How to measure Human Success?
Picture: Van Gogh, “Starry Night Over the Rhone”
- Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890) painted more than 2100 artworks. His masterpieces are now available to practically anyone on the planet to adore that unique emanation of human creativity. Vincent van Gogh lived in poverty, and died in poverty at the age of 37. Was his life a success?
- During WW2, in a Nazi occupied place, a person named Jason promised to a wealthy Jewish family to secure a safe passage for leaving to a free country. The escape started in a dark night, but when the group reached a swampy area, Jason murdered the whole family and took all their valuables. He became rich for the rest of his life. Was Jason’s life a success?
- Napoléon Bonaparte (1769 – 1821) – we all know his great story. From his personal point of view, given the degree to which he satisfied his hypertrophied ego for power, the nature of which usually is some sort of inferiority complex, Napoleon would most probably have considered his own life a success. But what about the lives of the other people who had to experience the consequences of Napoleon’s ambitions? Can abandonment of serfdom, and certain reforms in legal system, education and bureaucracy, outweigh the deaths of hundreds of thousands Europeans in battles, the suffering of millions, the destruction and plunder of material values and cultural and historic artefacts in the invaded territories? Napoleon was a megalomaniac tyrant, ignoring international agreements and conventions, fully denying freedoms of speech and press, and he set a model that was later followed by an even worse dictator. Would you call his life a success?
- In general, when commenting the category of “great military commanders and political leaders” in history, we could also ask one more question: to what extent human assessment in the 21st century should be influenced by an atavistic kneeling before an image of primitive power, instead of by rational consideration in terms of justice, human rights, building prosperity and other civilizational values? Who should we put on the pedestal for glorification?
- Alessandro Volta (1745 – 1827) was Italian scientist. He invented the electrical battery. Well, not exactly the same battery as the one in your smart phone, computer or in your car. Can you today imagine your life without electric batteries? And how many people nowadays know his name? Compared to the number of those, who have heard about Napoleon, for example? Was Volta’s life a success?
- The so called ISIS members executed non-warriors on the ground of religious intolerance, and destroyed thousands of years old artefacts: it is a shame even to be contemporary with people, organisations and states that allowed such developments in 21st century. World powers have enough capacity to prevent this type of crimes against humanity happening. And why they are not doing it? Because world powers still cling to their own short sighted nationally based agendas each, and because world powers have not made enough efforts to reach consensus even on universal legal definitions of major global security threats. Starting with the definition of “terrorism”, for example. No legal definition means no instrument to constitute confirmed evidence into eventual accusation, which means no ground for joint conclusion, cooperation and, consequently, for planning powerful response against spreading violent extremism. The result? See the above picture.
HCVI: Human Civilizational Values Index
We need to design a Human Civilizational Values Index with clear-cut quantifiable criteria for measuring the contribution or the negative impact of an individual to the advancement of the human civilization. To dissect analytically human behaviour, intentions, acts and deeds, periods of life and activities, bursts of individual intellectual and creative productivity and lifetime devotion, and screen each component through the benchmarks of what it all gave to humanity. HCVI should be also applicable in regard to historic events and their consequences, as well as to corporations, government and non-government organizations, and for ideological constructions of all categories. Then, bearing this matrix of long term oriented human values, we should go through our whole history to assess and put the right HCVI earmark on every prominent personality, every major event and on every political doctrine.
For, if we do not hold in our hand the compass of humanity’s basic values, how could we get confident, that we are walking our mile of human civilization’s long way, in the right direction?