Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the world around us and our way of life have totally changed. New attitudes, and a new way of thinking, have to be adopted. What is happening has highlighted the plight of the poor and the need for the governments and other agencies to step up and do all they can to help — because this epidemic is killing more of the underprivileged and people living in poverty.
However, there is some good news too, for example, celebrities, sports figures, and other wealthy people have got their wake-up call and are realizing that there is more to life than accumulating wealth. Financial institutions have relaxed their lending rates and brought the credit cards interest to zero. There is a sense of unity, even with some warring parties across the world. They have ceased fighting because they have found a bigger enemy in the virus. Though these changes of attitudes have not come organically, nevertheless they are welcome changes, and they make me happy in these stressful times.
Despite all these positive changes, the problems of the poor remain unchanged, and instead have become worse. The problem lay in the failure to grasp the fact that each one of us, from the poorest person to the richest, are the stakeholders in all the affairs of humanity, and we all are in it together.
I have tried to address the nature of economic problems through spiritual solutions. According to the Baha’i Writings:
“The secrets of the whole economic question are Divine in nature, and are concerned with the world of the heart and spirit.” – Abdu’l-Baha
Many religious and political leaders, philosophers and economic experts through recent decades have attempted to bring changes to a system that has been built on the idea of promoting self-interest and individualism without any thought given to creating prosperity for the whole humanity?
Now, this universal disease, Coronavirus, is tearing into all those barriers of nationalism, racism and religious differences and making everyone think, "Oh my God, we all are in this together." This realization weakens those barriers but does not destroy it.
The question in my mind is, do we need a disaster like this one that has paralyzed the whole world, or a meteor from space to wake us up to the fact that this universe, this earth has been created by one creator. We are all its occupants, so why don't we act as neighbours or family members?
“The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens” – Baha’u’llah
Why can’t we create an economic system in such a way that all the citizens of the world would live fulfilling lives in prosperity?
In this health crisis and other disasters, whether natural or otherwise, it is the poor and the underprivileged who are the ones who suffer the most due to not having the material means to protect themselves against diseases and disasters. You may ask why? I say because our economic system is set up that way. After all, the economic system is deprived of moral values. This is because we have separated morality and humanity from our economic system and economic activities. This caused the economic system to almost crash in 2008, leading to a financial crisis and yet this system continues to ignore the plight of the poor.
I believe that humanity has reached that level of maturity. It is my hope that it won’t take crises and disasters to inspire us to find a better way of organizing our affairs — including economics.
Badi Shams is a Baha’i and a mystic at heart whose field of interest is in economics. He has published a compilation "Economics of the Future", and also more recently the book "Economics of the Future Begins Today". He is retired from the educational system. You can read more of Badi's materials on his website, www.badishams.net
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* This article was published in the print edition of the Times Colonist on Saturday, May 16th 2020