Categories
- Governance Justice Oneness

‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Post-Election Talk

Two weeks ago, the United States once again had a presidential election, its 58th in an uninterrupted series held every four years since George Washington, predictably to occur in yet another four years.

 

During the 1912 presidential election, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá – Center of the Covenant of the Bahá’í Faith and Son of Bahá’u’lláh – had been visiting America. (Click here for this blog’s post from four years ago.)  He had been raised and lived most of His life as a prisoner and exile under two oppressive and corrupt dictatorial regimes, and had recently been freed as a result of the Young Turk Revolution of 1908 that brought partisan politics to a then-Sultanate Empire.  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá longed to travel to the democratic America, which was counseled years earlier by Bahá’u’lláh to adorn its land with justice. 

 

The day after the 1912 presidential election, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá happened to be in Washington DC, and gave a series of 10 publicly recorded talks over 5 days before heading off to New York. 

 

His first post-election talk – Wednesday, November 6th, 1912 – included a number of points, on liberty, on brotherhood, on the capacity of America, some of which are below.

 

He mentions the “freedom, hospitality and universal welcome extended to me during my recent travels throughout America” and then speaks of liberty:

The standard of liberty is held aloft in this land. You enjoy political liberty; you enjoy liberty of thought and speech, religious liberty, racial and personal liberty.”

 

Liberty and liberalism, though, He defines as “justness and equity toward all nations and people”, not merely as childish unfettered freedom.  Ensuring justice and equity sometimes requires a constraint on freedom as it is traditionally conceptualized.  

 

Brotherhood, or fraternity, is His next topic.  He speaks of different kinds: family bonds, patriotism, racial unity, and altruistic love of humankind.  These are all limited and liable to change and disruption, as we have witnessed over and over throughout history and in this country.  A spiritual brotherhood, on the other hand, will result in an indissoluble unity.  “We may be able to realize some degrees of fraternity through other motives, but these are limited associations and subject to change. When human brotherhood is founded upon the Holy Spirit, it is eternal, changeless, unlimited.”

 

In various parts of the world, this brotherhood and love had seemed to disappear; ‘Abdu’l-Bahá mentioned the Balkan Wars of 1912 and the turmoil in the Middle East.  Yet, “The world of humanity is one, and God is equally kind to all” He asserts, and the “source of unkindness and hatred in the human world” is division, citing examples of war and greed. 

 

He goes on,

As to the American people: This noble nation, intelligent, thoughtful, reflective, is not impelled by motives of territorial aggrandizement and lust for dominion. Its boundaries are insular and geographically separated from the other nations. Here we find a oneness of interest and unity of national policy. These are, indeed, United States. Therefore, this nation possesses the capacity and capability for holding aloft the banner of international peace. May this noble people be the cause of unifying humanity. May they spread broadcast the heavenly civilization and illumination, become the cause of the diffusion of the love of God, proclaim the solidarity of mankind and be the cause of the guidance of the human race. Therefore, I ask that you will give this all-important question your most serious consideration and efforts. May the world of humanity find peace and composure and this dark earth be transformed into a realm of radiance. May the East and West clasp hands together. May the oneness of God become reflected and fully revealed in the hearts of humanity and all mankind prove to be the manifestations of the favors of God.

 

Yet, it is not naïve utopia is that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is promoting.  He acknowledges that “Necessarily there will be some who are defective amongst men”.  His remedy, however, is based on the principles of love and unity, never admitting an “us and them” disunity; rather, He continues, “but it is our duty to enable them by kind methods of guidance and teaching to become perfected.”  Diversity implies a relative spectrum, meaning some will be on the right, some of the left, some further ahead, some behind, in any given measure.  The solution is not to cast one group aside in favor of another, but to help each group, knowing that we are all interconnected and, in the end, united and one.  He writes,

Others are immature and like children; they must be trained and educated so that they may become wise and mature. Those who are asleep must be awakened; the indifferent must become mindful and attentive. But all this must be accomplished in the spirit of kindness and love and not by strife, antagonism nor in a spirit of hostility and hatred, for this is contrary to the good pleasure of God. That which is acceptable in the sight of God is love. Love is, in reality, the first effulgence of Divinity and the greatest splendor of God.”

 

Finally, He ends with a prayer that is well-known to many Bahá’ís: “O Thou compassionate Lord, Thou Who art generous and able! We are servants of Thine sheltered beneath Thy providence. Cast Thy glance of favor upon us. Give light to our eyes, hearing to our ears, and understanding and love to our hearts. Render our souls joyous and happy through Thy glad tidings. O Lord! Point out to us the pathway of Thy kingdom and resuscitate all of us through the breaths of the Holy Spirit. Bestow upon us life everlasting and confer upon us never-ending honor. Unify mankind and illumine the world of humanity. May we all follow Thy pathway, long for Thy good pleasure and seek the mysteries of Thy kingdom. O God! Unite us and connect our hearts with Thine indissoluble bond. Verily, Thou art the Giver, Thou art the Kind One and Thou art the Almighty.”

 

 

 

‘Abdu’l-Bahá understood the capacity of the American people.  Just because we aren’t demonstrating that potential now, does not mean that it doesn’t exist.  Maturity is hard work, falling back into habits of childhood is the easy way out.  It requires effort and determination to release capacity, yet it is as inevitable as a tree releasing its capacity to bear fruit.   The question for everyone reading is: what type of gardeners are we going to be to the orchard of America? 

 

For the rest of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s post-election DC talks, and the rest of His talks throughout America, please see The Promulgation of Universal Peace.

 

 

 

 

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Categories
- Religion - Science Knowledge

A video on science and religion

Just a few thoughts from one of the contributors to this blog.

A document titled “One Common Faith” writes:

Religion is religion, as science is science. The one discerns and articulates the values unfolding progressively through Divine revelation; the other is the instrumentality through which the human mind explores and is able to exert its influence ever more precisely over the phenomenal world. The one defines goals that serve the evolutionary process; the other assists in their attainment. Together, they constitute the dual knowledge system impelling the advance of civilization.

Categories
- Empowerment - Primary Care Discourse Health Care Knowledge

HEALTH EMPOWERMENT

THE CURRENT STATE OF THE HEALTH CARE SYSTEM

Our current model of health care places the provider, in many cases the physician, as a gatekeeper to access to health.  For whatever historical, political, social, or economic reasons this came about, the resulting effect has impressed upon the consciousness of people that health is a scarce commodity to be sought after and fought for, and that it is something external to be received in certain locations by an elite class, with whole economic systems and corporate structures dedicated to administering the transaction of health.
 

 
ANOTHER IDEA, MORE LIKELY BASED IN REALITY

However, instead of health care being seen as a disease-mitigating provision or commodity to be given by a class of experts, all human beings have the capacity to generate and share knowledge about health.  Health care can be conceptualized as body of knowledge generated by populations, not about disease, but about health, directed towards taking charge of their own needs.  Because, in the end, the generation of knowledge leads to empowerment.
 

 
SPACES OF EMPOWERMENT

Yet there are limited spaces in which people can reflect together on their own health, uncovering insights and gems and distributing them to each other to be applied.  The current model of health care is totally unsustainable – the gatekeepers are scarce and more and more becoming paralyzed by the plight of the system, and the teeming masses are reading to break down the gate, only to find themselves on the other side.  Creating systems, and structures to support them, in order to foster the process of bringing groups together in reflective, empowering spaces seems to be imperative in the context of the current crisis of health care.
 
In addition to spaces where groups of people can come together to generate knowledge towards empowerment to take charge of their own health care, there can be networks of groups, or networks of clinics, that reflect together and share knowledge with some frequency, always connected to the people at the grassroots.  Practically, then, health care once again can actually become a body of knowledge and practice about health of people – and not only a forum where one social classes develops expertise around disease.
 

 
CURRICULA FOR EMPOWERMENT

Concomitant to the space is the content.  The materials used in these spaces, with these people, would direct the process of generation of knowledge; and thus, the content is crucial to empowerment.  Our current models focus on knowledge of disease – even prevention still revolves around disease.  Yet, health is an intrinsic element of a human being – we’re all born with it, by definition, to whatever degrees, of course.  Basic concepts and principles of human health, likely the product both of a profound reconceptualization of human nature – understanding its material and spiritual existence, its inherent oneness, its altruistic and cooperative tendencies – as well as of reflections that emerge from these spaces, can provide a framework within which reflection and generation of insights take place.

 

 

Thoughts?!?  Would love to hear others’ reflections.

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Categories
- Education Health Care Knowledge

Evidence Based Practice

Reality is vast.  Yet, action requires knowledge.  So over time, we have created systems of practice and knowledge by which we can understanding reality and effectively do something.  Clearly, then, the way in which minds are training within systems, and the relationship between knowledge and practice, is crucial.

 

Medicine is one such system of practice and knowledge that has an associated educational process.  There have been many criticisms leveled against medical education, to varying degrees of validity.  However, arguably the most damaging outcome of the current medical education system is a certain biased way of thinking: that practices are determined by theoretical pathophysiological reasoning more so than adopted from evidence garnered from the field.

 

There is a certain receptor found in heart cells, a beta-receptor, that increases the speed and strength of the heart’s pump.  “Beta-blockers”, they are called, a class of medicine that blocks the workings of this receptor, was frequently used, logically so, for patients with high blood pressure.  And when a patient has heart failure – ie, the speed and strength of the heart’s pump is no longer adequate enough – it seemed, from knowledge gained through pathophysiological reasoning, the worst possible practice to administer a beta-blocker.  Yet, over the last few decades, the system of medicine has learned, through evidence, that the opposite is true: beta-blockers are first-line medicines for heart failure and generally fourth-line at best for high blood pressure.  And I’m not quite sure why (probably because I didn’t pay enough attention in medical school).  But, ironically, that might be a good thing – reasoning through the basic science of the cardiac system leads to an ineffective practice.  Knowledge of experiential evidence leads to an effective practice.

 

Now, this doesn’t mean that theoretical knowledge isn’t important; in fact, conceptual understanding contributes to an agility of mind that can use creativity to solve difficult problems and explore reality to contribute to systems of knowledge.  Yet the theoretical must be moderated by the practical.  If too much emphasis is given on theoretical reasoning (as in the case with the training of physicians in medical education), it results in arrogance, extreme individualism, lack of standardization, and stagnation.  When there is too much emphasis on training in technique without conceptual understanding (as in the case with the vast majority of educational programs), the result is passivity, blind obedience to protocol, lack of creativity, and, again, stagnation.  It seems the only way to progress forward is to understand how to move between conceptual and practical in a healthy way.

 

Analogous to scientific systems of knowledge and practice (like medicine), there is religion, a system that seeks to gain knowledge about the Word of God and spiritual dynamics in order to put it into practice into individual and social progress.  Again, the same insights can apply.  It’s true that the Revelation has transformative effects on both individual hearts and society as a whole.  Yet the practice – ie, the interaction with the Word of God – is something that cannot be reasoned through by simply reading the Writings and coming to conclusions; for 10 people will have 10 interpretations, just like 10 medical students will have 10 preferences of which blood pressure med to start with.  And the question is not “does blood pressure medicine work?”, just like the question is never “does interaction with the Word of God lead to transformation?”; obviously the answer to both is “yes”.  Rather, a good scientist will put the question of “what kind of interaction with the Word of God” to the field of experience, in the same way that a good physician will survey two decades of actual patient experiences to try to learn “what kind of blood pressure medicine?”.

 

Enter the Ruhi Institute.  Of the many, many, curricula that were developed over the years, each fostering a certain kind of interaction with the Word of God, it proved through experience to be the most effective.  And probably because it wasn’t the brainchild of a group of people who worked very hard and very sincerely to come up with a set of courses based on their theoretical understanding; rather it emerged from decades of practical experience trying to learn about effective methods.  Its system of knowledge and practice is based on evidence.  So maybe we don’t exactly know why it works, but we know it does.  And that a practice works is great foundation place to start to gain knowledge, to learn more about reality, answering the “why” questions.

 

At the end of the day, reality is vast.  It is presumptuous to think we can reason through it and then determine best actions.  Rather, let proven practice guide our quest for knowledge.  We know beta-blockers are effective treatments for heart failure – given this, what, now, can we learn about the relationship between myocardial contractility and neurocardiac receptor feedback?  We know that the Ruhi Institute’s sequence of courses effectively fosters individual and collective transformation – given this, what, now, can we learn about the elements of interaction with the Word of God and the spiritual dynamics of the environment within which it takes place?

 

As we build a conceptual understanding from effective and rich practices and experiences at the grassroots, we learn to exercise moderation and avoid extremes.  We avoid arrogance and passivity and instead become active protagonists with a humble posture of learning; we avoid blind obedience and extreme individualism and instead become empowered through cooperative action towards collective betterment; we purposely exert creativity within fruitful areas of inquiry; and, as is the pattern since humanity’s birth, learning propels progress.

Categories
- Religion Human Nature

The Ontological Circle

The Ontological Circle

Categories
- Religion

Baha’u’llah’s Solution for Religious Fanaticism

The Word of God dictates the dynamics of civilization over history and dominates the destiny of events. It is our privilege as souls and individuals to participate and contribute to the inaction of God’s Will in the history of humankind as it unfolds, if God accepts such service. In order to serve, it is important to know what God’s Will is; and in order to know God’s Will we would have to recognize where to turn to learn it. Historically, humankind has known and worshiped God through His Manifestations– the Authors of the great world religions.

Religion was created for the betterment of the world, to inculcate kindness and patience in human character. Religion teaches us to have faith, which empowers people to transcend attachments to selfish and material things that often motivate harmful behavior. As the latest chapter in the unfoldment of religion, the Baha’i Faith redeems and contextualizes all past religions, like Christianity and Islam that came before it.

Because the Baha’i Faith affirms other religions and prescribes the uniting of all particularistic worldviews, it is worth bolstering and defending against ignorance and prejudice. But fanaticism in Iran has caused the Muslim clergy to persecute the Baha’is. In a similar way, materialistic fanaticism through consumer culture has questioned beliefs at the core of religion in the West, such as the value of spiritual life and the need for Prophets or even faith in God.

Wherever they are found, fanaticism and fundamentalism are a harmful fire in the heart, that can be very detrimental to others and to the peace and security of society. Take for instance the violence between ISIS and the Shi’ih people of Iraq. For the Baha’is of Iran, and the people of Iraq, it is comforting to know that God sees the pain and suffering that religious fanaticism has caused and heals, exalts, bestows, and rewards those who endure and overcome it with patience and courage. Perhaps, one of the greatest condemnations of those who benefit from crime, both violent and moral, is the manifest implication through behavior that shows they actively embrace a philosophy that regards social justice as their enemy. The fanatic thwarts himself, in demonstrating desperation.

In the Tabernacle of Unity, Baha’u’llah teaches that we can protect ourselves from fanaticism and fundamentalism by remembering that there is only one God, and that his Word influences the world through the Revelation of successive Prophets or Manifestations of God over the ages. This concept is termed progressive revelation–the belief that humankind has experienced a single phenomenon called Religion (singular) comprising all the various world religions revealed successively over time by God’s Will for humankind in a socially and  historically-appropriate manner.

 To endure fanaticism and fundamentalism, Baha’u’llah teaches, we can pray to God saying, “aid me with the ensigns of Thy power and might” and “protect me from the mischief of Thine enemies who have violated Thy Covenant and Thy Testament.” Baha’u’llah says that this prayer acts as an “impregnable stronghold” in that it confers protection and can be likened unto an “indomitable army” in the way that it ensures deliverance.

“Consider the sun. Were it to say now, “I am the sun of yesterday,” it would speak the truth. And should it, bearing the sequence of time in mind, claim to be other than that sun, it still would speak the truth.” ~Baha’u’llah, Kitab-i-Iqan

Setting Sun over Cook Inlet

Categories
- Empowerment - Primary Care - Three Protagonists Discourse Health Care Human Nature Knowledge Social Action

Re-Birth of the Clinic

Humanity is on the threshold of the crowning stage in its evolutionary history – its collective maturity, characterized by a unification of the entire human race, manifest through a new world civilization which has achieved a dynamic coherence between the material and spiritual aspects of existence.

Who are the ones that are to bring about humanity’s vast transformation? All individuals.  Since all individuals are part of humanity. In addition to individuals, there are two other protagonists that will share in the advancement of civilization – the institutions and the community.

 

How does this civilization advance? Through the empowerment of its three protagonists.

 

And empowerment?  Through the generation of knowledge.

 

Knowledge is a potent force propelling the advancement of civilization. “What appears to be called for in any given region, microregion or cluster is the involvement of a growing number of people in a collective process of learning, one which is focused on the nature and dynamics of a path that conduces to the material and spiritual progress of their villages or neighbourhoods. Such a process would allow its participants to engage in the generation, application, and diffusion of knowledge, a most potent and indispensable force in the advancement of civilization.”

 

Access to knowledge is the right of every human being, and participation in its generation, application and diffusion a responsibility that all must shoulder in the great enterprise of building a prosperous world civilization—each individual according to his or her talents and abilities.”
The generation and application of knowledge, part of this collective process of learning, takes place in the context of three broad areas of endeavor –community-building drawing upon spiritual principles; social action; and participation in social discourse.

 

What ensures coherence between and among these three areas of endeavor is the process of systematic learning that occurs throughout.

 

*****

 

The clinic is a place in which individuals are already engaged in some sort of institutionalized discourse on human nature – albeit material in nature only.  The clinic is a place in which a certain type of social action already takes place – albeit from one group directed at another.  The clinic is a place in which a community comes together and forms a certain version of identity – albeit, a secondary identity at best.

 

The three broad endeavors are already present – yet, they are stuck in the patterns of the old world.

The three protagonists are all interacting – yet, they are stuck in modes of the old world.

It has potential.  It needs to be spiritualized.

 

 

Let us no longer allow the clinic to join ranks with the pulpit and the classroom and the newsstands and the market, and fall prey to society’s oppressive tendencies – dispensing knowledge and prescriptions to a passive recipient; fragmenting community life into walled-off exam rooms; restricting otherwise naturally-occurring spiritual conversations to material aspects of reality; and robbing people of their true identity as active agents of civilization-building, replacing it with the identity of some chronic disease.  Rather, let us re-conceptualize it as a place of empowerment.  Patients, physicians, family members, can all participate in a descriptive process of the generation, application, and diffusion of knowledge, each contributing to the building of a community concerned about the welfare of people within and beyond its borders, about their physical and spiritual well-being, and engaging in a discourse on the elements of a healthy society – spiritual, physical, intellectual.

 

 

THE CLINIC: An institution of society, animated by noble individuals, that operates within a community; where learning can be generated on the interaction of these three protagonists in all three endeavors, contributing towards the creation of a new world civilization.

 

 

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Categories
- Empowerment Expansion & Consolidation Junior Youth Empowerment Program Social Action

San Diego Institute Campaign – Summer 2014

Categories
- Primary Care Health Care Human Nature

‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Advice To A Smoker

Howard Colby Ives was a Unitarian Minister in New York who became a Bahá’í after encounters with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.  Howard was also a smoker.

When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá visited New York, Howard was not in the best of health, having some lung difficulties.  He was considering quitting smoking, yet again – in fact, he wrote “I had always prided myself on the ability to break the habit at any time.”  And yet, it was always a momentary lapse in the habit, nothing lasting.  And that summer, because of life circumstances, he was too nervous to not smoke.  With his pride, though, he also had a shame about the habit.  Though he wanted to, he didn’t bring it up to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá the first or so time they had met.  Finally, he got over his guilt and decided to ask ‘Abdu’l-Bahá advice on how to quit smoking.

When they next met, he very shyly began to tell ‘Abdu’l-Bahá about his habit.  He wrote, it “was like a child confessing to His mother, and my voice trailed away to embarrassed silence after only the fewest of words.”  Yet ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was the embodiment of loving-kindness and understanding, and never perpetuated the embarrassment that Howard felt about his habit.  After Howard was done speaking, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá quietly asked how much he smoked.

Howard told him, and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, with a gentle smile and a twinkle in His eyes, responded that He didn’t think it was harmful, that the men in Persia smoke to the point where their beards are filled with smoke, and that he shouldn’t be troubled by it at all.

Howard, at first, was a bit perplexed, and he did not understand.  He wrote, “not a dissertation on the evils of habit; not an explanation of the bad effects on health; not a summoning of my will power to overcome desire”.  Rather, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá freed him.  Howard then felt the burden of shame lifted from his shoulders, and he felt a relief.   During the next few days, Howard wrote, his “inner conflict was stilled”, and he was, at last, able to enjoy his smoke “with no smitings of conscience.”

A few days after this conversation, his desire for smoking was gone, and he quit.

*****

From this encounter, Howard concluded the power of love to bring true freedom – freedom from desires of self, from the habits of lower nature, from the fetters of this world.  Through an all-embracing love that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá evinced, He freed Howard from a focus on self.  And through showering each other with loving-kindness, we can accompany each other to free ourselves from the bondage of the animal promptings that weigh us down.  Our first duty to each other is to let our hearts burn with loving-kindness; from this we can think about building upon justice, unity, capacity, etc.

We can draw out two more elements within Howard’s encounter with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.  The first, is that through this love, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá did not allow any feelings of guilt or self-righteousness to enter into the conversation.  Howard came to him with guilt about a habit, and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said it wasn’t a big deal.  Howard came to him with a pride on being able to quit, and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá didn’t appeal to any will to power.  Guilt and self-righteousness are both manifestations of ego, on two extremes, that our self-focused society often evokes to motivate behavior.  However, the most powerful motivator of human action is an understanding of true self that comes from selflessness – freeing oneself from ego.  Often times in health care, patients come with various forms of ego, like guilt, which society has attributed to their health concern.  Physicians perpetuate this spotlight on the ego by a focus on the individual.  Yet, clearly, an inner conflict through pointing out “evils of habit” is futile; the most powerful way to transform self is a focus away from it, on selflessness.

