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RonPrice

World Politics: A Baha'i Perspective

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RonPrice    0

I found the following remarks so pertinent to the subject of World Politics that I include them here: :D

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Early in the twentieth century, a materialistic interpretation of reality had consolidated itself so completely as to become the dominant world faith insofar as the direction of society was concerned. In the process, the civilizing of human nature had been violently wrenched out of the orbit it had followed for millennia. For many in the West, the Divine authority that had functioned as the focal centre of guidance—however diverse the interpretations of its nature—seemed simply to have dissolved and vanished. In large measure, the individual was left free to maintain whatever relationship he believed connected his life to a world transcending material existence, but society as a whole proceeded with growing confidence to sever dependence on a conception of the universe that was judged to be at best a fiction and at worst an opiate, in either case inhibiting progress. Humanity had taken its destiny into its own hands. It had solved through rational experimentation and discourse—so people were given to believe—all of the fundamental issues related to human governance and development. :unsure:

 

This posture was reinforced by the assumption that the values, ideals and disciplines cultivated over the centuries were now reliably fixed and enduring features of human nature. They needed merely to be refined by education and reinforced by legislative action. The moral legacy of the past was just that: humanity’s indefeasible inheritance, requiring no further religious interventions. Admittedly, undisciplined individuals, groups or even nations would continue to threaten the stability of the social order and call for correction. The universal civilization towards the realization of which all the forces of history had been bearing the human race, however, was irresistibly emerging, inspired by secular conceptions of reality. People’s happiness would be the natural result of better health, better food, better education, better living conditions—and the attainment of these unquestionably desirable goals now seemed to be within the reach of a society single-mindedly focused on their pursuit. :unsure:

 

Throughout that part of the world where the vast majority of the earth’s population live, facile announcements that “God is Dead” had passed largely unnoticed. The experience of the peoples of Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific had long confirmed them in the view not only that human nature is deeply influenced by spiritual forces, but that its very identity is spiritual. Consequently, religion continued, as had always been the case, to function as the ultimate authority in life. These convictions, while not directly confronted by the ideological revolution taking place in the West, were effectively marginalized by it, insofar as interaction among peoples and nations was concerned. Having penetrated and captured all significant centres of power and information at the global level, dogmatic materialism ensured that no competing voices would retain the ability to challenge projects of world wide economic exploitation. To the cultural damage already inflicted by two centuries of colonial rule was added an agonizing disjunction between the inner and outer experience of the masses affected, a condition invading virtually all aspects of life. Helpless to exercise any real influence over the shaping of their futures or even to preserve the moral well-being of their children, these populations were plunged into a crisis different from but in many ways even more devastating than the one gathering momentum in Europe and North America. Although retaining its central role in consciousness, faith appeared impotent to influence the course of events. :ph34r:

 

As the twentieth century approached its close, therefore, nothing seemed less likely than a sudden resurgence of religion as a subject of consuming global importance. Yet that is precisely what has now occurred in the form of a groundswell of anxiety and discontent, much of it still only dimly conscious of the sense of spiritual emptiness that is producing it. Ancient sectarian conflicts, apparently unresponsive to the patient arts of diplomacy, have re-emerged with a virulence as great as anything known before. Scriptural themes, miraculous phenomena and theological dogmas that, until recently, had been dismissed as relics of an age of ignorance find themselves solemnly, if indiscriminately, explored in influential media. In many lands, religious credentials take on new and compelling significance in the candidature of aspirants to political office. A world, which had assumed that with the collapse of the Berlin Wall an age of international peace had dawned, is warned that it is in the grip of a war of civilizations whose defining character is irreconcilable religious antipathies. Bookstores, magazine stands, Web sites and libraries struggle to satisfy an apparently inexhaustible public appetite for information on religious and spiritual subjects. Perhaps the most insistent factor in producing the change is reluctant recognition that there is no credible replacement for religious belief as a force capable of generating self-discipline and restoring commitment to moral behaviour. :blink:

 

