After so many years of political inaction, only the massed goodwill of ordinary people can bring about an end to poverty in a world of plenty through enormous and continual protests across all countries. So let’s take the path of least resistance and jointly herald the long-agreed human rights of Article 25—for adequate food, housing, healthcare and social security for all. This is the surest route for impelling our governments to redistribute resources and restructure the global economy, writes Mohammed Sofiane Mesbahi.
‘The time has come when we must
demonstrate in our millions not against
this or that, but on the basis of the
goodwill and compassion that defines
who we truly are. For within each and
every human heart is embedded the love
and wisdom of all humanity.’
* * *
Part I: The failure of governments
Part II: A brief rationale
Part III: The environment question
Part IV: Engaging the heart
Part V: Education for a new earth
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Part I: The failure of governments
'Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate
for the health and well-being of himself and of his family,
including food, clothing, housing and medical care and
necessary social services, and the right to security in the
event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood,
old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances
beyond his control.
'Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care
and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of
wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.'
- Article 25, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
One of the greatest hopes for humanity today lies in realising Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for every man, woman and child across the world. As repeatedly asserted in this series of books, it is imperative that Article 25 is protected by the rule of law within every nation, which is far from the current reality. The youth in particular are encouraged to adopt Article 25 as their protest slogan, goal and vision, since these modest provisions hold the key to resolving so many of our intractable problems. Now is the time for huge, continuous and worldwide demonstrations that uphold the long-agreed rights of Article 25—for adequate food, housing, healthcare and social security for all. By this means only, governments may be impelled to reorder their distorted priorities and finally integrate the principle of sharing into world affairs.
In our highly complex and intellectualised societies, such a simple instruction is liable to be met with a litany of cross-questions and objections. Therefore it is necessary to examine from many angles the potential of Article 25 to light the path towards a just, sustainable and peaceful world based on right human relations. If the solution to humanity’s problems is so simple and yet the problems themselves are so entrenched and complicated, then we clearly have to look at these issues afresh and with a different kind of energy and perception. The human mind has been heavily conditioned and misled through past wrong educational methods, hence to perceive the truth in its simplicity requires us to be inwardly free and detached—or at the least, free from the ‘isms’ and ideologies that continue to suppress our common sense and innate intelligence.
With such an attitude of renewed attention, let us try to investigate the implications of fully realising the universal rights set out in Article 25 as a primary duty of the world’s governments. What will be the effects of ending poverty and ensuring an adequate standard of living for the entire human population, not only socially, economically and politically, but also in terms of humanity’s growth and spiritual evolution? How will the realisation of Article 25 lead to solutions for all the world’s interlocking crises, including environmental degradation and global conflict? And why should people gather in their millions to uphold these fundamental rights, day after day in non-violent protests until governments act on a scale that is commensurate with human need? In short, why should we change our tactics by advocating for Article 25 as a universal strategy for world transformation, knowing that all the answers for saving our planet will mushroom out of this most basic set of demands?
Before we can examine these critical questions, we are first compelled to acknowledge why our governments have failed to guarantee the full realisation of socio-economic rights in every country, leaving literally billions of people without sufficient access to the necessities of life. There is no doubt that governments could ensure that everyone has access to an adequate standard of living, given the vast amount of wealth and surplus resources that are available in the world. It is also true that the human rights encapsulated in Article 25 have already been realised to a considerable degree in many affluent countries during the twentieth century, as best exemplified in the various welfare states of Scandinavian and other high-income countries. Yet such entitlements have hardly ever existed for a majority of the population in poorer countries, while the prior social protection measures are being reneged upon or slowly dismantled in many of the wealthiest nations.
An extensive literature examines the complex reasons for this state of affairs, although the immediate cause is easily summarised. Most countries have a president or prime minister whose mission in office is not to fulfil the basic rights of all people, but rather to sign more contracts for big corporations and give the highest precedence to growing the economy. We can consider these leaders to be ‘politico-accountants’, concerned above all with profit for the nation and commercial opportunities through globalised trade and finance, while they hold on to power at all costs instead of cooperating with other parties to uphold ‘the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family’.
To look at world problems as broadly and candidly as possible, we may therefore observe that one of the greatest obstacles to Article 25 is the negligence of our governments and the harmful practices of ruthlessly profit-driven business activity. Countless civil society reports and books catalogue the indifference of multinational corporations with respect to the human rights of extremely poor or underprivileged citizens, explaining how these global money-making entities have developed expert proficiency in what may be called ‘theft and destruction within the law’. This may entail appropriating the land and other vital resources that belong to the people of a nation, or exploiting workers and depriving them of a living wage, or simply avoiding paying their due share of taxes to public coffers. And in such a world where giant corporations are more powerful than many governments, our political representatives have no time for principled ‘declarations’ when thousands of business contracts are at stake.
To be sure, the true advisor of world leaders today is not Article 25 with its straightforward guidelines, but rather the forces of commercialisation that increasingly dictate every governmental policy in whichever country we may consider. Even if a government or politician attempts to serve the common good of all, it will not be long before corporate lobby groups and financial interests push them in the opposite direction. And in that process of a well-meaning politician trying to change the world, it is more likely that the world will change the politician—through the sheer power of a malefic system that is based on the old ways of profit, privilege and competitive self-interest.
The distorted priorities of our governments are most visible on the international level where foreign policies are fundamentally driven by the aggressive pursuit of hegemonic goals and economic dominance, and least of all by the rights of Article 25. Trade between nations remains ever predicated on the urge of stronger nations to dominate the weaker, as reflected in the divisive geopolitical strategies of major industrialised countries. If we could follow the movement of all the millions of lucrative business contracts around the world, we could perceive the source of all the major tensions and conflicts that continue to define the international picture. One nation wants a piece of cake in Africa; another wants its stake in South America; another vies for its claim on the energy assets in Asia or the Middle East—all the time sowing seeds of distrust among competing governments and fomenting global warfare. Thus the arrogance and duplicity of foreign policy in which powerful nations profess their high-minded values as enshrined in constitutional and international laws, and then proceed to exploit and grab from other countries instead of truly giving, aiding and serving on behalf of the good of all.
Since the inauguration of the United Nations, there is a clear link between the non-realisation of Article 25 and American foreign policy specifically. For it is the domineering and self-seeking ambitions of America that have led to so many wars and so much destruction throughout the world, as ever supported by its subservient allies and followers. The global stratagems and covert manoeuvrings of the Pentagon, the C.I.A. and other U.S. intelligence agencies are effectively a case study in the indirect denial of Article 25 in many impoverished or conflict-ridden nations. World politics is a field of endless research into the incidental creation of poverty by powerful states, often hidden behind supposedly righteous pretexts such as the ‘national interest’ or ‘national security’. Even the phrase ‘foreign policy’ connotes division and injustice in a world of excessive wealth inequalities, and represents the antithesis of right human relations—no matter what is deviously stated in official documentation and policy rhetoric. In such an unequal world that is brazenly governed by the principle of self-interest, not even a single foreign policy is based on right relationship between the peoples of different nations and their elected governments.
We are therefore credulous if we believe politicians when they profess to be concerned with eliminating poverty and securing the human rights of Article 25, when the only way they can remain in power is by facilitating large corporate and influential private interests, both domestically and overseas. It’s actually a hypocrisy if an international conference is convened by heads of state to professedly end the existence of needless human deprivation, while these same governments continue to sign contracts for multinational corporations to appropriate land, extract natural resources and privatise essential public services in foreign countries—often with devastating consequences for the very poorest people and communities. It may be a decent and moral ambition to completely eradicate so-called ‘extreme’ poverty by 2030, but it is not the first time that world leaders have made such vain promises to uplift the poorest of the poor. Despite the best intentions of bureaucrats and policymakers, it will remain impossible that any such aspiration can be achieved within the context of the ‘commercialisation paradigm’, to coin an appropriate term.
There is only one route to end poverty and bring balance to this earth, irrespective of how long humanity has ignored this perennial obligation: to cooperatively organise the global economy in order to share the produce of the world, and redistribute wealth to where it rightfully belongs. Considering the overwhelming scale of severe poverty that persists within our fast-growing human population, there can be no true expression of world goodwill without such a massive redistribution of resources to the most disadvantaged and beleaguered countries.
As each critical year passes by, how many millions of people will have died from preventable poverty-related causes, whether we experience another global financial crisis or not? And what will it take for the world’s richest governments to share their surplus food and other material goods with the millions of impoverished people in dire need of immediate help and sustenance? Such an accomplishment would necessarily involve diverting considerable amounts of additional finances to underfunded humanitarian agencies, and even the use of military personnel and equipment that is always on hand for ‘other’ purposes. It could certainly be achieved with a mere fraction of the money and resources that is always at the disposal of governments, corporations, wealthy individuals and private institutions.
But until the common sense of sharing governs economic relationships, may God help any person who lives in a vast slum with nine children they can’t adequately provide for. And don’t count on any government pledges or development goals to prevent any such family from falling into complete destitution. Hence Article 25 is the big thorn that politicians will find in their sides during any international conference about eradicating global poverty. We can expect more of the same conferences every ten or fifteen years so long as they continue to follow the prevailing paradigm of commercialisation—presuming that humanity can survive in the meantime.
What’s more, if we allow the mindset of charity to pervade our society and culture, it is foolish to believe that our governments will ever tackle the root causes of hunger and poverty. What is charity, in truth, if not the result of the state manipulating the benevolence of its own people, while leaving the least privileged among us to fight just to feed and sustain themselves on this bounteous planet? The very existence of charity is undignifying in a world of material and financial abundance, where everyone could easily be granted the means to guarantee their basic health and wellbeing. Arguably, it is our government’s historical indifference to poor people’s economic insecurity that has given rise to the existence of charity over the course of many centuries. In this sense, charity is borne out of social injustice and not true sharing, solidarity or love.
Despite all of humanity’s progress in science and technology, the only system in place to share global resources is voluntary donations of ‘overseas development assistance.’ But as long recognised by civil society campaigners, such support has always been debased to a significant degree through self-interested political and commercial objectives. We can also observe how the continued existence of ‘humanitarian aid’ is an affront to our commonality as a family of nations, when those surpluses of food and other resources should not have been accumulated by rich countries in the first place, but rightfully shared all along. From a planetary viewpoint, it may make sense to talk of humanitarian aid if people from Mars or Venus were helping us here on Earth; but humanity is one interdependent family that has always been bestowed with the produce and capacity to ensure that everyone’s needs are unconditionally (and permanently) met. Would we describe our actions as humanitarian aid if our own children were dying from hunger, God forbid, and we shared with them a meagre amount of the provisions that we casually enjoy each day? Or would we unreservedly and urgently help them as a humble act of love, caring only for their life and welfare without any thought that we are being charitable?
To look at this question with awareness and compassion reveals how the very term ‘humanitarian aid’ is psychologically meaningless and absurd, and it tells us everything we need to know about how humanity has become so divided and corrupt. How arrogant and degrading to use phraseology such as ‘U.S. Aid’ on freights of basic goods that are transported to destitute people abroad. Observe how wealthy nations first accumulate their surplus produce through unjust economic practices that routinely exploit the labour and natural resources of less developed countries, before redistributing a tiny proportion of these ill-gotten gains to help alleviate the poverty that they also caused. Can we perceive how the mainstream conception of aid is therefore contrary to the real meaning of goodwill and humility—especially when governments have long agreed that the necessities of life should be made accessible for the benefit of all (as indeed spelled out in Article 25)? Like the word charity, such a phrase would never have come into being if our societies were based on common sense and right relationship from the start, for there is no such thing as ‘humanitarian aid’ from within the psychological awareness of love.
We may well have accepted this terminology of aid without contemplating its significance because we are habituated to leaving such issues to politicians, expecting them to do everything for us. But if we can perceive the duplicity of our governments who profess to be concerned with ending poverty while continuing to exploit the poorest people and countries, maybe it’s time for us to stand up and ask them: Where’s the missing part? Where’s the love, the kindness, the morality in allowing people to die of hunger in a world of plenty? Perhaps we should all crowd into those government summits and conclaves about eradicating poverty, and together demand of our political representatives: ‘If you really care about helping the poor then why don’t you share the world’s resources more equally among all nations, instead of making non-binding development goals and merely redistributing insufficient amounts of foreign aid?’
And if we are genuinely concerned about ending the injustice of hunger so that it never happens again, then maybe we should apply the same questions to ourselves: Where’s the missing part? Where’s the caring, the compassion, the concern for defending the basic rights of those who live in a continual state of want and penury? Is it enough to press our politicians to send more aid to poor countries on our behalf, or does the love we have for our fellow human beings compel us to go before the government and say: ‘This shameful situation cannot continue—it’s time to save our starving brothers and sisters with the maximum urgency!’ What kind of education and conditioning has led us to accept this state of affairs, and what’s to stop us demanding from the governments of the world: WHERE’S THE MISSING PART?
As a consequence of our engrained and debasing attitudes towards charity and overseas aid, those charities that are seriously engaged with ameliorating social problems and helping the poor are themselves forced to become politicised. They, too, must oppose the government policies and corporate activity that is further perpetuating the causes of poverty. Otherwise, the more energy that is given to charity by well-meaning groups and citizens, the more governments can continue to pursue their harmful priorities, such as by building up more armaments for war instead of feeding the hungry as if it were a global emergency.
Let’s be clear that we are not criticising the venerable work of charitable organisations, which are largely and thankfully a force for good in our grotesquely unequal social order. Rather, we are trying to holistically observe the absurdity of our governments pledging to end poverty at some later date—through charitable means as opposed to genuine sharing and justice—in a world that has plenty of resources available for everyone. Hopefully in generations to come, we’ll look back at history and perceive the existence of charity in the twenty-first century for what it really is: the inevitable and ultimately unnecessary by-product of political indifference and public complacency.
In our dysfunctional societies with their confused and mentally bankrupt politicians, it is instructive to ponder on the relationship that exists between the meaning of prosperity, economic growth and Article 25. What does it mean to prosper in a world where you have many nations with large numbers of their population living in unbearable poverty, amidst a minority of nations that are relatively wealthy and privileged in their lifestyles?
Imagine there is a town where people are so ‘prosperous’ that they leave surplus foodstuffs rotting in huge storehouses and costly waste products scattered in rubbish dumps, yet a neighbouring town is so poor that they do not even have enough resources to ensure the right of everyone to live free of preventable suffering, as stipulated in Article 25. Does it make any sense for the mayor of the wealthy town to proudly hail their high level of economic growth and prosperity, regardless of the indigence and misery that is lurking over the horizon? If the mayor does not decide to share the town’s resources with its neighbour, sooner or later the neighbouring town will come to them in one way or another—even the stray cats and dogs of the poverty-stricken town will try to eat in the wealthier one by any means necessary. Is this so dissimilar to how countries relate to each other between the northern and southern hemispheres, where affluent nations live with relative indifference to the deprivation experienced by the majority poor overseas?
So let’s be psychologically aware of these misleading, ugly and vulgar terms ‘prosperity’ and ‘economic growth’ that are often repeated by politicians on our television screens. In this unfortunate world where levels of population growth and poverty are rapidly rising, where the environment is being continuously ravaged and despoiled, where climate change is already causing havoc and ruin for millions of poor families, how can prosperity be anything other than precarious and lead to anything but disorder? How can these terms be anything but ugly, vulgar and even stupid in the present-day reality of extreme global inequality? And how can they make any moral sense in a world that allows millions of people to die from needless poverty, and denies many millions of others enough nutritious food to eat, or clean water or adequate shelter, or even the most basic form of healthcare to keep them alive and well?
Our political leaders may well profess that they want every citizen within their nation to thrive and prosper, but how can that prosperity be achieved within one nation alone when the world is infected with a deadly virus—one that is not called Covid-19, but rather the forces of commercialisation? For indeed, the latter is a far worse plague and determinant of inequality in our societies. It not only conditions you to become prosperous at the expense of others, but also influences you to think that you’re better than those less fortunate than yourself until you, too, are part of humanity’s collective arrogance and indifference. What we call ‘the system’ is now so deeply characterised by the selfish pursuit of wealth and success that it is even creating a new wave of thought, which can be crudely précised as hatred of the poor in one’s own country as well as underprivileged peoples further abroad.
