Issue 22 / April - June 1998
As a result of some chemical processes in our bodies such as the decrease of the amount of sugar in our blood, we feel hunger or the urge to eat. If we eat more than we need, some of the food consumed is changed into fat and stocked, and the body slows down the mechanism of synthesizing fat. The organs directing the processes of reduction or increase in fat production are the hypothalamus in the brain, the liver, the pancreas and the over-kidney glands. By means of the co-ordination of these organs, the amount of sugar in the blood, muscles and liver is accurately adjusted. There are close similarities between this biological process and the social and economic life of a community.
Imitation of nature
Some scientists assert that the 21st century will be a century of biology. They are of the opinion that an ideal, peaceful community life is attainable by imitating nature. This kind of thinking is not new. There is a history of application of some socio-biological information about animal behaviour in some studies of human social behaviour, and the application in manmade artefacts of the design and structure of some living creatures (so-called bio-engineering). Adaptation of the structures which enable birds to fly in the design of planes is a well-known example.
Whether the sensitive measures in the human body, which is the most perfect of biological structures, and the ideal, economical balance in its bio-chemical and biological mechanisms, are applicable in the organization of human societies is a question that has attracted the attention of many scientists. If a living body is a perfect organism composed of billions of cells and millions of physiological and bio-chemical processes take place in it without any error or failure, and, in parallel with this, the living system itself both grows and reproduces and defends and repairs itself, then must it not be possible to apply such a system to a community of such living creatures?
Share of values
Although the brain and spinal marrow have the main functions in directing the operation of human or animal bodies that have a nervous system, the â€˜lowerâ€™ systems such as stomach and intestines also make a contribution. Each of these organs or systems plays a significant part in the working and maintenance of a healthy body. However conspicuous the function of organs such as the brain, heart and liver, it cannot be said that any of the other organs like kidneys or stomach or intestines are less vital. Especially when we bear in mind that the existence of anything depends on the existence of all its parts, and that its death or non-existence may be effected by the lack of any of those parts, or that a single, cancerous cell may ultimately cause the death of a whole body, we realize that each part has a vital function in the operation and maintenance of the living whole.
The health of the parts is necessary to the health of the whole. If the stomach and intestines fail to secrete the necessary enzymes for digestion, however healthy the brain and heart are, you will die of hunger and lack of necessary energy. Likewise, if your pancreas does not work well enough to secrete the necessary insulin, it will cause the failure of the metabolism of sugar. If, again, fat accumulates in your veins because of a failure of even a single bio-chemical mechanism, then the health of your heart will not suffice for you to survive. These simple examples suffice to show that there is nothing unnecessary or superfluous in the system. Even if some organs have relatively greater value in maintaining the body, that does not mean that other organs are less valuable. The same should be the case with the health and maintenance of a community.
No negligence however little it may be
The least failure in any of the organs or systems of the body manifests itself as a pain or uneasiness. For example, a pain caused by a callous on your toe which prevents you from treading normally, may lead to pains in your waist or knees. An insignificant-seeming callous may upset the balance of your legs and waist vertebra.
The same is true for a community. Seemingly negligible failures in the life of a community may frequently give rise to great problems later on. The health of non-central parts of a community corresponding to such bodily extremities as the toe is almost as important as the health of those parts corresponding to the brain and heart in a body. If any defect or failure in any of the former is seen as negligible and attention needed to remove or remedy the problem is not given, it may lead to disorder of the whole system.
Inflation, shortage of means of livelihood (employment), poverty, insecurity, and social ills such as bribery and abuses, and social crimes such as theft, are among the primary diseases undermining the health of a community. Every duty to be done within the structure of a community is like the wheels or parts of a machine, each with a unique function and value of its own. Each of the parts of a social structure should contribute to economic development and take its share in that development in return, and on occasions of economic crisis, then each of those parts should share the responsibility and results. Again in this respect the working of a body can be imitated.
When a body cannot get sufficient food, its metabolic rate, the rate it uses up the food taken in, is reduced. The body, as it were, tightens its belt, adapts to a lower standard of living. It slows down its work- rate and uses energy economically to survive. A lower pulse rate uses body energy more economically.
A body works automatically in accordance with the rules its Maker has established for it. By contrast a community is composed of people having free will. Therefore, the imitation of a body by a community depends on its members disciplining themselves. They must know how to restrain their bodily urges and control some bad qualities common to men such as greed, selfishness and refusal to be content. In a biological system, the commands issuing from the central nervous system and the stimulants coming from glands take into account the structure, working system and endurance and tolerance capacity of each and every organ and tissue and their molecular structure. Also, since all sorts of stimuli and responses coming from organs and tissues are carried by the central nervous system with due care and attention, nothing wrong emerges in normal conditions. Thus, in order for a community to be as well ordered as a body, those who hold its reins, those who occupy the governmental positions should know all the units forming it well enough with all their compositions and needs and give due consideration to their reflections and the responses coming from them.
Sharing happiness and sorrows
If, for example, there is not sufficient sustenance in blood and the stomach and intestines suffer shortage of food, the brain never lets the body amuse itself or relax in pleasures and extravagance. Any pain or problem which emerges in any part of the body is shared by the whole body itself. If, by contrast, the leaders of a community indulge in luxuries and pleasures while some sections of it suffer from deprivation of the basic necessities of life, then it is not possible to talk of it being a healthy community.