This leads to the second point – a true understanding of human nature.  If someone considers their identity as a smoker, how is a physician going to say “don’t smoke”.  And continue by saying “here are all the reasons why you shouldn’t”.  This is telling them not to be who they think they are.  Quite a dehumanizing experience.  And yet, the health care system has gotten into this habit itself.  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá did not attack Howard’s sense of identity; instead, He helped Howard consider another perspective – that he is a spiritual, noble, human being, with a soul, and his true identity is not any category that society assigns, like “smoker”, “black”, “woman”, “liberal”, “academic”, “gay”, “banker”, “diabetic”, “depressed”, etc.  In the end, all these categories are, at best, secondary aspects of a human being; and, at worst, distortions of true human identity.  To detach from a habit or desire, one has to understand that this habit or desire is not one’s true nature.  One’s true nature is that of the soul.

Once Howard’s guilt over smoking was lifted, his identity as a smoker was shown erroneous, and his true identity as a noble spiritual being was affirmed, he was able to place this minor habit in its proper place – as just that, something that provides momentary enjoyment to the lower self; of tangential significance.  And then, quite naturally, as his higher nature assumed its rightful place, he no longer felt like smoking.

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Categories
- Empowerment - Science Development Discourse

Technology: Good or Bad?

It would be unrealistic to adhere to a retrogressive and romanticized notion of a “simple” life, in which technology is non-existent, and humanity subsists in some type of passively blissful coexistence with nature. It overlooks at once the inter-personal needs that technology satisfies with enhanced communication as well as the life-salvaging benefits of medical intervention, for examples. Retrogressive viewpoints for a romanticized past  are the result of rampant conservativism driven delusional by nostalgia.  It exists in the middle east, with Islamic revolutionary retrogression in the democratized states of the Arab spring, as well as in the United States with the spokespeople of the religious right. Retrogression exists anywhere conservatism blinds people to the evolving needs to which time subjects human societies. Its proponents become entrenched in and bolster the status quo against mounting evidence for desperately required change. An “ever-advancing civilization” is God’s own characterization of the human condition to which we are all contributors. It is this same retrogression that has prevented the recognition of progressive revelation in the manifestation of the various religions that have come to man from God over the centuries. Ever wonder why they don’t call it conservative revelation?

The concept of an ever-advancing civilization, material as well as spiritual, is central to our conceptual framework for social action, where we work for wholesale social transformation. It is inevitable that because of the never-ceasing tide of human needs and opportunities to improve social services and streamline infrastructure that our ever-advancing civilization will require a never-ending form of technological innovation, change, and development. As far as we are concerned, then, the challenge before humanity is not whether it should opt for high and sophisticated technology (eventuating in World War III) or low and simple technology (releasing humanity to care-free co-existence with mother nature) — this is a false choice, a false dichotomy. The question regarding technology, rather, is how to develop and apply technologies that are conducive to spiritual, and not only material, prosperity? And how in doing so does such technology organically extend the benefits of materially and spiritually prosperous civilization to members of the entire human race? Is technology doomed to be manipulated as the instrument of materialism forever? Are technological choices possible? What choices and how as a society can we make them? Share your comments below.

Categories
- Governance - Oppression Development Discourse Justice Oneness

Globalization: Good or Bad?

Friends, listen up. The end of the 20th century discloses to the eyes of humanity a vista of stupendous opportunities and grave perils. Allow me to explain. Some of the more striking phenomena are those associated with globalization, a designation that arouses strong emotions and lends itself to a variety of interpretations. But here is the truth. There is no doubt — and this is true irrespective of one’s views on the subject — that the forces of globalization have set the nations of the world on a new and irreversible course. There is no going back. We’ve passed the point of no return. Economic activity, political structures, and culture are all undergoing profound change. This is not our parent’s world any longer. A global society is being born as barriers that have kept peoples apart crumble and are swept away. Planetary civilization beckons. The transformation is made possible by accelerated technological advance, an early fruit of which is a mode of communication transcending national boundaries and operating at staggering speed. For example, the internet. However thrilling future prospects may be, present patterns of behavior do not inspire confidence in the process. People are critical about the role western governments and corporations have played on the global stage. It is only natural to wonder whether globalization will, in fact, unify the human race without imposing uniformity or simply propel the universalization of the culture of consumerism. Skeptics say globalization involves exporting materialistic values, consumer propaganda, and economic hegemony from the west. Can globalization really be the bearer of prosperity for the masses or the mere expression of the economic interests of a privileged few? Will it lead to the establishment of a just order or the consolidation of existing structures of power? Share your opinions below!

Globalization

 

Categories
- Empowerment - Prevailing Conceptions - Primary Care Discourse Health Care Power

Is Primary Care Actually Effective?

In the field of emergency medicine, there is an idea called “door-to-balloon” or “time-to-cath”, which is the amount of time that has elapsed from the moment a patient who is having a specific kind of heart attack walks into the emergency department to the time that a catheter enters the occluded vessel.  (There are two general types of “heart attacks”, or myocardial infarctions (meaning death of the heart muscle); one requires immediate surgical intervention with a catheter to open up the blocked blood vessel – the definitive treatment – while the other can be treated with medicines initially.  It is the first kind to which the “door-to-balloon” idea relates).

 

An enormous amount of energy and resources from a myriad organizations have gone into systematic efforts to reduce this “door-to-balloon” time, and subsequently reducing the number of deaths after the onset of a myocardial infarction.  The American College of Cardiology launched a large national “initiative” and the American Heart Association launched a complementary “mission” to standardize and reduce time-to-cath; emergency departments have received incentives over the years to make this an ordinary practice, it has become a core measure for healthcare accreditation, and it is now common vocabulary within the healthcare field and among the public.  Over the last decade, because of its success, it has become a common topic of medical research and direction for scientific inquiry.

 

And the results are impressive.  At the foundation of this idea is a set of hospital procedures and protocols, a collection of ready human and technological resources, an algorithmic approach to diagnosis and management for the ED team, and a mechanism for administrators to identify and eradicate delays in the process.  Whatever means are needed to bring door-to-balloon to under 90 minutes is supplied.

 

And none of that involves the patient.  In fact, the system probably runs smoothest when the patient is unconscious…one step from dead…as passive as possible while still able to be kept alive.

 

*****

 

Because of its tremendous success, and coupled with society’s event-oriented mindset and infatuation with instant results, the concept of attaining a goal within a certain time has become common in health care.  More and more, time parameters are set on objectives, which dictate reimbursement structure, staffing needs, research practices, and overall resource allocation.

 

What the health care system does well is simply a reflection of what society does well – eliminate the will of an individual and let the system’s will force short-term and end-oriented results.  We can miraculously prevent a patient from dying if their heart stops receiving blood, yet we can’t seem to do anything about the rising incidence of the need to do this.

 

*****

 

So it seems that primary care is the answer.  Manage disease before it becomes an “event”, before it requires “immediate results”, before it necessitates life-saving measures.

 

But it’s not that simple.  Let’s take an example with diabetes management in primary care.  Common in the discourse now is “time-to-goal-A1c”.  A1c is a great blood test that measures the average amount of blood glucose over 3 months, let’s say.  It has now become the standard for diagnosis and monitoring of diabetes.  Below 7.0 is good control; so ambitious primary care proponents are pushing the idea of lowering a patient’s A1c to 7.0 within 3 months of their first visit to a clinic.  Time-to-cath, 90 mins.  Time-to-goal-A1c, 90 days.  Makes sense.  It works in the emergency setting – the only difference between emergency and primary care is time, right?

 

Unfortunately, there has been little to no success.  Despite the enormous amount of energy and resources from a myriad organizations, despite the incentives offered to clinics, despite the core measures and accreditation criteria, despite the research, the prescriptions, the counseling, the protocols, the ready human and technological resources, the algorithms, the mechanisms, despite all efforts by the will of the medical system, there is no success.

 

Because, this time, the patient isn’t unconscious.

 

*****

 

The reason why our healthcare system – and, indeed, our society in general – is excellent at drastic end-of-life situations is because the variables are in the hands of the system itself; the patient doesn’t factor.  Emergency situations, albeit outwardly chaotic, are very controlled by those in charge.  Simply, the more the system is empowered to act, the better will be results.  And the same reason explains why primary care is unable to parallel such impressive results: because the power to act still is being locked within the clutches of the system, yet it is the patient who is the primary actor.  It mistakenly thinks that if it becomes more empowered, it will deliver health better.  However, while a patient may encounter the system’s will for 15 minutes every week, and be given prescriptions in the broadest sense of the word, this does not account for the other 6 days, 23 hours, and 45 minutes he is alive.  Delivering health is not the same as delivering a service or good that is needed in an immediate or life-threatening situation; in fact, health is not something delivered, it is something of which a patient is empowered to take charge.  Instead of focusing on the system as the deliverer of health, real healthcare means focusing on empowering patients to take charge of their own health care.

 
Empowerment, like health, is also not something delivered from the empowered to the unempowered; it is something fostered through the creation of environments and relationships.  It occurs through the generation of knowledge, through selfless service, and through humility.  It draws on the powers of the human spirit and the capacities of the soul.  It is a process that demands the active participation of the protagonists of social transformation – all of humanity.

 

 

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Categories
- Oppression

Destruction of historic Baha’i cemetery underway in Shiraz by Iranian Revolutionary Guards

The Baha’i International Community was shocked to hear of news that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have begun excavation in a historically important Baha’i cemetery in Shiraz. The site is, among other things, the resting place of ten Baha’i women whose cruel hanging in 1983 came to symbolize the government’s deadly persecution of Baha’is.

“Reports from Iran came in yesterday that the excavation has begun and graves are being destroyed. Some 40 to 50 trucks are lined up to remove the earth and accelerate the work,” said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations.

“We are urgently calling on the international community to raise its voice in protest at this disturbing act.

“We also appeal directly to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to halt this act of desecration.”

Reports received so far indicate that workers for the Revolutionary Guards had completed an excavation some 1.5 meters deep and 200 square meters in area. The hole is near a number of very old gravesites in the western part of the cemetery but is not yet deep enough to have disturbed the remains, it is believed.

Ms. Dugal said the local Baha’is had made appeals directly to the Revolutionary Guards asking that it construct the proposed  building on the areas of the site where there are no graves – and turn the areas with the graves into a green space, leaving the dead undisturbed.

“Appeals were made to various city and provincial authorities, including the commander in chief of Revolutionary Guard, the municipality of Shiraz, the Friday prayer Imam, the governor of the city, Iran’s prosecutor general and the head of the judiciary, with no results,” said Ms. Dugal.

Owned and used by the Baha’is of Shiraz since the early 1920s, the site was confiscated by the government in 1983, at which time its grave markers were leveled and its main buildings destroyed. Its ownership has since changed. Three years ago, the provincial office of the Revolutionary Guards announced it had taken over the site, and a sign was posted indicating that it planned to build a “cultural and sports building” there.

Some 950 Baha’is are buried on the cemetery land.

Among the prominent individuals at rest in the cemetery are the “ten Baha’i women of Shiraz,” who were hanged on 18 June 1983 at the height of the government’s campaign of execution against Baha’is. Between 1979 and 1988, more than 200 Baha’is were killed in Iran.

The ten women, who ranged in age from 17 to 57, were convicted of “crimes” such as being “Zionists” and the teaching of children’s classes – the equivalent of “Sunday school” in the West. Their wrongful and dramatic execution drew condemnation around the world. After their sentencing, for example, US President Ronald Reagan issued a plea for clemency for them and 12 other Bahá’ís who had been sentenced to death.

During their trial, the ten women were told that if they recanted their faith, they would be released. “Whether you accept it or not, I am a Baha’i,” replied 28-year-old Zarrin Muqimi-Abyanih. “You cannot take it away from me. I am a Baha’i with my whole being and my whole heart.”

The youngest among them, Mona Mahmudnizhad, only 17 at the time of her death, has been immortalized in songs and videos. Her conspicuous innocence and brave demeanor in the face of death made her – and the nine other women – international symbols of Iran’s harsh repression of Baha’is.

Attacks on Baha’i cemeteries have been a common feature of the persecution of Baha’is in Iran in recent years. Between 2005 and 2012, at least 42 Baha’i-owned cemeteries were attacked in some manner.

These attacks, often carried out with implicit if not direct government support, have involved the firebombing of mortuary buildings, the toppling of gravestones, the uprooting of landscape shrubbery, the spray-painting of anti-Baha’i graffiti on cemetery walls, and the exhumation of bodies.

 

 

Mona Mahmudnizhad is one of ten Baha’i
women buried in the Shiraz cemetery.

Categories
- Religion - Three Protagonists Expansion & Consolidation Justice Social Action

Ridvan 2014 Message Summary

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To the Baha’is of the World

1 – 3 years down. 2 to go. 2 Movements reinforced by youth conferences. 2000 Programs of growth (PG) remain of the goal.

2 – 3000 PG’s. Many simple lines of action; some intensified pitch; educational quality attracts participants. Momentum regained with searching consultation into lulls. Scope and complexity commensurate to supportive environment. 100′s serving thousands. Underlying vision discernible with large numbers.

3 – Expanding conversation amongst 10,000 locals on Vanuatu’s Mashriqu’l-Adhkár extension of training institute. Chief’s support junior youth groups which galvanize all age groups through practical service projects. The Local Spiritual Assembly gives guidance and resolution with wisdom and sensitivity against a backdrop of Expansion and Consolidation (E&C) when the other elements of the Plan are coherently combined. House of Worship captures imaginations.

4 – Counterpart in reflection on action, consultation, study, and action in numerous advanced clusters.

5 – Local capacity for learning fosters progress. Dynamic clusters identify what is required and create ways to achieve it. Rigid formulae cannot be extrapolated as circumstances are all unique, each contributing to collective learning. Beyond “success and failure” that breed freneticism or paralysis. Detachment: Effort is for God.

6 – If we exert an effort, heavenly aid will be vouchsafed. Entreat in the shrines on our behalf. Call to Action. Tear the veils assunder, point out the path of Salvation.

signed: THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE

 

“There is much here to indicate that, when the elements of the Plan’s framework for action are combined into a coherent whole, the impact on a population can be profound.” 

Universal House of Justice - Main Hall

Categories
- Empowerment Expansion & Consolidation Junior Youth Empowerment Program Social Action

Houston LSA Chair Enjoys Med Center Junior Youth Group, on Sunday April 13th, 2014

The most significant initial contribution of Local Assemblies to the processes of growth was providing encouragement to the believers. This was particularly effective when an expansion of vision had resulted from the participation of Assembly members in the institute process as well as the study of Five Year Plan documents.

This approach has… done much to assist Local Assemblies to realign their administrative processes and priorities. Beyond these considerations, the leadership role of the Spiritual Assemblies — be they national or local — is of profound importance. It has been observed in many clusters that the processes of growth are greatly enhanced where this leadership role is exercised through the Assemblies’ constant effort to maintain the vision of growth before the believers, allowing for the two essential movements to impact priorities, avoiding unnecessary distractions, providing the necessary resources, and reinforcing the plans and initiatives at the cluster level. Further, the dynamic force of individual example as the members of Assemblies themselves become personally involved in the cluster activities, actively supporting the efforts…

-International Teaching Centre, Impact of Growth on Administration, July 2005

Categories
Discourse Human Nature

Maturation of Species: History, Human Nature, and World Peace

Human nature has been misinterpreted. We are not selfish and competitive by nature, but rather, altruistic and cooperative. The entire history of humankind’ s past represents only a stage in its infancy. The entire history of its adolescence is yet to be played out, and the relatively more extensive duration of its adulthood and maturity has yet to be envisioned.

So much have aggression and conflict come to characterize our social, economic and religious systems, that many have succumbed to the view that such behavior is intrinsic to human nature and therefore ineradicable. With the entrenchment of this view, a paralyzing contradiction has developed in human affairs. On the one hand, many people proclaim not only their readiness but their longing for peace and harmony, for an end to the harrowing apprehensions tormenting their daily lives. On the other, uncritical assent is given to the proposition that human beings are incorrigibly selfish and aggressive and thus incapable of erecting a social system at once progressive and peaceful, dynamic and harmonious, a system giving free play to individual creativity and initiative but based on co-operation and reciprocity.

As the desire for peace becomes more heartfelt, this fundamental contradiction, which hinders its realization, demands a reassessment of the assumptions upon which the commonly held view of mankind’s historical predicament is based. Dispassionately examined, the evidence reveals that such conduct, far from expressing man’s true self, represents a distortion of the human spirit. Understanding and acceptance of this point will enable all people to set in motion constructive social forces which, because they are consistent with human nature, will encourage harmony and co-operation instead of war and conflict.

To choose such a course is not to deny humanity’s past but to understand it in a larger context. The Bahá’í Faith regards the current world confusion and calamitous condition in human affairs as a natural phase in an organic process leading ultimately and irresistibly to the unification of the human race in a single social order whose boundaries are those of the planet. The human race, as a distinct, organic unit, has passed through evolutionary stages analogous to the stages of infancy and childhood in the lives of its individual members, and is now in the culminating period of its turbulent adolescence approaching its long-awaited coming of age – its maturation and adulthood.

A candid acknowledgement that prejudice, war and exploitation have been the expression of immature stages in a vast historical process and that the human race is today experiencing the unavoidable tumult which marks its collective coming of age is not a reason for frustration but a prerequisite to undertaking the stupendous enterprise of building a peaceful world. That such an enterprise is possible, that the necessary constructive forces do exist, that unifying social structures can be erected, is the theme of this discussion.

The bedrock of a strategy that can engage the world’s population in assuming responsibility for its collective destiny must be the consciousness of the oneness of humankind. Deceptively simple in popular discourse, the concept that humanity constitutes a single people presents fundamental challenges to the way that most of the institutions of contemporary society carry out their functions. Whether in the form of the adversarial structure of civil government, the advocacy principle informing most of civil law, a glorification of the struggle between classes and other social groups, or the competitive spirit dominating so much of modern life, conflict is accepted as the mainspring of human interaction. It represents yet another expression in social organization of the materialistic interpretation of life that has progressively consolidated itself over the past two centuries.

In a letter addressed to Queen Victoria over a century ago, and employing an analogy that points to the one model holding convincing promise for the organization of a planetary society, Bahá’u’lláh compared the world to the human body. There is, indeed, no other model in phenomenal existence to which we can reasonably look. Human society is composed not of a mass of merely differentiated cells but of associations of individuals, each one of whom is endowed with intelligence and will; nevertheless, the modes of operation that characterize man’s biological nature illustrate fundamental principles of existence. Chief among these is that of unity in diversity. Paradoxically, it is precisely the wholeness and complexity of the order constituting the human body — and the perfect integration into it of the body’s cells — that permit the full realization of the distinctive capacities inherent in each of these component elements. No cell lives apart from the body, whether in contributing to its functioning or in deriving its share from the well-being of the whole. The physical well-being thus achieved finds its purpose in making possible the expression of human consciousness; that is to say, the purpose of biological development transcends the mere existence of the body and its parts.

Human societies to some extent actually represent an anomaly in the competitive theory of the jungle, as endorsed by proponents of a competitive and destructive conception of human nature. Humans demonstrate a detailed division of labor and exchange of goods and services, with or without a cooperative intention on the individual level, between genetically unrelated individuals, that amounts to an economy-wide scheme of cooperation for collective prosperity. Modern societies with large organizational structures for meat and vegetable production and distribution, banking services and widespread trust in economic stability, and the rule of law and order, do the same. Since earliest days of the species Homo sapien, we have seen dense networks of exchange relations and practices of sophisticated forms of food-sharing, cooperative hunting, and collective warfare in hunter gatherer societies. The world of the animal for example, exhibits little to no distinguishable division of labor. In the jungle, cooperation is limited to small groups, and when it is seen it is almost certainly among genetically closely related individuals (eg: a family in a pack of wolves). Even in non-human primates (chimpanzees etc.), cooperation is orders of magnitude less developed than it is among humans. One may argue that certain insects such as ants and bees, or even the naked mole rat demonstrate cooperation in colonies of 1000’s of individuals working together. However, cooperation of these types of organisms cannot be appreciated except in the context of their considerable genetic homology. Genuine, conscious, cooperation that is biologically altruistic or selfless (ie: lacking genetic incentive) is seen in human society because of our unique nature, distinct from the jungle.

The “Jungle” interpretation of human nature comes from looking at humanity’s past of war and crime and deducing that human nature is selfish and competitive. No serious sociologist would look at a child and deduce that human beings are 2 feet tall and irrational. Yet, that is precisely what has been done when we look at humanity’s war- and crime-ridden history and deduce that human nature is selfish and competitive. Over the course of the child’s maturation and development it will become evident that he is actually capable of being a 5’10” professor of physics, for example. To judge human nature based upon an immature stage in human development leads to misconceived notions of who we are and how we should behave. The problem arises from the mistake of taking descriptive observation and mistaking them for a prescription of how things should be. The is-ought fallacy. Based on the observation of selfish and competitive behaviour, sociologists have prescribed selfish and competitive standards for others to follow. Instead of describing humankind’s violent past and seeking to overcome and transcend these difficulties in the future, many social theorists normalize these characteristics and prescribe them as the mode of interaction in economics and political practice. The sad truth is that much of our social order is built with this view of human nature in mind, catering to the worst aspects of our potential. No wonder society and the global state of affairs are in such shambles. A distinctive effort is needed to rethink human nature and our relationship to the collective order. Nothing less than a spiritual revolution in the hearts and minds of people and a transformation of the values of society will redeem us from the course we have set for ourselves with bankrupt self-conceptions.

Current economic theory is modeled around a self-interested conception of human nature analogous to the competitiveness of animals fighting for survival and reproductive resources in a jungle. I believe human nature is fundamentally altruistic, analogous to the harmony of cells and tissues cooperating for total organismic prosperity. The best advantage of the part is pursued in the progress of the whole. Cooperation of the various parts leads to health, and selfishness of any cell leads to cancer. The human body and not the jungle is what I choose as my model for societal and economic organization.