The quest for endless economic growth is therefore dangerous in our confused and fragmented societies that are almost entirely overshadowed by the forces of commercialisation. In this context, such growth can only lead to further division, disorder, sorrow and ultimately violence. Underneath all the deceitful propaganda and mind conditioning of modern times, the myopic pursuit of economic growth signifies a growing separation between citizens and the state, and really means ‘let’s enable the rich to grow even richer and create more billionaires in the midst of the poor’. Economic growth in these circumstances is tantamount to private accountancy for large corporations, and its psychological meaning has become as absurd as the concept of charity in a world of plenty.
Hence it is a grave mistake for politicians to keep using this phraseology that connotes ‘commercialisation growth’ and not the growth of a healthy, just or sustainable economy. What is that economic growth for, in a society that is increasingly inequitable and divided? Even in the recent past when many nations didn’t have the same levels of debt as today, there was still widespread poverty and hunger in the rich world as well as the poor. So we should ask our political representatives: Economic growth for what purpose, and for whose benefit? For the sake of a system that has caused immense suffering and chaos, and is now rapidly melting from within?
No politician can talk meaningfully about economic growth while allowing the forces of commercialisation to take over their agenda. A head of state with the most inclusive and honourable intention will still incite danger and eventual disaster by promoting further growth of the present system, regardless of whether their short-sighted purpose is to ‘create more jobs’. Again, we should ask our political representatives: Jobs for what purpose, and for whose benefit? For the purpose of building mega-casinos, private shopping malls, luxury apartments and more armaments factories in the middle of a spiritually, morally and economically broken population? And for the benefit of millionaires who pay their disposable workers the minimum wage according to the law?
If the government of any nation is truly concerned about meeting the needs of all its citizens, perhaps then it can talk with sagacity about economic growth (presuming it speaks through Article 25 as its bible). But if such wisdom were to prevail, the government would immediately have to restructure the economy to ensure that wealth, resources and economic opportunities are fairly shared among the population. And the precondition for ensuring a just distribution of resources is to remove the claws of commercialisation from every aspect of society, and to reorient public expenditures away from armaments and other harmful corporate subsidies. At the same time, no longer can each society continue to degrade the environment through conspicuous and wasteful consumption, if the guiding principle of economic activity is to ensure that everyone has what they need for a dignified life on a habitable planet. For clearly, an economy can only be sustained within a biosphere that is healthy and self-renewing, and no longer strained beyond all limits of endurance.
But even if a more enlightened nation enshrines Article 25 into law and commits itself to a sustainable, fair and balanced distribution of resources among its own population, their contentment and prosperity will be short-lived if they try to remain separated from the problems of other nations. To recall our analogy of the neighbouring prosperous and impoverished towns, it won’t be long until the nation that rightly shares its domestic resources is besieged by the poor from distant places who try to enter into its borders. And so shall the problem continue and worsen, whether or not there are punitive immigration controls and a state security apparatus in the way.
There can be no such thing as a healthy society in our divided and yet economically integrated world, where greed, selfishness and theft are driving forces behind financial and economic activity. If we suppose that only a single country implements Article 25 to its fullest extent, while every other nation that has the means to do so follows the path of unbridled commercialisation, it doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with every country except for the one that collectively pools and shares its wealth. It means there is something wrong with the whole of humanity, because humanity is one in its nature, or one in the eyes of what we might term ‘Life’ or ‘God’. We are one human family within one spiritual evolution, which is not a strictly religious or ‘New Age’ observation but an eternal truth that is being gradually realised within numerous fields of scientific investigation. Every nation of the world is interconnected not just in a material or objective sense through global trade, travel and telecommunications, but also energetically and subjectively in terms of the One Life that we share with every living being on Planet Earth, from the mineral kingdom to the non-physical and highest spiritual realms.
From this revelatory understanding of our existence that can either be realised intuitively or recognised through a study of the Ageless Wisdom teachings, we can see how humanity is like a physical body that has to be cared for as a whole, without neglecting certain limbs or parts while only tending to others. If one side of the human body is functioning well but the other side is neglected and diseased, then the sickness will clearly affect the health and wellbeing of the entire person. Similarly, no single nation can remain separated from other nations however fairly and healthily they try to live—especially not in a world where commercialisation is intensifying with such speed that neither society nor the environment can withstand the strain for much longer.
Such is the paradox of policymaking in this era of planetary crisis and transition. No politician can afford the luxury of doing something good for his country in isolation, when that good has to be achieved in every other country proportionately and simultaneously. Hence no nation can make it alone, but all nations can make it together—through the principles of cooperation and sharing. We have no other exit strategy from the world’s problems and so it must be achieved with urgency whether our governments are ready or not. There cannot be one country out of more than 190 countries in this world that implements Article 25 to its fullest extent, unless we decide to call that one country ‘humanity’ and ignore the rest. For there is only the one Humanity, indivisible from the whole.
What other reason need there be to share the resources of the world, and thus realise the fundamental rights of every man and woman—if not to allow the soul to carry out its life purpose within the unique personality of its reflection? This is the deeper reality of our lives that ever was and forever will be, however much our understanding of world goodwill and right human relations has been corrupted by the melding of our self-centredness, ignorance and confusion over many lifetimes. If humanity is to become united as a reflection of who we are in our true spiritual nature, it is imperative that activists, engaged citizens and our political representatives call for Article 25 to be comprehensively guaranteed in every single country. The time has come when we must raise our voices not only for the good of our own nation, but also for the good of all the people of the world. The fortunate citizens who have their basic needs met already should sympathise with and join the many groups who do not, and thereby herald Article 25 and the principle of sharing as our common cause.
Every person in North America, Western Europe, Australia and other affluent world regions should pause to ask themselves the question: What about the others who don’t have access to the basic resources that I take for granted? These are the words that our politicians should also use about the millions of people living in poverty abroad, as well as within their own country borders: What about the others? Then we will at least be inclined to share the surplus resources of our nation, and demand that our governments work with other nations to meet the enduring goal of freedom from want. That is when a nation becomes an ally to Article 25 and the principle of sharing, until the very idea of an ‘illegal immigrant’ becomes contrary to our understanding of how the world functions, along with any contemporary notion of ‘charitable giving’, ‘humanitarian aid’, ‘foreign policy’ or ‘national interests’.
Part II: A brief rationale
Even love has its logic, and
that very logic is Article 25.
* * *
Our enquiry thus far has summarised the many complex factors that prevent the full and permanent realisation of Article 25 within all countries—from every government’s misguided priorities to the sheer indifference of multinational corporations, the inhumanness of foreign policy objectives, and ingrained attitudes of charity in place of justice. So let us now contemplate the end results of meeting the basic needs of every man, woman and child without exception. It behoves us to reflect carefully upon this matter in order to grasp the many reasons why heralding Article 25 is a viable strategy for world rescue and rehabilitation.
As already emphasised, the necessary money and resources have long been available to guarantee all people’s socio-economic rights, and within a relatively short space of time if every government—working through the United Nations and its relevant agencies—combined their efforts to urgently stop the moral outrage of preventable poverty-related fatalities. But the policies of even the richest countries only minimally reflect the needs of the relative poor within their own borders, and far less do they serve the interests of the most excluded and disregarded poor people in other nations, resulting in a huge avoidable death toll as each day passes.
How extraordinary that world leaders can come together and produce allies to go to war within a matter of weeks, and yet they can never produce enough allies to come to the aid of the world’s hungry and impoverished. The only adequate international response we have seen to alleviate this intolerable situation was expressed in the Brandt Commission Report of 1980, which proposed an emergency programme of economic sharing to end absolute poverty once and for all—but now lies buried and forgotten in the archives of history.
After so many years of political inaction, only the massed goodwill of everyday people can resurrect such a vision through enormous and continual protests within all countries. Perhaps then we will see the right politicians come to the fore who summon the necessary allies and military resources for saving lives on a tremendous scale. Following such an unprecedented outpouring of compassion for the least fortunate among us, perhaps no political leader could remain in office without responding to their constituents' human demands. Perhaps there would be no future role for the politico-accountant who is only interested in keeping their prestigious job, playing at being the influential diplomat with an expensive suit and tie.
Let’s not forget that we are considering the injustice of poverty that is happening across the world in its entirety, the vast extent of which is far from reported by the mainstream media. At least 40,000 people are dying every day as a result of living without the necessities of life—deaths that could be easily prevented if everyone had access to sufficient food, clean water, decent shelter, healthcare and welfare provision. How much longer do we want to witness the recurring spectacle of global conferences on addressing extreme poverty, while nothing is done on an adequate scale to help these tragically neglected people? Is it not true that all the millions of dollars spent on organising these high-level summits could instead have been used to save many lives already? Meanwhile, we—the minority privileged who take the human rights of Article 25 for granted—continue to overconsume and waste the world’s food and other essential commodities. But we do not demand that our governments redistribute our nation’s surplus resources to where they are most critically needed. How many more Brandt Reports do we need to shake our conscience about this ongoing atrocity that apparently warrants so little of our attention?
Now let us try to put aside our doubts and imagine that our governments are seriously compelled by the people’s voice to implement Article 25, and then consider the dramatic implications of achieving this clearly attainable goal. Obviously, it is unviable for everyone to live in dignity with the basics guaranteed unless the economy is structured in a way that means basic goods are more equally distributed, and essential public services are made accessible to all. But such a common-sense understanding is incompatible with the market forces ideology that has come to dominate mainstream political thinking, in which laws and institutions favour private interests and the profit-making potential of large corporations.
What, then, would be the consequences for these established rules and structures if guaranteeing Article 25 became the raison d’être of every government and society? It is beyond doubt that the effect would be socially, economically and politically transformative, especially when we consider what we know about the forces of commercialisation: that Article 25 counts for almost nothing in their wake. For example, no longer could corporations be permitted to wantonly grab land, speculate on food, and hoard or destroy their surplus produce while people are dying of hunger in the world. And no longer could politicians commercialise all aspects of public life, as they would be more concerned with meeting all people’s needs through a systematised sharing of the nation’s resources. After a certain time, many complex laws that protect rent-seeking interests would have to be reversed or significantly reformed, and new ones created that are truly moral and fair, thus enabling the energy of goodwill to flourish in world affairs.
If the primary consideration behind any economic law or policy was to safeguard the human rights of Article 25, then it would soon become apparent that existing global trade agreements are inherently biased and unjust. This can be understood very simply, for if I imagine that I am the president of a poor country that has established Article 25 in domestic laws that inform all government decisions, then those laws would tell me to make sure that every family is well fed and cared for before I look to do anything else. In which case, I cannot allow my poorest farmers and labourers to be exploited by exporting their goods for a cheap price, only for the benefit of wealthy consumers in distant cities and overseas countries—I will have to demand that the trade rules are changed so that the farmers can feed themselves and their own community first. And the multinational corporations who dictate the terms of unfair trade can do nothing to stop me if Article 25 is the law for every country and the guiding light for global policy.
From every angle, the implications are all-encompassing once the undue influences of profit, greed and unbridled market forces are held in check through appropriate state interventions and regulations. The relentless corporate lobbying and push to make money from legitimated theft will inevitably be compromised and progressively weakened. Hence Article 25 is effectively one of the worst enemies that ruthlessly profit-driven enterprises can face. As business activity starts to take a different route through the regulations and economic policies that are associated with the principle of sharing, it will not be long before the endemic corruption that blights every government—in both rich and poor countries to varying degrees—also gradually diminishes over time. What incentive would there be for those who are greedy for power to enter the political domain if national governance truly served the common good, instead of primarily functioning on behalf of global corporations and wealthy individuals?
Try to visualise the effect of governments around the world acting to safeguard the human rights of Article 25 due to the irresistible pressure from enormous street demonstrations in each country. While the poorest people of less developed nations will joyously welcome this awakening of public conscience towards their plight, the first effect of redistributing global resources to help them may be to bring government corruption to its most visible height. So long as this corruption persists and oppressive politicians misuse the aid they receive on behalf of their populations, the public will rise up until the party responsible is removed from office and replaced. And if a dictatorial leadership still holds on to power through violence and state repression, why can’t representatives from the United Nations be sent in to monitor their activities and gather any incriminating evidence? Just as the United Nations sends inspectors to monitor wars or search for nuclear weapons, is it not possible for an empowered United Nations agency to help ensure that any aid donated is used for its intended purposes?
We can further anticipate the effects of implementing Article 25 on those multilateral institutions that have long relinquished their duty to work on behalf of ordinary people and the poor. First and foremost, this would concern the World Bank and International Monetary Fund that are so much maligned for imposing their egregious economic ‘norms’ on the rest of the world. In light of Article 25 becoming the founding basis of a new global economic order, these organisations would either have to be decommissioned or wholly re-imagined to play a vital role in facilitating a process of massive resource redistribution, global governance restructuring and international economic reform. After all, no institutions are kept alive by themselves but only by the people who sustain them. And here we are contemplating the onset of a more enlightened era of human civilisation that is characterised by an equal concern for the welfare of every person, not only the good of privileged affluent people or powerful self-serving nations.
In our divided world of today, the implementation of Article 25 would clearly have an extraordinarily healing effect on international relations and the aggressive foreign policies of dominant powers. For as we observed, a concerted international effort towards meeting the basic needs of all people would be dependent on achieving a rapid de-escalation of military activity, alongside steep cuts in armaments budgets. This is not only essential for the United States, which continues to dwarf the spending of all other countries, but also for those less developed nations with high incidences of poverty that are allocating increasing amounts to defence expenditures—often more than healthcare, education or social welfare.
Furthermore, we previously considered how world politics is broadly based on the opposite principles to economic sharing and genuine international cooperation. The foreign policies of the United States and other G7 countries, in particular, are effectively telling the world that ‘commercialisation is the right way for humanity to live’—leading to the increasing denial of Article 25 in many less developed countries. The unsustainable trajectory of world affairs therefore compels us to envision what implementing this hallowed Article will mean for long-term relations between nation states. From the outset, America will have to stop playing the great imperial hegemon and finally utilise its ample resources to lead the way in eliminating worldwide poverty, rather than continuing in its arrogant pursuit of global power and domination. Russia will have to learn to live in peace as a true commonwealth of federated independent states, and concentrate on evolving with greater regional autonomy instead of pursuing its military capability and coercive international influence. Likewise, China will have to stop building up its naval fleet and war machine as an insurance policy for its growing economic supremacy, and forego its expansionist geopolitics by cooperating with other nations to share the resources of the world.
It may seem exceptionally idealistic to anticipate such a turnaround in economic and political relations among competing governments, but who cares to contemplate an alternative scenario in which the modus operandi of global affairs continues indefinitely into the future? Those ‘foreign policies’ that are purportedly high-minded are gradually leading us towards a third world war in the near future—as a result of mounting extremes of global inequality, if not from intensified rivalry over increasingly scarce resources. Surely the more rational politicians and diplomats realise that the family of nations will soon be left with the ultimate choice: to cooperate and share in remedying these perilous conditions, or to slowly witness humanity’s irreversible downfall.
We can readily prophesise these many positive outcomes of heralding Article 25 across the world, considering how nations will be led to restructure their economies and work with other nations towards this mutual, imperative goal. When governments are duly obligated to ensure that every child and adult is well fed, healthy and materially secure, we may find that many other global problems are automatically solved along the way. This stands to reason, and can be deduced from the internationally coordinated measures that would be necessary, in this modern age of globalisation, to guarantee the economic and social rights of all people.
Each nation would soon be compelled to make an inventory of the surplus resources they have at their disposal, including technology, knowledge, manpower and institutional capacity, as well as food, medicines, manufactured products, and any other basic materials or essential goods. A large-scale transfer of these resources to the poorest countries and regions would need to be rapidly organised through the United Nations and its global network of aid agencies. Or perhaps a new United Nations agency would be set up for the express purpose of overseeing a short-term emergency programme, which may have to continue apace for several years. Even North Korea might join in if the political will for such a programme is beginning to transform its neighbouring countries.
At the onset of this magnanimous endeavour, governments would do well to revisit and revise the recommendations in the Brandt Reports of 1980 and 1983. Although these disregarded policy documents may well be outdated after 40 years, they still contain an inspired outline of what it means to render the implementation of Article 25 as a principal guide to political attitudes and global economic activity. Critics may point out that those proposals were constrained by the orthodox economic assumptions of their time, and hence they remain insufficient to deal with the extent of today’s interlocking crises. But if the Cancun Summit had been taken seriously in 1981, then by now Article 25 could have been well established as an effective set of laws within each nation that governs its society and the behaviour of political, economic and social institutions.
