Wednesday, May 05, 2010

FYI: Rethinking Prosperity

The Baha'i International Community has a new statement out that offers an alternative vision of prosperity based upon challenging common assumptions about human nature. The Baha'i World News Service has the 411 on this statement. Check it out:

— A new statement challenging the common assumption that human beings are slaves to self-interest and consumerism has been issued by the Baha'i International Community.

A more profound look at human nature would reveal the ability to respond to a higher calling, suggests the document – issued this week for the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development as it began its annual two-week session.

"The culture of consumerism ... has tended to reduce human beings to competitive, insatiable consumers of goods and to objects of manipulation by the market," it says.

In fact, "the human experience is essentially spiritual in nature: it is rooted in the inner reality – or what some call the 'soul' – that we all share in common," it states.

The document, titled "Rethinking Prosperity: Forging Alternatives to a Culture of Consumerism," challenges the view that there is an intractable conflict between what people want – which supposedly is to consume more – and what humanity needs. (Read the whole article here. You can read the statement itself here.)

Hearing about this document reminds me of the fact that the commitment of Baha'is to non-participation in partisan political activity is often misunderstood as a form of passivity or aloofness. This could not be further from the truth. We are very much engaged in efforts to change the world, we just try to do it in a way which is consistent with the values of our faith. What's wrong with that? You can read about another example of what I refer to as "Baha'i activism" here.

"Religion concerns matters of the heart, of the spirit, and of morals. Politics are occupied with the material things of life. Religious teachers should not invade the realm of politics; they should concern themselves with the spiritual education of the people; they should ever give good counsel to men, trying to serve God and human kind; they should endeavour to awaken spiritual aspiration, and strive to enlarge the understanding and knowledge of humanity, to improve morals, and to increase the love for justice. This is in accordance with the Teaching of Bahá'u'lláh." (Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 158)