Which of our characteristics or traits are encouraged or restricted is determined by the culture we are born into, and by the beliefs and values of the people around us, especially our carers and teachers, who experienced the same process. And although they loved and cared for us, and wanted us to feel we belong in a spiritual way, the social structures of our culture strongly encourage the opposite. Our economic system is competitive and so is the majority of our recreational activity. Our parliamentary and legal systems are adversarial and emphasise the fear of punishment for maintaining social order; these systems only succeed in perpetuating the desire to dominate rather than belong.
To a large extent, our culture encourages the characteristics or traits that cause us to judge our self esteem and self confidence by comparing ourselves against the wealth, possessions, power, knowledge and skills of other people. Winning, status and image is portrayed as giving us importance and happiness. This is false because the balance between the need to belong and the need to be an individual is upset when one person’s gain in self esteem is another person’s loss. All the violence in the world stems from our failure to set up social systems with values and beliefs that maintain a balance between the need to belong and the need for individuality.
There is no happiness without peace; no peace without justice; and no justice without equality. Difference doesn’t disappear with equality. It’s possible to have importance and equality. It’s possible to have authority and equality. By changing what we base our sense of importance on, we can also change our sense of belonging and bring the two into balance.