In the event of such a transformation of government purposes across the world, the United Nations will have to be democratically reformed and re-empowered as the highest international authority in order to fulfil its original mandate. Without question, the epochal task of unifying global economic governance under a restructured United Nations system remains an outstanding requirement of the twenty-first century. While each country needs to implement the laws of Article 25 in its own democratic way and according to the most appropriate methods, it will require the Assembly of Nations to oversee those laws as an inviolable code for how all countries conduct their affairs on the global level.
By this means, the United Nations may truly live up to its name as a preeminent global institution that inherently calls upon member states to preserve peace, protect the vulnerable and promote cooperative international relations. If its various agencies are strengthened in order to play a major role in upholding the basic rights of Article 25, then all of the other articles in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights may finally begin to fall into their right place. We may come to perceive Article 25 as the supreme law of human dignity in a figurative sense, and its implementation will mark the beginning of ‘human rights’ as a concept becoming proud of itself once again. Thus the beauty and promise of the United Nation’s founding vision may be recognised anew by every right-minded person, with a reawakened understanding of its indispensable future potential.
However, this will have nothing to do with the Security Council and its unmerited functions and powers, which is a remnant of the old competitive and nationalistic ways of the past that are symbolised by the illusion ‘I am still powerful and always will be’. When it comes to the self-interest of the major industrialised countries, only then do presidents and prime ministers defer to the United Nations and try to manipulate its system to their own ends. But when it comes to the interests of the least advantaged peoples in every country, then it’s as if the United Nation’s obligations on member states no longer exist. The Security Council has no relation to the search for real international peace or security. Rather, it functions like a private club whose members are represented by prominent politico-accountants, all of whom vote for or against its resolutions depending on how big is their prospective slice of the world’s cake. And it is that constant vying for the lion’s share of global resources that characterises the national security games of this outmoded Council, in contradistinction to the original purposes and principles of the United Nations—as stated in the first chapter of its Charter. The Security Council should never have been established to begin with, and should long ago have been dissolved to allow the General Assembly to take its place as a truly democratic global forum (with any rights to veto decisions abolished). In the meantime, the reality of war will continue to be sustained on the supposedly legitimate basis of power politics, national selfishness, and the exploitation of weaker populations in the pursuit of purely commercial or materialistic goals.
The reader may easily expand upon this line of reasoning for themselves. A phenomenal public demand for Article 25 would surely lead to all these beneficial outcomes—global economic restructuring and genuine international cooperation, a significant lessening of the tension and conflict that characterises intergovernmental relations, and the eventual dissolution of the Security Council in line with the true destiny of the United Nations. What need will there be for a Security Council in the longer term if nations are equitably sharing the resources of the world, and thus eliminating the economic roots of terrorism and conflict?
But this is not to suggest that implementing Article 25 will, in itself, represent a systemic alternative to so-called neoliberal globalisation. Nor do we underestimate the formidable obstacles to be overcome in challenging prevailing power structures and undemocratic political regimes. Clearly, a huge amount of international economic reforms are necessary to reverse the stark divisions in wealth and income between all countries. There is an interminable debate on the required means to achieve these ends, but the purpose of our enquiry is to try and reach a common understanding about the people’s strategy for ushering in such transformations. And as we have established, there is no hope of rebalancing the international order in favour of the poorer two-thirds of the global population, without immense and unceasing civic engagement from the more privileged one-third of humanity. In the absence of this crucial protagonist on the global stage, it is unfeasible that any structural blueprint for building a better world can ever come to fruition.
Viewed in this way, the only alternative to the present socioeconomic order is to be found in a united voice of the people of goodwill throughout the world. By implication, therefore, it is the widespread complacency of the average man and woman that gives us the impression that ‘there is no alternative’. If we accept that the principle of sharing must underlie any new economic system for a sustainable future, then Article 25 reflects that principle and calls for it to be implemented into world affairs. In truth, there really is no alternative until an awareness of the urgency of ending extreme human deprivation is felt within every household, and nurtured in the hearts and minds of ordinary people as their most pressing concern.
Such is the quandary for the broad-minded thinkers who envision more equal and sustainable societies, because it can never transpire unless the people of the world embrace that vision and work together for its fulfilment. This alone explains why Article 25 holds within itself the alternative that we are all looking for, and why its simple prescriptions can lead us to that alternative directly, naturally and seemingly miraculously. In due course, we may find that implementing Article 25 is a direct gateway to manifold economic solutions and the surest path to freedom and justice. But its unknown potential will only come alive and be revealed through huge demonstrations in every country that are passionately focused on this single cause—tirelessly and without cessation.
Part III: The environment question
We have to save the environment.
But who is going to save us from ourselves?
* * *
One objection to heralding Article 25 as a worldwide people's movement concerns the question of environmental sustainability, and whether it would mean ignoring the urgency of ecological issues. This is another important matter to reflect upon as humanity now clearly faces two global emergences of unprecedented magnitude: atmospheric pollution and environmental degradation, as well as hunger and increasing levels of poverty, inequality and social exclusion. So how can the implementation of Article 25 pose a solution for all of these interlocking systemic crises?
An answer to this question can be understood logically and through simple deductive reasoning, even if such a conclusion is far from mainstream thinking at the present time. Here is the premise that we should consider for ourselves: that we can never tackle climate change or the environmental crisis without also remedying the injustice of poverty amidst plenty, which is where the solution to our manifold ecological problems initially begins. And this again should be contemplated from many angles, including psychological, moral and spiritual perspectives.
We have now discussed how an enormous groundswell of public support for Article 25 must immediately translate into drastic changes in government spending priorities, such as the reallocation of subsidies from armaments budgets to public service provision and social welfare within each country, alongside unrestricted aid for the less developed nations. Heralding Article 25 intrinsically calls for redistribution of a breadth and scale unlike anything we have seen or known before. Through the collective pooling of a nation’s wealth and resources and its redistribution according to human need, on a global as well as a national basis, it is possible that many other critical problems will also be resolved at the same time.
For example, if Article 25 had been implemented in all world regions many decades ago, then certain extremist and terrorist groups, like Al-Qaeda and ISIS, may never have come into existence. If every family in poor countries had already been given the material basis for trust and security in society, there may be no receptivity among the youth for violent religious ideologies, and no reason for them to fight against any government and overthrow its (no longer wholly corrupted) administration. And if an emergency programme had already been instituted to end hunger and extreme deprivation through massive resource transfers, extensive agrarian reforms and a major restructuring of the global economic architecture, then governments may have realised in practise the unalloyed benefits of international cooperation. And thus they may have long ago embarked on resolving the other looming threats to humanity’s future that only genuine cooperation can accomplish, leading to an eventual abandonment of the drive for war and concerted, unsurpassed efforts to limit carbon emissions and heal the environment.
Indeed, if we had shared the world’s resources and eradicated global poverty, especially hunger, perhaps the environmental problems of today would have been kept to a minimum, and global development patterns would have taken a very different and more sustainable course. In many ways, the sorry fate of the environment was sealed after the Cancun Summit in 1981 when the gathered political leaders failed to agree upon Brandt’s proposals, which historians of the future may discern to be the turning point for all that has followed. If only Mother Earth could talk, she may have said to those assembled heads of state: ‘So you refuse to cooperate, and you don’t want to share my plentiful riches that I give to you freely and in trust? Then don’t blame me for the consequences of your own actions!’
Reagan and Thatcher and their coterie may well have scoffed at the summit’s proceedings, but now they have gone we are all paying testament to the results of their decision to ignore Brandt’s call to action, choosing instead to unleash the forces of commercialisation and follow their divisive path of separation, greed and selfish competition. In the intervening years, successive governments have increasingly allowed market forces to become a rampant influence in every sphere of life. They have together forsaken their responsibilities to govern on behalf of the common good, instead relinquishing their decision-making powers to the vagaries of the global marketplace. And they have effectively turned their backs on the United Nations and its founding vision, instead pursuing their power games through a Security Council that makes a mockery of international law. The inevitable result of these combined factors is a speeding up of environmental catastrophe, to the point we have reached today where two emergencies threaten the future prospects of our race—both extreme inequality and climate change—whereas at the time of the Cancun Summit we could have primarily concentrated on the former.
Even from a self-interested perspective, it would still have made sense to prioritise the elimination of poverty in order to prevent an escalation of environmental problems, assuming our political leaders held a long-term vision of a sustainable and more equal world. For above all, it is well known that poverty is an underlying factor behind the rapid population growth of the past 60 or 70 years. If this trend persists throughout the coming century as predicted, there will obviously be serious repercussions for the environment, not least in terms of the increased consumption of resources in developing countries and consequently rising CO2 emissions. While it is true that the people of rich nations consume the majority of global resources and therefore have the biggest impact on the environment, there is no denying the fact that a continued population explosion could lead to an untenable strain on the resource-base and ecological system of the earth. But there is enough evidence to show that population levels decrease and stabilise when families enjoy an adequate standard of living. There are, in fact, profoundly sad reasons why those who live in extreme poverty often have large families, mainly in the hope that some of their children—if they don’t die early from malnutrition or preventable diseases—will help support their parents in old age. These ingrained cultural attitudes in developing countries can only be changed once every citizen has complete trust and faith that their government will guarantee, at all times, the fulfilment of their basic human needs as summarised in Article 25.
Witnessing the dramatic rise in global population levels that have already taken place during the twentieth century, one might imagine that governments would have wholeheartedly committed themselves to ameliorating the conditions that perpetuate this state of affairs. Thus they would have given the utmost consideration to the fight against poverty, disease and undernourishment, along with all necessary international assistance and support of population programmes. We have now reached a time when the interrelated growth of poverty and the human population has become extremely perilous, not only due to the strain on the global environment, but also due to the time bomb that is contained within this equation in terms of increased social insecurity, mass migration and potentially devastating future conflicts.
Yet far from committing themselves to a sane course of long-term remedial action, our governments have continued to pursue the visionless path of commercialisation. Herein lies the real reason why the world is so overcrowded, as now experienced in the big cities of every developed nation as well as within the developing world. For is poverty the only underlying cause behind these rising trends, or are they also being driven by forces of commercialisation that perversely relish the rapid growth of the world’s population—all in the name of creating more corporate profits and economic growth?
This line of reasoning may help us understand how population levels could have been kept to a sustainable rate if we had shared the world’s resources since the creation of the United Nations, which would have had far-reaching significances for the state of the environment. On one hand, there would no longer be the nightmarish vision of 11 billion people or more living on an overstretched and degraded planet by the end of the twenty-first century. On the other hand, a genuine commitment to economic sharing would pose a direct challenge to destructive and exploitative business practices, for all the reasons we discussed earlier. In the course of alleviating poverty through an international emergency action programme, it is inevitable that multinational corporations would have to function in a more humane, socially benevolent and environmentally conscious manner.
Who can deny that this is for the benefit of all of us, including the corporate executives who are compelled, as part of their fiduciary duty to shareholders, to inadvertently destroy the environment by direct or indirect means? Is it possible that unless we do manage to implement Article 25 with great urgency, there is no other way to prevent these large corporate entities from accelerating their rabidly destructive activities? For the only way for them to continue making excessive profit margins is by further ravaging the natural world, even against their better judgement as they, too, begin to see the dreadful impacts within the planet’s biosphere. It almost appears as if the profit motive abhors the earth and humanity itself. So long as these purblind commercial forces are the reigning influence in global affairs, it is certain that the environment will deteriorate to the point that it is unfit for human habitation. Meanwhile, even modest proposals for sharing the world’s wealth—like universal social protection—will become increasingly idealistic, unattainable and ultimately utopian.
Still many people of goodwill fail to recognise that there can be no solution to the environmental emergency in today’s world without also dealing with the emergency of hunger and poverty. Let us therefore try to recognise why it doesn’t make any sense to fight for the rights of Mother Earth, if we continue to overlook the basic rights of a vast number of impoverished humanity. As we said above, there are two kinds of environment, both natural and human, and each one is interdependent with the other. The forests, oceans, atmosphere and so on are what we normally understand as the sum total of the natural environment, but we should also consider the health of the sum total of the human environment as a causal factor for all that is going wrong in this world.
According to this understanding, the millions of people who are subsisting in severe poverty are the worst possible human environmental disaster, one that has determined the outcome of our wider ecological problems after being ashamedly tolerated for so many years. Therefore the environmentalist has made a critical error of judgement, because if we could turn back the clock to 1950 and restore the health of our human environment by rapidly implementing Article 25, then the health of our planet would be far less precarious today. Wealth and resources would have been more equitably distributed to meet the basic needs of all; purely profit-driven interests would have been necessarily relegated to their appropriate place; population levels in countries of the Global South may have eventually stabilised and started to decrease; and a restructured international economy may have led to more simple, sustainable and egalitarian lifestyles in the highly industrialised nations.
We are certainly not blaming environmentalists for the world’s problems or denigrating their vital work, but together we are trying to understand why most people do not readily perceive the causal link between poverty and environmental issues. Could it be that if poverty exists on this planet on an enormous scale, then environmental problems will surely follow in an almost mysterious way? And is it possible that the prevalent reality of poor families is reflected in the reality of poor climatic conditions? For what has led to this poverty in a world of plenty if not the drive for profit and power based on human greed, indifference and ignorance—the same factors that have led multinational corporations to pillage the earth in the name of economic growth and consumerism?
If we look carefully there is an inseparable connection between the environmental and poverty crises, which might be illustrated as a triangle with ‘climate change’, ‘poverty’ and ‘population growth’ in the respective corners, and ‘commercialisation’ in the middle. In the process of making more profits through unbridled commercialisation, more poverty is created alongside more havoc within the atmosphere. And the more that poverty levels increase, the more the population of the world increases in tandem—leading the forces of commercialisation to grow in power and ever intensify these self-destructive trends.
By this reckoning, then, the drive for commercial profit will continue to destroy our natural environment, so long as people are not unitedly demanding Article 25. While the produce of the world is not shared, while food surpluses are left to rot while millions of people go hungry, and while the human family continues to overlook the suffering of its poorest members, it is inevitable that disequilibrium will be experienced in the planet’s eco-systems and weather patterns. Because you cannot deal with environmental problems without also dealing with the injustice of poverty, the injustice of human exploitation, the injustice of hoarding and not sharing the earth’s produce that belongs to us all. Is it therefore sufficient to bring awareness to the public about the climate and ecological crises, without even mentioning the word ‘hunger’ or the lack of sharing in our world? Or is that the definition of our ignorance, considering that the planet’s health is getting worse and worse the more we try to tackle environmental problems while paying insufficient attention to widespread human deprivation?
On solely moral grounds, it is deplorable to believe we can tackle our environmental problems without also tackling global poverty, for there is no reason why we cannot save the poor at the same time as we act to save our world. We now see many popular mobilisations to stop climate change or halt environmental destruction, but how often do we see coordinated worldwide actions that call for an immediate end to life-threatening conditions of poverty? Yet if we can organise ourselves globally to try and stop an illegal war, or to raise awareness of an ecological catastrophe that most world leaders are seeming to ignore, then we can surely organise international protests that are united in their demand for Article 25—and motivated by an attitude of ‘what about the others?’
Maybe we should sit back and ask ourselves why the climate issue has become so important in our households, while around 15 million people dying from poverty-related causes each year is of no real concern to our everyday lives. Is it more important for us to breathe clean air tomorrow than it is for the desperately poor person to eat a piece of bread today? And is it not true that hunger was a daily reality for millions of people even before Greenpeace was born? We have possibly a decade left to prevent catastrophic climate change, but how many years or even days remain for the destitute child who is slowly dying from malnutrition? These questions are raised in a spirit of protest from this writer, who has never understood the lack of human response and never will. The indignity of poverty has existed for much longer than our modern-day environmental problems, but for some strange reason only the weather has found a voice in worldwide public demonstrations. It is as if the environment has been given a first-class seat in global activism, while the poor do not even have a class to sit in. And the very poorest citizens themselves only rarely speak up about their plight, so conditioned are they—as always—to accept their fate or quietly die in abject poverty.
