As I come to the end of Jeremy Rifkin’s fabulous work, “Empathic Civilisation – The race to global consciousness in a world of crisis”, I find him returning to one of the perennial questions: “WHY?”. Specifically, Rifkin asks why should the global human society become increasingly connected by the digital age?” He is unhappy with the responses about economy, sharing, even relationship building. Is it the hammer and nail analogy, just reengineered as “when you have a PC connected to the internet does everything look like a network of relationships?” For along with increased empathic connectivity is also increased narcissistic connectivity. Nonetheless, Rifkin goes on to realising this relational sense of consciousness is synchronous with our knowledge of the relational aspect of the planet’s biosphere, and, therefore, the possibility that a connected world which is mostly empathetic will be able to solve the great challenge of the global civilisation – energy conservation.
The philosophers, politicians, and economists of the 20th century have been shown to have, almost invariably, created erroneous policy for the solution to the great challenge. The lessons of the 20th Century were hard won. Yet, let us consider whether we might not have taken a more peaceful approach. And if we might once have taken a more peaceful approach, might we not yet take that approach and expedite a collaborative solution for humanity. Effort is required. Abdu’l Baha, in his 19th century treatise, ‘The Secret of the Divine Civilization’, refers many times to the effort required to produce societal results.
“..through the restoring waters of pure intention and unselfish effort, the earth of human potentialities will blossom with its own latent excellence and flower into praiseworthy qualities, and bear and flourish..”;
“What (is) urgently requires, however, is deep reflection, resolute action, training, inspiration and encouragement. (The) people must make a massive effort, and their pride must be aroused.”;
“..everything hinges on the efforts of the elected representatives. If their intention is sincere, desirable results and unforeseen improvements will be forthcoming; if not, it is certain that the whole thing will be meaningless, the country will come to a standstill and public affairs will continuously deteriorate…. that the happiness and greatness, the rank and station, the pleasure and peace, of an individual have never consisted in his personal wealth, but rather in his excellent character, his high resolve, the breadth of his learning, and his ability to solve difficult problems.”;
“would instead bend their efforts to the production of whatever will foster human existence and peace and well-being, and would become the cause of universal development and prosperity. Then every nation on earth will reign in honor, and every people will be cradled in tranquillity and content. A few, unaware of the power latent in human endeavor, consider this matter as highly impracticable, nay even beyond the scope of man’s utmost efforts. Such is not the case, however, on the contrary, thanks to the unfailing grace of God, the loving-kindness of His favored ones, the unrivaled endeavors of wise and capable souls, and the thoughts and ideas of the peerless leaders of this age, nothing whatsoever can be regarded as unattainable. Endeavor, ceaseless endeavor, is required. Nothing short of an indomitable determination can possibly achieve it.”
“Effort towards what?”, we might ask. And we might, again, look at those teachings of Baha’u’llah that were ignored by the great powers in the 19th century, and the various philosophers, economists and politicians in the 20th century. Might not the teachings of the one source who has, over the course of the last 150 years, had a 100% success rate, where applied, be deserved a closer look at the whole of His message. Let us take one ‘for instance’. Baha’u’llah’s teachings explicitly demands the equality of men and women. However, in the 19th century, He didn’t make a simple demand for men to bring women to equality, he went a much further step of empowerment by directing fathers to provide, if the circumstance arise, special bias in favour of the education of girls above boys. More recently, international reports on the economic development of nations find that the education of women is the most distinctive indicator of the welfare of a nation.
Baha’u’llah taught 12 broad social issues: There is One God, Religion is one; Humanity is one; the unfettered independent search after truth; the elimination of prejudice; the equality of men and women; the universal education of children; the necessity and compatibility of science and religion; economic justice; universal peace; an international auxiliary language; and the power of the holy spirit. Of each of these he provided much encouragement for effort to exemplify and share the idea of these issues within a spiritual context ie effort towards purity of heart, love, generosity. He prohibited involvement of partisan politics as counter to the unity and spiritual education of humanity. He expounded a covenant with God and humanity. With this covenant He outlined an organisational framework to provide both universal participation in community life and leadership of the community at local, national and international levels.
Baha’is have built the organisational framework that Baha’u’llah provided, literally with blood, sweat and tears, but also with great love for humanity and a great willingness to learn. The Baha’i community have provided such effort as to be able to effect practice, often many decades before the world is politically assured. Being politically assured, the governments of the world are still unable to enact the degree of development that is being enacted in the Baha’i Faith. Mostly because the lessons of the 20th century are still being hard won. Effort is required to solve the great challenge of the future of humanity in the world. That effort is far better spent in the collaboration of Baha’u’llah’s teachings, than in any other. That is the effort to become a great lover of humanity, of human beings, to raise a generation of children and youth with a great love of humanity and service, to take an open and pure heart into all aspects of life.
Our connectiveness on the internet will have life when it has spiritual life – the effort to serve humanity through the teachings of Baha’u’llah.