Sunday, June 15, 2008

Society, Success, Religion & Community

(Note: These thoughts are not aimed at propagating the ‘concept of religion’ or propagating any religion in particular)

Religion and Community (family or friends) usually play a key role at two stages in everyday life or in two phases of a lifetime. Both of them assuage us as we face the day-to-day troughs. I am not talking about the crests because more often than not, as humans, we tend to reflect more when we are down in the dumps or perhaps, though much less so, when we are matured enough to reflect everyday without subconsciously feeling the need. This need arises to understand the origin of that which has impacted our lives for not explainable reason.
However there is another way of using religion and community. When we leverage religion and community to reflect on our everyday life, with no specific agenda to understand a particular high or low, we are using them as a tool to prepare ourselves for the rough and tumble of our life. In other words, such situations are examples of times when religion and community are enabling us to be capable of wading through seemingly tough times. That is what I usually call proactive reflection.
Though there is no ‘formula’ to life but I believe proactive reflection is a useful tool that helps in enabling a fuller experience of everyday life.
However using religion and community to lead a fuller life is more an exception than norm. I have observed that both religion and community are used extensively by people when the ‘chips are down’. When things are not moving the way we want them to. This is what I usually refer to as reactive reflection.
Both religion and community help the individual feel better. They are the buffer between the person and the deadly force of self doubt. They help as they pacify and empathize with that what the person is feeling.

I also believe that a Young Society or a ‘small family’ society and a Rich Society is almost always seen to be questioning the relevance of religion (and sometimes even community). This behavior is not surprising for a few reasons:

1. A small family society (diversity?) does not need to manage as much complexity of relationships as a large family society does. In other words relationships are fewer and presumably simpler to understand. Individual’s logic is sufficient to manage the extent of complexity that it offers

2. A young (less ‘wise’?) society has limited first hand experience of the multiple facets of life with special reference to hard times (with emotional underpinnings) and failures

3. A prosperous (rich?) society sometimes is and can almost always be a reckless society – recall the argument above, about the sheer absence of the need to reflect in good times

However the future of any society - be it small or large family; prosperous or poor - tends to move towards religion or perhaps a better word would be faith, unless of course if the society is ‘coerced’ away from it.

Why is it so?

In my view, religion or belief / faith, whichever way we might like to address it – kicks-in to bridge the unexplainable. I believe that religion rises from the tomb of best laid & logical plans that did not work.
When a society is young or on the ‘high tide’ as I refer to it many times, people revel in the ecstasy of success and achievement. Nobody has the time, interest or perhaps understanding for the need to reflect. However the same society as it matures or starts to encounter unexplainable failure(s), begins to look for answers beyond what logic or objective analysis offers. In other words religion and belief is almost like that balm that helps us manage randomness better. It helps us acknowledge (in as many ways as there are religions, sects or beliefs) that everything is not controllable and there is a lot that we still do not fully understand and perhaps never would.

It is this premise that makes me believe that China as a society is the biggest potential market for a belief system beyond success, achievement, hard work and prosperity.
How much ever I hate moving from a much wider topic about society to an unimaginably narrow one like marketing, I cannot ignore the fact that in the time to come, brands and entrepreneurs who market beliefs and philosophies that can override success and achievement will gain much more traction in this society and for much longer.

Here is wishing for a harmonious and ‘reflective’ society.