This altogether leaves us with a disturbing realisation if we suppose that wealthy nations could succeed in restoring their local environment to a balanced state, despite the continuation of disastrous weather patterns across Africa, Asia and other regions with a high incidence of poverty. For would we then think about those others and impel our governments to help them, or would we continue with our insular, indifferent and complacent way of life that is currently the norm? The fact is that environmental issues are mainly about ourselves, our future and our own children’s lives, with far less consideration given for the kind of future that extremely poor children have in distant countries. We are educating our own children to think about the good of the environment, to recycle plastic and tins in a green box, but we have failed to teach them to think about the millions of other children who live without even the privilege of a nutritious meal each day. When for every bottle that a child in an affluent nation recycles at home, possibly two children are at that moment dying from poverty-related causes somewhere else in the world.
Of course, raising awareness about environmental issues is unquestionably crucial and laudable, for the planet is in a state of disrepair and an adequate response from humanity has hardly begun. But perhaps we should again pause for a moment to ask ourselves: do I care more about climate change than the enduring reality of global hunger, simply because I am influenced by other followers of a fashionable cause? Indeed, how many times did I recycle my household waste products in the past week, and how many times did I spare a thought for the literally hundreds of thousands of people who needlessly died as a result of poverty over the same time period? If you had spoken to any one of those fatally impoverished people about the state of the environment before they passed away, you can be sure they would have said in response: ‘I cannot think about the forests or CO2 emissions, I just want some food, clean water, healthcare, decent shelter and a means of income.’
Again, let us not be mistaken, for it is certainly the right thing to educate others about the environmental emergency. But we also have to ask ourselves what kind of education this is in a divided and morally reprehensible world. What kind of better life can we expect when commercialisation is taking over the agenda of every mainstream political party; when collapsing economies are causing hardship and despair for countless families; when international tensions are leading to an epidemic of anxiety and depression; and when thousands of people are dying from poverty each day beneath the radar of public attention? Why do we want the environment to return to health at all, if the world continues along this same iniquitous course? We don’t even have reliable statistics for how many people are hungry or silently suffering from impoverishment, although we have access to an endless stream of data about changing climate patterns that may affect the affluent nations. Perhaps this is no surprise when any public discussions about the environment are considered to be principled and civilised, whereas barely a word is spoken in polite conversation about the tragedy of those who continue to die from poverty in the world’s darkest corners.
Even now, in the midst of so much weather chaos and financial turmoil, it is still possible for nations to combine their efforts in feeding the hungry, healing the sick, caring for the dispossessed and at the same time preventing runaway climate change and repairing the environment. Doing so has always been possible, for as long as the problems have ever existed. The only way that governments can achieve this unparalleled objective today, however, is through the right politicians getting elected into office with the world’s people united behind them—and that is where our deepest problem lies.
When observing world problems from the most holistic perspective, it may be said that the climate crisis is the result of human intelligence going the wrong way due to our collective worshipping of profit, wealth and power. The result is a generalised indifference towards the environmental commons, although everyone plays a part in this dysfunctional reality. To be sure, we have all become caught in the trap of ecological breakdown due to our mutual complicity in its fundamental causes. The trap is that we believe ‘there is little time left to save the planet’, while all along we contribute to the processes that are escalating the destruction of the natural world. Due to our inadequate modes of education and our consequent lack of self-knowledge, we do not know ourselves or the purpose of our lives, hence we are easily influenced by the desire to become ‘happy’ in a blinkered and egocentric manner through our identification with materiality. And the forces of commercialisation are superbly adept at exploiting our ignorance and conformity in order to make money in every direction, as exemplified in the grossest terms by the frenzy of overconsumption at Christmas and other seasonal festivities. Through our psychological need for security and happiness, we are all susceptible to the conditioning of our society that compels us to become a ‘somebody’ who is better than others, or otherwise indoctrinates us to desire an extravagant lifestyle with large houses, luxurious holidays and abundant material possessions.
Can we follow how this translates into a global picture that is characterised by millions of business contracts and profit-seeking activities around the world, in conjunction with foreign policies based on aggressive competition for limited global resources—all of which has an ongoing and devastating impact on the environment? Individuals are educated to aspire to become a successful somebody, leading to self-interested attitudes and a certain indifference to others that is expressed on both national and international levels. And that accumulated self-interest is the pride and joy of multinational corporations, leading to mass patterns of over-consumption and the degradation of the natural environment.
In the final analysis, it is neither governments nor corporations that are the driving factor behind the cutting of rainforests, the strip mining for valuable minerals, the non-stop digging for fossil fuels and so on. Rather, it is the people within each nation that have been educated to desire the high-consumption lifestyle that brings about this necessitated destruction, regardless of its effects on the people of other nations where the destruction occurs. As this author has noted in other writings, the materialistic and self-centred idea of the American Dream has now been exported to almost every country of the world, and it represents a form of social conditioning that is not only synonymous with commercialisation but also with environmental ruination.
Reflecting on how we are collectively destroying the earth may also lead us to realise that a deeper cause of this problem originates in how we live together and interact within society. For we are born into a world where people are lacking in joy, are heavily conditioned and uncreative, are psychologically separated from one another in their relationships—all of which leads to serious disequilibrium within the environment and atmosphere. Hence the prevalent motivation to become rich and successful in the midst of poverty and misery is also a cause of the disturbances that are felt within the elements of nature. This is an esoteric but essential insight if we want to understand why we can never heal the planet’s ecosystems unless we also resolve our social problems in all their dimensions. In other words, it is not just what we do that affects the environment, but also what we think and feel, as there is an intricate relationship between our thoughts and the natural world.
If you go into the room of a depressive or drug addict and it negatively affects you inwardly on an emotional level, then it is surely possible that all the negative thoughts and emotions of people in their masses has a deleterious effect on nature and global climatic conditions. And what is the predominant tenor of the thoughts that humanity is producing right now? What else but the idolatry of profit, power and wealth, mixed with an endemic indifference to the welfare of others. Greed per se represents imbalance, and if we extrapolate all the avarice, selfishness and indifference that is expressed within individuals to an aggregate level, then we can surmise the effect it may have on the life around us, including weather patterns, sea levels, and the behaviour of plants and animals.
So it is not only the worldly activities of multinational corporations that causes ecological destruction, but also the very idea and motive of millions of business executives for profitable deal-making. Similarly, a powerful government that sells armaments to other nations is not only responsible for perpetuating war and death in far-off regions, but also for spreading fear and depression in the consciousness of people throughout the world—which is ultimately reflected in disturbances within the planet’s atmosphere and ecosystems. Even the apartheid walls around the West Bank and Gaza have a tremendously negative effect on the elements of nature, and ramify the psychological depression, anguish and hatred that is raging in our divided world. If there is a divine evolutionary plan for humanity, such a wall represents its polar opposite and should be regarded as one of the ugliest monuments built in the late twentieth century. For man is LIFE and every thought, intention and action is inextricably connected to the whole.
Until humanity embraces this perennial truth of the Ageless Wisdom, we are all in some way to blame for the continuation of both our social and environmental crises. Just as the transnational corporate entity is indifferent to the destruction it perpetrates on nature, we too are collectively indifferent to the millions of people at risk of dying from hunger and other diseases of poverty. If the big corporation effectively abhors nature for the sake of profit, we effectively abhor our neediest brothers for the sake of pursuing our private happiness and comfort. Thus we are all essentially the same in terms of our self-centredness, blindness, arrogance, ignorance and indifference. Yet for so long have we ignored the problem of man-made hunger and poverty, that now poverty is coming back to haunt us through social turmoil and disasters in the environment—because everything that happens on this earth is spiritually interrelated.
Have you noticed how the climate has suddenly deteriorated over recent decades since commercialisation entered our veins, and humanity started consuming resources more fiercely than ever before? Have you noticed how rapidly the streets are becoming more crowded, how homelessness and poverty is getting worse by the day, how we are becoming more and more confused and exhausted from all the suffering, pain, and moral depravity of our world? And have you observed how this dysfunctional system that we mutually sustain has now developed a clever mechanism that reproduces itself, forcing us to remain caught in its divisive processes even if we don’t want to be part of it anymore? Then know the truth that climate change is a reflection of the disorder that can be openly witnessed in our society today, born out of all the sorrow, injustice, greed, inequality, and above all the indifference that is rife on this planet. Reverse all of that and you will have a healthy environment, for as long as you shall live and beyond. For to be indifferent to hunger and poverty is to deny yourself those God-given moments of freedom where you gaze up at a deep blue sky in complete inner silence, where the climate is still dignified with its four seasons, and where the sea in its love never says no to the rivers of the world who want to enter its womb.
In perceiving that the primary causes of the environmental crisis are rooted in our consciousness and our relationships with each other, we may simply conclude that all of humanity’s problems are the result of a lack of vision and love. It is not only governments that are failing to listen to their own people, but it is we who are failing to listen to the voice of our own hearts. And this is the most severe pollution that threatens the future of the world, more so than carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere, for it is a pollution to the attributes of our hearts that also blinds us to common sense and reason. We know that rich elites have always seen the poor as a kind of social pollution that should be dealt with by eradicating the poor themselves, instead of eradicating the conditions that determine their deprivation. But we too ignore the attributes of our hearts as long as we continue to accept a state of affairs in which millions of people die in poverty, altogether needlessly and due to man-made causes in a world of plenty.
Do we have any empathy at all with the psychology of someone who lives for many years in abject poverty? To be so poor that you produce many children without the means to adequately provide for them, knowing that many are likely to die before they have a chance to live, means that you have already been let down by your government, forgotten by your society, and effectively abandoned by humanity itself. There is an acute sense of loss in the mind of such a man or woman, and a dreadful feeling of loneliness that only the desperately poor can experience—a sense of being totally unwanted, inwardly worthless and betrayed by God. That is the malefic effect of man’s indifference to the suffering of the least fortunate among us. For when you are hopelessly disadvantaged, when you are living in misery and utter destitution, it makes you feel as if you are a human being without a soul. You cannot see any purpose in life. You neither like nor hate yourself. And the only emotion that you can experience is that of your heart crying out loud for help that never comes.
Such is the psychological reality that endures for millions of people each day in the poorest villages and city slums of many underdeveloped regions across the world. We may ourselves be kind and charitable, we may be filled with benevolence and virtuous intentions, but if we have never experienced that kind of poverty then we have no idea what it feels like to have no food for the next two weeks, without hope of government welfare or public support. The effect of our collective complacency and indifference is far graver than we might imagine, and we have yet to grasp its real implications within our cultural attitudes and conventional mores. To turn our backs on those people who are needlessly starving and destitute is effectively to deny the inviolability of their soul’s divine purpose, and to deprive them of their God-given right to spiritually evolve—which is the greatest crime among all others that we are all guilty of committing.
Please meditate upon what has just been said and then reflect again upon the content of Article 25 in order to intuit for yourself what should now be done in your discussions, communications and group activities. Every person from whatever background can play a role in this great civilisational endeavour to urgently right the age-old wrong of hunger and poverty, whether it’s through economic, political, social, artistic or even scientific means. What should be most prominent in our thoughts and activism is not only ecological issues as they may affect us at home, but also our awareness of the interconnection between the global environmental and poverty crises. Thus we may come to realise that sharing the world’s resources is the only solution to humanity’s problems on every level.
To go out on the streets and march for governments to tackle climate change is very different from demanding that the world’s poor are fed and protected, because the latter represents the beginning of a transformation in our conscious awareness that results from our compassion for those less fortunate than ourselves. It is to think ‘what about the others?’ through heartfelt and empathic concern, temporarily forgetting about one’s own life and self-interested worries. It is to sense the holistic relatedness of all world problems, from which understanding we should ideally participate in global demonstrations for both social and climate justice simultaneously. Ultimately, it is to know that humanity is One and justice per se cannot be divided, therefore recognising that hunger is injustice itself because it affects the world as a whole, even in terms of weather chaos and a critically ailing planet.
Understanding the interconnectedness of world problems also means that we recognise our responsibility to talk and act as an ambassador for humanity, assuming that we are already equipped with goodwill, common sense and a growing awareness of right human relationship. Only our hearts can truly explain the importance of these insufficient terms, for our misapplied human intelligence has obfuscated the simple meaning of such words for millennia. For example, it is not enough to educate our children in the importance of recycling household materials to protect the environment, if we do not also educate them in the importance of recycling human life through global economic sharing and international cooperation. Otherwise we are limiting their conscious awareness to that recycling container, which has little to do with saving our planet unless we also teach them how our environmental problems first came about—as if that container was a Pandora’s Box that links to every other global issue. This also means that parents have to educate themselves in what commercialisation is doing to the environment and what their government is doing to the world, so that they can lead by example in guiding their children to become an ambassador for humanity like themselves.
Therefore at the centre of our school education programmes of today should be an understanding of the need to secure every person’s basic needs in every country, which doesn't only refer to the long-established entitlements to food, healthcare, shelter and social security. Let’s not restrict our understanding to the few sentences that define Article 25 and read between the lines. For if we use our intuition, upholding these universal rights in endless protests also implies a new awareness of our moral responsibility and vision for One World. What is happening through global demonstrations on the environment is, in fact, symbolic of the emerging recognition that humanity is One, and it represents the beginning of world consciousness and the coming rejection of our long divided past. In this respect, climate change is a great spiritual teacher who is trying to unite the people of the world for a shared planetary cause, so that we may finally come to realise the significance of our immanent oneness and interdependency. But the fact that there are no worldwide demonstrations to end hunger and absolute poverty also means that we are still moving in the wrong direction. Until this day, it appears we have yet to realise how sharing the world’s resources is the only pathway for reversing environmental destruction, for commencing a simpler way of life, and for establishing a sustainable economy based on the common good of all.
Part IV: Engaging the heart
The notion of world change is for
the eyes and intellect only, but
world transformation is soul
alchemy where the heart
unleashes its wisdom.
We are not going to change
anything; we are about to
* * *
We have now explored some key reasons why Article 25 is of the utmost importance to the crucial years ahead, and why the responsibility for world transformation rests with a united voice of ordinary engaged citizens. Considering how grave is the extent of the inequality, environmental and security crises that face us today, it would be naïve or foolish to believe that our governments will suddenly awaken to reality and begin to steer the world onto a more stable course. Billions of dollars continue to be poured into senseless wars and destructive geopolitical stratagems in spite of unpayable national debts and economic chaos. Meanwhile, the policies of most heads of state are further commercialising all that remains of the public’s commonly shared wealth.
Even following a global financial crisis that required public bail-outs of those private banking institutions that had brought the world economy to its knees, still the lesson of international solidarity has not been learnt. Each nation has again turned its back on the rest and shown a lack of real concern for the earth’s suffering, instead of finally helping one another and working together in a genuine spirit of economic sharing. We may draw an analogy from what the Israeli government is doing to the Palestinian people, and compare the oppression of their neighbours with the subjugation that is inflicted on the world as a whole by powerful countries through their brutal foreign policies, along with multinational corporations and their profit-driven tyranny. What will wake them up to the suffering they are inflicting on vulnerable peoples and less developed nations, and when will they learn the simple lesson to treat their poorer brethren with decency, kindness and affection?
Alas, we are deluded if we believe that vested interests will suddenly stop thieving and exploiting others within the law, just as we are credulous if we believe that the Israeli government will end its aggression that continues under the cover of that duplicitous phrase, ‘the peace process’. There are only two hopes for ending this enduring impasse in world affairs: either a wishful and passive plea for divine intervention, or a concerted awakening of the masses who stand together in their millions to say: NO MORE AND NEVER AGAIN!
Notwithstanding the former possibility, there are certain preconditions to be met if a united people’s voice is ever to reach the strength and stature that is needed to influence government decisions and reorient the disastrous current world direction. First of all, it is necessary to repeat that there must be a constant presence of millions of people in the streets worldwide who resoundingly espouse the human rights of Article 25, and whose presence must continue unceasingly throughout the day and night ad infinitum. To be sure, if something is seriously wrong with your physical body, you don’t go into hospital for just one day, but for a very long period of time until the process of healing has completed its natural course. Correspondingly, the body of humanity is in such a critical condition that the only cure is for countless people of goodwill to gather in the streets, and to peacefully protest for a turnaround in governmental priorities as if the future of the world depends on it—which in a literal sense it does. When that moment arrives and similar demands are embraced in every country and across different continents, then perhaps we can seriously envision millions of people in each capital city congregated in unison, day after day and week after week in ever renewing numbers.
