Can the world admit that Nelson Mandela was right?

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.

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  • Anna

    A resource-based economy provides hope for a world beyond scarcity, poverty, violence, or charity to abundance, true justice, and real peace. A resource-based economy would allow humanity and all creation to enter a great period of advancement, an evolving and creative world rather than the established and fixed one which we live within now. We already possess everything we need to progress human civilization beyond scarcity and into the realm of abundance. We now have the technical competence to produce a sustainable world for all of humanity. But, we must abandon monetary systems which are outdated and unable to address our national or global needs now, yet still in existence because they were created when scarcity was driven by manual vs. machine labor. Worldwide conflicts and private interests to acquire the natural resources of our planet continue because scarcity is still perceived as the only possibility for inhabitants of our world. However, the natural resources of our planet can only be preserved for this generation or future generations if they are understood to be the heritage of all the world’s people. Only our cooperation can save our planet and the best in our humanity.

    A world of abundance, peace, and true progress awaits us if we look beyond scarcity and the fear and dominance it generates in keeping humanity stuck in patterns of existence which are self-destructive to all human beings and all the natural creation of our planet, even those who seem to profit from now from them. Our real treasure and true wealth is in our unity and understanding our oneness, and in seeking the God within, not in only hoping for a God “out there” somewhere. God may be out there, but it is the God within that we desperately need to recognize, right here, right now. The prize is recognizing that our real strength and dignity emerge from our understanding our intrinsic oneness with each other and all the natural life on our amazingly abundant planet. The creator’s hand is present within all peoples regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, culture, or fabricated social class.

    We cannot end poverty and war with competition. Justice will always be eclipsed when competition drives everything including keeping scarcity in place while profits can be assured. We must look beyond everything we have ever known, all former means of government, and reach for abundance and peace. We can only attain a totally new civilization by leaving behind the one that is failing us now. And, it is and will fail all the earth, even those who seem to profit now. We cannot survive or flourish, rise above poverty or conflict, or ever know our true greatness as a humanity without cooperating to produce abundance for all.

    • Brian Bowman

      the technical competence

      Technology is simply utilized to create more hierarchy and inequality.

      “The power of the machine generates increasingly asymmetrical exchanges and distribution of resources and risks between distant populations and ecosystems, and thus an increasingly polarized world order.”

      Alf Hornborg (2001) The Power of the Machine: Global Inequalities of Economy, Technology, and Environment.

      attain a totally new civilization

      William Catton, in his book Overshoot, calls such hopes—and they range from left progressive to right libertarian—a “space age cargo cult.”

      William Catton (1980) Overshoot. University of Illinois Press. pp. 187-195.

  • Anna

    A world of abundance, peace, and true progress awaits us if we look beyond scarcity and the fear and dominance it generates in keeping humanity stuck in patterns of existence which are self-destructive to all human beings and all the natural creation of our planet, even those who seem to profit from now from them.

    • Brian Bowman

      true progress

      Progress is what got us into this mess.

      “Thus with the advent of agriculture and élite became better off, but most people became worse off. Instead of swallowing the progressivist party line that we chose agriculture because it was good for us, we must ask how we got trapped by it despite its pitfalls.”

      ~Jared Diamond (May 1987) The Worst Mistake In The History Of The Human Race. Discover Magazine. pp. 64-66.

  • Anna

    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.”

    Yes, Nelson Mandela was right. We continue to enslave the world: human beings living in dire poverty and starvation due to scarcity and inferiority views; and/ or in exile from their homelands due to manmade warring conflicts; our fellow human beings working in deplorable and cruel conditions for slave or no wages; farm animals enduring meager and also cruel survival without sunlight or the ability to even move, injected w chemicals and hormones that dishonor their God-given creator, even plants and crops manipulated to destroy the God-given capacity of their seeds to self-propogate, or farm crops laced with pesticides and herbicides that damage humans, insects, soils, waters, and the air in order to maintain monetary profits which will fail us all, the rich as well as the poor. True wealth has nothing to do with money or possessions, but with understanding our intrinsic shared spirit with God. The creator’s hand is present in all of creation. It is we are are blind to God among us. We are running after money which can only fail us, and throwing away our true wealth which is life itself, all life, and our unity AND communion with all natural life.

    To be pro-life is inherently much more than advocating against abortion which is only pro-human life, and pro-human individual life. Meanwhile, whole societies are starving to death from scarcity, poverty, and the atrocities of war. Human life is dependent on ALL life, the sacredness of all creation. We are one with the entire natural creation. To be truly pro-life is to protect and defend the dignity and sacredness of all life, all peoples which the creator has blessed into being, regardless of age, gender, race, sexual orientation, culture, or social class. Claiming certain groups of people are more deserving of authority, especially spiritual authority and/or respect is a denial of the spirit of God contained in all human beings who are innately worthy of dignity and honor, and who bring unique gifts particular to their age, gender, race, sexual orientation, culture, and class. Authority stems from our individual wisdom, insight, and love, not from claims of superiority that discount and disrespect the voices of others. We close ourselves off from experiencing wider and more elevated wisdom by silencing the wisdom of others, and all the world is kept back from advancing to higher levels of consciousness by excluding the views of certain groups or classes of humanity. No one group or classification of people has been gifted with all the answers. If this were true, we would be living in a far better world than the dying one we are experiencing now. We keep the world locked in dishonoring views of humanity that cheapens all humanity, and diminishes our sacred view of ourselves and one another, and all of creation.

