Monday, July 05, 2010

Service First


Servant Authority

By John Taylor; 2010 July 05, Rahmat 14, 167 BE

Service is the fundamental imperative of free enterprise. The entrepreneur's motto is "find a need and fill it." Plato rightly called business the "nursemaid of society." Like a nursemaid suckling a baby, the purpose of business is to care for us and nurture our tenderest, most urgent needs. No matter how complex, computerized and mathematical it becomes, the economy can never replace the creative ability of individuals to innovate and make new wealth as they profit by serving real needs of society.

Service, working for peace and the general good, is even more fundamental to politics, not only for leaders but followers as well. As Niccolo Machiavelli's masterpiece, "The Discourses," asserts, no theory, no system or political mechanism can ever take the place of involved, responsible and committed citizens.

Unfortunately, some corporations grew larger, more centralized and powerful, and learned to corrupt the nation state in their favour. The corporatist, state capitalist changed the motto to, "make a perceived need in the mind of the people and get government to help you fill it." The younger George Bush expressed this bluntly when still U.S. president. According to a South American head of state, they were discussing how to advance their nations' economies when Bush concluded, "For us, the greatest stimulus is war." Whatever the immediate American war aims in Iraq and Afghanistan, enrichment of influential businesses was always the overweening goal.

Here we see the main goal of business -- service -- and the main reason for being of politics -- peace -- betrayed and subverted in a single blow. How did this happen? How did George Bush, a professedly believing Christian, come to believe that war was the life of the economy? How did Barak Obama, a liberal democrat as well as a believing Christian, come to the same conclusion, evidently, since he is following an identical war policy in his administration? Has religious belief become so disconnected with religious teaching and moral principles that they are no longer speaking?

Surely service is every bit as fundamental to the message of Christ as it is to free enterprise. Did not Jesus say,

"The greatest among you shall be your servant." (Matt 23:11)

Certainly the context in which this was said -- a discussion of who was to take first place among the disciples -- makes the idea of distinction by usefulness of service -- servant authority -- even more emphatic. Just as the best entrepreneur is the one who has found the greatest need and filled it, and the best politician serves the people best by fulfilling their greatest need, that is, ending the addiction to war, so it is the role of religion to serve our greatest unperceived need, the need for a God of love to vivify our hearts. This indubitably is the Baha'i teaching.

"Universal benefits derive from the grace of the Divine religions, for they lead their true followers to sincerity of intent, to high purpose, to purity and spotless honor, to surpassing kindness and compassion, to the keeping of their covenants when they have covenanted, to concern for the rights of others, to liberality, to justice in every aspect of life, to humanity and philanthropy, to valor and to unflagging efforts in the service of mankind. It is religion, to sum up, which produces all human virtues, and it is these virtues which are the bright candles of civilization." (Abdu'l-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 98)


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