We must admire, in this respect, the various Occupy protesters who might still be camping in central squares had the police not forcefully evicted them. Due to the small number of those stalwart activists compared to the national population, it was relatively easy for the authorities to stamp out their hopes and aspirations, rendering them into a lonely group of frustrated people who valiantly tried to do the job of all their fellow citizens. But what will the government do if a significant majority of the nation joins unremitting protests that are predicated on Article 25, repeatedly amassing and replenishing themselves in such multitudes that the police will be incapable of repressing or containing them?
There’s no question that establishment politicians, police departments and wealthy global elites are carefully watching the new protest movements each time they manifest, and they continue to reassure themselves by thinking: ‘They’ll surely calm down and go home eventually like they did last time, and then it will be back to business-as-usual’. So we have to reach the stage when people from every walk of life join in with this resurgence of nonviolent protest, including families who have never protested before as well as schoolchildren and public sector workers. At that point, even the police may turn towards the government and say: ‘We are not with you, we are with the people!’
We should now be clear on what we need to demand from our respective governments, which is much more than raising the minimum wage at home or giving increased aid to developing countries. The continued fight for a paltry ‘minimum’ wage reflects a long and dark history of human exploitation, corporate theft and public indifference, and it has no real relationship to Article 25 in its definitive expression. How can we move in our societies today amidst all the wealth that is unequally distributed, and yet only demand the barest minimal standard of living for the struggling poor majority?
If we are able to read between the lines as suggested, then Article 25 really means the end of the old ways based on selfishness, greed and theft, and the beginning of common sense and a new way of life based on goodwill, sharing, justice and therefore right human relations. It means that no elected leader can remain in office without following the public’s determination to end all forms of poverty both nationally and globally—not on the basis of an ideology but on terms of basic dignity and morality.
As we have reasoned, once the human rights of Article 25 are firmly guaranteed by all governments, it will represent an antidote to the increasing stranglehold of commercialisation; to the wanton plundering and destruction of multinational corporations; and to the insanity of foreign policies that are predicated on aggression and power politics. If only we could personify those materialistic forces of commercialisation, then we might picture them scratching their heads in the midst of millions of people calling for Article 25 throughout the world, and quietly whispering to each other: ‘We’re really in trouble this time’.
Thus to herald Article 25 as a people’s cause is the path of least resistance, and it may quickly lead to many positive results and a new social settlement that we cannot currently anticipate. Within its simple requirements for every human being are embedded all the demands of progressive activists down the ages, even in terms of environmental justice as we discussed in the foregoing chapter.
Many young activists today are complicating matters with their manifestos for political and economic transformation. It’s almost as if they are imitating what we call ‘the system’ and trying to engage with its labyrinthine processes, instead of diminishing its power by gathering with millions of other people in permanent protests across the world. Let’s not forget that the system is extremely old and malefic in its divisive complexity, as it has always been since before you or I were born. Hence to try and negotiate with the system’s representatives on their own terms is futile and never-ending. Just as the well-intentioned politician who tries to reform a government from within is, himself, liable to be ‘reformed from within’, so may the lonely activist who tries to change the system eventually find that the system has changed them.
So let’s take the path of least resistance and jointly herald Article 25, knowing that this is the surest route for impelling governments to redistribute resources and restructure the global economy. Such a demand can be expressed in our own creative ways, safe in the knowledge that it holds within itself all the answers we are trying to find. Then we may realise that many existing demands of global activists are already embodied within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including in wealthy countries where the call for sharing is now being expressed in an incipient form. Observe, in this regard, the diverse movements for such issues as accessible social housing; the public control of utilities and transportation; the free provision of healthcare and higher education; or for a more equal and redistributive society through fair taxation. There is no doubt that the principle of sharing must be institutionalised within each nation along these preliminary lines, and it is natural that people are engrossed with the furtherance of these issues in their own societies. But we also have to be aware that our problems are essentially the same as those of other nations, for it is that awareness which will bring us together and make us into an implacable international force.
This new global awareness is, in fact, the essence of a people’s strategy for heralding Article 25, because it should not be demonstrated for in one country alone but always in many different countries at the same time. We have finally reached a point when planetary group work is necessary to resolve humanity’s problems, which are evidently international in scope and can no longer be tackled on a strictly national or unilateral basis. Our first responsibility is therefore to read between the lines as to the meaning of Article 25, and then out of that awareness to mobilise across our own countries with the express intention of calling upon other nations to follow suit.
Remaining cognisant of the fact that our overall objective is for Article 25 to be instituted as a set of laws within each country, it means that we want to empower the United Nations to ensure that all governments of the world uphold those laws, in whatever way such statutes are enshrined. We noted how the present situation is clearly the reverse in the great majority of states, where governments continue to pursue those harmful policies that unravel social protection guarantees and compromise the fulfilment of many people’s essential needs. But if Article 25 was properly established in an enforceable system of law, then perhaps the police would have to arrest the politicians instead of curtailing the peaceful protests of everyday people—most of whom are fighting to defend their basic human rights that should always have been protected by the United Nations.
In line with this understanding, the correct strategy for world transformation is not to call upon our national governments alone, who as we know are generally failing to safeguard the common welfare of all citizens. At the same time, we must also call upon the United Nations to truly represent the people of the world, which is a call that must be voiced on an intercontinental scale if it is to be lastingly effective. After all, when a government is oppressed by another country it has the opportunity to bring its case before the International Court of Justice. But where does such representation exist for the world’s poorest families and individuals? Unsurprisingly, there is nowhere they can go to seek recourse for the injustice of their poverty, even when governments are bailing out wealthy banking institutions following an international collapse of the global economy.
So we need a United Nations that represents the hearts and minds of the world’s people, and that serves to uphold the critical needs of the unheard and dying poor. Even if we ourselves have always had access to an adequate standard of living, who are we going to complain to when our governments are attacking the public institutions and social services that we hold most dear? We may passionately disagree with the free trade agreements and privatisations that are further commercialising every aspect of our lives, for example; but how are we going to create a more equal society when our governments are working on behalf of corporations, instead of upholding our fundamental rights and freedoms?
This is another reason why we need to work with an article that belongs to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, because these commonly-agreed standards of achievement are never going to be realised unless the world’s people continually advocate for them. Perhaps then a country leader may finally begin to listen to their constituents and act faithfully in accordance. Although that is very unlikely to be one of the leaders of most existing government administrations, so we should regard the United Nations as the true president of all humanity and our paramount hope for bailing out the world’s poor. When there is conflict within a particular world region and no immediate solutions are to be found, the United Nation’s blue helmets go in as a peacekeeping force that supposedly represents the manifest will of the community of nations (however impotent their presence may remain). Now imagine that the United Nations begins to represent the manifest will of all the world’s citizens, and is thereby empowered through a global outpouring of public support to act upon the people’s mandate for implementing Article 25. Most assuredly, it won’t take long before the United Nations sends its emissaries to every other government headquarters to say: ‘We have waited long enough—it’s time to feed and protect the world’s starving and impoverished people!’
The youth may soon realise that heeding this course of action will make an amazing amount of noise around the world, leading to extraordinary results that take place within a social atmosphere that we have never seen or experienced before. What we want, most of all, is to give a new lease of life to the United Nations and its foundational purposes. And if millions of people are protesting non-stop every day and night, month after month and even year after year for Article 25, then we may eventually witness a considerable empowerment of the General Assembly and a gradual weakening of the Security Council. As reasoned previously, a reformed and fully democratic United Nations system has a major role to play in overseeing the management of a restructured global economy. However, its intended function in this regard—as spelled out in Article 55 of its Charter—cannot be fulfilled until it is freed from the constraints of the Security Council veto; freed from the influence of the corporate-dominated Bretton Woods institutions; and freed from its funding limitations through far greater and more reliable sources of revenue. The United Nations does not belong to political or corporate interests in America, China, France, Russia or the United Kingdom—it belongs to us all, which is the envisioned purpose of its existence in promoting ‘the economic and social advancement of all peoples’.
In this light, the youth of America should ask themselves why they were protesting outside Wall Street and proclaiming the rights of ‘the 99%’, instead of gathering around the United Nations headquarters and heralding Article 25. Declaring ‘We are the 99%’ leads to nowhere at the end of the day, but if we call for Article 25 then the poor will eventually hear us and join in—and that is where the solution lies! Imagine if you speak about Occupy Wall Street to the very poorest people in remote areas of Africa, Asia or South America; how do you think they will respond to your nationwide concerns? Explain to them how the global economy functions, and they will probably not know what you mean. Explain to them the meaning of credit default swaps or quantitative easing, and they probably won’t understand a word. There are many people in deprived villages and shantytowns who have never even heard of the word ‘capitalism’. But if you read to them the contents of Article 25 then you can be sure their eyes would light up and they would understand right away, because then you are talking about their lives as well as your own.
These issues of inequality and injustice have always belonged to the poor, before they were appropriated and overcomplicated by intellectuals. The complex problems of the world are the problems of the poor too, so are we going to talk on their behalf or are we going to invite them to speak for themselves? The most underprivileged citizens are used to living with their mouths shut no matter how difficult and undeserved their circumstances. But when they hear the call for change as expressed through millions of people decrying the senselessness of their poverty, then they will see a new reality in their minds as if they knew it already—for Article 25 should have been implemented a long time ago as far as they are concerned.
To understand this for ourselves we have to look at the reality of poverty inwardly and psychologically, not intellectually or through the eyes of complacency. This means we must ‘be with’ the poor both spiritually and emotionally in order to perceive how Article 25 represents an alternative socioeconomic paradigm within itself. When millions of people of goodwill demand an end to poverty by engaging their hearts in this way, then that alternative will come alive and speak for the first time. Subsequent political and economic reforms will ensue at such a fast pace that many negative global trends will start to reverse, including that of the rich getting ever richer due to their increasing concentration of wealth and power. That will at least allow humanity some time to breathe, as it were, when nations begin to cooperate in redistributing essential resources to the poorest regions of the world.
Humanity has long been asking for Article 25 to be implemented worldwide in different ways, such as through the activities of non-governmental organisations like the Red Cross or Oxfam. But these piecemeal and charitable efforts will never be sufficient unless the masses of the world stand firmly behind them, thus obliging governments to fully utilise their ample resources and decisively play their allotted role. So let the poor join in! Let other nations join in! Let common sense join in! Are we not tired of protesting in vain and participating in demonstrations where only a few thousand people are engaged with a just cause? Then let’s together herald Article 25 and see what happens. Because if you are persistently standing in the streets for an end to the poverty-induced suffering of others, then millions more people are likely to join in regardless of their nationality or where they live in the world. Maybe even the tourists in capital cities will throw away their guidebooks and stand beside you, especially if the time has finally come. Poverty is poverty wherever it exists in the world, and injustice is injustice whatever your social status or country of birth.
To hail ‘the 99%’ in rich nations alone is therefore the wrong language and the wrong strategy, for it may imply that injustice has been Westernised and doesn’t belong to the rest of humanity. A majority of the very poorest people have still never heard of those Occupy protests that swept across many countries in 2011 and 2012. And even if they did sympathise with those various national causes, it wasn’t their place to get involved. But to protest for an end to poverty is a worldwide calling in which everyone has a role, so let’s appeal to the poor by heralding Article 25 and thereby build a colossal army. Let’s not only talk about the need for social justice in our own country alone, but also communicate among ourselves internationally about the urgency of ensuring that everyone has their basic needs met immediately—which, as we know, can definitely be accomplished for there are more than enough resources to be shared.
There are many ways to creatively illustrate this simple fact in our campaigning endeavours. For example, we could research common-sense statistics that reveal how much food is in surplus or unnecessarily wasted within each country. Or we could demonstrate how rapidly governments and civil society might deliver the essentials of life to each person unconditionally, by means of new global economic arrangements that pool and redistribute surplus resources without being hindered by the profit imperative. Through such innovative thinking and countless direct actions, we could therefore call upon our governments to respect and listen to ‘we the people of the United Nations.’ Eventually, a central proposal contained within the Brandt Report would then return to the negotiating table: for an emergency programme to abolish hunger and malnutrition through the elimination of absolute poverty as a priority above all other priorities.
As we contemplate the reasoning above, let us also be aware that it’s impossible to transform the world by continually fighting against ‘capitalism’ or ‘the system’. The term ‘capitalism’ itself is misleading and divisive, and there is, in reality, no such entity called ‘the system’ that we can actively oppose. There are only people in the world who hide behind ideas or abuse principles for their own devious intentions. Capitalism is just an idea, a principle, which has been hijacked over several centuries by wealthy and political elites who manipulate laws and policies to serve their self-interest, often in the name of a ‘democracy’ or ‘freedom’ that they do not understand and which has nothing to do with them.
So let’s not be fooled when others point at capitalism and blame the system for the world’s problems, for the principle of capitalism is in no way synonymous with injustice, inequality or the super-rich. What we call the system does not exist apart from the human intentions that have created and sustained it, the mainstay of which are characterised by ambition, greed, selfishness and even cruelty. Hence the system in its totality is largely unfair, selfish, indifferent and often cruel. When we look at the financial turmoil and injustice in the world, it isn’t capitalism we see but the consequences of certain individuals’ motivations who are ignorant about the spiritual purpose of life and lacking in common sense, even lacking in love for themselves. We see too many people who are chasing money, power and position, and too few who are truly concerned with serving humanity and safeguarding the welfare of others.
This is not to imply that this writer is defending capitalism; on the contrary, for we can say the same about the principles of socialism or communism. What’s inherently wrong with capitalism as a principle? Nothing. What’s inherently wrong with communism as a principle? Nothing, however this essentially spiritual idea has been distorted and corrupted by authoritarian regimes or power-hungry leaders. Neither the principles of capitalism nor communism have yet been demonstrated in anything near to their true form of social organisation, and will always remain dysfunctional in expression until the principle of sharing is implemented in world affairs on the basis of right human relations.
Thus it is futile for the politically-engaged person to identify with these misunderstood terms and labels, for it is not principles that are to blame for world problems but only man himself. Only man can change, not capitalism or the system, since the system is merely a product of man’s thoughts and actions. The system doesn’t exist in and of itself—only people exist. And yet, because the society we have created is so divided and unjust, we strangely blame ‘the system’ for our discontentment and unhappiness, which is an erroneous and potentially dangerous conclusion to reach.
We need to look at the principles underlying socialism and capitalism in a different light and with a more spiritual understanding, not according to the old ways of humanity that are characterised by partisan politics and never-ending conflict. A political movement that is ‘against’ the establishment and wants to replace it with another ‘ism’ will never succeed in advancing the common concerns of everyone in society. More to the point, it will never include the very poorest people who are not interested in being a socialist, a communist, a libertarian or anything else—they only want to feed their family and enjoy a secure and dignified way of life. By standing in opposition to capitalism or the corrupt system, we are therefore engaging in those old divisive processes that have led to class conflict and social marginalisation over and over again for hundreds of years.
It’s almost as if activists are trying to personify capitalism in their minds and kill it with a knife, when a theory or principle can never be killed. We can only understand the truth of what is happening, which is really a war brought about by the forces of commercialisation that has nothing to do with ‘capitalism’ at all. So when you try and fight capitalism, you fight against an idea instead of effectively challenging or engaging with the elites that sustain the status quo. And in so doing, you are in danger of becoming just as divisive as they are. At best, the authorities will take one look at those protesters who call themselves ‘anti-capitalists’ and sweep them away without a second thought, for such activism has only ever comprised a small and often militant faction of the population. At worst, however, any popular movement that is ‘against’ the existing social order could eventually lead to riots, chaos and a violent uprising with even more terrible social and political outcomes.
To assert ‘we need a revolution’ in our polarised modern societies is, therefore, an inane and reckless suggestion, because the word revolution breeds the word enemy, which breeds the word against. And the internal attitude of being ‘against’ breeds mental blindness and selfishness in its turn. The psychological counterpart of thinking ‘I’m against you’ is stubbornness, arrogance and violence (whether expressed inwardly or outwardly), and it invariably hardens people’s hearts and leads to fragmentation and conflict, both on an individual and societal level. The word revolution is outdated for the coming era in every respect, and now is the time for a new dispensation based on cooperation, goodwill, sharing and global unity—as well as copious amounts of common sense!