    It is not just the economically-poor and excluded who still wait for justice and mercy. All of humanity waits while we continue to exclude. Worldwide women wait for their presence to be dignified, acknowledged, honored and their voices to be heard; and those of non-white racial background wait in violent ghettos abandoned by society; and those with the non-appropriate sexual orientation or identity wait for recognition of their decency and dignity, often they are resigned to living in the shadows of society regardless of how loving, wise, or generous they may be; people wait from excluded cultures that we deem are inferior cultures. Even the medically and/or physically or mentally compromised wait, while we hold back medical cures or preventive treatments because too much profit is available in disease, illness and drugs. And, prisoners wait. Many prisoners wait now without charge, trial or justice; and abandoned-by-society prisoners wait in cruel and inhuman solitary confinement for years and even decades. And now most appalling, prisoners even wait while others reap monetary benefits from their incarceration. Now we actively seek to fill prison populations, the more prisoners the better, because there is too much money to be made from imprisonment. All these excluded people wait along with the economically poor and starving, the abandoned and abused, the dismissed and disregarded. And, they all wait heavily with great sorrow and groaning for justice and mercy and for inclusion.

    In addition, all of creation waits for our recognition that we cannot exclude the entire natural world and save ourselves or continued life on our planet earth. The entire humanity, all of creation, and the planet itself wait for us to stop excluding. The sacredness of existence is present throughout the world. We all watch and wait for the recognition that God is already here, quietly always and forever present among us, not in some lofty, nebulous and lonely location “out there.” It is we who ALL wait. Even the included wait while we all continue to witness the human destruction of all life all around us. We all wait for eyes and hearts to turn and finally see and hear us. We all wait together. But, we do not all wait alone. We also wait with God, who is alive and lives among us, for inclusion. We all wait to be seen with the eyes of the divine. We all long together to be seen with the eyes of God. But, God is here and alive and lives among us. We can use our own eyes and ears and see and hear God everywhere, all around us, in all peoples, and all of creation. All we have to do is open our eyes and ears, look and listen. God is here. And God waits with us, and for us all to finally awake to the presence of God in our midst.

    All creation on our planet reveals the intrinsic glory and sacredness of the same loving creator including crops, farm animals, bees, waters, soils, and the precious air which all creation breathes. It will never be enough to claim to be pro-life, but turn a blind eye to the degradation and destruction of whole societies of classes of people living in poverty or scorn because they are deemed inferior, and all natural life forms on our precious planet. For what, what could we ever receive in return for creation itself? Our true wealth IS the entire creation, and our loving communion with it. Life, not just individual human life, is priceless. Human beings are not better than all the rest of creation, and human beings are dependent on the rest of the entire creation. We are only one manifestation of the same loving creator. The sacredness of all life is present in all life: bees, birds, bats, butterflies, amphibians, farm animals, trees, plants, crops, forests, rain, soils, waters, oceans, clouds, the moon and stars, the entire universe. It is we who fail to see the sacred all around us. The sacred exists within creation. If we cannot honor all of creation, we will destroy and ultimately, lose it. All of creation groans and waits.

    A resource-based economy offers an alternative to scarcity. We can choose abundance instead of the fear and rise of dominance and payment/ debt systems which scarcity drives. We can choose to open energy technologies to breakthrough advancements that are not tied to monetary profits, throw out the need for patents for new technologies (especially energy) which have been denied and suppressed for decades or centuries, and save the natural environments of our planet. We can choose to honor all life, and save our world. But, we must let go of all that hinders us: division, competition at the exclusion of cooperation, profits at the price of damaging and losing our natural resources and all of nature and creation, superiority views which create false entitlements and entrench poverty and perpetuate scorn rather than the inherent dignity of others, fabricated social class that creates rich and poor, the privileged and disenfranchised, and believing that God is NOT alive and living within and among us, right here, right now.

    Yes, Nelson Mandela was right, while there is poverty there is no freedom. We can continue our course of dishonor and enslavement to scarcity, poverty, war, and degradation of our planet. Or, we can truly know freedom for the first time in the history of humanity, and live in abundance as a whole and united, sacred and free humanity.

    • Brian Bowman

      True wealth has nothing to do with money or possessions

      True. Yours reminds me of a the second paragraph in the famously titled first chapter, The Original Affluent Society, of a text written by University of Chicago anthropologist Marshall Sahlins:

      “But there is also a Zen road to affluence, which states that human material wants are finite and few, and technical means unchanging but on the whole adequate. Adopting the Zen strategy, a people can enjoy an unparalleled material plenty – with a low standard of living.”

      But any nation that does adopt a smarter, more equitable “simple living” strategy will simply be conquered and absorbed into a stronger peer polity. That is the prisoners dilemma that makes our world now.

      Perhaps that predicament is why one London University economics professor has taken to calling we humans homo Rapiens.*

      * John Gray (2003) Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals, pp. 7, 151, 184.

  • Ginny Bain Allen
    • Brian Bowman

      Biblical source of Marxism?

      • “…not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.” ~ Acts 4:32
      • “…and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.” ~Acts 4:35
      • “…the daily distribution.” ~Acts 6:1
      • “…your liberal distribution…” 2 Corinthians 9:13

      And no, early Christian church communism wasn’t “voluntary.” Ananias and Sapphira.

      (Interested in borrowing Thomas Jefferson’s razor now?)

  • Anna

    Yes, Nelson Mandela was right. “While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.”