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This session’s exercise is about doing some personal reflection. There are no right or wrong answers here, instead, this is an opportunity for you to take some time and think about your ethical values and beliefs.

What does it mean to be a good ancestor? (10 mins.) 

In the exercise from last week, we asked you to write a letter to the past. This week, we’d like you to turn your focus forward, and think about the years, decades and centuries ahead of us. 

When we think about doing good - such as by preventing malaria or restoring vision - we often already consider the future effects of our actions. We care about the fact that suffering is not just alleviated in the very moment we administer a vaccine or deliver some medication, but that recipients enjoy the benefits over the next days, weeks, months and hopefully years of their life. Similarly, it seems intuitive that parents have a moral responsibility for their children, and that safeguarding their well-being is a key priority, especially while they can’t take care of themselves. But what about our grandchildren and great-grandchildren? Or the generation after that? 

Whether or not you think that your personal responsibility stops at a certain point (there are legitimate reasons why it might), embedded in this idea is the concept of being “a good ancestor”. Entire books have been written about the notion that a key priority is to “create a better tomorrow” for those who follow in our footsteps. But what does that mean in practice? How can we start thinking about what makes for a “good ancestor”? In this exercise, we ask you to collect your thoughts on this question.  

You may start by describing character traits or attributes of a “good ancestor”, or by outlining actions they would or wouldn’t take.

E.g. A good ancestor…

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What is the definition of good?

I think it is a return to the nature of human beings to meet their basic needs for survival and to achieve a prosperous life, where each person realizes his or her potential, where human relationships are good, and where there is harmonious social coexistence. 

This requires a society that is fair, diverse, accepting of different opinions and a healthy ecosystem.  Therefore, I believe that as good ancestors, we need to establish a system that monitors and takes preventive measures for all of these elements to ensure that they are not jeopardized by short-term interests. And when we know that development has deviated from the direction, we must make timely corrections.

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