We will hopefully perceive the futility of calling for an alternative to capitalism as a principle in our societies, and instead advocate for an alternative to our present modes of education that are an originating cause of world problems. From the start of life, all children need to be educated in terms of right human relationship, with a cultivated awareness that humanity is one interdependent family in which everyone’s needs are basically the same wherever we live in the world or whatever language we speak, and however seemingly different our outer forms of social organisation. Right education also requires a common understanding that the principles of sharing and cooperation must underlie our economic structures and social relations. For indeed, this basic knowledge represents the first step towards resolving entrenched social divisions and dissolving opposing modes of ideological thought, as we shall further explore in our next chapter.
A new political era could begin immediately if enough people re-educate themselves and eliminate from their consciousness the pervasive conditioning of ‘isms’, which are often summarised by the ill-considered terms ‘left-wing’ and ‘right-wing’. Our minds have been imprisoned over untold generations through wrong conditioning and identification with isms in all their diverse forms, thus repressing human creativity and freedom to the utmost degree. It is the ordinary man and woman who has always suffered the most harmful consequences of this gross infringement of human free will throughout the centuries, as chiefly imposed by the major religious and political ideologies that still vie for dominance in world affairs.
We can only begin to understand the enormity of the problem by contemplating our prevalent psychological attitude of being ‘against’ capitalism or socialism or any other perceived ideological enemy. Nevertheless, this is a fruitful place to begin understanding the new awareness that must facilitate human relationships in the years to come. We might start by relinquishing any identification in our minds with the terms ‘left-wing’, ‘right-wing’, ‘capitalism’, ‘socialism’, ‘anarchism’, ‘liberalism’ and all the rest of it, while the word ‘against’ should be irrevocably replaced in our vocabulary and thinking with the words ‘not with’. To think ‘I’m against you’ invariably leads to hostility or violence, but to think ‘I’m not with you’ infers the possibility of dialogue and resolution without undue conflict. More significantly, a mindset of inclusiveness and unity infers that there is no real division between you or I in spiritual terms. This may help us to recognise how we are all essentially the same in our divine equality as human beings, even if we diverge in our social attitudes and mental ideations. Humanity is forever one in its essence and there can be no separation between us in the highest spiritual sense, however divided we may seem to be on the physical plane. So if there appears to be an irreconcilable conflict between opposing political ideologies, the lasting solution lies not in the victory of one ism over another. Ultimately, it can only be found in a universal acceptance of our shared humanity—which requires a new education into the true nature of the inner Self.
There is nothing sentimental or naïve about these suggestions, as such an attitude to human relationships has the potential to transform society once a bulk of the population is educated to think and become aware of themselves in a more spiritual and heart-engaged way. It would soon be obvious that capitalism today is predominantly sustained by wealthy individuals with an attitude of ‘there is only the one me’, instead of ‘there is only the one Humanity’. To go very close psychologically to our present-day understanding of capitalism is actually to observe how its various forms of social organisation are characterised by greed and a lack of love, and little else. When man becomes aware of that and changes his intentions accordingly, then capitalism will change its outer appearance in exactly the same measure. Through the process of sharing resources both nationally and internationally, it is inevitable that capitalism will gradually assume a less dominant and purer form of expression. Until in the end, what we call capitalism will be defined by the non-profit-based sharing of new innovations within the context of a socially managed economy that ensures, above all, the universal provision of essential goods and services.
Perhaps only one last option remains for initiating these changes within our consciousness and across our societies. By heralding Article 25 in endless demonstrations, we may eventually open the door to transforming both capitalism and socialism into their respectively appropriate forms for an age of sharing, justice and global cooperation. But it is worth reflecting on the fact that Article 25 has nothing to do with the principles of either socialism or capitalism per se. In spiritual terms, Article 25 is solely associated with the principle of right human relationship, which signifies the destiny of every individual to evolve on this earth with dignity and in freedom.
Whatever our ideological leanings or predilections, let’s at least realise that rising up against capitalism is an absurdity that comes down to an idea fighting an idea. Let’s instead be pragmatic by heralding one demand that can transcend our political differences in the most inclusive manner. We need one unifying demand, not thousands of disparate and isolated causes. Moreover, fighting against capitalism alienates the non-politicised public and inhibits widespread participation, whereas heralding Article 25 can unite humanity as a whole and invite everyone to realise their untapped potential as a leader. We may be amazed to find out what happens when millions of people unite without the energy of being ‘against’, because it will bring such inspiration and joy to onlookers that millions more people will eventually join in. How simple we may find the solution to world problems in the end, despite all the complexity of their manifestation and all the libraries of books that continue to be written about them.
The solution does not require intellectual output or complicated academic theories, but simply the hearts of ordinary people to be engaged in spontaneous, ceaseless, and unbelievably huge demonstrations that revolve around the human rights of Article 25. Dedicated activists should eschew altogether that menacing word ‘revolution’, and instead think in terms of creating an army of the heart which is the guaranteed route towards unifying people worldwide like never before. It’s time to speak via the heart, not via the old ideologies and isms. We cannot transform the world through the word ‘disobedience’, the word ‘against’, or the word ‘anti’; but we can transform the world beyond our imagining by communicating from heart to heart for a new dispensation. When a substantial segment of every society joins in this collective endeavour and persistently calls for Article 25, the energy of those mobilisations will bring about the revelation of a new earth that humanity is now preparing for, albeit unconsciously in the main. Through the sound of those worldwide gatherings with the heart engaged, and with the commitment of millions of people who demonstrate continually every day, the question of ‘how’ to transform the world will naturally be revealed and nothing will stop those transformations from taking place.
We could accurately say that the greatest adversary of our rotten and corrupt system is the human heart, for the heart is so simple in its attributes and yet it becomes astonishingly powerful when it joins with other hearts in a common cause. Just as our heart is engaged to look after our children or protect our family, we need to infuse popular protests with the same awareness and unwavering concern for the horrendous poverty that is experienced by millions of other families and destitute individuals—many of whom are at risk of dying from hunger or preventable diseases at this very moment. Most activists and progressive thinkers have failed to recognise the power of this massed, empathic goodwill as a prerequisite for global transformation. Yet without awakening the hearts of ordinary people there is no hope of remaking society anew, particularly at this critical stage of humanity’s evolution that is compromised from all sides by the war of isms and commercialisation.
If we must talk of revolution then let it be a revolution of the heart, which is far from the old conditioning of isms that is still apparent in political discourse about the Arab Spring and its attendant uprisings. The strategy for world renewal that we are here considering is not the same as the public uprisings that happened in Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries from 2011, which were principally concerned with ending the reign of authoritarian and corrupt political regimes. Such a stand against repressive rulers is the cause of the people of that particular nation; I may sympathise but I am unlikely to get involved unless it’s happening in my own country. But to stand for an end to poverty wherever it exists is the cause of every nation and the people of the whole world, and it will require a worldwide revolution of the heart if it is ever to succeed.
This proposition also highlights a central dilemma that activists should contemplate and try to understand: to fight for change and justice is undeniably necessary and admirable, but to fight with a mind that is conditioned by isms and ideology is a dangerous undertaking that could lead to an even worse situation. In the mechanism of that conditioning lives the repetition of humanity’s past mistakes, over and over again, which is why we must call for justice and a new way of life through the attributes of the heart, and without an attitude of being ‘against’.
Such guidelines for a new form of global activism should not be seen as vague or utopian thinking, but as a hard-headed strategy for how to fight and actually win. Many activists now declare the possibility of creating another world, but social transformation on the scale required can never be realised without engaging the attributes of the heart and mind in unison. Human intelligence may subsequently begin to move in the right direction at long last—no longer towards profit, ideology or self-interest, but towards our highest collective interests with the primary consideration given to the least privileged among us.
What we need most today is not revolution but common sense, simplicity and wisdom to manifest in our everyday thinking and actions. Heralding Article 25 is the direct way to bring these qualities into our protest activities, to the extent that it can lessen the tension between rich and poor and invite both to come around the table and talk, in both figurative and literal terms. Some people today are even calling for a spiritual revolution which may appear to be along the correct line of thinking. But in reality, it is vain and implausible to call for a sudden illumination of our consciousness when human relationships are based on want, confusion, ignorance, and identification with isms and ideologies.
What kind of spiritual revolution can we have in such a divided and materialistic society as ours, when anything ‘spiritual’ is soon co-opted and commercialised—as exemplified by the introduction of yoga teachings in the West. Therefore it is hopeless to try and bring about a spiritual revolution without first undergoing a psychological and social transformation across the whole of society, so that we may begin to know who we truly are through common association with the engagement of our hearts. Once every person on earth has what they need to live with self-respect, trust and freedom, then perhaps we can ask for a planetary spiritual revolution. Otherwise, if we could personify that revolution it would say: ‘I would love to come amongst you all, but I am incapable of doing so until you put your house in order first’.
There are many people who still strive for their own spiritual revolution within a world that is blighted by escalating inequalities, devastating wars and climate upheaval. But in these circumstances, our so-called enlightenment can only be attained by individuals who are perversely oblivious to the profounder spiritual crisis of our time. We may seek refuge in an ashram or monastery and meditate in isolation for many years, but what are we meditating for when the world is fast approaching an era of interminable social chaos and environmental catastrophe? Besides, isn’t feeding the hungry and serving the poor also a path to spiritual salvation? As long as the crime of hunger amidst plenty continues in the twenty-first century there should be no talk whatsoever of our personal spiritual revolution—at least not before we have a collective transformation in our consciousness that leads us to herald Article 25 with an attitude of ‘what about the others?’
The fact of people demonstrating all over the world is, in itself, a form of spiritual or heart revolution that will be realised through the joyful awareness that humanity is One. The very sound of those demonstrations will be magnetised in such a way that they will constitute the first true spiritual revolution on this earth. A constant occurrence of worldwide uprisings in this manner will give such dignity and strength to people that we will look at each other without barriers of language, race and class as if we were always brothers and sisters, and as if trust had always been there had we only chosen to use it. At which time, a strange phenomenon will take place in the minds of men and women with a previously unknown quality that stems from awareness of the other, a newfound caring and mutual respect, and of course the energy that we call love. Then, and only then, we will know what it means to call ourselves an ambassador for humanity.
What we have seen already in many protest encampments since 2011 is a small indication of this emerging new consciousness, yet those former events will pale into insignificance compared with our vision of many nations erupting with the same united demand. Have you observed how people behave when they interact as a group during the mass occupations and peaceful uprisings of recent years? There is a joy to be together and serve other people without thought of the ‘me’, even if it is just to share books in a makeshift library or distribute food for free. Those activists typically share almost everything they have, and they experience a joie de vivre and a sense of solidarity that is inspiring, creative and healing in its expression. Should we therefore regard such behaviour as merely ‘hippy stuff’, or does it signify the onset of a new era based on right human relations that you may have already sensed yourself?
The events we have witnessed so far represent an unconscious appeal to bring a different way of life into being, and it is a sign of things to come on a hitherto unseen and universal scale. Please imagine if you can the full release of this heart-engaged phenomenon in every country of the world, as experienced and expressed by many millions of people for protracted months at a time. Never have we experienced such a profoundly moving and joyful spectacle on this planet in its fullest flourishing. The sporadic waves of leaderless protests that have already taken place are effectively saying ‘we want a better world’, but the instructions have now been given for how to inaugurate this better world that people everywhere are intuitively grasping for.
By heralding Article 25, we may also help create an all-embracing awareness that sharing the world’s resources is the manifest solution to our civilisational crisis. There is an interdependent relationship between these two conceptions—both Article 25 and the principle of sharing—that will be realised through continuous worldwide demonstrations with engaged hearts and massed goodwill. That relationship has always been simple despite its lack of popular appeal, for it is a long journey through countless lives until we finally perceive the eternal truth of our divine potential. In the love of God or Life, everything is simple. Only man makes everything complex through his ignorance, greed and attachment to isms.
Symbolically speaking, we have said that Article 25 holds within itself the answer and the economic alternative, which will be revealed when humanity comes together and calls for it out loud in the midst of a planetary psycho-social-spiritual revolution. Then we will experience the most unexpected revelation: that life is a precious gift and really worth living, for humanity is One. Then it won’t be long before Article 25 leads us home to the principle of sharing, and the reconstruction of our world can begin.
Part V: Education for a new earth
Know the truth that each and every
one of you is the father and mother
of the world. Hence your highest
spiritual aspiration is to realise the
hidden fact of the Oneness of
* * *
If we declare and truly believe that another world is possible, then what are we going to do about our blindfolded politicians, our collective indifference and complacency, and all the isms that are preventing us from finding our way to truth and freedom? When are we going to look at each other without judgements, fear or condemnation, but with joy and goodwill? When are we going to experience a day that is different from every other day, if only for once in our short lives? Again, the answer is a new kind of education that helps to develop self-knowledge through love and wisdom. This begins with the revelation that humanity is One which is the liberating truth of life on earth, regardless of how long we have tried to deny it. It is therefore correct to say that we don’t need revolution today but right education, for there is no hope of guaranteeing Article 25 in perpetuity unless we learn to live more simply and equally within the means of one planet that everyone must share.
New educational methods are urgently necessary to sustain the laws that will guarantee the full realisation of Article 25 around the world. Humanity is so conditioned by isms and centuries of wrong thinking about our intrinsic nature that, without such an education, any such laws would not last for long. But we generally have no idea what right education means in our dysfunctional societies, where a purported ‘good education’ is based on personality identification and the glamour of achieving a recognised measure of success. Consequently, our schools and universities have created many ‘well educated’ people in positions of power who are experts at wrecking the planet and other human beings. This is an undeniable fact that should be observed in relation to a society that is rapidly consuming the natural resource base that sustains life itself, while the extremes of poverty and wealth are growing to such an extent that it is sowing the seeds of a third world war. Every prime minister, president or chief executive has had what may be described as a good education, and yet they all invariably perpetuate these disastrous trends.
When a privileged child goes to school they are in no sense educated in terms of right human relations, but are rather indoctrinated and conditioned by many centuries of erroneous understanding about the meaning and purpose of life, while being tragically contaminated in more recent times by the forces of commercialisation. A maturing adolescent who engenders the highest aspirations about making the world a better place is destined, at the end of their education, to leave with a mind that is not only conditioned but entirely contaminated by these forces, even if that young person retains an undeterred ambition to ‘give back’ to society or pursue a public-spirited vocation. We are all the children of an education that tells us how we should think, that indoctrinates us to achieve success, that cultures us to be ambitious and, as a consequence, divides us and ultimately produces ignorance and abuse of the Self. Education as we know it today, even in many of the alternative and more spiritually-oriented schools or colleges, is increasingly like a factory that creates automatons who are programmed and mass-produced to become a successful ‘somebody’. Hence we are all subject to an education that misleads and manipulates us, and that fails to expand our conscious awareness about the true nature of our being. Instead, it instils us with an individualistic sense of ambition that leads to greed, selfishness, and eventually indifference to the suffering of others and the earth.
Humanity is eternal and indivisible in the one evolution, and yet, as a result of our wrong identification with materiality, our wrong conditioning and our wrong educational methods, we have sunk to a point where many millions of people feel as if they are not part of their society, or that the world is somehow their enemy. In the same way as the activist often believes that the system is against them, the very poorest citizens often feel as if they do not belong to what we call the human family. At the other extreme, for the person who attained a ‘good education’ and achieved a high social status through conforming to the venal arts of commercialisation, they are conditioned to build a banner in their unconscious mind that reads: ‘I am one of the few deserving individuals who made it’.
When we look at the world situation with a more spiritual and inclusive outlook, we may conclude that no person is properly educated in any school or university of whatever prestigious status. In a dysfunctional society that has chosen commercialisation as its nucleus, it is virtually impossible to educate a child in a spiritually wholesome and psychologically healthy way. What we are really producing is not a ‘good education’ through a cultivated awareness of the inner Self, but rather an assembly line of ‘good consumers’. We are not only bred to become consumers of endless products and services, but we are also led to consume ourselves through the inadvertent abuse of our own lives. The person who doesn’t think for themselves, who isn’t equipped with self-knowledge, who hasn’t been taught to live and move in loving awareness, is the one who will consume the goods outwardly and consume themselves inwardly. In this sense, we are better described not as free and joyful human beings, but as ‘self-commodities’. Instead of being creative with all the energy and beauty that we are endowed with in our environment, we prefer to remain asleep and complacent through our lack of inner awareness, and hence we ‘consume’ or dissipate our most precious human attributes and unknowingly suffer a slow spiritual starvation.