Beyond the attention that religion, as formally conceived, has begun to command is a widespread revival of spiritual search. Expressed most commonly as an urge to discover a personal identity that transcends the merely physical, the development encourages a multitude of pursuits, both positive and negative in character. On the one hand, the search for justice and the promotion of the cause of international peace tend to have the effect of also arousing new perceptions of the individual’s role in society. Similarly, although focused on the mobilization of support for changes in social decision-making, movements like environmentalism and feminism induce a re-examination of people’s sense of themselves and of their purpose in life. A reorientation occurring in all the major religious communities is the accelerating migration of believers from traditional branches of the parent faiths to sects that attach primary importance to the spiritual search and personal experiences of their members. At the opposite pole, extraterrestrial sightings, “self-discovery” regimens, wilderness retreats, charismatic exaltation, various New Age enthusiasms, and the consciousness-raising efficacy attributed to narcotics and hallucinogens attract followings far larger and more diverse than anything enjoyed by spiritualism or theosophy at a similar historical turning point a century ago.

 

For a Bahá’í, the proliferation even of cults and practices that may arouse aversion in the minds of many serves primarily as a reminder of the insight embodied in the ancient tale of Majnún, who sifted the dust in his search for the beloved Laylí, although aware that she was pure spirit: “I seek her everywhere; haply somewhere I shall find her.” The reawakened interest in religion is clearly far from having reached its peak, in either its explicitly religious or its less definable spiritual manifestations. On the contrary. The phenomenon is the product of historical forces that steadily gather momentum. Their common effect is to erode the certainty, bequeathed to the world by the twentieth century, that material existence represents ultimate reality.

 

The most obvious cause of these re-evaluations has been the bankruptcy of the materialist enterprise itself. For well over a hundred years, the idea of progress was identified with economic development and with its capacity to motivate and shape social improvement. Those differences of opinion that existed did not challenge this world view, but only conceptions as to how its goals might best be attained. Its most extreme form, the iron dogma of “scientific materialism”, sought to reinterpret every aspect of history and human behaviour in its own narrow terms. Whatever humanitarian ideals may have inspired some of its early proponents, the universal consequence was to produce regimes of totalitarian control prepared to use any means of coercion in regulating the lives of hapless populations subjected to them. The goal held up as justification of such abuses was the creation of a new kind of society that would ensure not only freedom from want but fulfilment for the human spirit. At the end, after eight decades of mounting folly and brutality, the movement collapsed as a credible guide to the world’s future.

 

Other systems of social experimentation, while repudiating recourse to inhumane methods, nevertheless derived their moral and intellectual thrust from the same limited conception of reality. The view took root that, since people were essentially self-interested actors in matters pertaining to their economic well-being, the building of just and prosperous societies could be ensured by one or another scheme of what was described as modernization. The closing decades of the twentieth century, however, sagged under a mounting burden of evidence to the contrary: the breakdown of family life, soaring crime, dysfunctional educational systems, and a catalogue of other social pathologies that bring to mind the sombre words of Bahá’u’lláh’s warning about the impending condition of human society: “Such shall be its plight, that to disclose it now would not be meet and seemly.” :rolleyes:

 

The fate of what the world has learned to call social and economic development has left no doubt that not even the most idealistic motives can correct materialism’s fundamental flaws. Born in the wake of the chaos of the Second World War, “development” became by far the largest and most ambitious collective undertaking on which the human race has ever embarked. Its humanitarian motivation matched its enormous material and technological investment. Fifty years later, while acknowledging the impressive benefits development has brought, the enterprise must be adjudged, by its own standards, a disheartening failure. Far from narrowing the gap between the well-being of the small segment of the human family who enjoy the benefits of modernity and the condition of the vast populations mired in hopeless want, the collective effort that began with such high hopes has seen the gap widen into an abyss. --From the book 'One Common Faith', Commissioned by the Universal House of Justice, Baha'i World Centre, Baha'i Publications Australia, 2005, pp.3-8.

ENGENDERING_A_PERSPECTIVE.rtf

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