Do-it-yourself Statues of Equality
By John Taylor; 2008 Dec 20, 09 Masa'il 165 BE
Why do people put up statues for liberty but not equality? Liberty, Equality, Fraternity! That was the call of the French Revolution. But since then liberty has hogged all the press. There is the famous Statue of Liberty in New York, as well as several other statues of liberty around the world, but you do not see monuments for fraternity or equality. But surely you cannot start on liberty without massive dollops of brotherhood and equity first! Why then does liberty get so much attention?
Maybe I am cynical, but probably lady liberty has proven so seductive through the past couple of centuries because she favours wealthy elites. They are in a position to enjoy liberty, and the fact that everybody else is all but enslaved only increases Lady Liberty's mystique. A few have the time and funds to enjoy freedom to the fullest, and the wannabes put their nose up against the glass and cheer. Sure, equality had its hour under communism, but when the Iron Curtain fell, equality and fraternity disappeared from the secular lexicon. Since then the system that George Orwell called "carnivorous capitalism" has gone on holding up liberty on her high pedestal, while inequality in most Western countries continued to worsen. Yet consider what Baha'u'llah said in the Unity Tablet,
"Those who have quaffed from the ocean of divine utterance and fixed their gaze upon the Realm of Glory should regard themselves as being on the same level as the others and in the same station. Were this matter to be definitely established and conclusively demonstrated through the power and might of God, the world would become as the Abha Paradise." (cited in "Elucidation of Baha'i Teachings on Ranks and Stations," 27 March 1978, Universal House of Justice to all NSA's, Messages 1963 to 1986, 206.3a, 206.3b, pp. 376-377)
But then again, if I look at others as on the same level as myself as Baha'u'llah suggests we do, then would it not be self contradictory to go around putting up statues to our equality? Equality means we are all on the same level. How do you make that into a symbolic statue? Okay, God by His very nature puts us all on the same level, but you cannot depict God any more than you can depict equality. So what do you do? Well, you could look at the Mashriq as a sort of walk-in statue of equality and fraternity. You go there, worship God, and walk out seeing yourself as equal or below everybody around you.
Or maybe the obligatory prayers are sort of moving, do-it-yourself statues of equality and fraternity. You prostrate yourself to God, and walk away with a visceral horror of non-spiritual distinctions. You are less inclined to stick your nose up against the glass ceilings of privilege and worshipping at shrine of liberty. Having the dust of prostration before the Creator pounded into your forehead, you suddenly long to cast aside all blocks and wrongs that keep us all away from the equality that, Baha'u'llah promises, leads straight to an Abha Paradise on earth.
"Indeed, man is noble, inasmuch as each one is a repository of the sign of God. Nevertheless, to regard oneself as superior in knowledge, learning or virtue, or to exalt oneself or seek preference, is a grievous transgression. Great is the blessedness of those who are adorned with the ornament of this unity and have been graciously confirmed by God." (Id.)