We are consuming ourselves in every conceivable way—politically, economically, socially, environmentally and emotionally. This includes everything from our ignorant abuse of the natural world through mass patterns of unsustainable consumption, to the psychological self-destruction that follows from our greed, self-pity, depression, loneliness and addictive drug-taking. We are even ‘self-consuming’ through our indifference to all the suffering that is happening both within and without ourselves. That is why each day feels the same as every other day in its tiredness and anxiety, because we are all consuming our own humanity to some extent whether we are aware of it or not. And in the midst of all this inner turmoil and self-inflicted violence, still we constantly search for happiness. Often, our stubborn desire to be happy eludes us to such an extent that we are overwhelmed by sorrow and pain, even to the point that we believe it is necessary to sacrifice our own lives—which can be seen as a final sad attempt to annihilate the Self through the act of suicide.
In general, our political leaders have a confused and distorted view concerning the meaning of right human relationship, just like the rest of us who are self-induced to live in a world of beliefs, isms and ignorance. Surrounded by all the inequalities and misery of modern societies, the leaders of political parties are really a reflection of how humanity has divided itself due to the absence of self-knowledge, humility and simple loving awareness. Such words as these are antithetical to our present-day understanding of the term leadership, which has a debasing connotation of the higher and the lower, the one who leads and the many who must follow. For within that process of following, man has sunken into a prevalent state of complacency and indifference by denying his own spirituality, creativity and inborn intelligence. In a morally degenerate culture that idolises the selfish accumulation of material wealth and power, political leadership will only result in more confusion and social division, and can only ever lead to more repression, violence and widespread suffering.
What kind of democracy are we talking about when witnessing in our daily life how politics has become a vulgar game that denies the very idea and existence of One Humanity? Where every political candidate appears, as if from nowhere, to try and bestow their divisive isms on our tired lives and our children? Following isms is itself an act of vulgarity, so who can blame the many people who don’t want to engage with those politicians who are hungry for a powerful position, instead replying: ‘Oh politics, I don’t even want to hear that word!’ The many other people who closely follow parties of the left or right also generally fail to think in terms of right human relationship and our innate spiritual unity, and are far more interested in seeing that their chosen party defeats all others in the latest political battle. They too are part of the vulgar game as much as the politicians, not least if they pledge their allegiance to a new leader who might bring down their taxes or help increase their financial investments, thereby reinforcing a complacent and insular way of life. Life and self-knowledge have always been based on the growth of our awareness through right relationship, not on the confinement of our consciousness to those self-centred boxes that we call ‘my life’ or ‘my rights’. Refusing to perceive this reality throughout our lives, we repeatedly deceive ourselves and others by believing that society can change for the better by replacing one political ism with another.
In these confused times, the fight for votes in a big election campaign creates even more stress and division within a nation. And on a psychological level, the act of voting itself represents the increasing disunity and spiritual fragmentation of that society. This is not to dismiss the many historical struggles for universal suffrage and better democratic representation, but it is to look at these questions of democracy and leadership with a more holistic and spiritual faculty of perception. Who and what are we voting for when the economy is collapsing, when commercialisation is rampant in its abuse of people and nature, when the environment is deteriorating so quickly that it may eventually render the planet uninhabitable?
To merely vote for another ism of the left or right can only bring more pain and division from within this maelstrom, as it means we are still refusing to relinquish our complacency, expand our conscious awareness, and take responsibility for changing the world situation ourselves. We cannot blame the government for these issues if we voted for them in the first place, and then did nothing else. In this respect, the government doesn’t only reflect what we have become, but also what we deserve. The government and the electorate are one and the same, including the apathetic or alienated non-voters who decline to be involved in the lavish and distracting palaver of electioneering. Yet for so long have we been stuck with an inadequate education—and hence erroneous ideas of leadership—that we seem to think this is the only way society can function. It appears that we cannot even imagine a different way of living that exemplifies right human relationship, in the absence of which there can never be harmony or peace in world affairs.
As long as there are competitive and power-hungry leaders as we witness them today, there will always be conflict and social divisions. And as long as there are people who keep following these so-called leaders, there will always be the unconscious denial of our inborn spirituality, creativity and freedom. But where there is love, where there is trust, where there is respect for the other without a mind conditioned by isms, then there is no authority or leadership—there is only guidance. True leadership guides, whereas leadership in its present form creates nothing but followers who cannot think with intelligence from the heart. Indeed, if everyone was equipped with self-knowledge through right education, then voting for a leader would almost be an impossibility, and there would be no further need for political parties. There would simply be a group of designated people who serve in government positions as representatives of the common good, selected not through votes but through public recognition of their wisdom and inclusive attitudes. And the first duty of any such representative would be to guarantee that all people have their basic material needs secured at all times, while also ensuring that everyone receives an education that enables them to grow in soul awareness and guide themselves within their own spiritual evolution through service to mankind.
The youth who come together in grassroots social movements are beginning to sense this new mode of being that will define the coming age. Already, they are naturally emerging without any clear leadership structure or centralised authority because they are learning for themselves how to think in terms of common sense through an engaged heart, and not on the basis of isms. Through their many experiments in popular empowerment and participatory democracy, they are rapidly discovering this revelatory truth: that we do not need leaders to govern society if everyone’s consciousness is guided towards cooperating for the greatest good of the greatest number. In this way, every group member is being equipped to realise their own leadership potential in the pursuit of social justice and right human relations.
However, this new consciousness faces an enormous problem due to the nature of the system it challenges, which is principally sustained by the old ways of self-interest, competition and partisan politics. Let us not underestimate the entrenched support for that divisive system from its many adherents in each country, including a privileged rich minority and powerful vested interests. How, then, can people of goodwill achieve the backing of millions of others around the world, and without looking outwardly for leaders to direct their ideas and activities? The correct approach to initiating this mass civic engagement should warrant no further repetition: it requires us to activate our hearts and appeal to the wider public by heralding Article 25 through non-stop demonstrations. We are sadly mistaken if we believe a better world will come about through the ballot box unless we also organise ourselves in huge coordinated protests, for there is no political leader in existence who is capable of doing the job for us even if they tried. And why should we vote for any politician who is not trying to educate the nation to think of those less fortunate than ourselves—especially if that means we are giving power to a political party to rule our lives?
These observations should not be read as an instruction to withdraw our support from mainstream democratic processes. But surely you, too, have asked yourself if voting in national elections is going to make a difference to the critical world situation. We could make a comparison between voting for a politician and recycling our household waste materials, for both activities are necessary and commendable but will have little impact, in themselves, on reversing calamitous global trends. Will recycling plastics be enough to mitigate the effects of global warming? And will your vote be enough to end hunger and impoverishment across the world?
The real question we should ask ourselves is not why our governments are failing to save the world, but why are we failing to compel them to take appropriate action as our elected representatives? It stands to reason that no politician can overcome the control of an immoral and corrupt system by themselves, presuming that any world leader today is seriously inclined to promote the highest interests of humanity as a whole. But how many times have we demanded that the man or woman we vote for must uphold an immediate end to hunger as their foremost concern? From the perspective of Article 25, the only true presidents or prime ministers are those who are elected by the human heart and not the ballot box to serve the very poor. That would include, among others, the committed workers in thousands of non-governmental organisations who do their best to provide healthcare, shelter, food and other necessities while our governments neglect to fulfil this vital role.
Furthermore, it is instructive to look at the meaning of democracy from the viewpoint of the person who lives on less than one dollar a day; what is voting going to achieve in your daily struggle to survive? Will you say, ‘My vote is my power and my right’, or will you respond, ‘I don’t care about democracy, I just want to eat!’ As the citizen of a rich country, I may be so stuck in my self-centred concerns about lowering taxes, increasing my pension, controlling immigration and so on, that the only freedom I have is conferred to me by scheming politicians in business suits. And that is the freedom to vote for any political ism I choose to—if that is all we mean by democracy and freedom. But as a desperately poor person in a remote village or shantytown, I am unlikely to be asked to vote at all unless I am bribed or coerced by a duplicitous party candidate. If I live in India, for example, I am supposed to call my country the greatest democracy in the world, even though it also boasts the greatest number of undernourished people while spending over 40 billion dollars each year on armaments. Or perhaps I have never heard of the word democracy in my secluded and conflict-ridden community somewhere in sub-Saharan Africa, where the only freedom conferred to me by wealthy politicians is the freedom to die in poverty without any government help.
So what kind of democracy are we talking about if we look at this question from a truly global and inclusive perspective, and with a spiritual view of humanity’s divine equality? The capitalists are talking about democracy, the socialists are talking about democracy, even the fascists are talking about democracy today; but who is going to give the freedom to vote to the person who is dying of malnutrition—not a vote to elect another political party, but a vote to live? That is a vote that we should all have been fighting to give, instead of focusing solely on our struggle for justice and ‘my rights’ within our own country alone. The vote to live for the world’s hungry will not be given by any politician, as we have established; it can only come from people in the streets through their concerted demand for Article 25. And such a vote cannot be given through our apathy or indifference; it can only be granted through the engagement of our hearts, our compassion and our common sense. But isn’t it true that we have failed to do that for many, many decades even though the horrific reality of extreme poverty has persisted throughout all these years? Then shame on us!
Let’s observe very carefully the person who says, ‘It’s the fault of my government for not taking action’, instead of thinking that they should stand up and take action themselves. If we perceive this psychological tendency from the perspective of our spiritual unity and interconnectedness, then the very act of blaming politicians when people are dying in poverty is to inwardly divide oneself from the rest of humankind. Our collective complacency is even tacitly revealed in our use of language when we describe certain viruses as ‘diseases of the poor’, as if the poor are somehow different from us and responsible for creating these lethal maladies through their own imprudence. Are mass outbreaks of largely treatable diseases really the fault of the poor or the politicians, or are we all to blame through our complacent attitude to the preventable suffering of people we do not know? Indeed, if we had together demanded that Article 25 were implemented in the laws of every nation, then we could have long ago addressed the root causes of disease and health inequality in less developed countries. With adequate shelter, healthcare, sanitation and good nutrition for every citizen of every nation, many fatal diseases may have been consigned to history instead of resurging in recent decades.
Such reflections may help us to understand what is meant by thinking in terms of common sense, and what is meant by advocating for the principle of sharing to govern international relationships. For this is not a simplistic idea, it is not a utopian proposition—it is where real life is. The many aid organisations that try to assist the poor will always be overwhelmed in their task and eventually lose heart towards their work, unless their efforts are boosted by sympathetic worldwide demonstrations that follow the people’s strategy of heralding Article 25. There are billions of people throughout the world who live in a state of continual struggle and privation, many of whom are ready to leave their homes and protest for a long period of time, if only they were invited to and given hope that their circumstances can change.
So let’s get out on the streets and not question anymore what action we should take. And let’s not vote for any politician unless ending hunger and poverty is at the top of their agenda, along with a pledge to cooperate with all other parties around the table for the sake of achieving this overriding objective. That is the common sense course of action for transforming the world—although how strange and sad it is that we have reached this stage when extreme measures are necessary to awaken sanity in political affairs. Just imagine that humanity is like a large dysfunctional family, and its many children are so mistreated and unloved that they are eventually forced to stand on the pavement and protest against their parents. What a sad and shocking indictment of that broken household, and what a sad way to look at what is happening on this divided planet of ours.
Suppose we lived on a highly spiritually evolved planet where the scourge of hunger amidst plenty were unthinkable. What, then, would we make of the great divisions, recurrent conflicts and needless suffering that characterises life on earth? Perhaps we wouldn’t even need to land our spaceship on this beautiful and bounteous world; we would only need to look through a giant telescope to observe how its people are interacting with each other far below. If we saw just one violent protest on the streets it would mean ‘don't visit!’, for that would symbolise the division that exists between governments and citizens, as well as the spiritual imbalance that is prevalent across the planet as a whole. But if we saw millions upon millions of people gathered in constant demonstrations that express sharing, joy and goodwill, then it would mean ‘keep watching!’ For those united crowds would symbolise a planetary evolution that is coming of age, as revealed through a majority of the population that no longer wants to remain divided and is standing up for its struggling kin. Thus it will only be a question of time before that planet completely reassesses the nature and purpose of its family relations, and finally implements the principle of sharing into its political affairs and global economic arrangements.
In summary, we may discern that there are two main solutions for resolving the world’s converging crises. Firstly, we need to share essential resources between nations through new forms of global exchange that are no longer motivated by profit, competition and self-interest. And secondly, we must inaugurate a new education in the intervening years that can bring about the awareness that is needed to sustain this more cooperative, compassionate and simpler mode of living.
In the twenty-first century, humanity already demonstrates an awareness of our interconnectedness and unity in so many ways. For example, it can be witnessed in the globalised trade in goods and services (however unbalanced and inequitable in its current form), or the worldwide communications and sport events that reveal our global integration and commonality of interests. We also see our intrinsic solidarity expressed in the outpourings of grief and generosity that follow natural disasters with a great loss of life. A new education must build upon this nascent understanding of our planetary interdependency, to the point where every person in every nation realises the meaning and importance of sharing the world’s resources with respect to achieving justice, peace and right human relations.
Children must be educated along these lines as part of their school curriculum to ensure they always think in terms of the One Humanity, so that they comprehend each nation’s unique contribution to the whole and each individual’s inherent equality and creative potential. There is also a type of education based on love and wisdom that can help a young person to realise ‘who am I in this world’, just as schooling is necessary to comprehend the social and natural sciences, the humanities, the arts and so forth. By this means, it is possible to train a child to keep the mind calm and the heart always awake in human relationship through self-awareness, although it is beyond the scope of this book to give precise details as to what specific forms such an education should take. Suffice it to say that no religious beliefs, political ideologies or ‘isms’ of any type should be imposed on a child’s mind in their formative stages of learning and development. Furthermore, a special or complementary syllabus should be introduced within every school that teaches a young person how to think of others without self-centredness, and how to serve the common good in a world where the primacy of profit-making and individualistic competition is consigned to the past.
How fast or slowly this form of education is introduced crucially depends on the concurrent economic and political reforms that must take place on a worldwide basis. For this reason, school lessons should initially include basic teachings on how the principles of sharing and cooperation are the foundation of a sustainable global economic system. All children should be guided to understand the subjective interrelationship of human beings with each other and the natural environment, and the consequent importance of sharing the world’s accumulated wealth, resources, technology and knowledge more equally and freely among nations. Like a family naturally shares what it has among its members, so must the family of nations arrange its affairs in such a way that surplus resources are given over in trust to some form of global pool, and redistributed according to need on the basis of sharing rather than profit or greed.
Such a straightforward concept could not be simpler, and it may one day represent the most elementary introduction to the meaning of right relationship between all peoples and nations. If we can believe that the principle of sharing in its truest expression will underlie an international economic system of the future, maybe none of our youngest generation—no longer conditioned by outmoded ideologies and isms—will engender any ambition to be a leading politician when they eventually graduate. But if a child does grow up to be a president or prime minister, they would know exactly how to ensure their nation lives in peace with all other nations.
By reflecting upon the preceding observations for ourselves, again we may deduce that the world’s problems are so complex and yet so simple to resolve. Through systematically implementing the principle of sharing into our communities, societies and international affairs, that will in turn necessitate the reconstruction and simplification of our global economic framework. It will also necessitate the inauguration of a new education based on right human relations in order to sustain this simpler and more enlightened world order. All this begins with heralding Article 25 en masse which is the necessary foundation for the political and economic transformations that must urgently follow. From this understanding, Article 25 is not calling for ‘human rights’ to be realised but truly the commencement of right human relations on this earth. When these essential conditions are firmly established for all people over many successive generations, Article 25 may not even be mentioned anymore but only remembered by historians as ‘the Article of common sense’.