Assumptions of the Jungle Interpretation of Human Nature:
1. Human beings are naturally self-interested
2. There is a finite amount of goods, services, and opportunities with an infinite amount of wants, drives, and competitors
3. Competition is both biologically necessary and mandated by the scarcity of resources
4. Survival of the fittest is not just a biological law, but a social one as well, equally applicable to the biological and social human condition

Assumptions of the Body Interpretation of Human Nature:
1. Human beings are naturally altruistic
2. Goods are produced in proportion to the sense of a duty, purpose, and enterprise animating human endeavours, individually and collectively
3. Needs are satisfied in a way that does justice to their severity and intensity, which balances the extremes of satisfaction and want society-wide
4. Creation of a just and prosperous world order is the fruit of all social evolution, just as the manifestation of the rational mind has been the fruit of biological evolution

 

The Evolution of CooperationEvolution of Cooperation

Categories
- Education - Empowerment - Governance - Oppression - Orthopaedic Surgery - Prevailing Conceptions - Religion - Science - Three Protagonists Development Discourse Health Care Human Nature Justice Knowledge Oneness Power

Artificial Scarcity & The Baha’i Faith

The Problem

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ARTIFICIAL SCARCITY is a term used to describe the condition in which masses of people are deprived of their bare necessities, while wealth, resources, and infrastructure exist in sufficient proportion to provide for all. The amount of wealth and scientific technology available to humanity in the 21st century is more than at any previous time in human history. So why are the following statistics still true?
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-There are 1 billion children living in poverty today.  
-Twenty-two thousand children die each day from hunger/malnutrition.
-Two point two million children die from preventable illnesses annually, due to lack of immunization.
-120 million children are not in any school (60% of these are girls).
-Over 1 billion people lack access to clean water (millions of women spend hours each day collecting water).
-Two billion people lack basic sanitation.
-One billion people are illiterate.
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To put these statistics in perspective: it would take less than what the United States spends annually on dog food to solve any one of these global tragedies. Alternatively, it would take less than a tenth of 1% of what the US government spends on the military annually to do the same. 
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Scarcity & Modernity

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So with the increase in scientific technology and global wealth production, why is the number of people under poverty increasing, not decreasing? Humanity is richer and more technologically advanced than ever before, and yet the scale of suffering, and its proportion as a factor of global population is increasing. With the aid of science, agriculture industries produce more food than the entire species needs to survive, but hunger still persists. Millions of people die from preventable disease, for which vaccine immunizations have already been invented. The internet makes knowledge universally accessible, but education is still not universal. 
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Privation is a condition being exacerbated by modernity, not alleviated by it, despite an ironic time-warp advance in agricultural technology and global productivity in the 20th cenntury. A complex result of international disunity, outmoded economic theories, cultural slogans, corporate and government exploitation of indigenous peoples, and squandering of natural resources, has artificially imposed scarcity as a defining feature of modern civilization, crippling the abundance and global prosperity of human civilization that is its natural state, by orders of magnitude.
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It’s Origin

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A particular conception of human nature which is implicitly, and sometimes explicitly, promoted in popular narratives can be traced back and identified as the Archimedian point from which the lever of human history pivoted in the trajectory of artificial scarcity . With the post-dark ages rise of the state-type known as ‘western democracy’, an implicit claim of superiority regarding its cultural values, was exported along with its plastic goods, fast food corporations, and sexualized media. Economic hegemony of the globe implied at least three metaphysical presuppositions, to a world fixated on materialism as its religion and new standard of truth. Understood to be the basis upon which western prosperity was ostensibly achieved, three assumptions stood out about human nature.
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Human Nature is:
1) Material
2) Individualistic
3) Competitive
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We are learning that human nature is not material but spiritual, not individualistic but communal, and not competitive but cooperative.
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Science Devoid of Religion

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Much of science is only acknowledged as true science until such time as it is disproven to be the fancies of personal bias amongst the elite who control thought in ways that benefit them through mechanisms of power: private and public grant funding, editors of academic journals, television and internet news media moguls, and industry-sponsored misinformation. A classic example is the transition from Newtonian to Modern Physics, the ecstatic character of which resembles mass religious conversion, more than the sterile stereotype of science fancied in popular imagination (See Kuhn, On the Structure of Scientific Revolutions). In orthopaedic surgery, the controversy over research on drugs like rhBMP-2, procedures like kypho- and vertebroplasty, and implanting of metal-on-metal hip prostheses, bear similar semblance to the effect of profit-motive over elite decision makers who lampoon their whims downhill as the edicts of gods from Mount ‘Science’, only to realize in retrospect a lesson which humility could have taught prior to the the cost in human life and morbidity. It is not science, but hubris that is to be blamed. 
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Likewise, the  three assumptions of human nature popularized implicitly by materialism’s gospel of human betterment which was successfully exported along with US lifestyle’s addiction to instant gratification (salt, fat, sugar, sex, violence, and drugs), purported to be scientific as well. Again, not because of evidence, but because of arrogance.
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The Science of Economics

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The science of economics, taught in every school, has led humanity down a dark path,  because it is based on a flawed conception of human nature. According to the fathers of modern economic theory, which still holds sway in dominant market spheres today, actors in the marketplace can be characterized according to the following three principles. 
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1) Human actors express unlimited material wants
2) The quantity of  desirable resources and wealth is limited and finite
3) Markets operate in an efficient manner
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Principle one states that human beings are rationally self-interested actors in pursuit of maximizing hedonistic pursuit of insatiable material pleasure. Here, both self-interest and a materialistic conception of human nature are presupposed implicitly in the premise. Principle two states that resources and opportunities are limited. In the case of natural resources for example it holds them, implicitly to be non-renewable (viz a vis. fossil fuels but not solar power)  and in the case of educational opportunities (university admissions but not online courses, open-source code, Ruhi classes, or grass roots distance education) and employment opportunities (trickle down theory and not regulated, responsible, socially just policies). As such, it presupposes them to be scarce and insufficient. Principle three states that consumers will purchase good products more frequently than inferior products and as a result of Laissez-faire natural selection producers of poor products will fall out of business, leaving an increasingly superior quality of product available for sale in the marketplace (ignoring the effect of advertising, which is one of the biggest investments of corporate producers, designed explicitly to undermine rational self-interest and persuade consumers to purchase things that are not to their benefit. Also, ignoring negative externalities which lie beyond the purview of market actors, and are having a devastating effect on human society, viz a vis green-house induced climate change.)  Value ought to be determined by a commodity’s worth to human society, as opposed to its price, which in modern economic theory is left unregulated as the equilibrium point between supply and demand. To drive up price, supply is intentionally limited by providers, even in the case of necessities, to maximize their profit margin. As worth is divorced from price so to is universal prosperity impoverished by income inequality.
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Reform in Retrospect

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These “scientific” principles are more selfish, egocentric, philosophical beliefs, that are essentially metaphysical in character, with no amenability to scientific inquiry. More like Machiavellian or Nietzschean claims of human nature than empirical science. It should evoke the question in us all, “why has metaphysical speculation, personal conjectures, and supernatural philosophy been allowed to pass as science?” It makes science seem like prejudice, superstition, and ignorance, especially those branches of science that endorse these claims about human nature. The twilight of this conception of human nature is at hand, giving way under mounting evidence of success in ethical-collective-cooperative business models, but not before its effects had been baptized into law, dogmatized as inviolate, and employed in not only academic exercises, but also in application to global market operations, Geopolitical relations, ownership of natural resources, and even in the domestic policy arising in the wake of civil rights and social justice struggles.
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Notwithstanding this, the most tragic victim of the material-individualistic-competitive conception of human nature is the education system. The fundamental principles of pedagogy upon which K-12 and university models of education have been adopted endorse a zero-sum grading curve, in which the success of one student necessitates the failure of his classmates, interpersonal competition fostered for internal class ranks, extinguishing creativity through emphasis on standardized testing, and social hierarchies that rarely relate to inherent talent but more often reflect access to opportunities family finances that enable credentialing like MD and PhD, exclusively and artificially maintained, through insurmountable tuition barriers.
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Artificial Scarcity of Education

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How did the esotericization of knowledge come to replace what is the birthright of all humankind — universal education? The esotericization of knowledge is the single most grievous victim of the economic system that birthed artificial scarcity. Baha’u’llah writes, “What “oppression” is more grievous than that a soul seeking… knowledge…should know not where to go for it?” Knowledge has been artificially controlled by barriers to its generation, application, and diffusion. Barriers that include cultural myths about who has access to it, economic barriers about who can afford it, and popular barriers about what its usefulness and application can be. Furthermore, education suffers from internal corruption regarding its generation, and what kinds of subjects are investigated, reported and applied that are of specialized interest to wealthy urban technocrats and irrelevant to the majority of people.
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The internet and cyberspace has created the possibility of exploding knowledge at unprecedented rates across millions of miles to peoples and lands who would otherwise never be able to communicate. Tuition is used to keep people out of universities, while the curriculum is already online wholesale. Exorbitant tuitions purchase for the student only the numeric digits of the password to access gigabytes of lectures and audio-visual material that is already uploaded online. This material could be used to teach graduate curricula in every shack or shanty town with a wifi connection accross the villages and urban sprawls of Africa and Latin America. False scales of prestige are perpetuated by cultural narratives originating in the enlightenment by which knowledge is conserved as the elite purview of credentialed experts (MD, PhD, etc.) by which masses are excluded from contributing to knowledge, but also from participating in its application to their own life situations. In this way a passive, recipient class is created which depends upon the knowledge and expertise of gatekeepers, prior to their own use of knowledge to advance towards prosperity. The inherent potential, volition, and talent of the masses is subjugated and destroyed in exchange for the experts to acquire their profits.
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Disempowerment is profitable to the few. Yet prosperity for all demands that we enact the democratization of knowledge, revolutionizing the systems of pedagogy using modern day technology to achieve relevant and participatory education for all.
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Applicability of Curricula

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The content of research and educational curricula are set by intellectuals who are ironically distant from the life of the masses from which the most important questions of our generation arise. Academic content  is determined by individuals and systems with priorities alien to the communities and realities of the majority of people. Graduate curricula and research agendas are as irrelevant to the issues of privation and prosperity as they are to industry needs of employment markets. The education-to-employment market mismatch is an oversight which is staggering even from a materialist point of view. An unprecedented proportion of college graduates are working unskilled minimum wage jobs. The corporatization of the university has metastasized and is stealing nutrients from its parent-cancer, the broader unregulated capitalization of civilization. This is the nature of self-interest — it splinters until the tinniest atoms of existence are at war with each other.
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Culture of Contest

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Artificial scarcity squanders human and natural resources through conflict that is the result of a self-fulfilling prophecy. The narrative is sold that opportunities are scarce and competition between individuals needed to determine who deserves opportunity — inculcating a culture of contest, prescriptively. Similarly, this same logic is used to make economic decisions regarding the structural supply of goods and services in the form of policy and infrastructure that creates opportunity and education. The prevalent discourse about what is considered valuable opportunities for the actualization of human potential is likewise prescribed via education by the beneficiaries of a pacified and obedient labor force. As such, both the social structure and the minds of social actors, individuals and institutions, is handicapped in the reductionism of the prison of the scarcity mindset. A self-reinforcing cycle of human consciousness and social structures is established in which privation and inter-personal conflict are regarded as natural. Slowly, what should be a reprehensible externality is transmuted into a fact to be embraced by those functioning most virtuously within the system. Before any evil decision-making has entered, injustice is already prevalent, and no one is to blame.
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Consumerism as Opiate

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The material-individual-competitive conception of human nature exported by an imperialistic consumer culture has built scarcity into the economic paradigm as a means of maximizing profits but not prosperity for the world order. For the growing number of the oppressed, their economic situation is resembling more and more the feudal relationship that characterized wealthy land-owners and peasant farmers in medieval Europe. Instead of military force to induce compliance, the modern masters of social and economic control employ subtle mechanisms of consumerism and entertainment which act as opium to the human soul, lulling a satisfied and docile slave labor class into generational obedience. Myths of opportunity and the american dream maintain people in the belief that suffering and privation result from the failure of individuals and not from the nature of the socioeconomic system.Workplace specialization and a growing climate of worker insecurity drive laborers to increasingly monotonous occupations that necessitate increasing quantities of nightlife entertainment to cure and assuage the destruction of their God-given potential. Exploiting the bodies of the masses, unjust labor wages drain biological treasure, while consumerism and entertainment exploit financially, reabsorbing monetary treasure back into the system. In simple terms, the feudal lord owns the adjacent beer-hall, in which the peasants squander their family’s livelihood on substance addiction each pay-day. Like all opiates, tolerance to even the highest doses becomes inevitable. Income inequality and mass privation of an increasingly employed and impoverished majority cannot but lead to instability and a breakdown of law and order. As riches are increasingly concentrated in the hands of an elite minority, receptivity to alternative social orders grows amongst the populace.  Only those who question, and are attune to the searing of the Undying Flame of the Baha’i Revelation are awakening to alternative worlds.
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Market-Share Vs. Pie-Size

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Re-conceptualizing human nature as spiritual-communal-cooperative allows a transition from emphasizing an individual’s or business’s market-share as a proportion of profits, to emphasizing the total size of the pie available to everyone. Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith writes, “the advantage of the part is best to be reached by the advantage of the whole.” This revolution in economic theory and social policy implies a profound change at the level of culture, both as individuals and communities, and at the level of social structure and institutions. Unlike the pseudo-science of modern economics, a growing body of evidence is showing that when each individual or group works to further the productivity and usefulness of the entire market (ie: pie-size), it may entail that the group’s particular market-share decreases as a proportion, but notwithstanding this, their particular allotment actually increases in terms of its absolute quantity. This evidence flies in the face of the zero-sum conception of reality in which competitive and self-interested systems inculcate scarcity as a natural outgrowth of the economic paradigm. Ironically, selflessness conduces to prosperity. According to the Baha’i conception, scarcity is an aberration. The reality of the universe is abundance.
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De Beers is a well known manipulator of diamond supply (via its leverage over a majority of global diamond mines) to fix prices at a high level.
diamonds
Categories
Expansion & Consolidation Junior Youth Empowerment Program

What was the patient’s pulse?

RESIDENT: Patient is a 62y M who presented with shortness of breath, cough, and fever, diagnosed with pneumonia by chest X-ray in the emergency room, and is now, hospital day two, in the intensive care unit on broad-spectrum IV antibiotics for sepsis secondary to pneumonia.  Earlier this morning, patient is dong well; overnight, no events.  Vital signs are stable.  On physical exam…

ATTENDING: What were the vital signs?

 

 

In clinical medicine, there are a set of vital signs, including temperature, pulse, blood pressure, and respiratory rate, that help a clinician to assess the patient.  If the respiratory rate is high, perhaps the asthma exacerbation isn’t getting better; if the pulse is low, perhaps there is an arrhythmia.

 

The problem with these measurements are that they are a point in time, a static reading of otherwise dynamic process.  In the above scenario, unless the vital signs were abnormal, there isn’t much utility in saying that “at 7:38am this morning, for one second, the patient’s pulse was 83.”  It could have changed after walking away.

 

The purpose of measurement is to more and more precisely describe reality.  We are still affected by the enlightenment’s static and reductionist worldview; with the accompanied coarseness of mind came a loss of understanding the complexity of existence.  With a mechanistic vision of the universe, perceiving the subtleties of change gradually faded from scientific inquiry – reality was forced into boxes and integers and human definitions.  Instead of seeing change in all things, the idea of staticism was introduced.  Yet, reality begs to differ.  When a patient’s pulse is “unchanged” at 75 from one minute to another, it is not a default static state; rather, an extremely complex set of physiobiochemicalneuroendocrine interactions are working to maintain the pulse at that rate.  The only thing not changing is the number on the monitor and the frequency of the beeping sound; only our measurement is the same number from second to second.  But all things change – it is a law of reality.  Movement is an essence of existence.  And even stillness is not lack of change, but rather a state of dynamic equilibrium.

 

Clearly, in order to describe reality more precisely, we need more profound conceptions of measurement, and not simply more measures (as is the response of medicine, for example).  Throughout the history of medicine, blood pressure has been one attempt at this.  Hundreds of years ago, pressure was measured as a single number – the pulse pressure.  This was originally done with inserting a tube into a cut artery; as this proved too dangerous, non-invasive methods were used.  Yet, it was still a single number, “pressure”.  It was only just around 100 years ago that the concept of systolic and diastolic pressure was introduced, the one we currently use.  The value of the maximum and minimum pressure exerted on the artery walls at any given heart beat is vastly more informative that a single number representing arterial pressure.   Why is it more informative?  Because it’s one step closer towards a more adequate reading of reality.

 

The measurement of blood pressure as a spectrum is a step towards reflecting the underlying truth of reality that all things are on a continuum.  Perhaps pulse can be reported as “between 65 and 72 overnight” or “between 45 and 110, with an average of 82 overnight” (which are two different clinical pictures).

 

The work of the Bahá’ís and their friends in community-building at the grassroots is based upon a progressively more precise reading of reality.  And reality is a dynamic continuum.  The mode of functioning, at the same time, of this community-building work is systematic – which involves quantitative (and qualitative) measurement.  The Baha’i community has been learning about placing its descriptions of reality on a ever-more-rich continuum.  This helps avoid two pitfalls – both manifestations of the same underlying tendency to reduce reality – which have plagued society for years: collapsing all individuals into one middle group (such as in the case with school systems) or collapsing all individuals into one of two bi-polar groups (such as in the case with political systems).  The reality, instead, is that there is a continuum.

 

Take the example of a group of junior youth engaged with the junior youth spiritual empowerment programme.  One can describe them by saying, “The group has around 12 junior youth, and the group has completed one of the texts so far, and 7 of them were at the first service project”.  One can also – more precisely – describe the group by saying: “The group has 22 junior youth that are associated with the group – 6 form the core and have completed every lesson, 9 come sometimes and have done more than half the lessons, and another 7 have come at least once or twice and the animator and junior youth are in contact with them.  7 were at the first service project, yet another 4 were at the planning meeting, and 2 lent supplies; a participation total of 13.”  What a more befitting way to describe the reality!  These activities are living and moving and changing – they are dynamic.  The pulse pressure is not a static 12, but a dynamic 22 over 6…

 

 

As we sharpen our perception, we will learn to recognize and measure social and spiritual dynamism in both movement and stillness in order to build vibrant community life.

 

.dynamics

Categories
Expansion & Consolidation Junior Youth Empowerment Program Social Action

Intensive Program of Growth

“In clusters at an early stage of development, it is possible to work with a core group of believers—say five to ten—and by giving them a vision of the framework, assisting them to make plans, and accompanying them in teaching and other acts of service, set in motion a process that will lead to sustained growth. One should never underestimate what a handful of capable tutors can do and how effectively they can respond to growth and raise up new human resources. The vital component of such an incipient growth program is an emphasis on teaching, which needs to be present from the start. Again, this is a key element of learning from clusters with intensive programs of growth. Those that have attained a healthy, sustainable growth pattern are characterized by a focus on teaching, in particular direct teaching, and not just on extending invitations to core activities. Where intensive programs of growth have stalled at a plateau of low numbers of enrollments, the dimension missing from the framework for action is direct, collective teaching.”

“Yet, although many admire your dynamism and ideals, the true significance of these endeavours is less apparent to the world at large. You, however, are aware of your part in a mighty, transforming process that will yield, in time, a global civilization reflecting the oneness of humankind. You know well that the habits of mind and spirit that you are nurturing in yourselves and others will endure, influencing decisions of consequence that relate to marriage, family, study, work, even where to live. Consciousness of this broad context helps to shatter the distorting looking glass in which everyday tests, difficulties, setbacks, and misunderstandings can seem insurmountable. And in the struggles that are common to each individual’s spiritual growth, the will required to make progress is more easily summoned when one’s energies are being channelled towards a higher goal—the more so when one belongs to a community that is united in that goal.”

“It is important to note that, as a programme of growth is being brought into existence, an emergent community spirit begins to exert its influence on the course of events. Whether activities are scattered across the cluster or concentrated in one village or neighbourhood, a sense of common purpose characterizes the endeavours of the friends. Whatever level of organization served to channel the early manifestations of this spirit, the systematic, coordinated multiplication of core activities necessitates that higher levels soon be attained. Through various measures, greater structure is lent to activity, and initiative, shaped largely by individual volition before, is now given collective expression. A complement of coordinators appointed by the institute moves into place—those for study circles, for junior youth groups, and for children’s classes. Any order of appointment is potentially valid. Nothing less than an acute awareness of circumstances on the ground should make this determination, for what is at stake is not compliance with a set of procedures but the unfoldment of an educational process that has begun to show its potential to bring about the spiritual empowerment of large numbers.”

Categories
Justice Knowledge Power

The Price of Exclusivity

from a guest author:

 

A friend and I recently had a fairly common exchange about which show was better – Community or The Office. I argued for The Office, because in my opinion, it’s more accessible by a larger audience. The rebuttal (in favor of Community) was that often, things that are loved by the masses are lower quality. And this started me thinking…

 

What my friend said is often true. Let’s take a look at things that are loved by the masses, and are also of low quality. Sex, drugs, promiscuity, violence, consumerism, material goods, moral laxity, donuts and McDonald’s have all achieved celebrity status and are universally glorified. These “goods” are available to everyone, and STD’s, overdoses, broken families, premature death, the temporary and empty thrill of a purchase, diabetes and obesity are equally accessible by all.

 

Ye are even as the bird which soareth, with the full force of its mighty wings and with complete and joyous confidence, through the immensity of the heavens, until, impelled to satisfy its hunger, it turneth longingly to the water and clay of the earth below it, and, having been entrapped in the mesh of its desire, findeth itself impotent to resume its flight to the realms whence it came.”

 

What is harder to get – intellectually and materially – is better for us. What are these things, so prized, you might ask? Private education, intelligence, clever jokes, organic quinoa and heirloom tomatoes, scholarship, locally-made apparel, elitism, and apparently Community, to name a few. These are not so easily accessible, and are therefore more valuable. Not everyone can have them. Their rarity makes them the property of but a few. The rest of the world does not “get it” as a result of their lack of knowledge, lack of funds, or both. But we must keep it that way if some things are to be valued above others, right? If everyone could have organic heirloom tomatoes, wouldn’t that make them worthless?

