Hope And The Struggle For Unity

by Don McCormick

Historian Will Durant said that we have multiplied knowledge and power without improving conscience and purpose. Each century since the Renaissance, we have come closer to brutally collapsing in the changeless abuse of the weak by the strong. We continue to turn to science, knowledge, power and pride, and away from faith, hope and charity. If he was right, then we are out of our nature, slaves of commerce and technology. We are like blind passengers in air balloons. Our minds are washed by colors from electronic screens. Our bodies move things around in a pretence of work, but, actually, we live from alms. We are apart, just waiting to die.

To have property and money is thought to be more important than being human. Even charity can become an obsession to get things for the poor, to elevate the poor to the possessed state of the rich. We connect learning with getting money, and getting money with the opportunity to do good. How often do people say that you cannot do good for others unless you have things to give them, or skills to teach them. But this is nonsense. Human beings are not better because of the goods they have. They exist in a world of goods, which they can transform, but which they cannot possess except ignorantly, as in the filing of a property deed, or counting the number of electronic signals they own in the Automatic Clearing House of bank accounts.

Goods are to be shared, not coveted; blessed, not damned. Sharing and blessing of our goods come from the virtues of kindness, obedience, humility, patience, mercy, purity, chastity and tenderness. These are the virtues of the voluntary poor, but they are admirably adapted to restore order to a demoralized people, to tame warmongers and to moderate violence.

People can be complete without modern technology and science; even without stone age technology. Intelligent and loving human beings existed before the first stones were made into tools; before the first stick was used to pick an insect from its nest. Yet, the only thing inhuman about technology and science is thinking that it is essential and letting it become a reason to enslave others. The tribe that lives completely from nature, naked in the forest, in shelters of leaves, eating roots and berries, are as able, intelligent, and human as the tribe that lives in a city of engines, electronic gadgets, glass and steel shelters, and Super K-Marts. The difference between the two tribes is insubstantial, but it is likely that the members of the city tribe will have lost their abilities to see morning stars and to recognize food in its natural state.

To be without family and friends, even if you think you are one with God, is to be incomplete. Human beings can be complete without a car, a house, a coat, a job and other property we think we need. If you did not have manufactured things, you, and the members of your tribe, would make what you need to sustain your life from what nature provides, or you would not live. The difficulty of that enterprise is that most of us are cut off from the land and from the knowledge of how to live without the mass production of goods. Those who still have the knowledge to take from nature that which they need to live are the subjects of anthropology. They are regarded as oddities in our electronically driven civilization. That view would change if a meteorite hits the earth and reduces it to rubble and smoke. Should that happen, these odd people, if they survive, will spawn the future generations. Those of us who have relied on technological progress and generations of complex processes and systems that are unnatural will not survive. We will pass away like the Temple in Jerusalem.

Of course, we will die regardless of what we do. Still, our hope is to unify in the resurrection of Christ. The point of the comparison between the tribe who lives naturally and the city tribe is to show the folly of pride and the error of thinking that what we do and have is of much consequence. Whatever we make is just an expression of human intelligence. It’s a little like being a god, but it doesn’t have much in common with the creation of the smallest part of nature. We are discoverers and copyists, not creators. When we use our intelligence to live this life virtuously, as a community, we are in our nature. When we act in our self-interest and pretend to be creators, we are unnatural. The unnatural pass away quickly, usually without hope.

In The Individual and World Need, Eberhart Arnold said:

Today, joy in life is no longer the common property of mankind. Today any joy we have in life is meager and stunted. The overwhelming majority of working people of our time are cut off from all access to the joy of life. They are cut off from every practical possibility of a really communal life. All that mankind has in common today is suffering. Joy is alive in this suffering only as hope, but nonetheless as joyful faith in a better future. Without this joyful courage there would be no mutual help. The help given by one person to another proves that in spite of everything, faith in future healing cannot die.

Arnold wrote this in 1927. It is depressing there has been so little change in the last seventy years. Now, we can see the suffering he described on television, or read it in any newspaper. Worse still, since his time, we have witnessed more deaths and human tragedy than perhaps in all time past. Arnold’s generation is referred to as the “Lost Generation.” Are we “found?” Can’t we achieve joy in this life, in our nature, with each other?