In symbolical terms, humanity is suffering from a potentially fatal sickness called separation, and the sole remedy is the principle of sharing for one reason above all others. For once this world shares its resources and every person has their basic needs permanently secured, our present modes of education will inevitably, and perhaps dramatically, begin to change their form and overall direction. In the midst of all the social, psychological and political chaos of these days, the principle of sharing can bring about an ineffable wave of change if only by awakening the silent, loving awareness that exists within all of us. Then each individual may be inwardly guided to love themselves and no longer consume their own humanity through self-destructive patterns and behaviours, as earlier discussed. In the same way that quarrelling neighbours can find peace and change inwardly by sharing among one another, the process of sharing resources on a global scale has the potential to change the collective consciousness of humanity in a way that is presently unimaginable. From the micro level to the macro, sharing has the ability to reverse the coin by turning selfish competition into selfless cooperation, social division into common union, disorder into balance and equilibrium, and hatred into love.
When such changes are sweeping the world, humanity will be freely inspired to begin this new mode of education that inculcates right human relations inwardly and psychologically, as well as outwardly across society. These are the two forms of right relationship that we should consider with respect to both the individual and their social environment, for when there is right relationship within oneself then a person is naturally guided towards right relationship with others. By verifying this factual reality through inner contemplation and outer observation, we may further reaffirm the immense importance of implementing Article 25. For as we shall discover, Article 25 is the shadow of the principle of sharing that will ultimately rebalance the mayhem of destructive self-consumption. And thus it shall open the doors to living more simply, sustainably and peacefully in relation to each other and the natural world.
When pondering the meaning of right human relations it is also helpful to conceive of the principle of sharing as a great physician or planetary psychotherapist, one that has the power to heal in every imaginable way—such as by feeding the hungry and curing the diseased; mending broken families and restoring mental health; rebuilding communities and nurturing individuals to regain their confidence and creativity; and so on without end. So if you want to heal yourself as an individual or as a group, advocate for the principle of sharing to be implemented into world affairs and serve humanity by heralding Article 25 with every ounce of energy you have. That is the way to decentralise yourself from the disease called separation and play your part in establishing a new earth based on right human relations.
The reader may still question how millions of people can be persuaded to gather on the streets in the manner suggested, to which this writer can only reply that the responsibility for answering such a question rests with the reader themself. No further instructions can be given as to ‘how’ to bring about these momentous mass protests, other than to recommend that we personally examine from all sides the meaning and potential of heralding Article 25 as a people’s strategy for world transformation. One spark is all that may be needed when the time has come, just like the idea of proclaiming the power of ‘the 99%’ was sparked by one individual at an opportune moment. And the time is soon coming—in fact, has long been here—to revive Article 25 within the United Nations by demonstrating around the world on this precise basis.
A response to this question ‘how?’ can also be answered very simply. You just need to awaken your heart and nothing more, for within each and every heart is embedded the love and wisdom of all humanity. If a rich person looks anew at the world and inwardly observes: ‘My God, there is so much money and wealth everywhere, and yet there are so many people who are dying in poverty!’, then that banal observation itself represents the beginning of wisdom as realised through the engagement of the heart. And if that person commits to sharing their wealth for the purpose of relieving human suffering, then that act itself represents a small manifestation of love and wisdom in this world. The heart with its attributes is always simple and yet unfathomably wise, for it is capable of leading us to recognise who we truly are as human beings despite all of our complacency, indifference and mind conditioning. If a spark is therefore needed to release the attributes of our hearts, it is the spark of intelligence freed from conditioning that says: ‘Let’s end hunger and poverty once and for all because now the time has finally come, and we can really do it if enough people get involved!’
The fact is that most people of goodwill are heavily conditioned and remain unaware of the critical world situation. Even to know the overwhelming extent of human deprivation and then do nothing about it is unfortunately part of our conditioning. So what else can be said in response to the question ‘how will this begin?’, except to say ‘by using your intuition and common sense, and then more common sense!’ A large portion of humanity is now ready to hear the call, so let’s recognise that we are all fighting for the same cause and unite via the engagement of our hearts. Let’s allow Article 25 to bring us once again the joy of living, the joy of being creative, the joy of realising at last that humanity is One!
We appear to have reached a stage where we are so confused that this question of ‘how’ is lost in the myriad conflicting answers from political factions and countless speculative theories. Any activist who declares ‘another world is possible’ is incapable of navigating all this diverging thought to produce a comprehensive and workable strategy for planetary transformation. It may be true that another world is possible, but not without common sense (freed of isms and ideologies) and the engagement of our hearts among enormous numbers of other people. Yet we have refused to listen to our hearts for so long that the world situation is fast approaching a catastrophic climax from which it seems only divine intervention may save us. Our modern civilisation has been led into a cul-de-sac through its own arrogance and recklessness, until now even the weather is almost beyond repair.
Somewhat incongruously, the religious elders in the numberless churches, synagogues, mosques and temples of the world could have always promulgated this urgent message to save the dying poor. In particular, we might ask why it’s so difficult for Christian churches to talk unremittingly about the injustice of hunger in a world of plenty, instead of spending all their time gathering a flock or seeking refuge in a sacred ism. For then they may educate their congregations to heal the world instead of exclusively worshipping Mary and Jesus, thereby heeding the contemporary relevance of Christ’s teaching. One could argue that the church should all along have educated humanity in how to engage the heart and serve others, a role that it has largely renounced amidst all the dogma, schisms and scandals of its ignominious history. Now as always, there is no psychological difference between the politician and the priest when both are motivated by thoughts of power or personal privilege: one yearns to make their name in history while the other yearns to become a ‘chosen one’ in the eyes of God. If any politician or priest has failed to dedicate their lives to the cause of healing human suffering through the principle of sharing, it is fair to say they have no idea of true public service or compassion in the name of Jesus.
Just imagine that Christ returns to the modern world as foretold and dramatically declares Himself on our television screens; what might His divine advice be to governments and humanity at large? Would He talk in complex academic terms about destroying capitalism and creating a socialist alternative, or would He call upon our hearts to think about others and immediately save the starving millions? Would He advise us to share with our neighbours and within our own communities alone, or would He counsel us to share the resources of the world on the basis of justice, compassion and right human relations? Perhaps His advice would be very plain and simple despite His consummate knowledge of humanity’s problems, wisely understanding as He would that Article 25 is the antidote for a divided world held in thrall to conflicting isms and the forces of commercialisation.
But how many people do we think would follow His simple advice? How many would be outraged by His humble instruction to share and save our world? And how many would remain indifferent to His heartrending words, even if they were embraced by the Christ’s love in a universal experience of the Pentecost? Of all these three reactions it is the last one that should concern us the most, because at least the person who disagrees is thinking for themselves and may be open to changing their mind. A complacent response is far more disturbing, however, because it represents the ingrained indifference that has permeated society and held back human evolution for thousands of years. We may speculate that by now, the Gods are used to man’s inhumanity to man—but They have never gotten used to our complacency and indifference that enables history to repeat itself over and over again. From Their divine perspective, maybe this is the real reason why the bloody conflicts and gross injustices are passed down from each generation and perpetually continue.
Unfortunately, these imaginings lead us to an ominous conclusion when the few major precedents we have for uniting whole societies is through a great war or total economic breakdown. If it is true that in order to transform the world we must first engage the hearts of innumerable people with the same benevolent cause, then history suggests there are actually two World Saviours that may be capable of initiating this colossal task. While many religiously-inclined people may place their hope in the sudden return of a great Messiah or Mahdi, others may logically conclude that a total breakdown of the global economy is necessary so that it is no longer possible to continue in our old selfish, competitive ways of the past. Indeed, when people are forced to survive by helping one another and sharing what they have, it is easy to realise that a different way of living is possible without remaining psychologically separated and divided in our social relationships. Even if we share just a single tin of sardines with someone else in need, there is still a movement of joy to be felt in that simple act of giving and receiving. What’s more, those people who share among themselves through lack of choice may also unexpectedly sense the perfume of peace within their community, however short-lived or small-scale is this inevitable result. For the principle of sharing is always associated with joy and peace in whatever context it is applied, from the community level upwards to the international.
So perhaps we need a permanent economic collapse of global proportions to shake us out of our conditioning, to overcome our indifference to the suffering of those less fortunate than ourselves, and to awaken our hearts to the anguish of millions of people who are constantly deprived of essential resources. Perhaps we must collectively take a fall before we can stand up together and begin to traverse the right path, because we are always spurred to action through drama and catastrophe if not through a reasoned appeal to our hearts. In other words, perhaps it isn’t just love that humanity needs but a formidable crisis due to the apathy and unconcern that we have exhibited all these years.
Yet we are still so conditioned by the old ways of thinking that we may again revert to our materialistic and insular way of life, presuming the economy can return to its former state of growth and apparent stability. Even today, many protest marches and social movements are not concerned about transforming the world for the equal benefit of everyone, but are rather fighting for their government to take them back to how they used to live before—caring nothing for the systemic injustices that maintain the stark inequalities among rich and poor. Such attitudes once more reveal how the ordinary citizen is as much to blame for society’s problems as the politician, since the government invariably reflects the same mentality that pervades a broad section of the overall public consciousness. Let’s not forget that politicians are merely human beings who generally remain sincere in their intentions whatever ideology they promote, and it is the populace that sustains their polarised thinking through a tribe-like adherence to political isms of opposing sorts.
In this fact alone lies the greatest danger of our times, because a significant crash of the global economy could eventually lead to violence and revolution if different factions within some societies seek to depose those who remain in power. Let’s also not forget that a riotous uprising of the public is extremely dangerous due to the vast state machinery that is prepared for this occurrence in most countries, with the wholesale support of leading politicians and controlling financial interests. Hence if enough people violently protest against their government following another breakdown of the international economic system, we can expect widespread social unrest or even more outbreaks of civil war. As we have painfully observed within the Middle East since 2011, when various factions or ‘isms’ oppose an authoritarian leadership, it is inevitable that they will eventually start fighting against one another.
The only peaceful way to reorient the volatile world situation is so simple that it must be repeated once again: by engaging the attributes of the heart in massive worldwide gatherings without thought of ideology or personal self-interest, because the human heart when activated is infinitely wise and incapable of being ‘against’. The pioneering youth are already attuning to this new energy that is flooding the world, and they know the time has come to move away from the old consciousness that says ‘this is mine and not yours’, ‘you are black and I am white’, ‘it’s not in the interests of our country’, or ‘you must live each day like every other day’. This fast emerging and unifying consciousness gives us much reason to hope for the future, although the fiercely progressive views of many youthful activists pose a further danger to society if they are not recognised and listened to very carefully by those who represent our long inglorious past.
The day of reckoning is near, so how shall we decide to usher in this more inclusive era? Are we going to use socialism? Are we going to use anarchy? Are we going to use religion? Or are we going to peacefully unite in uncountable numbers until our governments commit to sharing the resources of the world? A single demonstration will never work. A hundred marches on separate days will probably achieve relatively little. But millions upon millions of protests happening simultaneously around the world on the consistent basis of implementing Article 25, and continuing daily without cessation? That might just be enough.
For Christ’s sake, let’s be together
for once in our many lives.
 For a full list of publications in this ongoing series, visit sharing.org/studies
 cf. 'Commercialisation: the antithesis of sharing', in Studies of the principle of sharing, Troubadour Publishing, 2020
 In 2015, all 193 UN Member states ratified the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which contained 17 interlinked goals. Known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or 'Global Goals', these comprise a detailed list of targets and indicators with many laudable aimsーabove all, to "end poverty in all its forms everywhere" and "leave no-one behind". Unlike their predecessors called the Millennium Development Goals, the SDGs apply to countires of both the Global North and South, while also including many ambitious environmental targets. However, civil society groups have roundly criticised the Goals for failing to chanllenge the deeper structural causes of today's crises. Nor do they explicitly reflect the neccessity of redistributing resources more equally whithin and among nations. In the present context of global economic reccession, a decline in development aid, the downsizing of UN operations and a retreat from multilateral cooperation, there is little prospect of the SDGs achieving their proclaimed transformational vision.
 The Ageless Wisdom refers to an ancient body of teachings regarding the energitic structure of the universe, the evolution of consciousness in man and nature, and the spiritual reality of our lives with an emphasis on 'right human relations'. It has been described as the golden thread that connects the esoteric or hidden teachings that underlie the major religious traditions, while providing the inspiration for the arts and sciences throughout the ages. Although thousands of years old, the teachings are referred to as 'ageless' rather than 'ancient' due to their progressively revelatory nature that is given active expression in people's own lives and experiences. Over the past century, the exoteric form of these teachings have spread widely in the West following their release to the general public by H.P.Blavatsky, founder of the Theosophical Society, and later through the works of Alice A. Bailey, Helena Rorich and Benjamin Creme, among others.
 Willy Brandt, North-South: A Programme for Survival (The Brandt Report), MIT Press, 1980; Willy Brandt, Common Crisis, North-South: Co-Operation for World Recovery, The Brandt Commission, London: Pan 1983.
 The true extent of global poverty is generally unknown by the average citizen and underreported (if not ignored) by the mainstream media. According to the World Bank's current estimates, 10 percent of the world's population (734 million people) lived in extreme poverty in 2015, defined as an income of less than $1.90 a day. At the same times, more than 40 percent of humanity lived on less than $5.50 a day, including some 90 percent of the population in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Even less well known is the vast number of people who die from avoidable poverty-related causes, for which accurate data is hard to come by. In 2012, STWR estimated that around 15 million people die every year due to lack of access to essential goods and services, such as nutritious food, safe drinking water or adequate healthcare. Calculations were based on figures from the World Health Organization (Disease and injury regional estimates, Cause-specific mortality: regional estimates for 2008). This is the equivalent of 40,000 people each day, the vast majority of which occur in low- and middle-income countries and are considered largely preventable. Data from other United Nations organisations (e.g. the UN Population Division or UNICEF) give larger estimates, up to two thirds of which include children under the age of five. To give some context, this loss of life comprises around one third of all human deaths, and far outweighs the fatalities from any other single event in history since the Second World War. Hunger remains the greatest risk to health worldwide, killing more people than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.
 Willy Brandt, cp cit.
 Following the Brandt Commission’s proposals, leaders of eight industrialised and 14 developing nations gathered in Cancun, Mexico, in October 1981 for a summit aimed at breaking the deadlock in years of protracted negotiations on problems of world poverty. The hope was that representative heads of state would meet in an informal setting for two days, thereby creating the momentum and goodwill that would permit global negotiations to advance. In the end, however, no firm proposals materialised and the demands of Southern countries for a global reallocation of resources remained unmet. US President Ronald Reagan notably rejected the summit’s aims to bridge the wealth gap between the few industrialised nations and the majority of poorer countries. While not all of the Brandt Commission’s recommendations remain appropriate today (particularly its emphasis on increased trade liberalisation and global Keynesian policies in an era when we are fast approaching environmental limits), there is still much that policymakers and civil society campaigners can draw from its “program of priorities” and its vision for a more equitable world. Above all, this includes the proposed five-year Emergency Programme that would necessitate massive resource transfers to less developed countries and far-reaching agrarian reforms. The Commission also called for a new global monetary system, a new approach to development finance, a coordinated process of disarmament, and a global transition away from dependence on non-renewable energy sources. To date, governments have yet to realise Brandt’s vision of a multilateral process for “discussing the entire range of North-South issues among all the nations, with the support and collaboration of the relevant international agencies” (Common Crisis, 1983).
 See note 6.
 'Rise up America, rise up!', in Studies on the principle of sharing, Troubadour Publishing, 2020.
 This line of reasoning is also explored in The intersection of politics and spirituality in addressing the climate crisis: A dialogue with Mohammed Sofiane Mesbahi, Troubadour Publishing, 2020.
 These comments were initially made about seven years after the financial cirisis of 2007-8. However, the same observation is equally relevant to the world situation in 2020-21. In the wake of a global pandemic that disproportionately affects the poorest in society, nations are still failing to coordinate an international response that secures the basic socioeconomic rights of all.
 cf. 'Christmas, the system and I', in Studies on the principle of sharing, Troubadour Publishing, 2020.
Mohammed Sofiane Mesbahi is the founder of Share The World’s Resources (STWR), a civil society organisation based in London, UK, with consultative status at the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. STWR is a not-for-profit organisation registered in England, no. 4854864.
Editorial assistance: Adam Parsons.
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Image credit: avivi, Wiki Creative Commons / flickr