 

Or would it…

 

Commonality does not always imply poor quality, and alternately, we must be infinitely careful that rarity does not prescribe value. Let us take two examples noted by William Hatcher. Professional sports players, although highly skilled, hold an exaggerated value in society. Although they have attained a high degree of excellence in their craft, it is largely their rarity that makes them so highly valued in the minds and hearts of men. In contrast, the station of motherhood, a universal, mundane occupation, doesn’t merit a second thought. Does the fact that motherhood is accessible to half the world’s population de-value it? Is motherhood less valuable than sports because of its commonality? It certainly brings in less revenue. Yet, to quote Hatcher: “if only one generation of women all over the world refused to play this role, it would be the end of the human race, forever. But society could clearly survive quite well if professional sports ceased to exist altogether.”

 

Obviously, many things can, and must, remain highly valuable when equally accessible (Will not the junior youth spiritual empowerment program retain its value as it grows? In fact, won’t it gain in value and quality as it increases is size and strength? Similarly with the growth of the membership of the Faith itself…) We must re-orient our perception of value and justice if we are to pull this off. Value must no longer be defined by scarcity, but rather in its ability to exalt man’s station. “…man should know his own self and recognize that which leadeth unto loftiness or lowliness, glory or abasement, wealth or poverty.” Justice implies that those things that lead to loftiness, glory, and spiritual and material prosperity, are not only common, but accessible by all. If we lived in a just world, many of the “luxuries” enjoyed by the elite would be equally accessible to humanity, while others, also as a result of justice, would vanish. Humanity should have equal access to knowledge, health, and education that strives to empower. We should collectively be called to a higher standard, one “that seeks to raise capacity within a population to take charge of its own spiritual, social and intellectual development.”

 

This heightened standard must manifest in our rectitude of conduct, the way in which we treat each other, the foods we eat, the words we use, the clothes we wear, and the way in which individuals, communities and institutions carry out their responsibilities, enlightened by values that lead to man’s loftiness and glory. As individuals come to see themselves as “active agents of their own learning” and pursue spiritual excellence, so too will the communities and institutions made up of such high-minded individuals be re-structured to release the vast potential latent within humanity.

 

In this way will humanity collectively advance, and in this way will distilled quality, both material and spiritual, become the right of every individual.

 

 

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Categories
- Education Human Nature Justice Oneness

The Midnight Sighing…

A continuation of a conversation on Facebook, prompted by the quotation below, in which thoughts about these two links were asked…

www.usdebtclock.org – US National Debt Clock
xkcd.com/980/huge/ – xkcd: Money Chart

 

“Tell the rich of the midnight sighing of the poor…”

One thing to remember is that money is simply a social construct that represents good and services, and the social value placed on these goods and services. In fact, economics as a whole is the systemization of values.

What the US National Debt Clock indicates to me is that there is a grossly unjust correspondence between useful and beneficial input of goods and services into society and output. For instance, the third largest budget item is on “defense/war” – this economic investment does not increase prosperity; in fact, building B2 bombers (represented in the xkcd chart in the bottom-right hand corner of the millions box) is not a constructive and beneficial use of funds. The cheaper alternative is to not war. Another example, which costs a bit more than the “defense/war” budget item is “credit card debt”. Again, this doesn’t input anything useful into society. Charging an individual to borrow money that they do not have does not create systemic prosperity – the more economical alternative is to create a culture of education that facilitates sound long-term economic planning at the level of the individual and community. How can we fund a legitimate need, like health care – an investment that will surely produce fruits (for healthy human beings contribute to societal well-being) – when we are, instead, funding fruitlessness?

The xkcd Money Chart is brilliant. At a certain level, it is a chart of values (the same way that the Manhattan skyscraper profile is a map of the depth and strength of its underlying bedrock). Money is simply the unit used to indicate this value. The wealth of the 1,200 richest people is roughly a bit more than the annual spending of the United States. US spending on nuclear arms during the cold war is roughly more than US spending on health care. The cost of flowers for William and Kate’s wedding is about equal to the annual income of individuals in the wealthiest 1% of the US; while the cost of Kate’s dress is more than what the wealthiest 10% of individuals make annually. It’s interesting to look around and make comparisons about how money is being spent.

Clearly, there is tremendous inequality and injustice. The solution is not found in fine-tuning manipulation of the same system that created the problem – not through “political passion, conflicting expressions of class interest, or technical recipes”. Rather, what is called for is “a spiritual revival, as a prerequisite to the successful application of political, economic and technological instruments”. As consciousness of the inherent oneness of humanity is raised and as understanding of the spiritual nature of a human being, a creation that mirrors forth divine attributes (like generosity), is fostered will the peoples of the world be empowered to creatively and together address the challenge of injustice. Understanding the nature of the individual as spiritual and the nature of humanity as one entity can be achieved through a process of spiritual education – through “meetings that strengthen the devotional character of the community; classes that nurture the tender hearts and minds of children; groups that channel the surging energies of junior youth; circles of study, open to all, that enable people of varied backgrounds to advance on equal footing and explore the application of the teachings to their individual and collective lives”. So we see the spiritual solution to economic injustice.

 

“Tell the rich of the midnight sighing of the poor…To give and to be generous are attributes of Mine; well is it with him that adorneth himself with My virtues.”

 

 

The Bahá’í perspective on the spiritual solution to economic inequality:

“…not through sedition and appeal to physical force—not through warfare, but welfare. Hearts must be so cemented together, love must become so dominant that the rich shall most willingly extend assistance to the poor and take steps to establish these economic adjustments permanently….For example, it will be as if the rich inhabitants of a city should say, “It is neither just nor lawful that we should possess great wealth while there is abject poverty in this community,” and then willingly give their wealth to the poor, retaining only as much as will enable them to live comfortably.”

“Fighting, and the employment of force, even for the right cause, will not bring about good results. The oppressed who have right on their side, must not take that right by force; the evil would continue. Hearts must be changed. The rich must wish to give! …The spiritually awakened are like to bright torches in the sight of God, they give light and comfort to their fellows.”

 

 

How can we create an economic system that empowers the wealthy to adorn themselves with the attribute of generosity, instead of oppressing them with the burden of greed?

 

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Categories
- Empowerment - Primary Care Health Care Knowledge

Thoughts on Health Care

All too common diseases, the vast majority of which are preventable and becoming more prevalent, are not befitting the inherent nobility of a human being.  The imperative of health care is to empower patients with the knowledge, the insights, the understanding, the will, and the resources to maintain their health and prevent diseases

At the root of the matter, the current poor state of health care is not so dissimilar to the cause of other ailments crippling our communities: a paralysis of human will.  This crisis requires a re-examination of our assumptions of basic human nature.  Instead of treating ourselves and the people around us as problematic, unresponsive, and self-consumed, we must view human beings as noble, intelligent, altruistic, and desiring to contribute to the betterment of the world.  Coupling this understanding of identity with the necessary knowledge and resources will empower an individual to improve his or her own physical health, and other aspects of daily life.

Moving beyond the individual, the culture of a community is something that, if transformed, can effect a profound change in public health.  Smoking is one such example.  For decades, smoking has been one of the leading causes of preventable disease and death in the world.  Knowing that smoking is detrimental for health is necessary to reduce its popularity, but even with that knowledge people will still begin to smoke.  On the other hand, if smoking was not portrayed as “cool” or popular in society, then rates of teens and young adults who start to smoke would decrease drastically.  The same concept of a change in culture applies to exercise and healthy diets, both of which contribute to preventing obesity, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia, which, along with smoking, account for most causes of preventable death.

Across the entire country, and placing a large toll on the cost of the health system, is the culture of receiving primary care in the ER.  Citing one recent study from the University of Virginia, 26% of patients visiting the ER claimed their complaint was something easily able to be treated in a doctor’s office, while another 9% stated that the ER was their only source of medical care.  An additional 30%, not knowing whether they needed the ER or not, would have chosen their primary physician if they had consulted with him or her before choosing the ER.  Once trust is built, education is provided, and encouragement is extended from primary care providers to their patients, each individual’s understanding of health will improve and better treatment and continuity will be provided, changing the culture of health care delivery and directly alleviating the high costs of our burdened system.

The changes in the individual and the changes in the culture of the community need to occur in parallel with each other, as they are complimentary and reinforce each other.  As more diabetics begin to eat more vegetables, then the community will slowly respond by predominating more vegetables.  The development of knowledge and will in an individual, and the mindset that each patient is capable of contributing to his or her well-being along with society’s well-being, go hand in hand with the profound changes of culture reflecting the interactions between these patients and their physician.

 

Community Health

Categories
- Governance - Oppression Development Discourse Health Care Justice

“Concentrations of Wealth” by Michael Karlberg

A recent study by Oxfam provided some striking data regarding growing disparities of wealth and poverty within and between countries around the globe:

50% of the world’s wealth is now owned by 1% of the population.

This richest 1% has 65 times as much combined wealth as the bottom 50% of the population.

The world’s richest 85 people control the same amount of wealth as the bottom 50% of the population.

10% of the population controls 86% of all the assets in the world, while the poorest 70% control only 3% of assets.

The amount of wealth hidden in secret tax shelters is estimated to be $18.5 trillion, which exceeds the entire GDP of the richest country on earth (US GDP = $15.8 trillion).

In the US, the richest 1% of the population captured 95% of new wealth generated after the 2007 financial crisis, while the bottom 90% became poorer.

The combined wealth of Europe’s 10 richest people exceeds the total cost of stimulus measures implemented across the EU between 2008 and 2010.

The report goes on to show that these growing income disparities are being seen in most democratic countries today and it attributes this trend to “political capture” – or the control of political institutions by the wealthiest segments of society, who are re-writing national and international laws and policies in ways that serve only their narrow self-interests.

Which raises an important question: what can be done to reverse these trends?

The Oxfam report suggest that “popular politics” – or the political mobilization or poor and working classes in support of progressive taxation as well as investments in education, health, and other public services – will be needed to reverse such trends.

I fully agree that progressive taxation as well as investments in education, health, and other public services are essential. But achieving and sustaining these kinds of advances will require much more than “popular politics.” This is because the underlying problem is, in part, structural.

Western liberal democracies are structured according to the logic of interest-group competition. When governance is organized in this way – as a contest for power – it will always be divisive and dysfunctional at best, oppressive at worst.

For reasons I’ve outlined elsewhere, electoral contests invariably invite the corrupting influence of money; they diminish the inclusion and participation of historically marginalized individuals or groups; they reduce complex issues down to manipulative slogans; and they ignore the well-being of the masses of humanity.

Stated another way, when governance is organized as a contest for power, it will inevitably result in political capture.

Popular political mobilization will, in exceptional historical circumstances, result in temporary advances for the cause of social justice and economic equity. But the long-term trends will continue to be characterized by the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of fewer and fewer people – as the history of the 19th, 20th, and early 21st centuries abundantly demonstrates.

These trends cannot be reversed merely through popular mobilization within current political structures.  They will only be truly reversed when the organizing logic of interest-group competition is replaced with a new structural logic, derived from consciousness of the oneness of humanity — or recognition of the organic unity and interdependence of the entire social body.

It is, therefore, toward the cultivation of this consciousness, and the construction of new models of governance that are coherent with it, that we need to bend our energies in the long-term, if we hope to truly reverse the deeply troubling trends identified in the Oxfam report.

http://agencyandchange.com/2014/01/24/concentrations-of-wealth/

one of a kind

Categories
Expansion & Consolidation Junior Youth Empowerment Program Social Action

Houston Neighborhood Reflection Gathering Agenda

Click Here to download a word document of the Houston Neighborhood Reflection Gathering Agenda.

Compiled by youth serving in three focus neighborhoods around Harris cluster, the agenda represents the questions that arise from experience by those laboring shoulder to shoulder, not in the abstract, with animators and junior youth in the field of service. Please reflect on these agenda items as a teaching team, prepare responses on the basis of your shared experience since the last reflection gathering, and divvy up the topics amongst your team members to encourage universal participation. Thoughtful reflections, stumbling blocks and how they became stepping stones, beautiful pictures and audiovisual presentations are all welcome! Looking forward to seeing you!

Harris County Cluster

Neighborhood Reflection Gathering

18:00, 8 Sultan 170 B.E.

(1/26/2014)

Attendees: ____________  ____________  ____________  ____________  ____________  ____________  ____________  ____________  ____________  ____________  ____________  ____________  ____________  ____________  ____________  ____________  ____________  __________  __________

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*******************************************TEAM PRESENTATIONS********************************************
(Agenda derived from consultation with indigenous and visiting youth who are serving at the grassroots  in focus neighborhoods)

Each team please present an update on your experience and learnings since the last reflection gathering. Please share your team’s prepared responses to the questions below, having divided the questions up amongst the group members.

  1. Frequency and regularity of meetings: How can we extend our grassroots neighborhood mode of learning to other spheres of operation, like our reflection meetings? Discuss the frequency and regularity of the teaching team’s meetings and how its focus on the messages of the Universal House of Justice in weekly cycles of action, reflection and consultation has led to increased intensity.
  2. Focus and Act on the Messages of the Universal House of Justice: Has our understanding of the implications of Revelation increased manifold by joining study and service? In the field of service, what knowledge has been put to test? What knowledge has been generated out of practice? How can we make our gatherings such as the one we will have an instrument to diffuse that knowledge more effectively?
  3. Three Challenges and Three Overcomings: Have we seen how progress is achieved through the dialectic of crisis and victory? Describe three challenges or crises your group has faced and three ways you overcome those challenges and it led to victory?
  4. Application of 3 month cycles: How the groups are using the three month cycles to expand and then consolidate? Describe the cycles of activity to which we are all aspiring, and what we have done to emulate it.
  5. Discussion/stories of:
    1. Books: How have the animators inculcated a meaningful discussion of the lessons with the JY? What are some of the adversities faced? How has the group overcome them? 
      1. How to create and maintain focus and participation in the JY group
        1. Tactics for increasing participation
        2. Healthy incentives and rewards
    2. Maintain discipline
      1. Dealing with youth who distract or disrupt others
      2. Enforcing rules – going over them periodically (Book 5, section 3)
      3. Form strong bonds of friendship to eliminate the need for discipline
    3. Parents: How has the group articulated the purpose of the JYSEP to parents in the community? What are some challenges encountered? How has the group overcome them?
      1. Discussion in different languages? Overcoming language barriers.
      2. What concepts are most key to eliciting parental support?
    4. Methods of expanding JY membership and number of groups
    5. Conversations that were formative for relationships with Junior Youth
    6. Overcoming prejudices of race, ethnicity, gender, or socioeconomic status within the neighborhood
    7. Usage of the arts
      1. Incorporate singing – powerful in assisting memorization
      2. Drawing, Drama, Painting, Composing Music/Rap,
    8. Service Projects: what projects have been attempted and how did it go?
  6. Long-term goals
    1. Home-front pioneering: How we are investing long-term in transformation and investigating realities conducive to home-front pioneer, in which youth commit a year or two to live in the communities where the grassroots movements are occurring?
    2. Empowerment of indigenous youth: How are we empowering local youth, those who are indigenous to neighborhoods, to take full ownership of the JY program, as well as empowering them in the consultation, action, and reflection cycle?

O Poeple of Light“O people of Justice! Be as brilliant as the light, and as splendid as the fire that blazed in the Burning Bush. The brightness of the fire of your love will no doubt fuse and unify the contending peoples and kindreds of the earth…”

Categories
- Empowerment - Oppression Oneness

Marx, Baha’u’llah, and Suffering

Accumulation of wealth at one pole is, therefore, at the same time accumulation of misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance, brutality, mental degradation, at the opposite pole. Along with the constantly diminishing number of the magnates of capital, who usurp and monopolize all advantages of this process of transformation grows the revolt of the working class, a class always increasing in numbers, and united, organized by the very mechanism of the process of capitalist production itself. In this way evil galvanizes the forces of good that lead to its own destruction. Historically speaking, human experience creates the separation of good from evil, which in the fullness of time are one. For those who journey in the garden land of knowledge, see the end in the beginning, and the beginning in the end.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UkS3liM7OW4

http://www.ruhi.org/

Favelas of Brazil: Adjacent Extremes of Wealth and Poverty

Wealth and Poverty Brazil

Categories
- Human Body Development Expansion & Consolidation Human Nature

Embryonic Humanity

Humanity is a whole, single organism, and may be likened unto the body of a human being, also a whole and single organism.  Likewise, the embryological processes that led to the development of the human being are therefore the same processes in the body of humankind.  What are these processes?

 

Humanity was not always a whole and single organism in its social, outward form.  Of course, on an ontological level, humanity is one – has always been, and always will be.  The last thousands of years have been the gradual manifestation into reality of this latent truth.  However, there have been stages:  “History has thus far recorded principally the experience of tribes, cultures, classes, and nations. With the physical unification of the planet in this century and acknowledgement of the interdependence of all who live on it, the history of humanity as one people is now beginning.”

 

We may say, then, that we are witnessing humanity’s embryological phase.  Roughly a century old, compared to the hundreds of millennia during which Homo sapiens existed, and the tens of millennia of civilization, humanity as one organism is very much an embryo.

 

What are the main embryological processes?  Immediately, the processes of cell division and growth and of differentiation and specialization come to mind.  This is how the organism increases in size and complexity, and other fundamental processes of gastrulation, somitogenesis, and organogenesis result from these first two foundational processes.

 

There is a third process, less discussed and yet now recognized as equally important, that it makes up the third of the three main processes of embryology: apoptosis.  A highly ordered and natural process, apoptosis is a series of biochemical events that leads to cell death.  WIthout apoptosis, for instance, fingers and toes wouldn’t be formed, as the hands and feet are massive paws until the cells in-between fingers and toes apoptose.  Similarly, organs are sculpted to their desired structure through apoptosis.  The chambers of the heart hollow out as structure responds to anticipated function.  The nervous system forms first as an overproduced mass of cells with potential, and those through which synaptic connections don’t arise aren’t chemically confirmed, and simply apoptose to allow for a well-functioning, descriptive neural network based on interactions that happened; and not a prescribed or predetermined system.  Apoptosis is not a passive processes, but active and highly-regulated, necessary for organic health and to maintain homeostasis – ironically, some degenerative diseases result from ineffective apoptosis.

 

This is not the only way cells die.  There is also the biological phenomenon of necrosis, which is the death of cells due to damage, toxins, trauma, infection, lack of blood flow or oxygen, a poisonous chemical environment – factors all extrinsic to the cell itself.  Necrosis is an unnatural and unhealthy occurrence, while apoptosis is a natural and healthy process.  And the differences are clinically perceptible; apoptosis is completely unnoticeable while necrosis results in pain, redness, heat, swelling, etc.

 

So what parallels can be drawn between the three processes of proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis?

 

– These processes are analogous to the dialectic through which civilization advances – crisis and victory.  The victory is often in terms of growth and decentralization – two movements that are inseparable.  They are both in terms of numbers and complexity, quantity and quality.  The crisis comes in the form of apoptosis – a decline in numbers, momentary set-backs and breaches in bonds, decreased efficacy when new complexities occur.

 

– Crisis is not a result of failure on the part of the protagonists, nor is it a passive occurrence; rather, it is an active and healthy phenomenon, necessary to provide organic conditions for new victories.  As progress is dynamic, so are the processes involved.

 

– It is important to distinguish between natural and healthy crisis and disruptive crisis.  Two factors predominate – perspective and the environment.  As apoptosis is a result of inner conditions, whereas necrosis is a result of external environmental factors, we must be alert to extraneous complications that result from the environment, and are not intrinsic to the process itself.  Crisis can be a smooth, seamless, and non-disruptive process when occurring in an environment imbued with love, patience, forbearance, and enthusiasm, one in which a humble posture of learning is the mode of operation.  Furthermore, if one has a negative perspective on events, then likely it will be seen as a crisis in negative connotation of the word; whereas if one perceives the same events as natural, it can be seen as an opportunity for progress.  How can we prevent unhealthy crisis – necrosis – before it becomes clinically manifest, and create environments and facilitate perspectives toward apoptosis, or healthy crisis?

 

– These three processes, growth, decentralization, and crisis, are all necessary for healthy progress, and they exist in a dynamic equilibrium.  An excess of any one becomes unhealthy.  Growth by itself leads to a congregation of functionless cells, losing touch with the purpose of increasing numbers; decentralization by itself is a premature distancing from the community, resulting in unsustainable activities or complacent stance; and crisis by itself is usually an indicator that focus is not on the process as a whole, but instead is on certain cells (individuals).

 

There is, of course, much more insight that can be drawn from how a human being embryologically develops and its application to the processes by which humanity advances.  It is important to always keep in mind that all these multiple interacting processes are fundamentally organic in nature.

Categories
Expansion & Consolidation

Envisioning the First Milestone


In its 28 December message, the Universal House of Justice states that the first milestone, signifying the emergence of a programme of growth, is marked by an initial flow of human resources into the field of action, where “junior youth groups are being maintained by those progressing through the sequence of institute courses and committed to the vision of individual and collective transformation they foster.”

Our teaching team has started the study of Ruhi Book 1, Reflections on the life of the Spirit, with 2 youth from the neighborhood (ages 15 and 16) who are accompanying us in animating junior youth groups. Although the study of the text is challenging, we are developing the capacity to focus and appreciate profound concepts in an environment that is at once serious and uplifting, that allows for mutual support and universal participation. This “initial flow” we pray, is the precursor to torrential outpourings in the teaching process in Houston.

1sr Milestone

Categories
- Empowerment - Language Development Expansion & Consolidation Human Nature

Releasing the Deep Reservoirs that Young People Possess

“Throughout the world, across all classes and social groups, there has been a ready response from youth who are invited to examine the forces shaping their society and their role in contributing to its constructive transformation through service as animators of junior youth groups. Time and again it has been seen that consideration of, and reflection upon, the profound concepts addressed in Book 5 of the Ruhi Institute release the deep reservoirs of commitment to significant social change that young people possess. Engaging their fertile minds in an exploration of such ideas gives rise to profound conversations that leave their mark and find expression in action. Those who are inclined to establish a junior youth group are assisted to do so, and in this way, the program’s reach in a town or neighborhood is expanded in a relatively short period, even if there are only a limited number of human resources available within the Bahá’í community.”  – 14 November 2012, The Universal House of Justice

 

Commitment
Commitment

 

Forces – spiritual, social, intellectual, and physical – are irresistibly moving humanity.  Towards what direction?  Who are the protagonists of this movement?  How can humanity’s inherent capacities be harnessed?

