Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this series of articles are my own. They do not reflect the opinions or public statements of the Oakland Baha’i Community, the National Spiritual Assembly of Baha’is or the Baha’i International Community.
My deepest apologies to my readers–I have moved from my home of 37 years in Sacramento, California, and relocated to Oakland. More importantly, ongoing health issues have prevented me from publishing any stories. Although I am not fully healed, I am doing better now and I look forward to writing more consistently, beginning with a series of stories inspired by the global Occupy Movement.
In the Book of Agdas, Baha’u’llah forbids slavery, and Abdu’l-Baha’ has explained that not only chattel slavery, but also industrial slavery, is contrary to the law of God.When in the United States in 1912, He said to the American people:-
Between 1860 and 1865 you did a wonderful thing; you abolished chattel slavery ; but today you must do a much more wonderful thing: you must abolish industrial slavery.*
The solution of economic questions will not be brought by array of capital against labor, and labor against capital, in strife and conflict, but by the voluntary attitude of good will on both sides. Then a real and lasting justness of conditions will be secured.
But…Beloved Master, “the voluntary attitude of good will on both sides”? In the history of United States, every beneficial reformation movement (including the abolition of slavery) has only come about through much hardship and more often than not, bloodshed. More often than not, Americans have had no other recourse except to change the dehumanizing practices visited upon their countrymen or risk sinking into complete barbarism. Why else would the 1% of the most wealthy and powerful of Americans volunteer to work toward economic solutions, especially when this would mean they might have to divest themselves of a portion of their multi-billions? Given the current state of the politically created “class warfare” , it is difficult to conceptualize the extremely wealthy feeling benevolent enough to give any amount of their monies without a generous tax credit or a lucrative government contract as a payoff . Yes, I know they donate millions and millions to charitable organizations that would not exist at all without their generosity. Be that as it may, there are STILL far too many Americans without jobs, housing and adequate health care. Can we conveniently write all of them off as being entirely too lazy, ignorant and recalcitrant to take even the tiniest of steps toward self-sufficiency? There are many who not only believe this as an absolute truth, but they spend a considerable amount of their wealth to propagate aforementioned belief . One could think that such outlay of funds must be of some benefit to someone, since the destitute are not the recipients.
As illogical and ridiculous as the thought is, I often wish Abdu’l-Baha’ would return so I could specifically (and admittedly selfishly) ask him many questions about the seemingly complex and explosively divisive issues involving global widening between wealth and poverty, public mistrust/apathy of government institutions, inequities in education and medical care, racial hatred (Post-blackness?), worldwide sex trafficking and exploitation of women….
Yet, I know the answer to all of these questions. Teach this ailing world about the healing message of Baha’u’llah, something that I have yet to do in any measurable degree. I am not proud of this, in fact, due a dizzying myriad of personal issues (read: self-centeredness, fear, doubt and insecurity) along with several infirmities, I feel great shame in the knowledge that I have not responded to the Universal House of Justice’s call for all Baha’is to generously give of their time and money to be of service to humanity.
But I’m also a journalist, one who became seasoned in the profession long before I ever heard of the Baha’i Faith. In spite of the many years that have passed since I was racing to beat the clock at a city desk, my first instinct is still “to go out and get the scoop”, to be in the heart of whatever action is going on out on the streets. The best way I can describe the feeling is a blood and adrenaline pumping “Ohhhh, what a RUSH!!!” (For those of you who don’t know, it’s what the old WWE tag team Legion of Doom would bellow as they marched down to the ring before their match, and yes, I have issues.)
Right now, I live in one of main epicenters of growing Occupy Wall Street movements, also known as Oakland, California. I’ve gone downtown several times and stared forlornly across the street at the multi-colored tents pitched in haphazard patterns in the center of Frank Ogawa Plaza with city employees, business owners, protesters, onlookers, news hawks, people looking for a excuse to party during daylight hours, teenagers, young adults walking their dogs or riding their ten speed bikes, disabled people with walkers or wheelchairs, single moms with their kids, unemployed professionals, boomer hippies (who seemed to love to hug their young counterparts), celebrities (no, I refuse to name who because the other newsies have that angle very well covered) spaced-out mental cases, winos, addicts and, as reported by every newspaper, television, radio, Internet representatives who could elbow their way through the crowd, and of course, (GASP, oh the horror of it, even though many of them were there long before the protests) those dirty, flea-bitten, lice-ridden homeless folks joined with the others who were talking, organizing, eating, drinking, meditating, chanting, carrying placards, dancing, singing and/or playing music or simply nodding off in the afternoon sun. I felt emotionally divided as I watched another chapter in not just local history, but also America’s being written. I tugged on my backpack filled with my “just in case” notebooks and pens –but I didn’t bother to pull them out. Why? Here’s a few reasons:
In this day the mysteries of this earth are unfolded and visible before the eyes, and the pages of swiftly appearing newspapers are indeed the mirror of the world; they display the doings and actions of the different nations; they both illustrate them and cause them to be heard. Newspapers are as a mirror endowed with hearing, sight and speech; they are a wonderful phenomenon and a great matter.
But it behooves the writers and editors thereof to be sanctified from the prejudice of egotism and desire, and to be adorned with the ornament of equity and justice. They must inquire into matters as fully as possible in order that they may be informed of the real facts, and commit the same to writing. Concerning this wronged one, what the newspapers have published has for the most part been devoid of truth. Good speech and truthfulness are, in loftiness of position and rank, like the sun which has risen from the horizon of the heaven of knowledge.—Tablet of Tarazát. From “The Advent of Divine Justice”, pg 155
And there is this admonition from Abdu’l-Baha’:
Among the Baha’is there are no extortionate, mercenary and unjust practices, no rebellious demands, no revolutionary uprisings against existing governments….From “Baha’u’llah and the New Era”, pg 145
I’m not sure what my place as a Baha’i journalist is, at least as far as reporting current events is concerned. I do know that I am not “sanctified from the prejudice of egotism and justice.” Regrettably, part of me is still stuck in the 60s and 70s, when I desperately wanted to be part of all that social change movement, but I was too young to participate. All I could do then is what I do now–watch as the events at Frank H. Ogawa Plaza unfold and write about what I see as best I can. With a lot of prayer, maybe I will keep my former activist and career ambitions tucked away with the rest of my childhood/young adult memories in an attempt to be “adorned with the ornament of equity and justice”, and keep the words of Baha’u’llah in mind:
“Say: O people of God! Beware lest the powers of the earth alarm you, or the might of the nations weaken you, or the tumult of the people of discord deter you, or the exponents of earthly glory sadden you. Be ye as a mountain in the Cause of your Lord, the Almighty, the All-Glorious, the Unconstrained.” From “The Advent of Divine Justice”, pg79
It certainly isn’t easy being a Baha’i.
Is there any Remover of difficulties save God? Say: Praise be God! He is God! All are His servants, and all abide by His Bidding! Prayer revealed by The Ba’b.
(*Any one familiar with the history of the workforce in the United States can acknowledge that industrial slavery was never really abolished, however, extensive reformations have been made in working conditions for American citizens over the past 100 years. Unfortunately, some business still utilize industrial slavery tactics by employing illegal immigrant workers for labor-intensive jobs, hiring the young and fixed-income elderly for jobs that do not cover basic living expenses, and the outsourcing of service positions formerly held by Americans to Third World countries.)