On Being – Chapter IX – The Commonality Among Faiths (Part III)

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IV – Honour your Family

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Catholic Version: Honor thy father and thy mother, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee, that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee. (Deut. 5:16, KJV).

Jewish Version: Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee (Exod. 20:12, KJV).

Muslim Version: And your Lord has decreed that you not worship except Him, and to parents, good treatment. Whether one or both of them reach old age [while] with you, say not to them [so much as], “uff,” and do not repel them but speak to them a noble word. (17:23).

Hindu Version: No rule or tenet per se; however honouring your mother and father is likened to honouring God .

Buddhist Version: The Itivuttaka: Living with Brahma are those families where, in the home, mother & father are revered by the children.

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Honour your father and your mother. Look after your sister and your brother and your children, and also the unfortunate in your community.

Your mother and father took care of you all the years you were incapable of taking care of yourself. Resolve to return to your parents, in their age of dependency, what they willingly gave to you, in yours. You also honour your parents by extending the love and care they gave you, to your children. Only in this way can you fully acknowledge the value of their gift to you. Do not shut your parents away in an old folks home unless it is critical to their wellbeing. Find a way to keep them with you, so that they may live out their days among people they have had a lifelong, socially-intimate connection with. It is the obligation of the state to provide material support to the elderly; but to expect the state to replace the spiritual support of love ones is unreasonable.

 

The people are the heart of the state; but the state cannot be the heart of the people.

There is no better way to acknowledge what your parents did for you, than to care for them in their old age.

Children are the future. There is no worthier occupation than in nurturing and instructing them. There is no greater responsibility for humankind than to prepare the best possible future for every child to inherit.

There is no greater asset to humankind than its children.

Because ego has provided the context for our actions since “civilization” began, humankind is today in such a “hole” socially, environmentally, and economically, that the future of this generation’s children is imperilled.

 

There is no greater responsibility for humankind than to preserve a viable future for every child to inherit.

V – Do Not Kill

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Catholic Version: Thou shalt not kill (Deut. 5:17, KJV).

Jewish Version: Thou shalt not kill (Exod. 20:13, KJV).

Muslim Version: Because of that, We decreed upon the Children of Israel that whoever kills a Soul unless for a Soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely (5:32).

Hindu Version: Yamas: Ahimsa. Non-violence(Western Hindu).

Buddhist Version: The Five Precepts: No killing – respect for Life.

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Here is a commandment that requires no revision whatsoever; even after three thousand years. The commandment is clear. Unequivocal. Even so, the human chronicle of the last three thousand years is one of bloodshed, exploitation, and oppression. Today, 33% of the world’s population is Christian, 21% Muslim, 14% Hindu, and 0.22% Jewish. Nearly 70% of people are beholden to their faith to observe this commandment; yet killing is being done in great numbers every day.

Governments murder their own citizens. Worshippers are murdered for the way in which they worship. Parents murder their children. If parents are not trustworthy, who is left to be trusted? People murder over power, politics, money, drugs, romance– for any reason you can think of, or for no reason at all -every day. Yet nearly everyone believes violence is rarely justified. If a consensus exists, deploring violence for what it is, how then is it possible for violence to continue to flourish the world over?

Ego. It is how people are able to justify the violence they do while at the same time condemning others for doing violence. Apart from self-defence or the defense of others, violence is never justified. When the immediate threat of violence to your person (or some other person) is removed, you are never justified to use violence, much less kill. Capital punishment and wars of aggression are an inexcusable blot on the human soul. They are state-sponsored, but this does not mean they aren’t murder.

We may use God to rationalize violence, but God has already told us not to kill. The Christian religion has its basis in the life of an individual who so deplored violence, he could not resort to it -even in his own defence.

I believe God prohibits capital punishment because it denies to the soul She created any further opportunity to evolve and become better. Suppose there is someone, tried and convicted of first degree murder, awaiting execution. Suppose that, while on death row, this person becomes truly penitent – so penitent, in fact, they look forward to being executed; that they might properly atone for what they did to their victim.

The timing of their execution is the difference between whether they are bound for Heaven or for hell. Had they been executed before their penitential moment came, we might have denied them their epiphany. We may also have ensured their soul’s destruction – a soul created by God, not by humans.