In the young people of the world lies a reservoir of capacity to transform society waiting to be tapped. How are these deep reservoirs of commitment to significant social change that young people possess released?

Look at the verbs: examine, consider, reflect upon, explore – what do they mean and how are they used?  Look at the ideas: the forces shaping society, a youth’s role in contributing to society’s constructive transformation, the profound concepts addressed in Book 5 of the Ruhi Institute.  Look at the outcome: a sense of two-fold purpose, to develop their inherent potentialities and to contribute to the transformation of society – through service as animators of junior youth groups.  What are the means?  Conversations and mutual assistance.

What are some forces shaping our society?  Some, constructive and positive, include love for truth, thirst for knowledge, attraction to beauty, and unity.  Some, destructive and negative, include materialism, self-centeredness, prejudice, and ignorance.

What are some of the concepts addressed in Book 5 of the Ruhi Institute?  In addition to addressing the forces shaping society and a youth’s role in society’s constructive transformation, some other concepts include: coherence, two-fold moral purpose, the age of junior youth, spiritual perception, the dual-nature of self, language, the power of expression, hope, service, and empowerment.

Any serious attempt at civilization-building cannot ignore the role of young people in working with those younger than themselves, analyzing these forces, understanding these concepts, and taking on the identity of a life-long servant of humanity.

 

Categories
Expansion & Consolidation

Reflection Gathering

90 days after the completion of the Houston leg of the Historic 95 + 19 youth conferences around the world, a reflection gathering for youth was held in Houston (Harris County) cluster to reflect on experience gained through action based on plans drawn at the conference. One member of our teaching team shared the following powerpoint presentation summarizing features of the process, our experience, and some salient insights. Click on the presentation below, entitled “The Process of Growth” to follow along in your own cluster with what was done in Harris County to start a neighborhood movement with no prior indigenous contacts and no prior experience.

Hopefully some approaches, methods, and instruments employed will be helpful to others striving to implement the provisions of the Five Year plan in localities around the world. Amongst such helpful topics may have been: a systematic survey of residential areas near members of the teaching team’s homes or workplaces, the use of online resources such as google maps and city-data.org for surveying large expanses of population demographics quickly from behind a computer desk, tenacity in trying numerous neighborhoods before committing to one long term for junior youth program development, structured cycles of weekly action-reflection-consultation/study-planning is highly conducive to increasing teaching team intensity.

We also found it helpful to meditate on such phrases as this,

“Invariably, opportunities afforded by the personal circumstances of the believers initially involved—or perhaps a single homefront pioneer—to enter into meaningful and distinctive conversation with local residents dictate how the process of growth begins in a cluster.” ~Universal House of Justice, 28 December 2010

“To follow a path of service, whatever form one’s activity assumes, requires faith and tenacity. In this connection, the benefit of walking that path in the company of others is immense. Loving fellowship, mutual encouragement, and willingness to learn together are natural properties of any group of youth sincerely striving for the same ends…” ~Universal House of Justice, 1 July 2013

The process of growth

The Process of Growth

Categories
Development Human Nature Oneness

A Final Step in Humanity’s Evolution

One can analyze in the tumultuous evolution of the life of humankind one thread, among others, that has been present and steadily advancing for thousands and tens of thousands of years.  Perhaps human history can even be conceptualized as a progressive movement in this direction.  This common theme is that since its earliest beginnings, humanity has been moving closer and closer to realizing the oneness of humankind – to manifest into reality this latent truth.

 

The fundamental barrier towards this realization is perceiving otherness – categorizing one group of human beings as “other” to another, often one’s own, group.

 

The reality of man is his thought.  Just as spiritual and physical reality, with all its laws, processes, and forces, is a manifestation of the mind of God – (Nature in its essence is the embodiment of My Name, the Maker, the Creator. Its manifestations are diversified by varying causes, and in this diversity there are signs for men of discernment. Nature is God’s Will and is its expression in and through the contingent world.) – so, too, is all of social reality an emanation of the collective mind of humanity: “…all these highly varied phenomena, these concepts, this knowledge, these technical procedures and philosophical systems, these sciences, arts, industries and inventions—all are emanations of the human mind.”

 

However, both the oneness of humankind and the fundamental reality of human beings as thought have both been progressively realized over humanity’s collective development.  This evolution necessarily started out as more physical, then moved towards more cultural and geographic – natural evolution into our current physical form, then the gradual integration of individuals into families, families into tribes, tribes into city-states, cities into nations, nations into empires, and now the emergence of a global civilization.  At this point, no one can reasonably argue that humankind is not whole and interconnected, and the earth is not one homeland.

 

This realization has only been at the physical, geographic, and cultural level – through masses of people moving like waves across the earth, through inter-ethnic marriage on a vast scale, through interconnected systems of communication and economics.  Yet, the reality of man is his thought, and social reality an emanation of the mind.  The final step in the oneness of humankind, beyond conceptualizing that all of humanity is one, is in not creating an “other” that doesn’t conceptualize this.  This is, perhaps, the most challenging “us” and “them” barrier.

 

Recently I heard the statement: “well, for us there is no ‘us’ and ‘them’, but for them there is an ‘us’ and ‘them'” or “we don’t think in terms of ‘us’ and ‘them’s’, but they think in terms of ‘us’ and ‘them’s'”.  This type of categorization of “us” and “them” is the deepest obstacle to oneness, the greatest challenge that must be overcome in humanity’s physical-geographic-cultural-intellectual-spiritual evolution.  Once our collective consciousness eliminates the thought that one group of people realize humanity’s oneness, and another group do not, then will we have reached the level of humanity’s fundamental reality (thought), and will social reality reflect more and more just and unified processes and systems, greater and greater degrees of Bahá’u’lláh’s vision for humanity.

 

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Categories
Expansion & Consolidation

Consolidation Phase

Reflection on Junior Youth Group and Children’s Class 11/9/2013

After our expansion phase, which consisted of scouting 6 different neighborhoods in the Houston medical center area, and gauging the receptivity of indigenous populations to participating in the Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program, our teaching efforts advanced more rapidly in one neighborhood that exemplified certain characteristics we have come to associate with receptivity. Our neighborhood accurately represents the reality of a large majority of the world’s population. It is a humble place. The inhabitants are predominantly Spanish-speaking, 1st generation immigrant families, that have resisted urban decay and cultural disintegration in a modernizing world. It consists mainly of apartment complexes that are higher in density than a suburb. It is near downtown and the medical center where a number of young professionals are employed and can commute or home-front pioneer conveniently. The socioeconomic status is best described as working-class. Online census data helped in assessing transiency rates and, importantly, the density per capita of eleven-to-fifteen year olds. 

We have established a Junior Youth group and Children’s Class in our neighborhood with a measure of consistency. Mindful that being systematic and process-oriented conduces to community building, our teaching team prefers humble efforts that are undertaken frequently, multiple times per week. Our process consists of weekly cycles of study, planning, action, and reflection. We have studied Messages from the Universal House of Justice, December 28 and Ridvan 2010.  Since the burst of expansion, which strained every nerve and tested the resolve of our team, we have become more comfortable with a heightened level of intensity.   

Goals:

Our plans are to fortify the increase in ranks which we experienced as a result of the expansion phase. From the perspective of the educational process, this will entail the completion of our study of the workbook ‘Glimmerings of Hope’ with our Junior Youth group and the Lessons of Ruhi Book 3 for Grade 1 with our Children’s Class. Beyond curricula, insightful service opportunities are hoped to draw us further into the life of our neighborhood. Reading our reality, the identification of suitable venues for home-front pioneers to relocate and the recruitment of full-time youth year-of-service volunteers remains a significant landmark on our horizon. Multiplying the number of Junior Youth groups and core activities to include study circles and devotional gatherings from among parents and older siblings will raise indigenous human resources that can ensure the sustainability of the system. Empowering the masses to take ownership of their own material and spiritual destiny is the result of grass-roots capacity-building nurtured by a rhythm of community life proportional to an expanding nucleus of individuals committed to Bahá’u’lláh’s vision of a new World Order.  

11/9/2013 – Gathering Our Community

Ice-Breaker

11/9/2013 – Junior Youth Group: ‘Glimmerings of Hope’ Lesson Two: Ethnic Cleansing in Kibomi’s Village

JY Study

11/9/2013 – Junior Youth Group: Consultation: Ground Rules

JY consult

11/9/2013 – Ground Rules Contract with Signatures

Ground Rules Contract

11/9/2013 – Children’s Class: Coloring

CC memorize quote

11/9/2013 – Children’s Class: Story

CC story

11/9/2013 – Coloring and Prayer

CC coloring

11/9/2013 – Team Huddle

Boys Huddle

11/9/2013 – Sports: Boys Playing Football

Football

11/9/2013 – Parents Supporting on the Sidelines

Parental Support

11/9/2013 – Sports: Dodge ball

Girls Group

11/9/2013 – Walking to Class – David, Anahi, Leisha

David Anahi Leisha Awaiting JYG

11/9/2013 – Nicholas

Nick Pledges

11/9/2013 – Beto & Anthony

Anthony and Beto Pledge

Categories
Expansion & Consolidation

Multiplying Core Activities

In the Junior Youth Workbooks the protagonists of the story provide an archetypal character to which every junior youth participant who studies the story can relate–they see themselves occupying a similar physical stage of development and social status, enjoying the same recreational and educational activities, and expressing the same life-goals and aspirations. They see inner tendencies of their own mind articulated openly for the first time and explored. It teaches them implicitly to care for and value the environment in which they live by extolling the natural beauty and divine handiwork manifest in the landscape and environs surrounding them. It paints an archetypal picture of partisanship or special interests that corresponds to the various oppressions people experience around world in their own society–whether it be through political corruption, social and economic injustice, racial prejudice (institutional or personal), or tribal war. It teaches them about economic patterns that may characterize certain types of jobs being filled by members of a single racial group–that find parallels in the migrant worker population in the US. The text teaches them, nevertheless, to see the nobility in all people, and to recognize the simple, profound, and beautiful dignity inherent in acts of hospitality, and a culture that has resisted urban decay in the modern era. In this, it teaches junior youth to look beyond the employment and economic status of an individual or community to find its worth or identity.  The workbooks also draw attention to injustice of a systemic nature, that oppresses the people. It focuses attention on the elitism of privilege and the inequalities of opportunity and access to resources that are written into law and institutional policy. It then brings this description down to a personal level by focusing the junior youth’s attention on the familial and psychological consequences on the home-life and cultural integrity of a community.

The questions after the story highlight the pattern of similar interests, dreams, partisan conflict, passive involvement in its consequences, and the first-hand effects at home–that characterize the experience of junior youth living around the world.

The prayer that follows draws upon this description of the reality of junior youth and introduces the concept of supplication before God for protection–protection from those forces and injustices that so vividly plagued the world of Kibomi, and find parallel in our own lives, in all our countries. In conjunction with protection from external forces of evil, we must also be aware and protect against the evil that comes from within. In a literal sense–the germs and bacteria that  invade the body and can cause disease as well as in a spiritual sense–the ethical decisions our soul and heart make on a daily basis to ingest or avoid alcoholic beverages or fill our brains with knowledge instead of ignorance and prejudice. In response to each topic the question can be asked, did Dr. Joseph Lister’s discovery of germ theory save us all from a fate of chronic infection by advising us to wash our hands before eating? And does the presence of an exploitative fast food restaurant on every street corner imply that we cannot plant local farms or pursue healthier alternatives for our nourishment? Do emotional sentiments such as rage or intense jealously, so common in popular media, have a biological consequence on our organ function and health? Is a scientific approach to understanding the causes of public health diseases conducive to a cure?

With regard to the ease and prevalence of alcoholic drinking culture , the Junior Youth should be encouraged to think critically. Is abstinence from both experimenting with alcohol and from places and people who are drinking a reliable method of protection? Is knowledge and continual remembrance of the pathologies, both biological and social, directly linked to alcohol consumption an effective internal instrument for our own motivation–pathologies such as liver failure and encephalopathy, malnutrition and poor dentition, drunkenness and violence, adultery and rape, and DUI and vehicular manslaughter? Is understanding the exploitative financial incentives of brewing companies and entertainment marketers behind the misrepresentations of commercial advertisements a source of empowerment?

With regard to the esotericization of knowledge behind university walls and credentials of false-merit–a control over a narrow form of knowledge that allows elites to justify pacification and neglect of the masses–the junior youth are encouraged to question and not blindly follow custom. Does an inquisitive mind that pursues the reasons for things open new possibilities for achievement that could not have been known otherwise? Does a humble posture of learning or an egocentric habit of assertion conduce more to prosperity? Does education, especially in these primary years, serve a fundamental purpose of which the Junior Youth should be active and appreciative protagonists? Is a competitive culture that shames a student who asks questions conducive to learning, or a collaborative spirit in which inquiry is the method of mutual discovery?

Multiplying Core Activities

After our teaching team formed a group for the moral and intellectual empowerment of junior youth we realized that too many children were distracting the endeavors of the Animators and Junior Youth. The spectacle of the Junior Youth having fun was attracting their younger siblings to the site of the activities. This obstacle was transformed into a stepping stone. The children were separated into another group and formed a children’s class not far from where the Junior Youth were working. We understood that the Junior Youth group could serve as a stimulus to growth of a larger movement, however, what happened followed no predetermined course. One core activity was given precedence, multiplying at a rate faster than the others, and naturally attracted children from the community into another core activity. In this way, the multiplication of core activities was achieved, organically.

Visiting teams are being called upon to teach the children’s classes on the basis of the Ruhi Book 3 Curriculum, and add impetus to the fledgling set of activities emerging in the neighborhood. Irrespective of the specifics, the outcome will be the same. Within this neighborhood plans are being made to invite participants to study circles and devotionals from amongst the youth and adults. Ultimately, the level of cohesion achieved among the core activities must be such that in their totality, a nascent program for the sustained expansion and consolidation of the Faith is perceived. Envisioning the First Milestone: accompanying Indigenous inhabitants of the neighborhood through the sequence of institute courses and into the field of service as animators, children’s class teachers, and hosts of devotional gatherings–committed to the vision of individual and collective transformation they foster.

Junior Youth Group: Anthony Volunteers to Answer the Question, “What problems does Alcohol bring?”

Inquisitive Minds Raise Hands

Children’s Class: Memorizing “O God, guide me, protect me,…”

Children's Class from JY Siblings

Empowerment of Girls: Areseli and Liesha explain why knowledge and education protect us from ignorance.

Girl Power

Collective Gathering: After playing Dodgeball the group gathers to divide into Junior Youth Group and Children’s Class

Mass Movement

Reflection: In a humble attitude of learning, confident in the unfailing grace of the Almighty, joining hands to accompany each another in service to His Cause.

Pillars Alight

Categories
Expansion & Consolidation

Recognizing The Kibomi Within all of Us

For the majority of the world’s inhabitant’s, living with injustice is a reality of daily life. Living with inferior opportunities, inadequate resources, and systematic prejudice doesn’t stop at the front door of people’s homes. It finds expression in the domestic violence of financially frustrated husbands, it manifests in the disrespect of youth towards their parents who cannot thrive in an english-speaking workforce. The signs of prejudice are apparent in the values of the race-specific conception of beauty inculcated in what is called the “white aesthetic” that foists caucasian (or caucasian-featured) models onto billboards and magazine covers. This parallels a rise in plastic surgeries that modify noses and eyes making them pointier and less “asian”. Is it possible for immigrant children not to doubt that they are beautiful when globalization projects the white aesthetic into their living rooms and schools on TV’s and billboards the world over? Locating liquor stores strategically in low-income neighborhoods is an exploitative intention that respects no boundaries of a family’s home or a child’s playground. The effect popularizing a culture of drinking is to generate profits for brewing corporations, at the expense of creating domestic violence, drunken disorderliness, adultery, and workplace hazards. The frustration of families unable to make ends meet due to low corporate wages ironically drives people to escapism and solace at the bottom of a bottle. The system of oppression reinforces itself, squeezing the working class of its financial and biological strength. The economic recovery in the US since the financial collapse of 2008 has generated wealth in the pockets of only the wealthiest one tenth of 1% of Americans, not the workers upon whose backs the labor and increased GDP depends.

Every 12 to 15 year-old, when asked the right questions, can identify injustices like these. Injustices that touch them or their families personally. Kibomi stands for an archetypal construct of our own struggles with racism, greed, partisanship, political corruption, violence, exploitation, and selfishness–and the effect of injustice on us personally. Kibomi represents the internal choice of each one of us, that we make in response to injustice. For the masses of humankind, who live on less than $1 a day and enjoy none of the privileges of western urban elites, responding to injustice is a daily choice. Kibomi lives in all of us. No one is free from the choice, because no one is free from injustice.

In the (true) story of Kibomi, Kibomi is a boy who witnesses the murder of his parents and destruction of his village by a racial group fighting for political dominance and economic self-interest. They terrorize and enslave a weaker and less privileged ethnic minority. He overcomes injustice by developing intellectual skills to analyze what he perceives, understand reasons for what caused it, and articulate spiritual principles to counteract those forces. Through spiritual transcendence he overcomes this injustice and with the weapons of understanding, the sword of utterance, and the force of spiritual ideals and righteous deeds he ventures to reverse the tide of injustice that has overtaken his nation. The story of his transformation is told in the workbook, “Glimmerings of Hope”.

Will Junior Youth in our nation resolve to become emblems of overcoming injustice and minarets of the transformation of our social order?

We pray, “O Lord! Make this youth radiant, and confer Thy bounty upon this poor creature. Bestow upon him knowledge, grant him added strength at the break of every morn and guard him within the shelter of Thy protection so that he may be freed from error, may devote himself to the service of Thy Cause, may guide the wayward, lead the hapless, free the captives and awaken the heedless, that all may be blessed with Thy remembrance and praise. Thou art the Mighty and the Powerful.”

RecognizingTheKibomiWithin

Image: [Iron Youngsta’s, Houston Junior Youth Group.]

Categories
Expansion & Consolidation

An Expanding Nucleus

A rhythm of community life gradually emerges commensurate with the capacity of an expanding nucleus of individuals committed to Bahá’u’lláh’s vision of a new World Order. As a program of growth is being brought into existence, an emergent community spirit begins to exert its influence on the course of events. A sense of common purpose characterizes the endeavors of the friends. Out of the occasional meetings of a few believers emerge the regular deliberations of an expanding core group of friends concerned with channeling into the field of service an increasing store of energy.  The operation of spiritual forces in the arena of service becomes increasingly apparent, and bonds of friendship, so vital to a healthy pattern of growth, are continuously reinforced.  The sequence of Ruhi and Junior Youth courses, which facilitate so effectively the process of transformation under way, are designed to create an environment conducive at once to universal participation and mutual support and assistance. The nature of relationships among individuals in this environment, all of whom consider themselves as treading a common path of service produces a fully fledged scheme embodying the inherent capacity needed to facilitate the efficient flow of guidance, funds, and information. The process of growth in the neighborhood conforms to the rhythm established by pronounced cycles of expansion and consolidation, punctuated every three months by a meeting for reflection and planning, and unfolding without interruption. The rise in the capacity of the friends to converse on spiritual matters and to speak with ease about the Person of Bahá’u’lláh and His Revelation testifies that they have understood well that teaching is a basic requirement of a life of generous giving. The discharge of this fundamental spiritual obligation by the individual believer propels the steady increase in the tempo of teaching across the globe.

Expanding Nucleus

Categories
Expansion & Consolidation

Believing in the Process

Since the time that the call was raised, 1996, a year that has come to be regarded as ‘Turning Point’, the Baha’i community has re-organized itself along a path being defined by a process of systematic learning based on an accumulating body of global experience in teaching work designed to open before humanity Baha’u’llah’s vision of a New World Order.

Guided by the unfailing hand of the Universal House of Justice, the community grappled with what seemed to be a torrential outpouring of correspondence from the Baha’i World Center (1996-2012), unmatched in volume heretofore, and as challenging intellectually as it was controversial within the traditional culture and beliefs that were long-held in the community. Whenever change occurs, and by the law of mutability it always does, it can be painful for a community with firmly established ways of doing things, and with inward-looking values that have guided their prosperity for generations.

After nearly two decades of perseverance and tenacity the Baha’i community can proudly conclude that it has embodied by and large the transformation enshrined in its supreme Body’s injunctions. The community has well in hand the understanding and practice of its expansion and consolidation.  Few remain who are currently shaken by the swiftly changing landscape to which the Infallible Guidance and the onward march of history has subjected the community.

One may go as far to say that the old orthodoxy is the new heterodoxy, where outmoded ways of doing things are universally regarded by a generality of the population (who possess the language to articulate their differences) as having been replaced by a new prevailing paradigm–and this in less than 2 decades since Turning Point. Historically speaking, whole civilizations have shown less agility over millenia in adapting to changes of an evolving social milieu than the Baha’i community has done in 17 years. For example, the catholic church is experiencing its first stages of evolution in response to pressures from a modernizing society and an ever-advancing civilization. Without the infallible hand of the Universal House of Justice, it seems difficult to avoid utter disintegration of a community’s beliefs, scripture, and spiritual identity.

What more can the community of the Greatest Name ask this joyous teaching cycle? We bow our heads in gratitude before God. That the process is reproducible in locality after locality without direct exportation of relationships or personnel, that souls arising to serve do so spontaneously by the tens, attracted by the prospect of selfless sacrifice, and that the dialectic of crisis and victory characterizes ubiquitously the experience of every endeavor, melding hearts in love and bonds of friendship whose resulting unity is the very basis of success in teaching endeavors–this demonstrates time and again to every participant the divine origin of the process. Faith in God translates into faith in the guidance of the Universal House of Justice.

 

Houston Rising

Categories
Human Nature

Occupied with the Greatest Undertaking

Invariably, opportunities afforded by the personal circumstances of the believers initially involved—or perhaps a single homefront pioneer—to enter into meaningful and distinctive conversation with local residents dictate how the process of growth begins in a cluster.  What happens next follows no predetermined course.

Thus began a pattern in which every generation of youth, drawing inspiration from the same divine impulse to cast the world anew, has seized the opportunity to contribute to the latest stage in the unfolding process that is to transform the life of humankind. It is a pattern that has suffered no interruption.

