Amidst all that the world’s people and their leaders have said following his death, is humanity praising Nelson Mandela to high heaven without listening to a word he said?
It is not necessary to agree with everything that a leader asserts, but can the world acknowledge even the smallest portion of what Mr. Mandela sought to bring to our attention — and to solve? Or are we going to honor the man while ignoring all that he pointed out to us?
One of his greatest struggles was against the economic inequality that produces rampant poverty. Do most people agree with what he had to say on this subject?
“Massive poverty and obscene inequality are such terrible scourges of our times — times in which the world boasts breathtaking advances in science, technology, industry and wealth accumulation — that they have to rank alongside slavery and apartheid as social evils,” the former president of South Africa once (and often) declared.
He did everything in his power, in speech after speech, in interview after interview, to make it clear to all of humanity that, in his exact words: “overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity.” Rather, he said, “it is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life.”
Do we believe that? Does the majority of our species agree?
In eight words that may need to be heard in countries that routinely loudly boast of their liberties — the United States perhaps most notably among them — Mr. Mandela pointedly proclaimed: “While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.”
Does this sound uncannily like the words spoken by another world leader just a few days ago? It was on November 26 that Pope Francis, in his internationally reported message to the world’s Catholics, warned against the “idolatry of money.”
The pontiff openly decried “the inequality that spawns violence,” and sharply criticized “trickle-down economics,” bluntly observing that the theory most often attributed in contemporary times to the late U.S. President Ronald Reagan “expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power.”
“Meanwhile,” Francis quietly added, “the excluded are still waiting.”
Eight days later U.S. President Barack Obama joined the chorus in a what has been described as one of the most important speeches of his presidency, forcefully directing attention to what he termed “a dangerous and growing inequality and lack of upward mobility that has jeopardized middle-class America’s basic bargain — that if you work hard, you have a chance to get ahead.”
Mincing no words, Mr. Obama labeled this endlessly expanding inequality the “defining challenge of our time.”
Is it possible that our planet is “getting a message” from several powerful voices at once — a message that events are making it virtually impossible to any longer ignore?
If, indeed, economic inequality is the challenge of our time, what could possibly be done — what action could be undertaken by humanity as a whole — to meet this challenge head on?
That shall be the central topic of a series of articles appearing in this newspaper in the days and weeks ahead. The time has come for us to stop burying our heads in the sand and start speaking out on this issue; to go to the next level — one step beyond the Occupy Movement that spoke of the “one percent” who they allege hold 95% of the world’s wealth, resources, and power.
What could happen after the Occupy Movement that could produce an outcome it could not? That is the question of the day. Could the Evolution Revolution be the answer?
We might begin by considering the possibility that most of the world is looking at economic inequality in the wrong way. They are looking at it as an economic issue. It is not. It is a spiritual issue. That is clear. And that is why the problem has not heretofore been solved. We are trying to cure an illness with medicine directed at the wrong cause.