age, northern Africa was covered by glaciers. In such cold weather, humans who relied on hunting found the acquisition of food very difficult and most had not survived the ice age. About this time, humans living in West Asia began domesticating livestock as a stable source of meat, milk, and transport. These certainly were of great help to humanity through the Ice Age.
476 A.D. is usually cited as the year that the Roman Empire fell, but a mighty kingdom as its continuation lived on for another thousand years in the form of the Byzantine Empire, its eastern capital in Constantinople. In western Europe, this period before the Renaissance was known as the “Dark Ages” when the Church became the most powerful force. The negative view largely came from the written records of the time that had a strong Rome-centric bias.
Although India had a strict caste system, its human trajectory, similar to that of Africa, did not follow what the Europeans had defined as the “slave society – feudal society – capitalist society – socialist society” mode. The ancient Maya civilization dates back to about 2000 B.C.. The Maya built flouring cities with temples and palaces. The reason why they later abandoned their cities remained a mystery. From the colorful Spring and Autumn period to the Qin Dynasty when the legal thought dominated the mainstream, the Chinese civilization has taken a unique road to development, with a change to co-existence of Confucianism and Buddhism in social life that lasted nearly two thousand years after Emperor Wu of Han Dynasty. The historical inheritance and ritual culture dominated by Chinese characters are the main reasons for the continuous extension of Chinese civilization.
Humanity is nurtured by the conscience of heaven and earth, the intercourse between Yin and Yang, the combination of body and spirit that have absorbed the essence of the five elements of nature. Food and sex are their greatest desire; death and poverty, the greatest disgust. They are the greatest worries for everyone day and night. Some people do not eat cooked food; some live in the caves, with animal skins for clothes; some only eat meat of the beasts, no grains. Living in different climatic conditions, people from four directions have developed different lifestyles, different temperaments, different tastes, some impatient, some slow in actions, some fond of spicy foods, some wearing weird clothing. The world has never been settled as everyday tens of millions of people are on the move, fleeing their homeland of poverty or political instability, in search of a better life abroad or just in another place. To some extend, everyone is a migrant or child of a migrant. Mixed marriages and ethnic fusion have brought about great changes and colorful results in the evolution of human.
The concept of continuous development and progress of human society is open to question. Human progress in many fields of science and technology can not deny their ideological and moral degradation. It is an indisputable fact that our world has “developed” from the ancient harmony to the later well-off and the present unwholesome world. In terms of material civilization, when the earth’s most important substances “water and air” continue to deteriorate, threatening the survival of mankind, mankind has no civilization at all. In a society of harmony, the world was for the public, moral and talented people elected to lead, freedom of speech and human dignity well respected, the elder, the handicapped and the less fortunate taken care of by society. In a moderately prosperous society, the norms of harmony have been destroyed, the world owned by a small group of people called the elites. People love only their own children and care only for their own parents. There are increasing conflicts among people, wars among states. To the present, regardless of the East and West society, the father does not behave like a father, the son not like a son. Domestic violence is common, the elders show no mercy, the young show no respect; there is no trust between friends, guests do not act politely, people are selfish, the relation between countries is based on profits instead of morality and justice.
When society is governed by morality, the people shall be restrained and the quality of humility shall be honored. When the penalty is too harsh, people of authority gain their credit by punishments, thus encouraging fighting and killing. The ancients clearly defined the offenses, making sure all cases were rendered with a care of justice. At sentencing, the pardon was exercised so that more prisoners would be forgiven of their guilt. Today, people would try their best to bring suspects into their traps, to make the right into the wrong, to turn the white into the black. With the lack of moral restrain in the law, the struggle between people is encouraged. Marx’s ideas about violent revolution and class struggle are not desirable, but his criticism of capitalism that sacrifices laborers’ working environment and living standard for profit maximization has positive social significance. Western missionaries had long ago introduced the oriental ritualistic civilization to Europe, but it was crushed by the wheels of industrial civilization before having an opportunity to spread in the west.
People tend to be lazy, like convenience, and do whatever they want. With the European industrial civilization came mercantilism and international trade. Economics become an independent science, more and more important in social life. As a result, we have cars, planes, mobile communications and a variety of household appliances, machinery manufacturing, heavy industry and space exploration, the Internet, home intelligence and e-commerce. The aim of civilization is to meet the growing desire of humans. And this progress is a pseudonym.
In today’s society, killing, stealing, prostitution, lies-telling are commonplace. The human mind is corrupted as people treat each other badly. The results are devastating. Symbolically, the 9.11 terrorist attacks in the United States was a turning point. Industrialization is now destroying the earth’s ecosystem, with rivers and lakes contaminated, air polluted, and foods poisoned. There have been more and more natural disasters. Among many of the causes, mining is the culprit. The World Health Organization has reported millions of deaths every year associated with air pollution. Governments enforce management only to collect more taxes. Without morality, teachers and doctors no longer honor their job titles, they have walked away from their responsibilities of saving lives physically and mentally. Lawyers and judges commit crimes. The mainstream society is full of evil minds of arrogance and prejudice. Without restrain by moral conducts, human beings are no better than animals.
In tomorrow’s society, more crazy men will be in power, more governments will become tyrannical, those in power will like to exercise their authority to kill to reduce the population. Our society shall be more divided. A very small number of elite groups will have the world’s majority of resources and wealth, while ordinary people shall become more vulnerable and unable to resist. Intelligent machines will replace manual labor, abnormal development of high-tech will make more and more people have complex brains, simple limbs and strange faces like aliens. Knowledge shall not win respect, literature shall have little souls, music shall be no better than noise. Women shall not regard marriage an important thing. Businessmen and prostitutes shall get more honors. Humans shall have reduced life expectancy.
It is a disgrace for a developed country like Australia to have more than one hundred thousand people homeless. Society is to denote a supporting community, partnership, cooperation, and association. It is socialized, sharing, friendly, and of mutual benefit. When it is not, it is the end of mankind. We hope that the end is not destruction but rebirth.