Past Knowledge is Proven False
In the future much that is announced and accepted as true now will be rejected and disproved. And so it will continue ad infinitum.
(Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p. 45)
How do we know what is true. It has been proven that all criterion we use as humans is faulty. We perceive the mirage to be real. We transmit invisible signals into the air and develop technology to detect them and interpret them. We then see images of people on the TV set in our living room. They look real but they are not there.
We investigate to see what will happen when certain elements are put together and then speculate as to why the reaction happened. We develop rules and theories to explain why things happen and they are continually changed and modified as new information becomes available. When it comes explaining why something happens we are at a loss. Low frequency radio waves are more effected by gravity than high frequency waves. Why? We don’t know. Through observation and tests we just find more information on how things react but we are no closer to discovering the root cause.
For many years certain races of men felt that they were superior to others. They based that knowledge on erroneous information. They amassed superior weapons and forced their beliefs on others. When it came to waging war these ones excelled. If the criterion for superiority is in the ability to kill humans and destroy cities these ones where the best. If you didn’t agree that they were superior they would kill you and destroy your civilization. If you resisted they would declare you to be bloodthirsty savages who needed to be destroyed and would murder your warriors along with innocent children and women. They would lie to you and cheat you to get what they wanted. Since they were the superior race, human rights applied to themselves and themselves only. All others were regarded little better than animals.
So they rode into Africa and shot up the black population, stealing men women and children to be used as slaves. They refused to educate the Africans, gave them barely enough food to keep them alive and worked them long and hard hours every day. Many Blacks began to recognize their perceived inferiority but not all. No matter how the whites tried they could not keep the black man in submission.
They rode into America and shot up the red man, stealing his land. When these aboriginal ones tried to protect what was rightfully theirs they were called savages and attempts were made to wipe them out. They tried to assimilate the ones that refused to die and teach them the better ways of the superior race. This created more problems than the killing and pillaging.
It is like a gang of schoolyard bullies rode onto the world stage. There seemed to be no stopping them. None could be found to stand up to them. But there is one thing they didn’t count on.
Sir, the Americans may tell of their ability, and I have no doubt they have it, to keep back the invader’s hosts, to repulse the strongest force that its enemies may send against this country. It may boast, and rightly boast of its capacity to build its ramparts so high that no foe can hope to scale them—to render them so impregnable as to defy the assaults of the world. But, sir, there is one thing it cannot resist, come from what quarter it may. It cannot resist TRUTH. You cannot build your forts so strong, nor your ramparts so high, nor arm yourselves so powerfully, as to be able to withstand the overwhelming MORAL SENTIMENT against Slavery now flowing into this land. For example: Prejudice against Color is continually becoming weaker in this land; and why? Because the whole European Continent denounces this sentiment as unworthy a lodgment in the breast of an enlightened community. And the American abroad dares not now, even in a public conveyance, to lift his voice in defence of this disgusting prejudice.
Douglass, Frederick. Abolition Fanaticism in New York -- The Frederick Douglass Collection:
The bully’s enemy is the Truth. He will fight against it, deny it, twist it and do anything with it except believe it. He will blame others for the wrong he is doing but will not recognize that he himself is the worst offender.
The bully reigns terror in his neighbourhood, but then his mother comes out and drags him into the house by his ear, humiliating him in front of his victims. And yet the bully does not understand. The only law he knows is the law of brute force. Intelligence and reasoning are beyond his capabilities. Yet he proclaims himself the most intelligent and will beat you to a pulp if you do not agree. He reasons with gun and sword to get his own way, but, oh no, here comes mom again. He is gone for now but he will be back to reign terror another day.
Among every race there are those who abide by higher moral standards and who long for peace in the world. They are likely as numerous as the bullies but the unthinking majority is easily swayed. Yes they can see that slavery is wrong, but it is the way things are done. How can I manage my business if I don’t have slave labour to do my work. It is so much easier to have someone else do the work while I reap the benefits, so I won’t rock the boat. I’ll pay my dues to the bullies so long as they leave me alone. I can look the other way when my brother is abused.
