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Keeping up with global progress is, doubtless, a desirable attribute of any society .However, to purport that the reasons certain societies may not progress at the same rate as great societies are their reluctance to break out of their comfort zone and their fear of the unknown is to present an overly simplistic view. Such a view does not take into consideration the set of economic, political, and cultural constraints that affect every society’s ability to progress on a global scale.
Before exploring the constraints, it would be useful to examine the use of the word “great” in the above context. The concept of what makes a society great is highly subjective; some may equate greatness with military might or economic dominance, while others would emphasize cultural achievement or progress in care of less privileged citizens. Whatever one’s definition of greatness, however, it is ludicrous to suggest that any society actively rejects the desire to be great. Many societies face the seemingly insurmountable struggle to maintain societal structure in the face of economic need or political upheaval; the desire for greatness can emerge only when a society’s basic structure is intact.
Societies facing severe economic challenges are virtually unable to progress in the areas such as medicine, military power, and agriculture even if they want to do so. Countries like Bolivia use a majority of their limited resources to maintain the status quo of their agrarian society. Bolivia farmers are not afraid of the unknown or passively content with their current situation, but are using all their resources to sustain their families and maintain the social structure of their villages. Given this situation, the luxury of achievements in medicine, technology, and military power is simply not possible.
Also, societies embroiled in political upheaval, such as south sudan, are unable to send their young and talented members to universities where they can spearhead progress; the most vigorous segments of the population are required to serve in the military or to care for the families through difficult times. Maintaining societal coherence amid chaotic conditions engenders a lack of progress, as it is generally measured, but as we have seen throughout time, episodes of great drama in any given society can yield important works of art. One such example is Albert camus’ the stranger, written during the French resistance. Another, more current example is they poured fire on us from the sky, Benjamin Ajak’s autobiographical novel about Sudanese boys fleeing the country’s civil war.
Another point to consider is that, in some cases, an entire society’s cultural history, including its artistic contributions, is preserved only through its living member’s rich oral tradition and their active rejection of change in the realms of technology and science. This is evident when considering the Amish, whose motivation for using horse-drawn buggies and refusing access to the internet lies, not in fear or discomfort, but in a conscious desire to sustain a traditional way of life that they find sometimes difficult but always valuable.
In conclusion, to devalue a society that is not among the most progressive in the world is to discount the contributions a so-called “unprogressive” society can make, such as artistic and cultural expression unique to that society. Progress is a valuable tool for the advancement of a society, but blindly reaching for greatness can lead to a society’s downfall just as much as ignoring it altogether can. The balance between accepting a society’s constraints and highlighting its strengths is what will ultimately lead to a society’s greatness.
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