Today’s major religions and spiritual disciplines such as Yoga and Zen lack officially expressed political preferences (PROUT, Ananda Marga Yoga’s social-economic component could be the one exception http://www.anandamarga.org/social-philosophy/prout.htm ). Likewise, radical Leftists in the many varieties of communism, socialism, and anarchism lack an equal focus on individual spiritual growth; historically, some have lacked a focus on nonviolence as well. In short, a spiritual politics or a political spirituality is needed that considers the ecology of the planet and the specific needs of every nation of the world.
Two and a half years ago, I retired as an elementary school teacher at the age of 60, in part to study some of things I did not quite master in high school and college. As I now study European, US, and world history, I am just amazed at the countless, stupid wars that have been fought because of greed, aggrandizement, and imperialism. Equally troubling to me is the fact that about half of the world– over 3 billion people–lives on less than $2.50 a day!
At different times in my life I became enamored, and then disillusioned, with evangelical Christianity, Buddhism, and Yoga philosophy. I now doubt if there is a literal Heaven and Hell, Reincarnation, or a Higher Self that is equal to God. However, I do believe there are health benefits to practicing hatha yoga stretches and postures and in doing Insight Meditation, Transcendental Meditation, and other meditation methods that encourage calm, detached, objective, and nonjudgmental self-observation for a few minutes a day.
Academic education, however it is acquired, can create more intellectuals and philosophers in the world. Personally, I think the neighbors who live within the borders of a particular public school should be autonomous in the philosophy and curriculum they create: top-down federal, state, and township superintendent control should be eliminated. But equally important to academic education is the psychological adjustment, social, and spiritual growth of an individual.
During the last 2 ½ years after my retirement, I worked part-time for a nonprofit organization for about 9 months. It disturbed me that about 5 individuals at the top of the organization of about 90 employees made 6-10 times the salaries of the other 95 workers who earned about or less than $10 an hour. The 5 individuals had health benefits; most of the other employees didn’t. (I got information about my employer’s top three executives’ salaries through the website www.guidestar.org .)
Before she quit, I emailed the personnel director and asked her in a non-threatening way if the executive director, financial officer, and director of programs were 6-10 times smarter and more productive than the rest of us. The company also has a board of directors that meets in private: regular employees are not allowed to attend board meetings.
The personnel director, who also was one of the highly paid staff members, forwarded my email, which gave suggestions about how the company could be improved, to the director of programs. The director of programs later cordially thanked me for the suggestions I offered, such as allowing all employees to participate in the important decision-making of the company. But, alas, no semblance of workplace democracy resulted from my efforts. When I suggested to a few fellow employees that we should organize a union, they all were quite fearful that they might lose their jobs. The point I am making is that the organization where I worked was no different from other nonprofit agencies, and non-profit agencies are far more egalitarian than corporations for profit.
Some libertarians and other lovers of capitalism may argue that we have the freedom of working somewhere else if we do not like our current working conditions. But the corporate structure, working conditions, and pay are pretty much the same no matter where the average person applies for a job. The problem is systemic.
Fundamentalist and evangelical Christians believe that after the Fall of Man in the literal Garden of Eden, human nature became naturally selfish and sinful. According to many ancient religions, there had to be blood sacrifices to appease their gods. Similarly, Jesus dying on the cross has been considered the ultimate, complete sacrifice once and for all, so that people’s sins can be forgiven if they take Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
But very little is mentioned about Jesus in the secular writings of the times, and the Epistles of Paul were written before the four gospels; the gospels were written between 30-70 years after the death of Jesus, enough time to embellish the stories heard by hearsay. None of the gospel authors were considered to be actual eyewitnesses of Jesus’ life, as commonly believed, according to liberal theologians.
Comparing archeological findings with the stories of the Bible shows that the Old and New Testament teachings gradually changed as the social and political conditions changed. Today we have over 2,000 different Christian denominations, each believing that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, instead of a collection of man-made books. But if there is an all-loving, all-knowing, and all-powerful God, wouldn’t He make his presence more obvious today, as He allegedly did during Biblical periods?
I laugh when I remember once watching a TV evangelist cuff his hand over his ear and nod his head as he got a direct message from God! It is hard to expect people to be environmental stewards when so many are waiting for the Rapture to take place at any moment.
The study of present and past primitive societies has shown that there was less emphasis on private property and more emphasis on equal sharing. There is thus more egalitarianism–an equality of results, not today’s proverbial “equal opportunity.” In primitive cultures, there is not an entrenched system of hierarchy and dominance, as you find in today’s military, government, schools, business corporations, and church denominations.
If “the love of money is the root of all evil,” as expressed in I Timothy 6:10, then it may be that the entrenchment of all forms of hierarchy, patriarchy, and dominance in society has led to the pervasive ecological destruction and human dominance of the planet. (Examine the Institute of Social Ecology’s website www.social-ecology.org “Left Green Perspectives #38 by Murray Bookchin to learn about the development of hierarchy).