The balance of income and output
It is inevitable for a body to grow fat and become diseased when too much food enters it and, by contrast, get thin and become diseased if it cannot get enough food. A healthy, balanced nourishment depends on the balance between the food taken and used up as energy. This balance of supply and demand or income and output changes according to the periods of babyhood, youth, full development and old age. Like the body, a community must be careful about establishing a balance of supply and demand. Unbalanced development, imbalance between income and output, and deepening of the gap between the rich and poor are some of the social diseases leading a community to disease or death.
System and energy
A system needs sufficient energy to survive and preserve its vitality and to develop. There is no difference in needing energy between an insect and a whale and between an elephant and a man, nor does a state or community differ from a factory or work-shop in needing and using it rationally. In order to be able to grow and make new syntheses for production, besides raw material, a living system is in dire need of energy. We can use the substances which we take by eating and drinking and will serve as building material for our bodies only by burning carbohydrates and fat to produce energy. A body which cannot take the kinds of food supplying energy loses its vitality. Tissues begin to separate and cells break down and die. Similarly, the amount of the energy a community needs for a good economic life and the cost of it are of vital importance for the health of that community. The more abundant and less expensive energy is, the more balanced and productive its economic life is.
One of the significant features of a living organism is, that it operates under control by a feed-back system. Every event in this system is connected with others, none of them being independent. If any substance increases above a certain measure, the increase is blocked up by a mechanism beginning to work just at that time. For example, in the process of the kidneys separating waste liquid from the blood to discard it from the body with some amount of water, the density of the waste substances in it such as urea, uric acid and superfluous salt is sensitively regulated. If it is hot and the body requires to be cooled through sweat, the kidneys hold more water and prevent dehydration. If, by contrast, it is cold and there is no need to sweat, this time, they discard more water and thereby regulate the inner balance of the body.
Maintenance of the balance of the body requires sensitivity to whatever happens within and outside the body. There are sufficient receptors in each of the sense organs, particularly the skin, in tendons and in the walls of the veins, to feel any change of heat, pressure, light, food and oxygen, etc., in the inner and outer environment, and inform the central nervous system accordingly. In this way, the body is adaptable to a wide range of conditions in the world.
Similarly, in order to maintain the order of a community, it must have the same adaptability. This is possible through a loose structure of bureaucracy, a sophisticated communication network and a well- ordered system established on well- working principles.
Co-ordination within the system
Co-ordination and making good each otherâ€™s shortcomings are important characteristics of a living body. For example, when we are eating or are full after eating, the veins in the stomach and intestines swell and more blood is pumped into them so that the stomach and intestines can work efficiently. While one is running or doing physical exercise, the muscles need more oxygen and glucose which are carried in the blood: the veins in internal organs become narrow so that more blood can be sent to the muscles. If someone unaware of this attempts to do severe physical exercise on a full stomach, the body will have to exert more effort to send blood to both the stomach and muscles and become exhausted, as well as causing the heart to become overworked and tire.
Similarly, co-ordination among its institutions and members, division of labour and putting things in order of importance are vital for the institutions of a healthy community as well as for the community itself. Just as too much heavy exercise or overeating may cause the brain to be left without sufficient blood or the kidneys to stop filtering, excessive expenditure on some sections of labour or discrimination between the sections or institutions of a community may result in great disruptions and uneasiness in it.
Education and collective consciousness
Many more examples may be given for the correspondence between a living body and a community. We can take lessons from a living body to realize a healthy social life. However, what is particularly worthy of mention here is that while a body works automatically according to a magnificent program or system which requires infinite knowledge to prepare and establish -- knowledge of the structure of all the cells, tissues and organs of the body and their way of working, and of the nature of their relation among themselves and the relation of the body with its near and remote environment, in short, knowledge of the whole of the universe -- the members of a community have free will and therefore require to be disciplined and controlled. This is possible through a perfect educational system fully aware of the nature of man and his material, spiritual and social needs and having the necessary equipment to satisfy them.
So that he may survive and fulfil his functions among the creatures in the world, man is empowered with three principal faculties. These are his appetites -- for the opposite sex, offspring, livelihood, commodities, etc.; his anger or forcefulness in defence and struggle; and his power of reasoning or intellect. In order that man may attain moral perfection by struggling against excess in the use of these three faculties, they are not restricted in nature. However, mans individual and collective happiness lies in his disciplining them for the sake of a harmonious, peaceful individual and social life. He also needs to be in transactions with his fellow-men to exchange the fruits of his skills and labour with those of others. This requires an overall justice in society. So, unless man disciplines his faculties, they may drive him to immorality, illicit sexual relationships, unlawful livelihood, tyranny, injustices, deception, falsehood, and other vices. To prevent the chaos and suffering that must follow undisciplined exercise of human powers and establish justice in society, man must submit to an authority that will guide and regulate his collective affairs. Seeing that there is a perfect harmony in the working of his body, a working which displays infinite knowledge, wisdom and consciousness, although his body is made up of parts completely unconscious, ignorant, deaf and blind, the authority to which man must submit must be the same as that which governs his body and environment. And, just as the body works, although unconsciously, in perfect co-ordination, the members of a community must endeavour to establish a like co-ordination and achieve an effective collective consciousness, that is, responsibility to and for each other.