Thou seest me, O my God, bowed down in lowliness, humbling myself before Thy commandments, submitting to Thy sovereignty, trembling at the might of Thy dominion, fleeing from Thy wrath, entreating Thy grace, relying upon Thy forgiveness, shaking with awe at Thy fury. I implore Thee with a throbbing heart, with streaming tears and a yearning soul, and in complete detachment from all things, to make Thy lovers as rays of light across Thy realms, and to aid Thy chosen servants to exalt Thy Word, that their faces may turn beauteous and bright with splendor, that their hearts may be filled with mysteries, and that every soul may lay down its burden. Guard them then from the aggressor, from him who hath become a shameless and blasphemous doer of wrong.

Verily, Thy lovers thirst, O my Lord; lead them to the wellspring of bounty and grace. Verily, they hunger; send down unto them Thy heavenly table. Verily, they are naked; robe them in the garments of learning and knowledge.

Heroes are they, O my Lord, lead them to the field of battle. Guides are they, make them to speak out with arguments and proofs. Ministering servants are they, cause them to pass round the cup that brimmeth with the wine of certitude. O my God, make them to be songsters that carol in fair gardens, make them lions that couch in the thickets, whales that plunge in the vasty deep.

Were We to reveal thy station, the hearts of men would be sorely agitated, their footsteps would slip, the embodiments of vain-glory would be dumbfounded, would fall down upon the ground, and would thrust the fingers of heedlessness into their ears, for fear of hearing.

Grieve thou not over those that have busied themselves with the things of this world, and have forgotten the remembrance of God, the Most Great. By Him Who is the Eternal Truth! The day is approaching when the wrathful anger of the Almighty will have taken hold of them. He, verily, is the Omnipotent, the All-Subduing, the Most Powerful. He shall cleanse the earth from the defilement of their corruption, and shall give it for an heritage unto such of His servants as are nigh unto Him.

Say: O people! Dust fill your mouths, and ashes blind your eyes, for having bartered away the Divine Joseph for the most paltry of prices. Oh, the misery that resteth upon you, ye that are far astray! Have ye imagined in your hearts that ye possess the power to outstrip Him and His Cause? Far from it! To this He, Himself, the All-Powerful, the Most Exalted, the Most Great, doth testify.

Soon shall the blasts of His chastisement beat upon you, and the dust of hell enshroud you. Those men who, having amassed the vanities and ornaments of the earth, have turned away disdainfully from God—these have lost both this world and the world to come. Ere long, will God, with the Hand of Power, strip them of their possessions, and divest them of the robe of His bounty. To this they themselves shall soon witness. Thou, too, shalt testify.

Say: O people! Let not this life and its deceits deceive you, for the world and all that is therein is held firmly in the grasp of His Will. He bestoweth His favor on whom He willeth, and from whom He willeth He taketh it away. He doth whatsoever He chooseth. Had the world been of any worth in His sight, He surely would never have allowed His enemies to possess it, even to the extent of a grain of mustard seed.

Occupied with the greatest undertaking

Categories
- Empowerment - Religion - Three Protagonists Development Discourse Justice Oneness

120 years of discourse

A few days ago passed the 120th anniversary of the first mention of the Baha’i Faith in the Western hemisphere.  At last, the spiritual forces released by Baha’u’llah’s Revelation had an “initial conversation” through which they could be channeled.  Many of the early Baha’is of the West interacted with the Faith through this initial conversation – whether they were present, read about in it a newspaper, or heard about it in a subsequent conversation.

 

September of 1893, just over a year after Bahá’u’lláh’s ascension, Reverend George Ford, a missionary in Syria, read a paper by a Presbyterian minister named Henry Jessup, at the World Parliament of Religions held in downtown Chicago.  After speaking about Christianity, he ending the speech with,

 

In the Palace of Bahjí , or Delight, just outside the Fortress of ‘Akká, on the Syrian coast, there died a few months since, a famous Persian sage, the Bábí Saint, named Bahá’u’lláh -the “Glory of God”- the head of that vast reform party of Persian Muslims, who accept the New Testament as the Word of God and Christ as the Deliverer of men, who regard all nations as one, and all men as brothers. Three years ago he was visited by a Cambridge scholar and gave utterance to sentiments so noble, so Christlike, that we repeat them as our closing words:

“That all nations should become one in faith and all men as brothers; that the bonds of affection and unity between the sons of men should be strengthened; that diversity of religions should cease and differences of race be annulled. What harm is there in this? Yet so it shall be. These fruitless strifes, these ruinous wars shall pass away, and the ‘Most Great Peace’ shall come. Do not you in Europe need this also? Let not a man glory in this, that he loves his country; let him rather glory in this, that he loves his kind.”

 

Thus began a discourse on Baha’u’llah’s principle of the oneness of humankind.

 

One way to think about discourse is as the instrumentality through which spiritual forces are able to influence the hearts and minds of human beings.  As thoughts and habits of behavior are altered, so are social structures.  The initial conversation – the Word of God brought by a Manifestation of God and subsequently spread across the world – leads to a community dedicated to translating high ideals into action.  This new system of values reorders consciousness and behavior and restructures the administration of society.  Eventually, a civilization emerges that embodies the concepts contained throughout this conversation.  As more and more people engaged in this conversation, the civilization becomes more and more just – as justice requires universal participation.  And as it becomes more and more just, it takes on higher degrees of unity.

 

The discourse on peace that began 120 years ago in the heart of North America has gained in strength and momentum, and taken on degrees of complexity.  The conversation has taken many forms and included many topics over the last century, and is currently about a community-building endeavor that receives its impetus from an education process that seeks to build capacity in its protagonists for acts of service through imparting skills, insights, and knowledge.  But it’s always been the same conversation. This is humanity’s conversation about its spiritual and social destiny – all can contribute, all have a say.  And at a deep level, all are connected to it….all can learn from it and advance it.  The conversation’s aim is to empower populations to take charge and responsibility for their own development, as a people.  In what ways are your daily thoughts, words, and actions contributing to this conversation?

 

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Categories
- Empowerment Development Justice Oneness

10% of Humanity’s Population is Young People in India

Putting aside, for a moment, the truth that young people are characterized by having a “desire to bring about constructive change”, by having “a capacity for meaningful service”, by having “all the hope in their hearts that, through strenuous concerted effort, the world will change”; setting aside, for a minute, the fact that youth have an “eagerness to take on a measure of responsibility to aid the spiritual and social development of those around them”, and that they “share in the desire to dedicate their time and energy, talents and abilities, to service to their communities”; and ignoring, for a second, that “loving fellowship, mutual encouragement, and willingness to learn together” are properties of groups of youth and that young people possess “altruism, an acute sense of justice, eagerness to learn about the universe and a desire to contribute to the construction of a better world” – why is it that so much emphasis is placed on young people?

 

In 1920 in the United States, Congress amended the Constitution to give women the right to vote.  Prior to this, it was state dependent.  Granting this contribution to the national society for roughly 50% of the nation’s population was a matter of justice – the principle of justice demands universal participation in collective decision-making, for justice is the only means by which unity is to be achieved.  Equality of men and women in the affairs of society is a prerequisite for progress and central to any advancement, not only at the level of the principle of equality – that the rational soul, a human being’s true nature, has no gender and denial of right based on sex is unfounded – and not only based on the principle of justice – because the contributions of all is required for unity, and unity is necessary for progress – but also simply because of sheer numbers.  Half of the people making decisions for the whole?

 

 

So let’s look at statistics.  50% of the current world’s population is under 30 years of age.  The percentage has been gradually increasing, and is projected to continue.  As the population grows, more humans are born, and these humans start out under the age of 30.  So it makes sense that over the past few decades the percentage and number of young people have risen.  Those under 30 now outnumber those over 30.  Of course, not all this 50% of humanity’s population are able to speak in complete sentences or are even fully conscious (ie, the infants and toddlers).  However, on both the level of the principle of justice and based on sheer statistics, it makes sense to involve the contribution of young people to the future progress and prosperity of humankind.

 

Some more statistics.  The average age of nations across the world ranges from 15 years old to 49 years old.  There are around 33 countries in which the average age is between 15 and 18, and another 29 countries in which the average age is between 19 and 21.  There has been a 14% increase in those aged 15 to 24 in the last 20 years – currently 18% of the world’s people are between 15 and 24; while 20% are between 5 and 14.   People 14 years old and younger currently make up about a quarter of the world’s population.  Those 15-30 also make up 25% of human beings on earth.  How can these large numbers contribute to advancement of humankind?  Perhaps one-quarter (15-30) can become empowered by responding to the spiritual aspirations of another quarter (those 14 and younger)?

 

We are in the midst of a youth movement – whether coordinated or not, whether purposeful or not, whether towards laudable aims or not, whether united or not – the movement is gaining and growing.  What will be its direction?  What will be its influence in the affairs of humankind?  Their contribution will be needed in order to even begin to strive for universal participation, without which there can be no justice, without which no unity, no progress.

 

The Universal House of Justice is charged with the duty of ensuring the advancement and betterment of the world.  50% of the world’s people are 30 and under, half of them youth between 15 and 30.  Now we can go back to all the characteristics of young people mentioned in the first paragraph – combining this with the percentage of humanity they represent, little wonder, then, that the House of Justice is working to coordinate and unify this youth movement, to instill in them a “twofold sense of purpose that impels them to take charge of their own spiritual and intellectual growth and contribute to the welfare of society” and make a decisive contribution to the fortunes of humanity.  Towards this end there are currently happening 114 youth conferences, to spur on this mighty youth movement – the first world-wide, unified, purposeful, commendable youth movement in the history of humanity.

 

http://news.bahai.org/community-news/youth-conferences/

 

Categories
- Governance - Three Protagonists Human Nature

The Reality of Coherence

In the 1 July 2013 Message of the Universal House of Justice, that beloved Body draws a connection between an individual’s engagement in the process of civilization-building and that individuals own personal development. The Letter states,

“You, however, are aware of your part in a mighty, transforming process that will yield, in time, a global civilization reflecting the oneness of humankind. You know well that the habits of mind and spirit that you are nurturing in yourselves and others will endure, influencing decisions of consequence that relate to marriage, family, study, work, even where to live.”

The connection between devoting your efforts to community-building efforts at the grass roots and developing success in personal affairs, the House of Justice explains, lies in the qualities of mind and spirit that are developed in community work that are beneficial to personal affairs, and vice versa.

What qualities of mind and spirit do we think are beneficial to a fulfilling marriage? Patience, tact, wisdom, love. To happy family? Selflessness, integrity, faithfulness, devotion. To effective study? Discipline, consistency, humility, reverence. To fruitful work? Obedience, loyalty, honesty, dedication, innovation. To strategic choice of living location? Consciousness of the provisions of the plan, awareness of the exigencies of population demographics, perception of receptivity, and freedom from prejudice.

How does one develop patience, tact, wisdom, love? How does one develop selflessness, integrity, faithfulness, devotion? How does one develop discipline, consistency, humility, reverence? How does one develop obedience, loyalty, honesty, dedication, innovation? How does one develop consciousness of the provisions of the plan, awareness of the exigencies of population demographics, perception of receptivity, and freedom from prejudice? Can these be developed in a vacuum, by simply willing it to be so? Virtues, must be developed by habituation, by practice — virtue requires application.

From where can the will and opportunity to develop all these virtues be mustered? It does not seem possible that for the sake of things in themselves (marriage, family, study, work, home) that this will is effectively summoned. To wit, we submit the testimony of the unnumbered millions with failed marriages, families, academics, careers, and homes. Where can the will and training arena to develop all the qualities needed to succeed in personal milestones be found? The Universal House of Justice is proposing: in selfless service to the provisions of the 5 year plan the youthful individual positions him or herself success in all these things. The 1 July Letter states,

“In the struggles that are common to each individual’s spiritual growth, the will required to make progress is more easily summoned when one’s energies are being channelled towards a higher goal—the more so when one belongs to a community that is united in that goal.”

Serving a higher goal, the creation of a New World Order, allows one to summon the will necessary to develop virtues. In practicing consultation one develops patience. In composing e-mails one develops tact. In navigating delicate situations one develops wisdom. In sacrificing for others one develops love and selflessness. In upholding others trust one develops integrity. In making good on one’s commitments one develops faithfulness. In prayer toward the common good one develops devotion. In punctuality one develops discipline. In tenaciously pursuing goals one develops consistency. In maintaining loving relationships one learns humility. In learning one acquires reverence. In instant, unquestioning servitude to the institutions one develops obedience.  In defending the Covenant and protecting others from those who would harm it one develops loyalty. In communicating efficiently one avoid lies and becomes honest. In enduring service one become dedicated. In problem solving one becomes innovative. In studying the guidance one learns the provisions of the plan. In scouting focus neighborhoods one learns population demographics. In teaching the Cause one develops perception of receptivity. In living with diverse cultures and socio-economic statuses one develops freedom from prejudice. Serving alongside comrades, sharing in their sorrows and delights, supporting them in their struggles and victories, further reinforces the will.  The qualities of mind and spirit needed for success in personal affairs are all developed in wholehearted service to the community that is laboring for social transformation and the erection of a divine civilization.

Coherence is the state of being in which multiple separate things are nevertheless linked through the products of their processes that are not only beneficial for the success of others, but necessary for it. The byproduct of community building is the necessary nourishment of personal success. As such, though they are separate things, they are one, as an ecosystem has parts, and yet is still one. Though animals and plants are distinct kingdoms, yet animals depend upon vegetation for their nourishment, and trees in turn rely upon pollination and dispersal by animal carriers to continue their life cycle. As such, the coherence that characterizes the balance of an ecosystem, is not unlike the coherence that characterizes the relationship between an individual’s personal affairs and his or her dedication to social welfare and public advancement.

Clearly then, the cycle would not be complete if civilization-building alone contributed to personal development and did not receive from it anything beneficial. Success in personal development contributes invaluably to the process of community building. Community building could not be carried in the absence of personal successes of individuals. It would be to allege that the work of advancing civilization could be carried out by disembodied souls. Human society advances as the result of human beings.

What qualities does a fulfilling marriage, a happy family, a prosperous occupation, and a strategic home-front pioneering position lend to the process of civilization building? A fulfilling marriage unleashes the powers of mind and speech upon which so many relationships that inspire organized community efforts depends. A happy family can anchor an entire community by providing moral leadership, organizing influence, for various age groups of activities for others to join, and a gathering center for other families. A prosperous occupation serves the community, inspires respect, conduces to dignity, and draws one into the economic and political  context of the society one serves. A well selected home front pioneering position, allows one to serve the best interests of receptive populations and establish pockets of social action.

Personal developmental achievements are dedicated to the operation of collective advancement, and striving for social change generates the qualities of mind and spirit that conduce to prosperity in individual affairs. Society cannot advance without individuals who are knowledgeable and capable of serving its needs, and wholesome family units with careers and social influence cannot be raised without engagement with society. Neither branch of coherence is acceptable without the other, for neither can subsist in the absence of the other.

Collapsing the dichotomy of the two-fold moral purpose is the secret to achieving coherence. This is the reality of coherence.

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Categories
- Empowerment - Prevailing Conceptions - Religion Development Human Nature Knowledge Oneness Power

The Power of Truth

For thousands of years, beginning with the birth of the family – the smallest unit in the scale of human organization – humanity’s evolution has been characterized by a process of integration, which although far less spectacular than the parallel process of disintegration, is nonetheless more significant.  This process of integration, which has gone though successive stages from clan, tribe, city-state, and nation, will culminate in the final stage of humankind’s evolution – the unification of the entire planet.  This is the age in which we now live.  The hallmark of this age in human history is the principle of the oneness of humankind.  As humanity’s transition to maturity and oneness will be a complete transformation that the world has not yet witnessed, the principle of the oneness of humankind will be the basis for the reconceptualization of all relationships within society and all social structures.

 

However, in order for patterns of community life – fruit from the transformation of relationships and structures – built upon the principle of the oneness of humankind to emerge, certain foundational concepts must be reexamined – notably the concept of power.  Additionally, to contemplate a complete transformation as the one upcoming for humanity, the question of the power to accomplish it is raised.

 

Traditionally, power has been viewed as advantage of one person or group in order to dominate another person or group.  Power is considered a limited resource that is acquired through contest with others, and confers the ability to surpass others and win.  Notwithstanding the benefits brought to the human race from the exercise of power to advance one over another, as humanity matures, it must leave behind obsolescent and anachronistic ideas that have obviously reached the limit of their effectiveness.

 

There are other conceptions of power, and with it, sources of power, that are more befitting a maturing humanity.  The powers of the human spirit, the power of unity, of love, of pure deeds, are all powers that have been harnessed and tapped throughout history, resulting in impressive accomplishments in all spheres of life.  These are the powers that religion draws our attention to – religions which have represented successive stages in the spiritual evolution of human society.  These sources of power constitute a limitless capacity to transform that resides in humanity as a whole; and their operation is necessary to move humanity forward.  Under the premise of the oneness of humanity, these sources are not only more powerful than military might, economics, media, propaganda, etc., or anything that implies an “other”, but in fact the only relevant means to progress in a global society.

 

Truth is another source of power, associated throughout history with some of the greatest philosophical, artistic, and scientific advances we’ve experienced, that humanity as a whole must learn a great deal more about how to tap in order to propel the advance of civilization.  Why is it so powerful?

 

Reality is an expression of truth.  To actively explore this reality, through conversation, through service, through fellowship, through collective reflection, through study, is to understand truth – and with that, harness the power of truth.  The exploration of reality, then, becomes a very empowering action.  Framing action as an exploration of reality, then, is a highly encouraging mindset.  As more and more individuals work together to explore reality, as more and more individuals are encouraged to share with others the idea that their collective action is an exploration of reality, and as more and more individuals are empowered by generation of knowledge, the total amount of power available to humanity increases enormously.  And suddenly, with all this power, the transformation beckoning humanity doesn’t seem as difficult.

 

The worldwide Baha’i community is actively laboring to increase the power available to humanity for its transformation: “…everywhere, a notable number of friends find themselves ready to enter into conversation with people of varied backgrounds and interests and to undertake with them an exploration of reality that gives rise to a shared understanding of the exigencies of this period in human history and the means for addressing them.”  In fact, one may say that a goal of the worldwide Baha’i community is to work for the empowerment of all the peoples of the world.

 

And as Baha’u’llah, the Manifestation of God for our age, has ushered in this new stage of human development, He has also promised that the power of truth will strengthen all of humanity in our efforts towards collective maturity: “Be not dismayed, O peoples of the world, when the day star of My beauty is set, and the heaven of My tabernacle is concealed from your eyes. Arise to further My Cause, and to exalt My Word amongst men. We are with you at all times, and shall strengthen you through the power of truth.

 

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Categories
- Prevailing Conceptions - Religion - Science Discourse Human Nature Knowledge

A De-scription Pad

A ‘prescription’ is that which is laid down as a rule, an order, a precept.  A ‘description’, on the other hand, is a statement that indicates and notes observations.  Common to both words is ‘script’, which denotes a law or plan.  And ‘law’, of course, is a set of principles and rules that govern relationships and realities.

 

Current society’s conceptions regard prescriptions and descriptions as separate.  Are they?  Should they be?  What is, actually, the difference between them?  Are they the same?

 

Perhaps the problem lies in that fact that society promotes an overly-simplistic, and often bi-polarized, understanding of the world around us.  ‘Prescription’ is what ought to be, while ‘description’ is what we see.  However, under an understanding that human beings strive to progressively create social reality that increasingly reflects the principles that govern reality, description and prescription are the same thing.

 

Let us look at a few examples.  A farmer has certain prescribed actions and labors at certain times of the year – say, plowing in February, planting in March, fertilizing in May, and harvesting in July.  This systemic pattern of behavior occurs because the farmer has learned to progressively refine his description of the natural cycle of the crop.  In fact, one might say that the role of a farmer is to continuously learn to describe the laws that govern the life of the plant and prescribe a system to align his work with this description so as to most effectively yield crop.  A doctor, similarly, prescribes medicine in order to treat disease.  One who has diabetes might be prescribed 15 units of insulin at night to help lower blood glucose.  This prescription, however, is actually simply a description of how much more insulin the body needs in order to maintain normal blood glucose levels.  Through a systematic study of this particular disease, and learning to describe the pathophysiology of that human being, the doctor can prescribe a medicine that aligns itself with this description.  In the same way, an engineer prescribes a limit to the maximum weight that a bridge can hold, or prescribes an optimal flow of electricity to power an appliance.  However, these prescriptions are simply descriptions of the relationships and laws of physics that govern the materials of the bridge with gravity, or the flow of electrons with the circuits of the device – prescriptions are the application of description.

 

Society is similar to the examples of botany, physiology, and physics examined above.  Social advance is propelled through the generation and application of learning within two broad systems of knowledge and practice called science and religion.  Each serve to describe the world around us and its dynamics.  Religion articulates the values that are unfolding progressively through divine revelation, defines the goals of our social and spiritual evolutionary process, and increasingly clarify the spiritual forces and processes at work in the humanity’s life.  Science, of course, describes the laws that govern physical reality and is the instrumentality through which the human mind explores the phenomenal world.  The brief periods of human history in which these two systems operated in harmony have witnessed marvelous social development; for the prescriptions that people and social systems create for social reality come from some descriptive conception.

 

In the same way that no one would label 9.8 meters-per-second-squared as an arbitrary prescription of the earth’s gravitational pull on objects near its surface, similarly, the ordinance to pray a number of times a day is actually a description of the needs and dynamics of a human soul, according to an understanding of its nature.  Every prescribed law has an implied description.  What assumptions underlie this description?  Are those who act according to these prescriptions conscious that they are operating under descriptive assumptions, and therefore tacitly condoning a certain conception of human nature?  How well-aligned are the descriptions upon which these prescriptions are created with true science and true religion?  As an example, society prescribes laws within a competitive economic system; these laws, therefore, describe and assume human nature as competitive.  Yet, that is just one assumption; one can easily set aside this assumption for the more likely premise that cooperation is true human nature, and, based on this description, is the prescribed method of human interaction.  What can be done when one’s assumption of human nature differs from the description upon which social prescriptions are based?  Simple.  Operationalize these assumptions and give those around you a new pattern of behavior to describe; articulate these assumptions and give those around you a reconceptualization of human nature; build unity with others and put into place prescriptions based upon descriptions aligned with the harmony of science and religion.