But tyranny feeds and festers and grows to be a pain that cannot be ignored forever. Finally the mass of humanity is swayed toward reason and a huge battle is fought with the bullies. Eventually they are subdued and slavery is brought to an end, or is it. At least on paper the law looks good and it is now illegal to own a slave. Yet major companies will rent their slave labour. Still they get rich off the labour of the oppressed. And the prejudice that the bullies taught is not so easily unlearned. Although the physical condition may be improving it takes much longer to recover from psychological abuse.
People tend to believe what they are told, especially during the formative ages of childhood. A misinformed public continues to misinform the next generation and it takes many generations to undo prejudice beliefs. Such beliefs lie hidden and many times the prejudice person is not aware they hold prejudice beliefs. “My beliefs are well founded. They go back for generations and this was good enough for my ancestors, so it is good enough for me.”
Then comes a rebellious child who asks, “Why? Why is it so that we have held these values for so long. Let’s see if we can find a better way.” This child has a hard time. He must fight tradition. He goes against the values of his family. And, oh no, look who he has brought home. “Surely they are not going to marry?”
The Nineteenth century was a time of rebellion. A rebellious generation grew up to question the status quo. During 1848 there were uprisings in almost every country in Europe and the USA fought its most formidable enemy, itself, from 1861 to 1865.
Now, during the beginning of the twenty-first century we are still feeling the effects of that rebellion. The rebellious child is starting to grow up and realise there are things he cannot change. Now we face the greatest danger, the danger of slipping back to our old standards. Yes, laws have been written that won’t likely be repealed, but there are ways around that. “I can no longer hold a piece of paper that says I own another human being but I can exert my influence over others and force them to do things that go against their moral standards. If I have money I can hold it out in front of my employees and get them to do things they never thought they would do just as easily as teaching a dog a new trick by promising a doggie treat.” We still have the oppressed and the oppressors. The danger is in falling back into the thinking that this is okay.
The greatest reward for working is the knowledge that one has worked to the best of his ability and has done a job he can be proud of. Oppression takes that award away and no amount of money can replace it. Many fugitive slaves stated that they worked harder when they became free than they ever did as a slave. Just the fact that they were earning a living for themselves outweighed any incentive a whip could bring. For the slave it was enough that you valued him enough as a person to pay him a wage. Now things are getting more complicated. The money incentive is being used more like a whip and many employers have adopted policies that cause their employees to feel undervalued and that their work does not really matter.
It is my feeling that everyone deserves a job. That job should not be just for the purpose of earning a living, but it should be the job that the person wants to do and he should feel rewarded in doing it to the point that he would want to continue even if he wasn’t paid. That way, even those who have inherited enough money that they don’t have to work would have a job that they felt was contributing something to society. Yes, people need to be remunerated so they can earn a descent living, but they also need the comfort of knowing that everyone has the same opportunity so they don’t have to live in fear of their earnings being stolen from them. There is enough wealth and enough work to go around if it is distributed fairly. If we can get people off of the welfare system maybe families would not have to hold down two or more jobs to pay the bills. Perhaps one parent could concentrate on the most important job on earth, that is the raising, educating and nurturing of our own children.
The trend since the industrial resolution is to mold and shape the person to fit the job. I believe things would work better if the opposite approach was taken. Let’s see if we can develop a new strategy were we start with the individual and develop the job to fit him. Now even the handicapped can work. Yes granny, who has trouble getting out of bed, can have something to do that makes her feel that she is a valuable citizen and not a burden on society. You may be surprised how much energy this could instill into an old soul. We can do this while maintaining and building family values. I child may be surprised how much more interesting are the stories told by his grandparents than the computer games he has been playing. “But mom, it is story time. I don’t want to play on the computer.”
My study of the nineteenth century has enlightened me in many ways. It was a troubled time and a time of rebellion and change. The status quo was questioned and challenged. We see many effects of those changes in today’s society, but now they have become normal and we have grown apathetic. We cannot afford to forget the progress that has been made and we need to maintain the fight for sustainable progress. If we don’t continue to advance we will fall back. The nineteenth century contains a history we do not want to repeat. Let us learn from past mistakes so we don’t have to repeat them.