NSA's Poverty Eradication Suggestions; Tablet of Master on Economics
By John Taylor; 2008 Oct 03
October 17th is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, a day established by the United Nations General Assembly. The Baha'i National Spiritual Assembly of Canada has asked communities to think about this special day and report to them any activities we may sponsor. In a letter written on the NSA's behalf back in August, their director of external affairs wrote,
"This day presents an opportunity to acknowledge the struggles of people living in poverty, and a chance for the Baha'i community to raise awareness of the worldwide efforts to eradicate poverty and to share some of what the Baha'i community is learning as we strive to apply Baha'i principles to current social issues. The United Nations Office of the Baha'i International Community, in drawing attention to this international day, points out that October 16th is World Food Day, suggesting these two days be commemorated together."
Here in Dunnville we do this a little earlier. This weekend the Salvation Army holds its annual sleepover in the park (that is, Central Park, just across from the Taylor family mansion) in order to raise money for and awareness of homelessness. Our family is sponsoring one of the Baha'i youth in our community as she (and many other participants do too) sleeps over one night in a cardboard box, just like the indigent do every night. It is getting cold enough that this will not be an easy sleepover.
The Badi' Blog featured not long ago a biting bit of satire from a book called "What White Folks Like" that pointed out that this generation uses "raising awareness" as an excuse for doing things we like in the name of a good cause, thus removing all guilt. For example, if we like bicycling, we will hold a bike rally for charity. In that case, our attempt at consciousness-raising is nothing better than an empty gesture, a way of avoiding sacrifice, struggle, or doing anything substantive or even strenuous for the common good. But in this cause, the cause of raising awareness for the less fortunate, we Baha'is have divine sanction in the form of the following Hidden Word of Baha'u'llah,
"O Children of Dust! Tell the rich of the midnight sighing of the poor, lest heedlessness lead them into the path of destruction, and deprive them of the Tree of Wealth."
The NSA suggests that we could have some sort of educational activity to do the consciousness raising that the Hidden Word suggests, or perhaps hold a meeting to "evaluate the level of community interest" in the elimination of poverty. They also offer the following ideas for activities on this day,
-- Share the Baha'i International Community's perspective on poverty with the public, with municipal governmental contacts or non-governmental organizations (see the document "Eradicating Poverty: Moving Forward as One" at: www.bic.org).
-- Participate in events to commemorate the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty should any be held in your area
-- Provide this information to Baha'is in your community through your website or newsletter. (Which is what I am doing right here on the Badi' Blog)
-- Organize an event, such as a panel, workshop or conference to convey and discuss the Baha'i perspective on eradicating poverty
-- Organize a deepening on the Poverty Statement for the members of your Baha'i community.
Let me close with the full text of a Tablet the Master wrote when the young Shoghi Effendi, just graduated from a Beirut university with a master's degree in arts and sciences, was working as His secretary. This letter was written to a believer who was giving talks on economics. In it, Abdu'l-Baha briefly discusses two important aspects of the Baha'i view of how to eradicate poverty. In the first He makes the point, rarely mentioned even today, that the rich, even the super-rich, stand to benefit from economic equity as much as the poor.
His second point just blew me away when I read it lately: the Master gives details about how profit sharing would work that I never noticed before. There are many forms of profit sharing in companies around the world, but I highly doubt that they work anything like what the Master suggests here. This plan truly looks like it would offer a heavy incentive to workers to perform their very best. Amazing!
from: Star of the West, v. 10, p. 329-330
Headline: "Recent Tablet from Abdul Baha to Alfred E. Lunt"
To his honor, imr. Alfred Lunt, Boston, Massachusetts Upon him be BAHA'O'LLAH El Abha!
O thou who art firm in the Covenant!
Rest thou assured in the bounty of the Merciful, and be hopeful for the blessings of the Abha Kingdom, for thou dost exert the utmost effort in service for Truth and this magnet attracts assistance and confirmation. The addresses thou hast delivered with reference to economic problems are highly suitable.
The essence of the Baha'i economic teachings is this, that immense riches far beyond what is necessary should not be accumulated. For instance, the well known Morgan, who possessed a sum of three hundred millions, and was day and night restless and agitated, did not partake of the divine bestowals save a little broth. This wealth was for him a vicissitude and not the cause of comfort. He invited me to his library and to his home, that I might visit the former and have dinner at his house. I went to the library in order to look at the Oriental books, but did not go to his house, and did not accept his invitation.
In short, he eagerly desired that I should visit him in the library but meanwhile important financial problems arose which prevented him from being present, and thus he was deprived of this bounty. Now, had he not such an excessive amount of wealth, he might have been able to present himself.
As to the events that had been predicted -- Praise be to God! all of them have come to pass, and all that had been the explicit and irrefutable declarations of His Holiness BAHAOLLAH, and had been incorporated in the addresses of Abdul Baha in America and Europe, all of them, word by word, have been fulfilled. These explicit declarations of His Holiness BAHAOLLAH were revealed fifty years ago by the Supreme Pen, and at present they have been made evident and manifest.
At present, thou hast a lofty aspiration, and hast the desire to engage in every service. My hope is, that through a heavenly power, and a Lordly influence, and by the assistance of the Holy Spirit thou mayst be confirmed in distinguished services a service which thou dost think advisable and its success assured.
Thou hadst inquired that if a person owned a piece of land and is not able to develop it, and his revenues are less than his expenditures, is it permissible that he sell a portion of that land and mortgage it? Undoubtedly, it is permissible.
Concerning the case of profit sharing by the employers among the workers, which thou hadst written about, undoubtedly the workers must secure their daily salary, and in addition, must have shares with the employers so that they may engage with the utmost effort in that work. For example, a capitalist has a thousand employees, he must give them a moderate salary every day, that they may not remain hungry and naked, and also assign a definite share of the profit to the workers so that at the beginning of each year it may be distributed among them, that this may cause the workers to exert the utmost care and effort in their job.
Embrace on my behalf thy sweet children, and name the son Hossein, for it is a portion of the name of the Blessed Beauty, and call the daughter Zahrah.
The letter thou hast written to the Boston paper is highly pleasing and favorable.
Upon thee be Baha El Abha!
(SIGNED) ABDUL BAHA ABBAS.
(Translated by Shoghi Rabbani, Bahjeh, Acca, Palestine, July 22, 1919)