 

Civilization advances through our descriptions.  The reality of man is his thought.  Social reality, on a certain level, is subjective and built through conceptions.  Conceptions are formed through discourse with fellows and through observations of behavior of those around.  Observe cooperation and speak about it with others, it will become one’s conception of human nature.  And conceptions of human nature become social reality.  This is why, whether or not you’ve read this prayer before, we all pray “confer upon me thoughts which may change this world into a rose garden”…it describes a longing of the human soul.

 

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Categories
- Empowerment - Three Protagonists Development Justice Oneness

From the Animator to a World Civilization

The worldwide Baha’i community is dedicated to a systematic long-term process of learning how to translate the principles of the Revelation of Baha’u’llah into reality and engaging more and more people in an “exploration of reality that gives rise to a shared understanding of the exigencies of this period in human history and means for addressing them.”  The community’s activities are the current representation of this process of learning.  The end goal: a world civilization that has achieved a dynamic coherence between the material and spiritual requirements of life.

 

How do these activities relate to a world civilization?  Let’s work backwards.

 

A world civilization that has achieved a dynamic coherence between the material and spiritual requirements of life requires relationships that are completely reconceptualized and based upon the principle of the oneness of humankind – the relationships between and among individuals, communities, and institutions – as well as social structures that are based on fresh conceptions of justice.

Relationships based upon the oneness of humanity and social structures based upon justice require patterns of behavior and habits of thought that are founded upon an understanding of the spiritual nature of the human being: that justice is a faculty of the soul, and that the rational soul – a human being’s identity – has no gender, race, ethnicity, or class.

These patterns of behavior and habits of thought that strive to embody more and more the principles of oneness and justice – in other words, a change of culture – require patterns of community life that draw upon our common identity; a community that takes “charge of its own spiritual, social and intellectual development” and is “eager to improve [its] material and spiritual conditions”.

Creating such a community life necessitates certain foundational collective activities that will occur even as humanity matures into a world civilization, such as praying together, educating the young together, studying together and applying insights into action together, and reflecting and consulting together.  These activities will never cease, only simply change form.

At various stages in the development of community life, one activity may flourish more rapidly.  This should be strengthened, as an advance in one aspect of the community-building process will advance the whole.  At our current stage of growth, the junior youth spiritual empowerment program has proven vital and beneficial to enhancing the entire scheme of community-building.

In order to develop the junior youth spiritual empowerment program, there needs to be strong animators – those older youth who work with junior youth groups – who “come to regard themselves as agents of social change”, “endowed with a twofold sense of purpose that impels them to take charge of their own spiritual and intellectual growth and contribute to the welfare of society”, and who can “examine the forces shaping their society and their role in contributing to its constructive transformation”.

 

This sequence of thoughts helps to show how service as an animator of a junior youth group is directly tied with contributing to the advancement of a world civilization.

Categories
- Education - Empowerment - Prevailing Conceptions Discourse Human Nature Knowledge Oneness

Pedagogy of the Empowered

The Baha’i world has been learning how to use an education program to raise capacity in individuals and populations to take charge of their own spiritual, social, and intellectual development and to build communities that understand the dynamic coherence of material and spiritual prosperity.  Based on the conviction of the nobility of the human being, on the oneness of humankind, and on the principle that science and religion are two complementary systems of knowledge and practice by which civilization advances, this educational system regards “man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value”, and believes that “education can, alone, cause it to reveal its treasures, and enable mankind to benefit therefrom.”

 

Of course, we know that our perceptions are built upon our assumptions.  Thus, as first glance, an onlooker might perceive simplicity, tangentiality, indoctrination, limitation, rote learning, or a whole list of other problems.  Perhaps this perception is biased by assumptions and values adopted by society’s conceptions of education – which breed passivity and facilitate oppression.  And perhaps another look might help.

 

Current models of education are information based.  They consider a human being as an empty receptacle waiting to be passively filled with information and technical skills necessary to fill positions in an economic system to maintain the status quo.  They aim to provide enough thoughtfulness that a high-school graduate can vote in an election, yet not so much thoughtfulness that he will question the political system.  Education as society knows it promotes a false-dichotomy of right/wrong in order to allow for a highly simple method of evaluation, which conveniently can be capitalized (pun intended) by the economic system to brainwash consumers to buy the “right” product over the rest.  And current systems perpetuate a fragmented view of reality in order to make the minds of their graduates easily able to be controlled by those with power, yet build in enough curricular association to prevent complete disintegration of what holds together various disciplines.

 

The Ruhi Institute, which provides a highly successful example of a set of curriculum that adopts an entirely different set of assumptions about human nature and education – some which are mentioned in the first paragraph.  Its foundation is the Word of God as revealed by Baha’u’llah.  Regarding its pedagogy, here are a few thoughts:

– Ruhi curriculum is not content and information based, but rather concept based.  The purpose is not to impart information but to advance understanding about concepts.  If one just takes a glance at the material, under the assumption of information-provision, one might think “there isn’t anything in here I didn’t already know, any new information, any dates or facts”, and one might perceive it too simple.  However, the purpose of human life is to achieve understanding: “…the ultimate goal of human existence which is the station of true understanding…” and “Man’s distinction lieth not in ornaments or wealth, but rather in virtuous behavior and true understanding.”  To understand is a verb, and its corresponding subject is the human mind.  It’s object is a concept.  Through advancing understanding, the human mind is able to generate insights into reality; to produce knowledge, sciences, and arts; to effect a change of cultural; and to advance civilization.  By imparting information, the mind simply gets information.  Paradoxically, then, curriculum based on facts are actually more simplistic.

– The questions in the Ruhi curriculum are designed to engage the participants with the text.  At first glance, a fill-in-the-blank question may be simplistic, rote, mindless even.  Under current educational assumptions, it may seem very low-level.  However, the purpose of education is to advance understanding and enable participants to generate insights from the ocean of the Revelation.   In order to do this, in order to discover pearls in an ocean, one must interact with the words and concepts.  Take math as an example.  Simply reading 3+4+7=14, and then discussing it, might not advance understanding about numbers.  If the goal was information, perhaps one could waste a lifetime memorizing the sums of various combinations of numbers.  However, 3+x+7=14 requires operation; requires interacting with the numbers.  What kind of integer, when added to 3 and 7 make 14?  What kind of deeds lead to the betterment of the world?  This type of operation can then grow in complexity.  3x+5=6x-7.  And so on.  It is through operations, through interaction, through engaging, that someone learns the concepts behind numbers, and similarly the concepts within the Word of God.

– The true/false questions can also be misperceived under current educational assumptions.  Society’s educational models are based upon a system of evaluation founded on a right/wrong dichotomy.  In this paradigm, a true/false question is meant to evaluate the test-taker to see if they recalled the information correctly, and to see if they got it ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.  However, again, the questions in the Ruhi curriculum are carefully designed to advance understanding.  It breaks down current paradigms by creating true/false questions which are ambiguous, thus opening up space where understanding can be advanced in all participants through a discourse – in which people of all backgrounds of mind can advance understanding on equal footing, supporting each other’s advance and respectful of the knowledge that each one possesses at any given moment, and in which all can benefit from a diversity of perspectives.  Under an anachronistic evaluation model of education, however, ambiguous true/false questions just seem poorly worded.

– Humanity is one.  And the human being is one.  Thus, all aspects of the human being are one.  And all fields of human endeavor are one – a collective investigation of one underlying reality.  Over time, human society has successfully fragmented educational disciplines (as it has fragmented all aspects of life).  It has become popular to claim a multi-disciplinary approach to education, yet all current education does is associate disciplines together.  When studying physics, a series of math problems about gravity are presented, as a way to integrate math and physics – but the result is only an association (and hard math problems).  True integration occurs when education revolves around the understanding of concepts, the acquisition and generation of knowledge, the development of skills and attitudes, the formation of habits, the strengthening of qualities, all related to performing an act of service.  Here, service becomes the key to coherence and integration – the balance.  Because in the end, isn’t the purpose of education to reveal the gems of an individual and enable mankind to benefit?

 

In the curriculum of the Ruhi Institute we have a potent example of how education can empower the masses of humanity to take charge of their own development and contribute to the establishment of a new world civilization – a pedagogy of the empowered.

 

Categories
- Consultation - Education - Language Discourse Knowledge

Coherence in Conversations

Recently, a gathering took place in which friends from diverse backgrounds, ages, geographies, and experiences came together to explore participation in discourse.  Coherence, it seemed, was the key.

 

The weekend began with a study of a message of the Universal House of Justice dated 4 January 2009, which encourages examination and conceptualization of the community’s work in terms of three broad area of action – “enabling the protagonists of collective effort to strengthen the spiritual foundations of villages and neighbourhoods, to address certain of their social and economic needs, and to contribute to the discourses prevalent in society”.  All of these efforts require coherence in methods and approaches, something that was implicitly, as well as explicitly, explored during the weekend.

 

Next, a message dated Ridvan 2010 was studied, particularly the paragraphs regarding “two interconnected, mutually reinforcing areas of activity: involvement in social action and participation in the prevalent discourses of society.”  Though the content was overtly about social action as a field of endeavor, under a framework of coherence the same concepts and principles are easily applied to discourse.  For instance, discourse, too, requires efforts to draw on insights from Revelation as well as tap into the accumulating knowledge of the human race; involves the application of the teachings of the Faith toward improvement of some aspect of society, keeping in mind a dynamic coherence between the material and spiritual requirements of life; is built upon the principle that access to knowledge is a right of all human beings; fosters universal participation in the generation, application, and diffusion of knowledge; is not the provision of insights and principles, but is concerned with building capacity to apply and reflect upon the application on concepts; is not a series of conversations one group of people does for others, but includes insights and perspectives from all; is founded on the immutable conviction that every human being is a mine rich in gems of inestimable value and can contribute to discourse.

 

While coherence was explicitly the topic of discussion, as demonstrated by the Ridvan 2010 and 4 January 2009 messages, the structure of the weekend sought to be implicitly coherent in approaches and methods with, say, what has been learned from the institute process.  In efforts of community building all throughout the world – through “meetings that strengthen the devotional character of the community; classes that nurture the tender hearts and minds of children; groups that channel the surging energies of junior youth; circles of study, open to all, that enable people of varied backgrounds to advance on equal footing and explore the application of the teachings to their individual and collective lives” – Baha’i communities are learning about how to “raise capacity within a population to take charge of its own spiritual, social and intellectual development”.  One of the methods and approaches toward this end is that all participate in the generation of insights.  Reality is multifaceted, and therefore a sincere investigation of reality, or truth, requires the harmonization of diverse perspectives from all.  In fact, the culture of protest that has come to characterize much of political activity is a predictable reaction to lack of ability to voice opinions in political decision-making processes, a clear injustice – for justice demands universal participation.  A weekend gathering regarding discourse used the same participatory method and approach as has been learned from institute campaigns and study circles.

 

Another principle that this first area of endeavor – community building – is founded upon is the wedding of study and service.  True education is the process of revealing the gems latent within all human beings so that mankind can benefit therefrom.  Study and service.  Neither is effective without the other.  In such a short period of time, such as a weekend, study becomes the overwhelming emphasis.  Yet, multiple times were participants asked to each one voice an insight through their subjective mind to enrich the collective understanding.  And on the last day, individuals and pairs presented insights from specific-subject discourses that they had studied that morning, each presenting something unique that others didn’t have a chance to study.

 

By all accounts, the result of this coherence was highly energizing.  These participants, who had been used to attending lectures and presentation, who considered the norm a 50 minute talk with 10 minutes for irrelevant Q&A, and who felt that they needed to muster up energy for any conference since all collective activity was draining, all verbalizing feeling charged by the end.  Clearly, the galvanizing effects of participation in collective knowledge generation coupled with such a simple act of service as sharing insights with others was evident.  Participants left animated and inspired to share their understandings of the conceptual framework they studied.

 

* * *

 

At a foundational level, all areas of endeavor – whether a grassroots educational process aimed at the spiritual empowerment of large numbers, involvement in social action projects seeking to raise capacity, or participation in public discourses and humbly offering one’s perspective illumined by the Faith – are built upon conversations.  It follows, then, that all the conversations we are having in these diverse areas and fields must be characterized by a high degree of coherence.  In fact, in this way, the methods, approaches, principles, and framework will be more naturally coherent.

 

Coherence entails reflection on what we are learning about “meaningful and distinctive conversations” in the area of community-building, where we are seeking out receptive souls “who are willing to engage in a conversation about the world around them,” in order “to undertake with them an exploration of reality that gives rise to a shared understanding of the exigencies of this period in human history and the means for addressing them.”  If we are striving for coherence across all three fields of endeavor, then the nature of our participation in the discourses of society will share some of the same qualities as conversations we are learning to have in our community building efforts.

 

Categories
- Empowerment Discourse

Authentic Solutions

Authentic solutions to the problems of the world, products of an unjust social order, begin with a sea change in public loyalties. An expanding mass of popular support for a new center of authority and legislator of values, which occupies a transcendent station in the estimation of growing millions is needed. The science of expanding this web of unity is preeminent in the timeframe of transforming the social order. A social milieu in which talents are harmonized but collective vision is maintained precedes the systematic study of deficiencies, or enumeration of particular challenges, to be overcome through the work of social intervention through processes or agencies of social and economic development.

Without loyalty towards a common authority that facilitates the data gathering process, and renders an honest and transparent representation of public needs, intervention will continue to succumb to the multifarious forces of selfishness, each of which pulls funding, power, and factions towards their own disparate agendas. After an accurate representation regarding the most important challenges facing communities, and humanity as a whole, begins yielding fruit,  investigation into the social, institutional, and ethical factors that predispose to unjust arrangements, and research into the causes and possible solutions to problems can be initiated — in no small measure due to people who in those localities have embraced the new system and act as human resources to engage the work of change.

Gradually, knowledge regarding such solutions will be expected to replace pure finances as the true currency of social and political wealth. The democratization of knowledge to include its generation, application and diffusion by every member of the social order as well as increasing access and utilization of the products of research by all who could benefit from it, constitutes the bedrock of a future characterized by global and equitable prosperity. To this scheme of interconnected endeavours, the Baha’i community has given the term, ‘coherence’, designating the organic flow between the endeavours that speaks at once of their structure and logical order as much as it does of fluidity and the reinforcing of each effort by the products borne out by each other. A beast whose excrement constitutes its own food, occupies a dynamic that renders it an irrepressible movement.

electricity

Categories
- Consultation - Language Discourse Justice Knowledge Oneness Power

Collective Reflections

This past weekend, nearly forty individuals gathered together for an exploration of participation in discourse. (See post, Discourse: Session at Bosch)  The aim was to connect everyday conversations – those with neighbors, with friends, with co-workers, with family, with parents of children and junior youth – regarding society’s prevalent discourses with the conceptual framework described by the Universal House of Justice, in order to provide a context for continued reflection, action, and learning.

Among other documents, the letter dated 2 March 2013 from the Universal House of Justice was the main study.  Both halfway through study of the message and at the end of the study – which was done in small groups – all participants got together as a large group, and each individual shared one advance in understanding regarding the conceptual framework provided by the Universal House of Justice in that message, one salient point that they wished to share with the large group.  Capacity to articulate insights perceptibly increased from the first round of sharing to the second.

Below are some brief notes of each comment, grouped by concept.  This list can serve both as inspiration for others to connect their experiences with the framework provided by the House of Justice, as well as a source of analysis and reflection.  (Of course, these groups are my own categorization – many comments span multiple concepts).

 

ONENESS

– Oneness requires breaking of all us/them dichotomies, including an “us” that is more conscious of the oneness of humankind and a “them” that is less conscious.

– Relationships are reconceptualized based on the principle of oneness – including our relationship with nature.

– That the rational soul is the identity of a human being is a conviction of the oneness of humankind

– Concepts addressed by the House apply to all.

– All are working to advance one humanity, because all are one – this realization gives hope.

– Hallmark of age of maturity is oneness – this principle reconceptualizes relationships and structures of society.

– The new civilization won’t come through only the efforts of Baha’is, but is a process of organic change that all people contribute to.

– Humanity’s transformation will occur through the efforts of all people.

– The principle of oneness reconceptualizes all human relationships in a sustainable way.

– Peace will not come about through Baha’is alone, but all people – this reality is becoming more apparent.

– Association with others in a spirit of joy and radiance creates unity which actually advances humanity forward.

– The rational soul (our identity) has no gender – an empowering concept to women, as well as men.

– Unity is promoted through associating with joy.

 

THREE PROTAGONISTS

– The vision of the relationships between the three protagonists is completely new; there is no precedents to guide action, only a mode of learning.

– Each of the three protagonists affects the other – how can I, as an individual, strengthen community and institutions?

– The three protagonists are not just for the Plan, but actors on a stage of history that at this point need cooperative relations in order for humanity to mature.

 

HISTORY / FUTURE

– Humanity is on an evolutionary path and is at the threshold of maturity – our communities are similarly at this point.

– Humanity’s transition requires work and effort, and though it is difficult, we try and learn.

– Historical perspective is important to understand humanity’s current state.

– The House is opening and guiding the final frontier for humanity’s evolution – the building of a world civilization.

– Civilization is to the body of humanity as the soul is to the body of an individual, which elevates the building of civilization to the level of sacred.

– The analogy of the soul to the body as civilization to humankind gives a vision of spiritual, as well as material, prosperity.

 

TWO PROCESSES

– Linking together the process of disintegration and integration infuses hope into our outlooks.

– The process of disintegration is not discouraging, but hopeful; it sweeps away barriers and allows for more integration.

– Integration and disintegration go hand it hand – disintegration allows for integration.

– As the forces of disintegration are removing obstacles, integration proceeds; the House of Justice is now sending open letters to Iran, as an example.

 

LEARNING

– Diversity of thought has led to a rich conversation that allows investigation of truth.

– Our mode of operation is a process of learning, and all is on a continuum – there is no need to fear disintegration.

– Culture of learning allows adaptation.

– Decision-making in fact benefits from a diversity of opinions, because consultation is a form of collective investigation of reality.  Diversity is a source of strength.

– The messages of the House of Justice become more accessible through a collective collaboration of diverse minds.

 

JUSTICE

– Consumerism is inherently unjust – it doesn’t allow justice, which is a faculty of the soul that allows one to distinguish truth from falsehood, to be exercised.

 

POWER

– Sources of power that can be harnessed include the power of unity, of truth, of pure deeds, of humble service, which represent a limitless capacity to transform humanity and allow each person to grow spiritually.

– Words associated with power include “release” and “enable”, not “seize”.  How do we help release the power latent in others?

– Reconceptualizing power as having sources based in the human spirit, and the power of unity for example, is an empowering notion, something all can access.

 

TWO FOLD PURPOSE

– The two-fold moral purpose permeates all aspects of life and all three protagonists, including its appellation to the Baha’i community itself (its own development, and its involvement in society at large)

– Through an understanding of this coherent framework for action, how can I choose coherent goals in life, aligned with two-fold moral purpose?

– Two-fold moral purpose requires a coherence of words and deeds.

 

THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE

– The language of the House is accessible to all, and phrases from it can touch hearts.

– The House is inviting us to engage with a deep vision of a just and prosperous world civilization.

– How empowering is language of the House of Justice.

– The House of Justice has been providing us guidance in unfolding layers – their vision is world-embracing.

– The House of Justice itself is a model of effective governance, for it seeks to empower.

– This message demonstrates the power of Baha’u’llah through the vision and compassion of the House of Justice – all are uplifted, even those chastised.

 

DISCOURSE

– Discourse is part of the growth of Baha’i community – people are gems of value, and all can contribute.

– My goal is to have better discourse each day through reflection on conversations.

– The language of the House of Justice affects hearts, and use of its phrases is powerful.

– This letter represents a force of integration, and is empowering to discuss and share.

– The House of Justice’s use of language raises standards of discourse, and it uses language in a way that is beyond dispute.

 

Discourse

Categories
- Empowerment - Religion - Three Protagonists

Advent Youth Conference

“In the young people of the world, then, lies a reservoir of capacity to transform society waiting to be tapped.  And the release of this capacity should be regarded by every institute as a sacred charge.”

“In an age consumed by self-interest, in which even spiritual affiliation is weighed in the scales of reward and personal satisfaction, it is heartening to encounter individuals from their mid-teens to their twenties- -those upon whom the sights of an aggressive materialism are decidedly trained–who are galvanized by the vision of Baha’u’llah and are ready to put the needs of others before their own.”

“We extend an invitation to these gatherings to every youth who recognizes in the methods and instruments of the Plan potent means for movement towards a better society.”

Dates and cities are listed below. To register, please visit:

http://www.youthconf.bahai.us

revolution baha'i youth

 

 

Atlanta / August 9 — 11

For residents of: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi

Register With Others As a Group Register Yourself


Boston / July 19 — 21

For residents of: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont

Register With Others As a Group Register Yourself


Chicago / July 13 — 15

For residents of: Illinois, Indiana, Kansas (except Wichita cluster), Michigan, Missouri, Ohio

Register With Others As a Group Register Yourself


Dallas / August 9 — 11

For residents of: Arkansas, Kansas (Wichita cluster only), Oklahoma, El Paso, Texas, Northern Texas

Register With Others As a Group Register Yourself


Durham / July 18 — 20

For residents of: Bermuda, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee

Register With Others As a Group Register Yourself


Houston / August 23 — 25

For residents of: Louisiana, Southern Texas

Register With Others As a Group Register Yourself


Los Angeles / August 31 — Sept 2

For those residing in CA-SW clusters (plus CA-SE01, CA-SE03, CA-SE04)

Register With Others As a Group Register Yourself


Minneapolis / August 16 — 18

For residents of: Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin

Register With Others As a Group Register Yourself


Oakland / July 26 — 28

For residents of: Northern California

Register With Others As a Group Register Yourself


Phoenix / July 19 — 21

For residents of: Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah

Register With Others As a Group Register Yourself


San Diego / August 9 — 11

For those residing in CA-SE clusters (except CA-SE01, CA-SE04, CA-SE04)

Register With Others As a Group Register Yourself


Seattle / July 26 — 28

For residents of: Idaho, Oregon, Montana, Washington, Wyoming

Register With Others As a Group Register Yourself


Washington D.C. / August 16 — 18

For residents of: District of Columbia, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia

Register With Others As a Group Register Yourself

 

Categories
- Governance - Oppression Justice

Tax Code 101

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The top 10 US tax deductions, credits and exclusions ensure that over $12 trillion in tax revenues will be granted to multinational corporations over the next decade. The tax loopholes have been written into the tax code by a bought-and-paid-for Congress that receives its marching orders from the multinational corporations that dominate campaign-finance. The study below shows that the top 20% of American income earners will receive more than half of the $900 billion in benefits from these tax breaks in 2013 alone. Exactly 70% of the total benefits will  go to the top 1% of income earners – families that earn a combined $450,000 or more.

