Social Breakdown Syndrome (Lambo, A. , 2000. Constraints on World Medical and Health Progress. In R. Lanza (Ed.), One World: The Health and Survival of the Human Species in the 21st Century.)

In 2000, the World Health Organization described the pervasive condition of deepening disintegration of the socio-moral fabric of life on the planet and characterized it in the following way:
. . . a rising incidence and prevalence of psychosomatic diseases, mental disorders, anxiety and neurosis, prostitution, crimes, political corruption, and a variety of sexual diseases, including AIDS…the alienation of large segments of society and the depersonalization of individuals, with large groups of people living precariously on the periphery of society” (Lambo 2000, pp. 113-4).

Critical Consciousness: A Study of Morality in Global Historical Context (Elena Mustakova-Possardt, 2003). Praeger.

This book integrates 10 years of research on the lifespan development of a way of being, characteristic of moral and spiritual leaders throughout human history. Described as critical moral consciousness, it represents an empowered and deeply compassionate unity of rational mind and the love-knowledge and inner vision of the heart. This way of being, admired but relatively rare in the past, is now on the rise throughout the world, as we witness a rapidly emerging collective understanding of the importance of moral and spiritual coherence in all human endeavors.

The study adopts the term critical consciousness, coined by the radical Brazilian educator Paolo Freire, and describes its development throughout human life as an evolutionary dialectic between the discerning powers of the heart, and the expansive capacity of the mind to reason and to construct meaning. The stages in the lifespan evolution of this consciousness are captured through vignettes of individual lives in two different cultural and historical contexts (the U.S. and a former Eastern European country). The study identifies four motivational dimensions critical to the development of critical moral consciousness, and suggests key potential processes for educational, social, and international environments which seek to foster peaceful global integration.

The study describes the ontogenesis of different configurations of the pervasive contemporary disconnect between the rational powers of the mind and the heart’s capacity for love and attraction. It examines how different belief systems and worldviews influence this process and play a part in either the paralysis of will or the dysfunctional use of will. The findings of this ontogenetic study bear significant implications for the work ahead toward healing the frayed fabric of social life in our global society.

The painful and compelling emergence of the gradual integration of mind and heart, described in individual lives, parallels the current global historical processes of struggling to overcome intense collective angst and polarization, and to forge spiritually and environmentally sustainable global governance.

Excerpt from the book:

What is the nature of this way of being? People who exhibit it strike us as both independent and original thinkers and deeply connected to the rest of humanity, individuals with presence and integrity but not individualists. They identify with no one particular ideology, class, group, or philosophy—they draw on the best in all; yet their personal understanding is not eclectic but deeply integrated. These are people who recognize truth in whatever shape or form it appears, who respond to life with wisdom and enter into an ongoing dialogue with it, not in order to outsmart life with their personal theories but out of awe and reverence for life. These people always stand out, and others are attracted to them and threatened at the same time, because these people fit no easy mold and are not guided by personal interest. These people’s lives are about truth and service, both outdated and discarded words; but they are not moralists. If anything, they are lovers, lovers of humanity, lovers of life. Their hearts embrace and respond deeply to the human condition. Their minds powerfully cut through the rubble of detail and the smoke of words and reach for inner meanings, harnessing knowledge into understanding, never just caught in the trimmings of knowledge. These are people who are loved and feared and hated but who, whether we like them or resent them, represent our best hope for ourselves, that hope which we don’t even dare entertain.

Social Capital and Population Health (Kawachi, Takao, & Subramanian, 2013. Global Perspectives on Social Capital and Health, Springer.)

The concept of social capital has gained popularity since the 1990s in recognition of the fact that certain socio-structural resources enhance social cohesion and facilitate collective action for the benefit of all members of a community. Social capital has been found to be strongly correlated with better disaster preparedness and recovery of communities; with community safety and ability to combat crime; as well as with workplace health and higher academic achievement in school settings. Research on social capital emphasizes scientifically measurable social structures and processes that enhance social cohesion and wellbeing. It does not address subtler issues of meaning and coherence central to the human spirit.

The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone (Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson, 2009)

A vast body of research highlighting the “pernicious effects that inequality has on societies: eroding trust, increasing anxiety and illness, (and) encouraging excessive consumption”. It shows that for each of eleven different health and social problems: physical health, mental health, drug abuse, education, imprisonment, obesity, social mobility, trust and community life, violence, teenage pregnancies, and child well-being, outcomes are significantly worse in more unequal rich countries. The researchers propose a combined Index of Health and Social Problems, and show that greater inequality damages the social fabric, and impacts negatively social relationships, which are “of vital importance to human health”. This research points clearly to how we can take charge and work individually and systemically to create more social health.