Some historians may argue that for “civilization” to develop, it was necessary to have centralization of power with its concomitant bureaucratic chains of command from the top-down. If that be the case, and I am not sure it had to develop that way, I think we can argue that it is still possible to create a government built and empowered from the bottom-up instead—from the neighborhood block club, to the precinct, to the township, to the county, and finally to a state governing body which could replace the current state senators and representatives in each of the 50 states. Each township, county, and state legislative body could then elect or appoint executive and judicial branch officials as needed.
Representatives at higher levels of legislative government could be removed if any particular lower legislative body, from which the representative at a higher level ascended, decided to remove him or her with a majority vote.
At the national level, there could be proportional representation for a unicameral legislature, with public financing of the 7 largest national political parties, while eliminating the US Senate and the Electoral College altogether. (In other published essays, I have proposed a new US Constitution which could make these changes in one sweep, but that idea has been largely opposed by those on the Right and the Left.)
Internationally, the world could be divided into 500 rectangular districts of equal population to create a unicameral World Congress which could be authorized to make laws and elect executive and judiciary branch officials as needed. Our neo-conservative and neo-liberal foreign policy “experts” are very opposed to the idea of a democratic federal world government.
When CEOs devise ways to move company jobs overseas and pay workers there $.17 an hour instead of $20.00 an hour in the United States, the stockholders are quite pleased by such cleverness and entrepreneurial expertise because it causes the value of their stocks to go up. But is it fair that one person gets $20.00 an hour and another person gets $.17 an hour for the same work?
According to Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, the richest 1% of Americans own 40% of the nation’s wealth. The 1%, and the corporations they represent, can get a lot of politicians (and the mainstream media) to be their advocates. They can even reward politicians and media pundits for arguing that global warming is a hoax and that air, water, and land pollution is not a severe problem. Without public financing of the top 7 national political parties, which could actually be implemented, politicians who need campaign money to get reelected, end up selling their souls to the highest bidder. We have the best democracy money can buy.
When the United States, according to www.PolicyMic.com, http://www.policymic.com/articles/2636/compared-to-the-rest-of-the-world-americans-are-all-the-1 represents 4.5 % of the world’s population, but nearly 30% of the world’s GDP—is that fair? According to the website CommonDreams.org, https://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/04/13-4 more than 53% of your tax payment goes to the military. Should we keep starting wars and paying for them with borrowed money that increases the yearly federal deficit and the long term national debt? According to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, the U.S. spent more on defense in 2011 than did the countries with the next 13 highest defense budgets combined. http://www.pgpf.org/Chart-Archive/0053_defense-comparison.aspx I think the corporations in the military-industrial complex are the biggest welfare recipients; they are padding their pocketbooks while making the world a more dangerous place.
Instead of arguing that every American deserves a decent job, why not argue that every citizen of the world deserves a decent job with adequate wages and benefits. I say, let’s create a system in which no one on the planet makes more than three times what the lowest earning, full time worker makes. The people who refuse to work (and that number is low when jobs are available) should still be guaranteed enough food, shelter, and health insurance to survive. When there is a vast disparity of wealth between the rich and poor within a nation, or between the rich and poor nations–crime, poverty, disease, illiteracy, and ecological destruction inevitably increases, which then requires more police, a stronger military, more prisons, and increased surveillance.
If Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi, or Martin Luther King were in charge of the world, considering its many social, ecological, economic, psychological, and spiritual problems, what would they legislate? Would all the terrorists groups exist, and would so many people hate the United States government and the CIA, if we closed down all of our military bases around the world (over 1000 according to Foreign Policy in Focus http://www.fpif.org/articles/too_many_overseas_bases ) and advocated the simultaneous dismantling of all nuclear weapons in the world? Some of our leaders seem to think that the United States needs to conquer the world in order to create a world safe for American transnational corporations. But even if that could be fully achieved, it could not be sustained, considering the fate of all former empires.
It seems that a lot of interpersonal conflicts between spouses or partners, family members, and co-workers stems from the fact that most people have a lot of pride and big egos to the extent that it is very hard for them to say, “I’m sorry,” when they are wrong. There are effective communication skills available to resolve conflicts, but few people have learned them, and they lack the ego strength to let go of their ego defense mechanisms–such as rationalization, projection, and denial–in the necessary search for the naked truth about themselves, others, and the world.
What if world leaders could honestly examine their national histories and then apologize and ask for forgiveness for all of their nation’s wrongdoings toward other nations, abused groups, and individuals?
When we admit our mistakes or wrongdoings, ask for forgiveness, receive pardon, and achieve reconciliation with a former adversary, a healing at the core of our being takes place, whether or not we believe it is the literal love of God that makes it happen.
If enough people become concerned about gross national happiness and planetary citizenship (instead of gross national product and nationalism) when they talk to their friends, family members, co-workers, and elected officials—then the spiritual and political transformation advocated in this essay can happen nationally and globally. Another subtitle I considered for this essay was “When Nations Stop Acting Like Sociopaths.”
Roger Copple was a general elementary and also a middle and high school special education teacher in Indianapolis. He retired in May 2010, turned 60 in June, and then moved to Sarasota, FL where he is now living. His political essays can be found at his website www.NowSaveTheWorld.com (but you have to type the 3 w’s to visit it).