The United Kingdom publishes a list every year honoring individuals from the previous year who did an exemplary job at representing and promoting the social good. On the UK government website, the written policy is to promote social action: to encourage and enable people to play a more active part in society. The vocations range from Educators to Philanthropist to Industrial Engineers, which exist all over the world, which is an important delineator because the UK is one of the last countries to have an Honours List, and still has one to this day.
There are numerous question to ask--like: "If it's so prestigious, why do so few countries have it?"--but right now I'm thinking, "Who determines the social good?" The government? The newspapers? Looking at society like an organism--because it is, in that it requires nutrition, reproduces, and succumbs to disease--the social good is determined by what feeds the governing body both physically and mentally, or in simpler terms, what affirms it and allows it to spread its values. Modern cultures are not based in practicality or objectivity, but economics, tradition, power, and sexuality. America is a superpower because we're strong economically and have a strong military power, and have a strong media (PR & propaganda) and entertainment industry that in part sets the worldwide standard for sexuality and exceptionalism. The only characteristic that doesn't immediately chock up to America being a superpower is tradition, but only because tradition is inherently backward-looking, not progressive. America's social good is thus determined by stimuli that affirm these characteristics in some way, with the two stronger criteria--economics and power--being in the forefront, and the two weaker criteria--media and sexuality--influencing ambiently but palpably.
So is the social good for the good of society, or for the good of the governing power? This is a trick question, because the common man determines what power looks like in their society. That is, unless he gives the larger body power, the larger body has no power over him. The quickest way to devalue something is to dismiss it, and I'm not advocating everyone brashly and impulsively dismiss society, I'm just pointing out that we are the ones who determine the social good. As I said in the heading to the Social Commentary section of this blog, "Cultural trends and traditions are more like mirrors reflecting us back toward ourselves, rather than windows showing us everyone else's behaviors. There is no board of directors that meet behind a frosted glass door labelled Society. We are society; both dealer and user."
So while America doesn't have an Honours list publicly displayed every year, it's not difficult to see who would be on it. Honours lists--though basically ineffective because I'm not sure anyone would be so incentivized by appearing on the list that they'd produce better--do succeed in showing what that society values. Even though most countries lack these lists anymore, countries still award their social producers in their own way, be it tax cuts, marvelous galas, legal leniency, sexual partners, etc., to nourish the machine. It sounds so basic and so intuitive, but if you now refer back to the UK's government policy: To promote social action: encourage and enabling people to play a more active part in society, does it seem like such a for-the-good-of-the-people award, or does it seem like they just redefined active as socially beneficial? There are plenty of activities that are individually beneficial which offer no fuel to social machinations, but the larger governing body has no interest in facilitating them. I'm not saying we need to blow up every government, I'm simply saying we need to watch w
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