Are We Responsible for the Sufferings of Humanity? If so, What Can We Do About It?
This vital question has to be asked by all of us, and we should answer it to our conscience and our Creator. The answer lies with our role and responsibility as lowly individuals in the ocean of humanity. No matter how insignificant we feel, we still have a duty to perform for our fellow human beings. This spiritual duty has been given to us the day we were born, but sadly the distractions of the material world made us forget it.
Humanity, confused and devoid of spirituality, is stuck in its ignorance facing a crossroad and has to choose a path forward. The world is hungry for solutions and is searching desperately for them in every outdated and archaic theory and philosophy while we are sitting on a treasure chest of remedies. It is time for us to arm ourselves with these remedies and share them with the high and low of our society and fulfill our duty.
One of the solutions explained in the Baha’i Writings deals with solving our economic problems that have reached a critical level where thousands of our brothers and sisters are dragged into a life of poverty every day.
I have always felt that we are partly guilty by our indifference and inaction to change. My feelings have not changed since I wrote in 2015 the dedication of my book, “The Economics of the Future Begins Today”:
“Dedicated to all the poor and underprivileged people of the world who have been ignored by our economic system. Their suffering is our failure to make a change.”
I was delighted to come across this quote that confirmed my belief:
“There is so much suffering, such a great and desperate need for a true remedy and the Bahá’ís should realize their sacred obligation is to deliver the message to their fellowmen at once, and on as large a scale as possible. If they fail to do so, they are really partly responsible for prolonging the agony of humanity.” -Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 127
Since my field of interest is economics, I concentrate on the sufferings caused by the mismanagement of the world’s economic resources, which has left billions of people in misery, not having enough to eat – and others who have billions and find ridiculous ways of hoarding it or wasting it.
The rest of us, who are neither rich nor poor, can feel powerless about this unjust disparity. We may think we cannot do anything to bring about a change, and must wait for the arrival of a new system. I do not accept this excuse, and believe we can gradually change the economic system by injecting morality and humanity into it, all while participating in our own economic activities. The global, democratically-elected administrative body of the world’s Baha’is, the Universal House of Justice, recently wrote:
Every choice a Baha’i makes — as employee or employer, producer or consumer, borrower or lender, benefactor or beneficiary — leaves a trace, and the moral duty to lead a coherent life demands that one’s economic decisions be in accordance with lofty ideals, that the purity of one’s aims be matched by the purity of one’s actions to fulfil those aims.
My book on spiritual solutions to the world’s economic problems has a chapter called “Practical Economic Suggestions for Everyday Use.” Here are 9 of them:
- Changing our mindset. The first action we call all take is internal – by changing our mindset and recognizing that the Baha’i concept of economics is fundamentally different and is based on spiritual and moral principles. Abdu’l-Baha explained it clearly: “The secrets of the whole economic question are Divine in nature, and are concerned with the world of the heart and spirit.”
- Pay a fair price. If you feel that the price of something is too low, pay more than the asking price. One of the most beautiful things related to economic activities is the commitment of fair-minded people to disregard existing prices and pay more, because they believe their estimate of the price to be just.
- Share profits with employees. The workers need to have a share of the profits. Besides profit-sharing, there are many ways to help. Get medical coverage for employees. Support the emotional and physical well-being of employees. Taking care of workers is a privilege and an opportunity to serve people. Looking for such opportunities is a beautiful act.
- Pay fair wages, not based on what society dictates. We do not need to follow the minimum wage guidelines. Society’s wage guidelines should not prevent us from paying more if we think that is fair.
- Require reasonable interest rates. If you lend money, ask for a reasonable interest rate, not the maximum one. The interest rate has to be fair and reasonable. Banks should not be the only ones setting interest rates.
- Participate in social and economic projects. We can help change the world for the better by getting involved in these kinds of projects – they can represent a valuable way of learning and contributing.
- Create a consciousness of the human family. Your welfare, well-being and happiness ultimately depend on the welfare, prosperity and happiness of every poor, needy, and underprivileged person in the world. The real meaning of the oneness of humankind will come into being when we see others as members of our family. The Universal House of Justice wrote: “The welfare of any segment of humanity is inextricably bound up with the welfare of the whole. Humanity’s collective life suffers when any one group thinks of its own well-being in isolation from that of its neighbours’ or pursues economic gain without regard for how the natural environment, which provides sustenance for all, is affected.“
- Give generously to those working for minimum wage or earning very little. We can find ways to pay more to all those working for a minimum wage, be it in the form of a generous tip or giving more than the asking price to street sellers who earn a pittance from their sales. How can we otherwise reduce the gap between the rich and the poor if we do not make selfless contributions?
- Be considerate to those who rent from you. Be sensitive to the situation of everyone. If they are in trouble, be flexible with their rent payments. Let them miss a payment or part of a payment. Besides the spiritual satisfaction you feel, you also gain a tenant who cares for you and your property and will use it as if it’s theirs. It makes economic sense since you will probably lessen the cost of repairs.
Each of these tips can help us apply Baha’u’llah’s spiritual counsel to prefer his brother above himself. First, though, we all must evolve to the point where we see the oneness of the human family, and see all people as our brothers and sisters.