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Thursday, September 15, 2022

Dharma for the 21st Century - Revisited (2)

 This discussion on the importance of ethics and morals have been going on in Western philosophy also since the time of Socrates as documented by Jamie Susskind in his recent book with the title The Digital Republic. Most thoughtful people agree that the internet and social media are affecting human behavior in a self-destructive way and some rules and regulations are needed to make large corporations in control of Digital technology behave in a socially responsible way. How can such rules and regulations be developed and implemented in a democratic way, to allow private enterprise to thrive, to preserve First Amendment Rights and to build in boundaries for these multinational corporations? Jamie Susskind gives a thoughtful analysis and offers several ideas to consider.

My understanding of the book is that Jamie Susskind is clearly for developing some rules and regulations. He points out that moral standards based on societal values should guide development of these rules and regulations. In his discussions, the author points out how laws should be contextual. But details of what contextual means will be contested. Therefore, he says that exceptions should be clearly defined. This is where Jamie Susskind’s ideas triggered my thoughts on Dharma and how the principles of dharma include context, exceptions and rules for what those exceptions are.

Jamie Susskind also points out that moral standards and exceptions must come out of democratic deliberation by people who are affected (users of technology) and cannot be left to the corporations or politicians. The rules should not be solely for profits, feasibility, and ease of implementation. As David Attenborough pointed out People and the Planet should also be included in the equations, in addition to Profit. (He called it P, P and P).

When I thought about Dharma after reading the book, I realized that the following questions must be answered before developing and implementing laws, if they are meant to be fair, relevant, and practical. 

Does the law reflect societal values? This means participation by the public, which in turn requires a forum to express, freedom to express and public debate conducted in civility. In other words, ethical and moral values cherished by the society should be the guide in a democratic society. 

Is the law contextual? This requires revisiting it periodically, as context changes. As the semanticists will say “You cannot drive in a new territory with old maps".

 Is the law reasonably flexible and allow conditions for exceptions? Yes, not twisted like a pretzel beyond recognition but flexible to suit the specific situation. In other words, there should be agreed-on provisions for exceptions as had been suggested by Jamie Susskind in his recent book on The Digital Republic and by Prof. Gert in his book on Morality: A New Justification of the Moral Rules (Oxford University Press, 1988). The public should be involved in making the conditions under which the rules may be broken. 

What are the mechanisms to enforce the law?  

Will the law be enforced without "fear or favor"? 

 I suggest an additional layer of consultation and discourse in developing societal values as I had written in my essay on Cabinet of Collective Conscience on January 29, 2013 ( The summary of that essay is that every head of a nation may wish to consult with members of a Cabinet of Collective Consciousness of the people of the nation. This should be a triumvirate made of a trusted person who is considered best in expressing the moral voice of the nation, a respected poet and a humorist, someone who can look at the foibles of the people and of the leaders and express them with civility and humor (harmless satire, court jester).  (Concluded)


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