The Hard Way

One of the least talked-about and therefore least-understood of the basic Baha’i social teachings is the elimination of extremes of wealth and poverty.  A deeper understanding of this teaching shows us that it is inextricably linked to many others.

Here in the US, we are experiencing a level of inequality not seen since before the Great Depression. As Baha’u’llah warned us, this has consequences.

I would like to share with you three articles.

The first can be summarized as: “extremes in wealth and poverty lead to scapegoating, which leads to fascism, which could very well lead to another great war.”

The second could be summarized as “extremes in wealth and poverty lead to scapegoating which leads to violence. ”

This is just one of many articles looking at the research of Wilkinson & Pickett. You can google them for more, including the eye-opening graphic below. (Note the country in the top right.)

Why does income inequality spawn violence?
It isn’t just that people don’t have money, or feel their way of life is threatened. It is that economic injustice eats away at our sense of community; that we are all in this together; that there is a social contract that says that if you work hard and play by the rules, you can get ahead.

When trust and hope are eroded, struggling people no longer feel connected to the community, so they no longer feel empathy for the people they kill.

For Baby Boomers, trust in the social contract was destroyed by the Vietnam War. For those of us living after Reagan’s “Trickle Down” economic revolution, the social contract was destroyed by the widening gap between the rich and everyone else.

Can you see how this is directly related to people’s ability to accept the oneness of humanity, the oneness of religion, the elimination of prejudice and the equality of women and men? As long as people feel that their economic security is under threat (and their dignity along with it) they will look for someone to blame and feel disconnected from their community.

So What Do We Do About It? 
That is, in part, the subject of the third article.  Baha’is love to quote the line about “voluntary sharing,” but the Writings offer some very specific remedies to the rising inequality that Abdu’l-Baha witnessed in his visit to the West. These include profit sharing, worker ownership of industry, progressive taxation (as high as 50%) and a form of welfare.

This link is to the article “The Hard Way,” which is also available as a pamphlet. It is now 10 years old, but just as relevant today as it was right after the economic collapse.

The first part of the article explains why inequality is bad for the economy. Today, intelligent people understand that hoarding of wealth is bad, but 10 years ago people were still spouting the myth that rich people created jobs. The article explains the mechanics of the economy and the limitations of investments.

The second half offers Baha’i solutions, supported by quotations – including some from other religions.

I only have one box of The Hard Way booklet left, so grab some while you can. Also feel free to re-post any of these article to your FaceBook page.  They aren’t all Baha’i, but they are all important.

Want a Broader Perspective?  

True Wealth for Troubled Times is a collection of quotations about the spiritual nature of wealth. It is designed to comfort those in financial distress, inspire those in the middle, and remind those at the top that they have a glorious destiny… if they use their wealth wisely.

It covers over 30 topics, including nobility, trust in God, generosity, prayers, social justice, and Bahá’í teachings that lead to personal and social prosperity.

It includes introductory comments at the beginning of each section, written by your’s truly.

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