Common Ground

I like the idea of having a common, shared language.

Not to the exclusion of all other languages — I think having many languages through which to experience and express is important — but in addition to them. Something that allows us to, bare-minimum, bestow and receive information, and perhaps empathize with others a little more accurately.

In science fiction, this is often achieved through either universal translators that are worn or installed in your brain, or the development of some universal Common tongue that everyone speaks, if they want to trade with other cultures and species.

Now imagine if we could take that same concept and apply it to how we deal with things like one’s own sense of morality, and a society’s ethical direction.

Even if we don’t believe the same things, wouldn’t it be wonderful to start from some common ground? Some jumping off point that ensures we’re able to have such a conversation, and that ensures we can agree to disagree without those disparate beliefs coming between us? An understanding of how we debate, or how we sort out the meaning of something, or how we interact with each other peaceably when our individual ideologies say we should be at odds?

My beliefs, I’ve found, don’t fit comfortably under any particular umbrella. ‘Humanist’ is the word that comes closest, but even that relatively unencumbered word is burdened with a lot of unfortunate baggage (extreme rationality without malleability in all contexts, for instance, could conceivably result in a moral outlook that allows for the destruction of the planet if it’s beneficial for humans).

I often wonder if it would be possible to establish a moral ground-floor that we could all get behind. Something that’s structurally sound enough to allow us to build whatever we like atop it — philosophies, religions, national and cultural ideologies — but which we can step back to and share in moments of conflict and divisiveness. The belief-system equivalent of a Common tongue, which wouldn’t replace the great diversity we enjoy (and I would argue, need), but would supplement it so that we all have at least that one thing we can agree on, and know that we share.

Of course, we already have shared attributes. Biologically, we’re remarkably similar, even when we decide that some physical trait or genetic heritage is suddenly vitally important and slices clean lines between groups of us. We also share the same history, if you go back far enough.

But these links are sufficiently intangible that they haven’t typically served as the strong, stable trunk we’d need to comfortably spread our branches wider and more dispersedly.

What might we accomplish, and what new angles of life and the potential human experience might we explore and understand if only we felt comfortable doing so? What experiments might we conduct, and what rotting branches might we avoid, if only we knew for certain we had access to a safe, well-tread path back to reliable footing?

I don’t know if this is feasible, much less desirable. It would require a great deal of debate and development, and that’s before it’s disseminated widely enough to see if it would actually be embraced and understood by those at the remotest endpoints of geography and ideology.

But even if it takes a different form — maybe just the understood rules of participating in an ongoing global conversation, rather than a formal philosophy — now’s the time to make it happen.

If we use the tools we have available and recognize the need for something representative of humanity as a species, something universal and non-exclusionary, I have no doubt that we can find common ground and pull some of our foundational understandings to the surface; that we can make some of these ideas real, through legislation and social mores.

Looking around and ignoring the fear-mongering hype, I also can’t help but think: perhaps we’ve already started to do so.

Recent Posts

  • Simmer or Sear
  • Some Final 2023 Thoughts
  • Taking Time
  • Instrumental Flute Era
  • Rearviews