People still seek joy. They have a desire to reverse what has gone wrong in the world. They seek unity to accomplish this desire. But the ways and means to correct wrongs and gain happiness are not well known. Attempting to solve problems, people create organizations, adopt command structures, acquire property and material, gain power over other people, and try to make everyone materially productive. Since people are not creators, but merely reorganizers of the material world, the result has been the sorry history about which we have been lamenting.

What seems like a good way to solve human problems -organization, then acquisition of material, labor, and power- is not a good way. It has always resulted in murder. This is soul wrenching because it devalues human intelligence. It makes us despair. “I think, therefore….” What? That others may not be? Wisdom in a world that already exists, already contains life support systems, is on the side of honoring nature rather than reconstructing it. Human intelligence must be used first to disengage from artificially controlling the world and its creatures. If civilization as we know it fails, what has been lost? Not humanity, not life, not joy; only false pride.

Mumia Abu Jamal, author of Live From Death Row and Death Blossoms, has described, as well as anyone, the essence of what people need. In Death Blossoms, he said:

Ninety-five percent of the guards I’ve met are doing their job simply because they need the money. Like cops and sheriffs, they are men, human beings, and their central concerns, needs, and fears are the same as anyone else’s — they need money to pay rent, put bread on the table, provide an education for their children. But they have become part of the system because of their fear; they have bought into it because it is built on fear. Remember, the system is not a true reality, but an idea which can be fought and dismantled. People forget that we don’t need the system, or the accessories we mistakenly assume are essential for living. We need only the things God gave us: love, family, nature. We must transform the system. That’s the challenge. It’s do-able, but only if we ourselves do it.

This optimism is coming from a man who has been on death row for the last fifteen years. It is a reminder of the words of Jesus:

…And every one who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it.

Yet, the “system” which Mumia says can be “fought and dismantled” will make no noise when it falls because it is “not a true reality.” It is not like a house. The house where Mumia lives will make a noise, but if transformed, it could be used for shelter for all kinds of living things; not humans beings, but spiders and bats and other creatures of God.. The people working for the system, and those who are entrapped by it, are the direct transformers. When they join the community as family members, in love, in harmony with nature, then the unreality of our disunity will be dispelled. Of course, the people outside of the prison system must help the prisoners, guards, prosecutors and judges join the community as brothers and sisters.

The transformation process is exceedingly difficult to sustain because it is far easier for human beings to grab power than to give it up. It is easier to hate your enemies than to love them. It is easier to receive help than to give it. Finally, it is very difficult not to despair when you attempt to do good if you are opposed and conquered; particularly, when you must face an unnatural death. Mumia is a condemned man, yet he has more hope than his jailers who are slaves to their jobs and more freedom than his judges who are bound to the letter of the law, but not to its spirit.

In The Individual and World Need, Eberhart Arnold said:

The life of humankind – our relationship to each other – is so decayed, so fatally poisoned, that no legally convicted criminal can be more guilty than we are. In the final analysis we stand already condemned: the “innocent” victim is as guilty as the murderer. This recognition is the crucial step back toward life. We must recognize the “life” we live today, our whole life, as unjust and disintegrating into complete ruin — a personal injustice which at the same time is a public injustice. We must see our guilt in the mortal anguish of the whole world. This confession of both comprehensive and personal guilt is the ultimate, most crucial step we mortals can take…. We need nothing but truthfulness — an integrity that sees things as they really are — to recognize in every area of life our immense responsibility for the guilt of the whole. We need only look at tiny children among us to feel the overwhelming weight of our responsibility for the need and guilt caused by our overall isolation.

Looking at children is very startling, especially if you have grown accustomed to the isolated world of adults. You find that hope, which you had given up, is the small child laughing on the swing. You think, well, Lord, maybe this child won’t forget, maybe this child will not grow apart from love, from joy. The only way that will happen is to unite as whole people — kindly, obediently, humbly, patiently, mercifully, purely, chastely, and tenderly. We must put away the weapons of war, the judgments we have cast on others, the selfish possession of goods, the pursuit of money, and the fear we have that God will abandon us regardless of what we do. This is the best advice:

The scribes and Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice. They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, and salutations in the market places, and being called rabbi by men. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. And call no man father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ. He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted

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