Collapse in the meaning of participating in society
Experimental visualization of narrower problems
Reduced social commitment of contemporary life-styles Disillusionment with life aspirations
People seek the purpose of existence in their work, family, society, and cultural tradition, many of which no longer give meaning. As a part of real, everyday experience, people in the 20th Century have seen a collapse many of the understandings that gave meaning to their hopes and ambitions. While in the midst of bitter disillusionments and painful failures in aspiration, the individual comes to doubt his own creative worth in society. Nevertheless, a deep desire for creative action is retained. The more doubts there are, the stronger the desire to express creatively; while the experience of futility impels the destruction of others' creations. There is a collapse in the meaningfulness of social participation.
This collapse began around the turn of the century and by the end of World War I it was nearly complete. World War II, in fact, revived a sense of meaning for the western world. The values of decency, humanity, civilization, material and technological progress came to be seen as forces of good. For the individual, normalcy and uniformity were considered good and religious yearnings, neuroses or deviation from convention were regarded as a pathological condition. Society was not so much for something as against "Communism", and a poorly defined communism at that. By the mid-1960s these values were discredited for the most part. The youth were flaunting abnormality as a source of pride, the abnormal became the creative or the self-expressive. The social upheavals of the civil rights movement, the anti-Vietnam war movement, and the student uprising of Paris and else where exposed the hollowness of materialistic consumerism. Once again "everything is relative", there was no positive direction, except survival and muddling through, which have become goals in themselves. Without a belief in the future, the present becomes the focus of the search for purpose. Yet, even the present is being questioned. Most religious traditions, instead of imparting purpose and direction have bogged down in internal questions or attempts to recapture values of an earlier century.
Many people lose track of life's purpose and direction and lead their lives in a continued state of confusion and aimlessness. Celebrations of expenditure are limited to one's personal achievement. Images of social role are reduced to one's personal satisfaction. Social responsibility, outside the legal dimension, is reduced to oneself or one's family. The context out of which one works is this week, until the week end or these few years until retirement.
The Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential is a collaboration between UIA and Mankind 2000, started in 1972. It is the result of an ambitious effort to collect and present information on the problems with which humanity is confronted, as well as the challenges such problems pose to concept formation, values and development strategies. Problems included are those identified in international periodicals but especially in the documents of some 60,000 international non-profit organizations, profiled in the Yearbook of International Organizations.
The Encyclopedia includes problems which such groups choose to perceive and act upon, whether or not their existence is denied by others claiming greater expertise. Indeed such claims and counter-claims figure in many of the problem descriptions in order to reflect the often paralyzing dynamics of international debate. In the light of the interdependence demonstrated among world problems in every sector, emphasis is placed on the need for approaches which are sufficiently complex to encompass the factions, conflicts and rival worldviews that undermine collective initiative towards a promising future.
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