US fiscal policy could achieve a significant amount of deficit reduction by limiting tax loop-holes to the highest income earners.

Three of the top five biggest tax breaks, a $2 trillion dollar exclusion of net pension contributions and earnings over 10 years, the $1 trillion deduction for mortgage interest, and the $1.1 trillion deduction for state and local taxes also disproportionately benefit the top 20% of income earners.

These tax breaks that disproportionately benefit only the very wealthiest Americans are not only blowing up our deficit, but are providing unnecessary tax relief to those that need it the least, and do no work for the economy.

revolution

Categories
- Prevailing Conceptions Discourse Human Nature

Which brand are you?

“The reality of man is his thought…”

The world is in a state of oppression.  This is not an unknown fact – any media source will recount the various expressions of social disintegration throughout the world.  The riots in Turkey, the tension in Egypt, the plotting of terrorists, the violence, the scandals, the corruption…it all seems indistinguishable at a certain point.  A common characteristic to them all is that each is an instance of external oppression.

What about the United States?  By some accounts, we have less terrorism, less corruption, less rioting.  From a certain perspective, we have freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom from threat.  Some can claim we are a less oppressed nation overall.  Perhaps, however, this belief that we are less oppressed is itself one of the greatest oppressions.

The United States is dominated by a culture of consumerism – today’s inheritor of a materialistic worldview.  This is a different type of oppression, insidious, exacting, and stifling.  The discourse of our nation has been hijacked by the interests of corporations and government; so, while it is true that one has a choice – without threat of violent recourse – of whether to side with this or that political party, or support this or that technical recipe, or opt for this or that legalistic procedure, what is not up for debate is the framework within which the political system operates, the value that inevitably comes with advances in technology and who they serve, the circus of legal advocacy that has masqueraded as search for truth.  In other parts of the world, oppression takes the form of brute violence against the physical body, religious hypocrisy that can be detected with little sight, or obvious suppression of the rights of one group of people by another seemingly more powerful group of people; whereas in the United States, the oppression takes the form of a manipulation of identity.  Instead of being able to think about the systems within which our society operates, we are manipulated – through classroom, pulpit, and newsstand – to regard the human being as a consumer.  A consumer of whatever political topic is most convenient for the upcoming campaign; of whatever knowledge and skills are currently the criteria to assume a coveted post within some corporation to uphold our economic status-quo, of whatever foods and medicines are promising the lure of easy fix, of whatever technology can deliver convenience in exchange for adoption of values, of whatever trend is being deposited in the mind.  The question is never “why?”, but always “which?”.  To me, the most striking point – and the one that makes this type of oppression all the more apparent – is that those segments of the population that seek to distinguish themselves by attempting to identify and fight oppression, in fact only distinguish themselves by adopting different types of patterns of consumption.

An oppression that is external – that is violent and ugly and hurtful – is at least one that can be identified.  Hypocrisy, suppression, corruption, can be known and fought.  It is because this oppression targets the body and external conditions of a human being, not his essential reality.  However, when the sights of oppression are trained at the identify of an individual, then his mind becomes restricted, his thoughts become suppressed, his reality is oppressed.  How can one fight an oppression when one does not even know that one is being oppressed?  When one’s identity has been manipulated to regard as normal what is clearly a distortion?

“What “oppression” is more grievous than that a soul seeking the truth…should know not where to go for it and from whom to seek it?”

“The perpetuation of ignorance is a most grievous form of oppression…”

Categories
- Empowerment - Governance - Human Body - Religion Justice

Abdu’l-Baha on Economic Policy

According to Abdu’l-Baha, wealth inequality, can be attributed to the “extreme greed and rapacity of the manufacturers and industrialists.” He furthermore  identifies  the root cause of income disparity as the defunct operations of the legislative branch of government:

“The principal cause of these difficulties lies in the laws of the present civilization; for they lead to a small number of individuals accumulating incomparable fortunes, beyond their needs, while the greater number remain destitute, stripped and in the greatest misery.”

Abdu’l-Baha introduces concepts into His discourse that rarely find equivalent parallels in the modern discourse on economic policy. Instead of dominant values such as “economic growth”, He emphasizes “justice”; instead of  “profits” He emphasizes “humanity” and “equity”. His appeal to new concepts is grounded in a metaphysics that transcends the modern foundations of economics, which are outdated. The remedy to economic injustice He specifies lies in legislation designed to ensure that private profits go to meet the needs of the impoverished masses:

“…Rules and laws should be established to regulate the excessive fortunes of certain private individuals and meet the needs of millions of the poor masses; thus a certain moderation would be obtained…”

The exact proportion of workers wages as a function of CEO or owner income that is most conducive to justice, Abdu’l-Baha specifies as 20-25%. Therefore the average laborer should earn 20-25% of the total income earned by an owner or CEO. The majority shareholder of a corporation for example could expect to see approximately 4-5 times as much share in the profits as the average worker would. No more.

“Laws and regulations should be established which would permit the workmen to receive from the factory owner their wages and a share in the fourth or the fifth part of the profits…The body of workmen and the manufacturers should share equitably the profits and advantages…”

Today the average CEO “earns” 360 times as much as his average employee.  According to Abdu’l-Baha’s vision, the ratio of reward for investment vs reward for labor is not as distorted in favor of investment as is today’s market. The power balance between the labor and capital markets today is not tenable in the context of justice. Furthermore, honest labor should come with the guarantee of social security and retirement packages for aging populations. According to Abdu’l-Baha,

“The capital and management come from the owner of the factory, and the work and labor, from the body of the workmen… Either the workmen should receive wages which assure them an adequate support and, when they cease work, becoming feeble or helpless, they should have sufficient benefits from the income of the industry; or the wages should be high enough to satisfy the workmen with the amount they receive so that they may themselves be able to put a little aside for days of want and helplessness.”

The accumulation of excessive wealth is itself a burden and carries with it natural and moral dangers for individuals. Extremes of wealth and poverty engender social unrest between classes. Violence and crime become means of survival for the poor as well as weapons of retribution for their suffering against the rich. Wealth in itself is a transient entity that will not endure beyond its utility in this world. Large sums of wealth carry with them the burden of responsibility and administration for its owner. In the words of Abdu’l-Baha:

“If the fortune is disproportionate, the capitalist succumbs under a formidable burden and gets into the greatest difficulties and troubles…[for] the administration of an excessive fortune is very difficult and exhausts man’s natural strength”

Abdu’l-Baha advises people who control vast means of production that they exercise moderation in the acquisition of profits, instead diverting the majority of their funds to the infrastructure of their company, the needs of employees, or the welfare of society:

“It lies in the capitalists’ being moderate in the acquisition of their profits, and in their having a consideration for the welfare of the poor and needy”

For Abdu’l-Baha, the profits of a corporation do not belong to whoever arbitrarily purchased more of their stock. On the contrary, there is a moral right intrinsic to the workers who created the products to ownership of a fixed and definite proportion of the profits:

“Workmen and artisans receive a fixed and established daily wage—and have a share in the general profits of the factory…” “And it is from the income of the factory itself, to which they have a right, that they will derive a share…”

Moderation in the profits of the owner are linked to the retirement security of the laborers as well as the cost of caring for and rearing the worker’s offspring. The social security net of work covers not only the individuals who work but their family and children until they become old enough to be independently financially responsible:

“It would be well, with regard to the common rights of manufacturers, workmen and artisans, that laws be established, giving moderate profits to manufacturers, and to workmen the necessary means of existence and security for the future. Thus when they become feeble and cease working, get old and helpless, or leave behind children under age, they and their children will not be annihilated by excess of poverty.”

Abdu’l-baha advises congress to legislate on matters of workers rights and the share of profits to be apportioned to owners vs laborers in a just and impartial manner. By this statement He rules out the legitimacy of lobbyists or special interests swaying the partiality of the law-makers. It would be important for them to remain “impartial” in this regard and to legislate laws of profit distribution in accordance with principles of justice.

“But the mutual and reasonable rights of both associated parties will be legally fixed and established according to custom by just and impartial laws.”

If owners oppress laborers by refusing to pay them their share of the profits or treating them poorly or providing abusive working conditions, the judicial branch is responsible for passing a ruling in defense of the laborers, and the president and department of justice would be responsible for penalizing the corporation, procuring the profits due to the unpaid workers and establishing measures for the continuation of a just relationship:

“In case one of the two parties should transgress, the court of justice should condemn the transgressor, and the executive branch should enforce the verdict; thus order will be reestablished…”

Abdu’l-Baha clearly situates the relationship between employers and employees within the public sector, endorsing the validity and importance of state-run workers rights regulations:

“The interference of courts of justice and of the government in difficulties pending between manufacturers and workmen is legal, for the reason that current affairs between workmen and manufacturers cannot be compared with ordinary affairs between private persons, which do not concern the public, and with which the government should not occupy itself.

A coherent conception of society underlies Abdu’l-Baha’s vision of the relationship between the private and state sectors and the role of governance and law in ordering and regulating capital and labor markets:

“If one of these suffers an abuse, the detriment affects the mass. Thus the difficulties between workmen and manufacturers become a cause of general detriment.”

The Baha’i principle of unity is the nexus through which all things are connected. Pain of the part necessitates pain of the whole. Prosperity for the whole implies prosperity for each part. Can any body part maintain the position that only some distant body part is in pain, but that it itself is immune to the feeling? Surely not. The body experiences pain and pleasure as one. Likewise, the body politic experiences prosperity or privation as one. Abdu’l-Baha explains:

“In reality…these difficulties between the two parties produce a detriment to the public; for commerce, industry, agriculture and the general affairs of the country are all intimately linked together.”

pies

Categories
- Governance - Oppression Justice

Colonial Coercion vs. Corporate Consumerism: Replacing the Stick with the Carrot

About a century ago, in the free world, the ruling classes became aware they couldn’t control the population by force any longer, the spirit of the age was shifting and violence only bred further civil disobedience. Too much freedom had been won by struggles for democracy around the world, and it had altered the collective consciousness. Rulers in every nation began to realize and strangely grew self-conscious about it. This alienation of colonial rulers from their own means of coercion is discussed in their literature. The rulers never gave up their identity however, they just reformed their appearance. The dominant class recognized they had to shift their tactics to control of attitudes and beliefs instead of just through force and coercion. Baha’u’llah writes: “Wherefore do ye wear the guise of shepherds, when inwardly ye have become wolves, intent upon My flock?”

The dominant class didn’t completely dismantle the apparatus of coercion, they just replaced a substantial portion of its function with another system – advertising. Their aim was to control attitudes and beliefs. This period saw the birth of the public relations industry, in the United States and England. These nominally free countries are where physical coercion was replaced by a major industry to control beliefs and attitudes, to induce consumerism, passivity, apathy, and entertaining distractions.

Passivity is bred by the forces of society today. A desire to be entertained is nurtured from childhood, with increasing efficiency, cultivating generations willing to be led by whoever proves skilful at appealing to superficial emotions. For example, in educational systems students are treated as though they are receptacles designed to receive information, reinforcing a posture towards life accustomed to being told what to do and what to believe.  Regional training institutes around the world are succeeding however in developing a culture which promotes thought, study, and action among diverse collaborators in way that they consider themselves treading a common path of service. Against the dominant culture, the Ruhi system has developed an empowering culture, which constitutes an accomplishment of enormous proportions. Therein lie the dynamics of an irrepressible movement for change.

television

Categories
- Governance - Oppression Justice

Prophecy And Policy

The economic recession is linked to a recession in democracy. If we continue this way, we will be ruined by class warfare and the wrath of global warming. We must seek a different way of living that is based not on maximizing how much we can buy but on maximizing values important to life. True happiness is a transcendent experience, not inherent in material things. Groundswell in grassroots spirituality holds the solution. Countless small actions of unknown people are the foundation for those great moments that ultimately enter the historical record without mention of the people that created them. Change is made in such ways.

Before the 1970’s there was a sense that the US was a socially progressive society, albeit there were setbacks and economic downturns,  but most people seemed to believe in a spirit of progress, change, and development that was inherent to the narrative of US life. The despair that characterizes society now is like a burn-out after a long and hard period of endurance after hopes have been dashed and dreams gone unfulfilled. Injustice no longer has promise of resolution in, for example, the manufacturing industry that is facing similar levels of unemployment now as it was in the great depression: back then there was an assumption that honest labor was still fundamental to productivity and so there was general confidence that the market would eventually recover. Unfortunately, policies being crafted now in the US and western Europe enable off-shoring of jobs to foreign countries that lack organized labor unions. This incentivizes the abuse of workers and makes it possible for corporate exploitation to continue indefinitely by hopping around the globe, trading investment capital with countries that agree to deregulate workers rights. Only unification of the entire globe as one nation with one government and the formation of multinational labor unions will be able to stop the assault on masses of helpless workers by globalized capital markets. Hence, unity is the chief steward of achieving justice. The term coherence encompasses the concept of prosperity that is born of justice whose surest means is increasing levels of unity.

Further death blows to US hopes came with the financialization of the economy since the 1970’s. Work is worship is a concept that encompasses the belief that true work, or labor, when performed in a spirit of service to one’s fellow humans, constitutes worship of God and possesses sacred value. With the transition away from a productive economy, in which people once manufactured things of worth to others, the rise of the financial sector and the conversion of profits based on labor to profits earned by manipulating financial systems the demise of the US economy was guaranteed, along with the spirit of service that once animated it.

Before the 1970’s banks simply stored a family’s savings and used the extra funds in the meantime to offer loans to other families to send children to college or mortgage a home. Now banks have become hegemons of the entire financial system that own 60% of the GDP, conducting millions of wire transactions per day that produce no fruit for humankind or society, and manipulating sophisticated stock exchanges and financial packages for personal profit. Concentration of wealth entails concentration of political power. Tax reduction, corporate personhood, and business deregulation ensued. Banks borrow billions from government credit at no interest and loan it to taxpayers for substantial interest rates and profits. They corrupt governments, lobby congress, and distort legislation to their own ends, in a vicious cycle that further deregulates their behaviour.

Unimaginably costly campaigns for elections have driven government politicians deep into the pockets of the corporate sector, corrupting the very structure and function of democracy. Wealth inequality has become extreme in the US with wealth concentrating mainly in the top tenth of 1% of the population: owners of corporations and health systems, elite bankers and big-oil. Extreme disparity in incomes, wealth, and lifestyles is not good for the economy, and creates social unrest. A healthy middle class fuels the consumers who drive economic stability by purchasing necessities and goods lacking negative externalities. The production of necessities in turn ensures job security for many. The real picture is that the poor increasingly are unable to meet basic survival needs and the wealthy increasingly waste the society’s resources on personal entertainment and extravagant past-times. Average wages for workers have not even kept up with inflation over the past 40 years, yet US GDP has doubled in that time, and corporate profits are at an all time high – built on the backs of those uncompensated laborers. The gap between public policy and public will has never been larger. As Abdu’l-Baha explained, wherever you find great poverty, look close and you will find extreme wealth. One cannot be eliminated without the other.

Figure: “Death’s Embrace” – Workers found in the rubble of a factory in Bangladesh after it collapsed. Signs of building collapse prior to the tragedy were sensed by many. Bankers were evacuated from the 1st floor of the building. Workers were told that if they left they would not receive wages for the day. Over one thousand workers were killed due to deregulation of the business sector and lack of worker’s rights.
Bangladesh factory deaths embrace

Categories
- Governance - Religion - Three Protagonists Discourse

Double Cure: Eliminate Parties and Campaigning

Partisanship is a bane to effective governance. Identifying with a political party exacerbates a bitter partisan divide that threatens the very fiber of social order and governance. Motivations of civil servants should be only the good of all people and the interests of the common weal. Political parties are artificial fabrications designed to impose a priority on public servants entirely alien to the betterment of the nation and the people.

Campaigning is a bane to institutional integrity and effective governance. Campaigning is not necessary for effective elections. People’s character should be known to the community through their deeds and selfless service. Ballots need only allow voters to write in the name of the desired candidate. A plurality of votes would elect the individual most renowned for her brilliant character, virtuous conduct, mature experience, established service, and achievements on behalf of public welfare. Special interests are able to distort representation by donating to campaign funds. The presence of campaigning requires candidates to raise funds to win elections, which structurally enslaves their will to corporate profits.

It is the combination of partisanship and campaigning which makes political candidates dependent on funding because they need to campaign against proponents from opposing parties.  Without political parties there would be no need to campaign against anyone else, and without campaigning  there would be no funding requirement to drive politicians to seek lobbyist’s endorsement. Partisanship and campaigning are institutional arrangements of  American politics that have distorted its true nature and corrupted it effectiveness.

It is the philosophical position of this forum that steps toward the elimination of political parties as well as the banning of the practice of campaigning would increase the integrity of democracy and the efficacy of governance. We recommend steps toward the structural transformation of national, local, and international politics removing the institutional arrangements of parties and the introduction of legal bans on campaigning. Any person or group operating in a way appearing to constitute overt campaigning will be disqualified from the electoral process. Without need to generate funding for costly campaigns, candidates will be free of lobbyists and donations from special interests. Free from partisan affiliations, government representatives will vote on all issues according only to principles of selfless and academically-informed considerations of public welfare.

holy land

Categories
- Education - Empowerment - Equality of Women and Men

Prioritizing Women: Exigencies of Equality in an Age Transcending Patriarchy

The spiritual planetary civilization that is destined to be born out of the current international, humanitarian, and moral chaos will carry with it a shining jewel of accomplishment – the establishment of absolute equality between female and male sexes. Within a majority of rural and urban societies a pervasive institutional and attitudinal bias against women and girls can at present be perceived – biases, the transformation of which, will remain the goal of united development efforts which seek to give a strategic vision to globalization for some time to come.

That men and women are equal must be asserted explicitly and emphatically in all endeavours at the level of principle in order to prevent the overt, as well as to obviate the more subtle, forms of cultural or implicit masculine superiority. Metaphysically speaking, the religious knowledge that the soul lacks both gender and race proves a most formidable ally in the modern quest for social justice against the forces of ignorance and prejudice that have from the dawn of time plagued the fortunes of women and minorities.

According to values that are rewarded in the modern marketplace – intelligence, work ethic, and creativity – women are man’s rival if not his superior, scientifically speaking. Yet during Nazi Germany, science was used to substantiate social claims to rights and privileges that were erroneously founded. Religion, as the other system of knowledge and praxis to which the cause of social justice might appeal, demonstrates only a meagre history of advancing the station of women in ancient times, but recently has become synonymous with regressive doctrines and oppressive ecclesiastical hierarchies. The original spirit of the Christian or Islamic religions cannot be blamed for this eventuality as much as its corrupt and antiquated clerical order can in its pursuit of power.

The teachings of Jesus were largely silent on advancing the societal role of women, while the laws of Muhammad – defending the right to life of female infants – was certainly progressive in the context of Arabian tribal law. Nevertheless, society has evolved, and Biblical or Quranic conceptions of female gender roles no longer satisfy the soul of the modern social justice movement. However, these religious teachings can regain legitimacy in the context of an understanding of progressive revelation – in which religious truth is understood to be relative and not absolute, progressively revealed over successive advents of Manifestations or Prophets, corresponding to and driving the process of spiritual civilization. After arab muslims acknowledged the right to life of female infants why would it still seem necessary now to wear the hijab in an age when civilization is breaking into the daylight of equal rights and equal social responsibilities? Why would a church like Catholicism – formulated in medieval times – project its chauvinistic original culture onto times that lie well beyond the scope of those cultures and customs?  If Muhammad or Jesus were indeed to return, they would proclaim the equality and empowerment of women beyond Quranic and Biblical terms.

Lip service is the motto of modern politics – and in issues of social justice activists are too familiar with the pandering of campaign rhetoric amounting to nothing more than a stepping stone for a politician’s will to power. To prevent ideals of this kind from degenerating into political pandering or academic exercise, coherence between means and ends is needed, a coherence in which women and men both carry out the work of transformation in human endeavours – scientific, political, economic, and cultural – side by side, in serried lines, with equal rights and equal rewards.

Practically, resource allocation and policies specifically aimed at increasing accessibility and quality of education available to women is one initial paramount step. The UN and global consensus has shown encouraging progress on the primacy of education for the girl child in pursuance to this imperative.

Institutional structure is the most exciting element of reform that will come to characterize transformation towards a spiritual civilization. No institution, western or eastern, rural or urban, modern or indigenous, will stand immune to its exigencies. Equality of women and men does not imply the inclusion of women in all the current, often corrupt, activities of men – but rather the upliftment of both gender roles in novel social institutions.

Nation-state formulations of institutional structure force the individual who occupies them, whether man or woman, to exemplify the hyper-masculine characteristics of aggression, combativeness, and power-mongering. In light of spiritual conceptions of gender equity, human nature can be re-envisioned constituting more compassionate, intuitive, cooperative, and mutualistic modes of existence and institutional arrangement. New global structures will emerge as women take the helm in multiple fields of human endeavour, engendering a departure from war and violence, a re-awakening of the spirit of collaboration and empathy, on a scale hitherto unimagined. Without women in control, the world of man is simply lost.

Malala

Categories
- Governance - Oppression - Prevailing Conceptions - Three Protagonists Discourse Justice

Money, Lies, and Spiritual Solutions