When we talk about education nowadays, we think almost exclusively of the idea of instructing, of imparting skills. But this is a restrictive view, and one that has been distorted from its original meaning. Education was first and foremost about transmitting a set of values that were intended to make the individual honourable, trustworthy, valiant or loyal. This vision of education is there to enable the individual to integrate into the social body.
In essence, it is a matter of ensuring that the interests of the group dominate those of the individual in the mind of the individual himself, while in reality allowing for the preservation of the individual. It is therefore by being apparently altruistic that a selfish need is satisfied. If all individuals in a group maintain themselves individually, it is because they have placed the group at the centre of their concerns. Conversely, all the individuals in a group who would like to save themselves selfishly by satisfying only their individual needs and neglecting their social obligations would expose themselves to two punishments: the disappearance of the group and ultimately a threat to their integrity as an individual.
An ever-growing group
Environmental and humanistic concerns respond to this same indirect need to preserve the individual. If I care about the environment, it is not out of absolute altruism, at least unconsciously, it is quite the opposite. It is out of a more or less obvious awareness that what surrounds man and a fortiori society (what surrounds him, which is why we speak of the environment) has a direct impact on the human group and the individuals that make it up.
Education should be the synthesis of knowledge and behaviour necessary for subsistence
Science and technology were once the main fields of education, partly because of the need to train the cadres of an industrialised economy en masse. An emphasis on science would increase the chances of producing scientific prodigies and efficient foremen who could design the inventions of tomorrow (and supervise the workers effectively) that could help the country gain the upper hand over other nations. This is particularly true for powers like Germany, which have based their success on their heavy industry. England, on the other hand, because of its island geography, had more of an entrepreneurial and commercial spirit among its people that would have allowed it to gain immense wealth from its military conquests and alliances. Thus, everything we have been taught contributes to the preservation of a human group. As the notion of a group gradually evolved from the family, to the clan, to the tribe, to the nation and then to the whole of humanity, the knowledge taught evolved.
The different levels of subsistence
The needs of the clan are quite simple: food and defence. Knowing how to capture calories (breeding, agriculture, raiding, etc.) to bring them back to the group is important, as is the ability to defend oneself. This is why clan education is very often martial.
The need to pass on knowledge to safeguard the larger group
Today, there are still clan and tribalist impulses that are supposed to protect the clans and tribes from which they originate. These same desires are sometimes born of the reaction to currents of ideas that would tend to destroy them, or at least to destroy them, in a shapeless mass. Thus, ecological currents can be seen as a threat because they lead to the neglect of the very notion of nation and the territorial particularities on which they have settled. Ecology tends to see the world without borders and humanity as one and indivisible. However, this is not the view of all the peoples who assume and claim their specificities. It is therefore normal for these currents of thought to clash.
The need for the elites to set an example
One cannot govern without moral authority, otherwise the use of force is necessary. When the elites are corrupt, it is impossible to really prevent corruption at all levels of society, which is why it is essential to embody the behaviour that we want to find everywhere else.
Predation versus culture
Civilisation has always opposed the barbarians by the fact that it was able to produce itself what the barbarians needed to steal. Another way of looking at it would be to say that civilisation is also a form of organised plunder. When Rome invaded Gaul, it did not do so out of civilisational generosity, no, it was above all to create a passageway to its Iberian colony and to appropriate some of the wealth favourable to its development (land, slaves and resources of all kinds…). If Rome is not barbaric by definition, it is nevertheless a formidable project to monopolise resources around the Mediterranean. Also, I do not believe in a difference in nature between the behaviour of barbarians and civilised people. Both tend to grab resources. The difference is their relationship to time and their efficiency. A civilisation is better in the long run at exploiting people’s labour, whereas nomadic raiders can never really industrialise their methods. If they want to scale up, they will have to resort to empire and thus to the civilisation that comes with it.
The common interest only makes sense when it ultimately serves the personal interest
How can we explain the reluctance of some members of a community to follow its rules? Most often, this is due to a lack of understanding that the common rules are there to serve everyone. Non-submission to the rules is potentially one of these things: the individual feels alienated from the group that welcomes him and he manifests his exogenous character by not submitting to them; or he has not assimilated the reasons for submission to the rules, in which case he lacks education.
Education is a reflection of allegiance
In sum, there is no such thing as an individual without any education. There are simply educations that are contrary to the morals of the group to which they belong. To be educated is to develop an allegiance to a community which in principle ensures our subsistence. Someone who has learned to steal within his family, for example, would in fact become an enemy of a community where theft is forbidden. He would then have to choose either to continue his family practices and lose the opportunity to join a larger group, or to abandon the habit and potentially be excluded from his family. The world is generally well made so that family rules are in line with the rules of larger groups (country, religious group etc.).
To create a mode of peace and harmony, one would have to create an irresistible allegiance to a model that protects the most individuals and species
Why do some people resist the calls of civilisation? It is probably because they feel that their new allegiance would give them less security or benefit. Taking the example of caste in India, why do people continue to marry within the same caste even though the concept of caste has been officially abolished? It is simply because people believe that the state will not protect them as much as their family (or caste in a broader sense). If they violate intra-caste marriage, they face serious consequences as their family will mostly reject them, which may throw them into destitution if they lose their job or other things. If the larger group cannot provide the same protections (security, reputation, work, relationship to the sacred and transcendent, reproduction etc.), it will not be chosen by smaller groups.
Creating an attractive group
In order to encourage the whole world to behave altruistically and benevolently towards all humans and even species, it is necessary to create an appropriate narrative and tangible guarantees that all the individual’s needs will be met. What is the point, for example, of allowing people to satisfy their need for transcendence when we are unable to feed them?
In order to change people’s behaviour massively, e.g. to be more environmentally friendly, their behavioural change would have to be more beneficial to them in total: e.g. they would have to earn more money, gain respect, meet people, improve their self-esteem etc. This will only be possible when the world has acquired a sufficient level of development. This will only be possible when the world has achieved a sufficient level of development. Moral development can often be a consequence of economic or technological development. Why did the United States abolish slavery? It was not out of charity, but because an industrialised country is more productive if it uses factories rather than a massive workforce. Production without mechanisation is a sub-optimal way of doing things. This is partly why countries such as Yemen and Saudi Arabia formally abolished slavery late in the second half of the 20th century – it is still practised, unfortunately. The wealth resulting from industrialisation leads to an improvement in human living conditions.
What should be the living conditions that allow for a humanistic and ecological consciousness?
In short, the whole world should acquire a level of development at least equal to that of Denmark today. Why are the Scandinavian countries equal? Partly because they have remained pagan longer than the others. Pagan societies in the Middle Ages were less hierarchical than the Catholic feudal societies of Western Europe. Beyond this cultural dimension, there is a reality: Scandinavian countries have more wealth per capita than most European countries. This wealth creates greater egalitarian values.
Education has a fundamental role in society. It is the sign of its allegiance. To envisage a more inclusive moment, it makes the world richer per capita.
Someone who educates himself, does so to join an allegiance that brings him more benefits than just his family or tribe. The collective interest is there to serve the personal interest.