The Economic Crisis And Human Nature

It seems to me that the current economic crisis challenges a century of materialist assumptions about the motivation of individuals and their relationship to each other. I find the following passage from the Bahá’í International Community’s Contribution to the 18th Session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development in 2010 very illuminating in this regard.

The question of human nature has an important place in the discourse on sustainable consumption and production as it prompts us to reexamine, at the deepest levels, who we are and what our purpose is in life. The human experience is essentially spiritual in nature: it is rooted in the inner reality—or what some call the ‘soul’—that we all share in common. The culture of consumerism, however, has tended to reduce human beings to competitive, insatiable consumers of goods and to objects of manipulation by the market. Commonly held views have assumed the existence of an intractable conflict between what people really want (i.e. to consume more) and what humanity needs (i.e. equitable access to resources). How, then, can we resolve the paralyzing contradiction that, on the one hand, we desire a world of peace and prosperity, while, on the other, much of economic and psychological theory depicts human beings as slaves to self-interest? The faculties needed to construct a more just and sustainable social order—moderation, justice, love, reason, sacrifice and service to the common good—have too often been dismissed as naïve ideals. Yet, it is these, and related, qualities that must be harnessed to overcome the traits of ego, greed, apathy and violence, which are often rewarded by the market and political forces driving current patterns of unsustainable consumption and production.

Source: ‘Rethinking Prosperity: Forging Alternatives to a Culture of Consumerism’ Bahá’í International Community, United Nations Office


Five Year Sentence For Educating Students In Iran

Seven Baha'i Educators Sentenced In Iran

I am saddened to hear from BWNS that seven innocent members of the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE) detained for several months in Iran have just been sentenced to four or five year prison sentences by a Revolutionary Court in Tehran. Vahid Mahmoudi, Kamran Mortezaie, Ramin Zibaie, Mahmoud Badavam, Farhad Sedghi,  Riaz Sobhani and  Nooshin Khadem were helping to provide educational courses to Baha’i youth prevented from entering higher education due to their membership of the Baha’i Faith.

Alcohol Is Not Magical

Kate Fox a consultant for MCM research whose alcohol industry clients include Bass Taverns, the Brewers and Licensed Retail Association and the Brewers’ Society argues that alcohol consumption is not a problem but cultural attitudes to alcohol are.

The problem is that we Brits believe that alcohol has magical powers – that it causes us to shed our inhibitions and become aggressive, promiscuous, disorderly and even violent. But we are wrong. In high doses, alcohol impairs our reaction times, muscle control, co-ordination, short-term memory, perceptual field, cognitive abilities and ability to speak clearly. But it does not cause us selectively to break specific social rules…

Source:  Viewpoint: Is the alcohol message all wrong?

It seems to me that if as the writer states  ‘In high doses, alcohol impairs our reaction times, muscle control, co-ordination, short-term memory, perceptual field, cognitive abilities and ability to speak clearly’ then it is in fact highly likely to cause disorder and violence on the part of drinkers…

The long term health problems caused by alcohol are also ignored in the article which concentrates on anthropology rather than medical research.

The writer goes on to argue that public health campaigns which highlight the negative effects of alcohol will only encourage the young and impressionable to drink more. (If this is the case why does the alcohol industry spend millions advertising a positive image for drinking? Perhaps they are missing a trick and should increase sales by telling their customers not to drink at all.)..

How does one change the culture surrounding alcohol?  One can begin with the right message. In the words of Bahá’u’lláh

‘It is inadmissible that man, who hath been endowed with reason, should consume that which stealeth it away…’

Death Sentence For Changing Religion In Iran

Youcef Nadarkhani and family

I am saddened by the continuing persecution of Christians in Iran.

The Baha’i International Community has joined the call for the release of Youcef Nadarkhani, a Christian pastor from Rasht, Iran. Pastor Nadarkhani, who is the father of two young children, leads a network of house churches. He was found guilty of apostasy – “turning his back on Islam” – and “converting Muslims to Christianity,” and sentenced to death in September 2010. Iran’s Supreme Court recently asked for a re-examination of the case to establish whether or not he had been a practising Muslim adult before he converted to Christianity. The court ruled he was not but, nevertheless, is still guilty of apostasy because he has Muslim ancestry. The case has sparked strong condemnation from governments, organizations and religious leaders around the world.