We would not want to destroy a single soul, nor the triad it forms a part of, for all of the potential for goodness contained therein. Neither should we risk unleashing a repeat-offender upon society. The only solution is to reward murder with an irrevocable life sentence. Dr. Guy Turcotte murdered  his two children. If he were truly penitent, he would not have petitioned the courts for his release; for the chance to build a normal life for himself. If he were truly sorry, he would want to go on atoning, until the day his own life ends, from inside the prison.

He would not be pleading to have his life returned to him –that being the very opportunity Turcotte denied the two young children who were entrusted to him by God.

VI – Never Lie about other People, or Betray their Trust

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Catholic Version: You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.

Jewish Version: Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

Muslim Version: And They (Servants of God) do not testify falsely (25:72).

Hindu Version: Yamas: Arjava. Honesty, renouncing deception and wrongdoing(Western Hindu).

Buddhist Version: The 5 Precepts: No lying – respect for honesty.

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Imagine a place where people never, ever lied. In such a place, the speaker would feel only the obligation to share and to inform; to provide the listener with all of the facts necessary in order to properly exercise their  free will. Imagine a business world that diligently upholds its social obligation, rather than just paying lip-service to it. Imagine a world where people are motivated to interact with you, a stranger, as often when you are in need of something, as when they are in need of something from you. Imagine a world where you are not pressured to buy more than you need, while billions we share the planet with never have enough. Imagine a world where the political motif is informed entirely with the spirit of public service, rather than self-service, partisanship, and ideology; where democracy is not being perverted into a game of “Machiavellian Pursuits,” wherein there are only two objectives: to obtain power and to maintain power.

Social and family values will be lost if honesty does not provide the base upon which everything else is built. The point where further honesty is to the detriment of the speaker cannot be where honesty ends. Honesty to the point of convenience is not honesty, it is convenience. This, we know, affects societies as well as institutions and individuals – oh, and politicians.

Honesty among individuals fosters trust among individuals, and trust among individuals fosters viable organizations of individuals. There can be no relationship without trust; and there can be no trust without honesty.

Now, contrast what should be with what is:

We have governments made up of individuals whom we expect to lie to us; and so we have irresponsible government (accountable, it seems, only to the people who place and maintain them in power, as opposed to the whole of society). We have religious institutions, founded on truth and justice, whose members sometimes lie (such as when they say their Faith is the only true Faith, or when they say killing “the unbeliever” is the way to God and Heaven). We have media people whose jobs are to impartially deliver and interpret the facts; but who oftentimes present facts in a way intended to provoke a certain response from the reader. We have individuals in positions of authority who attack and malign others for doing the very things they themselves have done (recall the Jimmy Swaggert – Gorman fiasco). We have police beating up and killing innocent citizens, mentally disabled citizens…and so on.

The result is widespread cynicism toward governments, religious institutions, police, the media; institutions whose raison d’être is to promote and protect the best quality of life possible for society’s members. The aforementioned institutional genres are properly called the “estates” of society. The term “estate” refers to society’s five “foundational components:” the Clergy, the Nobility (or in modern term the 1%), the Common people (our Middle Class), the Media, and the Poor. Every one of our society’s foundational estates now lacks credibility, because of the actions of some of its members. We all know what happens to the house built upon a shaky foundation.

These days, people stay away from institutions of Faith in droves, and often lack engagement when they do attend. The rich seem to view others as an opportunity to acquire more wealth; rather than see their wealth as an opportunity to help others. The Media no longer enjoys the credibility it once did, because journalists are obliged to report the news in the way their editors require them to; the editors, in a way pleasing to the owners – otherwise everyone is out of a job.

And what about the Poor? They are the most rapidly expanding economic class in Canada and around the world; this because of the greed of people in the other classes and the misguided priorities of governments. I say “misguided” because an enlightened society will sense that it becomes structurally weaker to the extent it tolerates poverty; most especially in terms of wasted potential, opportunities, and the social anathema poverty begets.

In order to get back on the rails again, we first promise to be true – to ourselves and to one another. We need to be tolerant, for in the absence of tolerance, too many will be obliged to lie. And if too many lie, we forfeit the chance to develop into a society of conscience, equanimity, and collaboration – one led by an accountable leadership that does not mislead the people it is serving.

The patrimonial advice Polonius sends son Laertes off to school with describes the general foundation of success. It is the basis upon which individuals, no matter their role, must proceed. Individuals who start with the truth always produce the highest quality of family, friendship, community, faith institution, public institution, and government:

 

This above all: to thine own self be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man.[i]

 

VII – You shall not take anything that belongs to or is intended for another

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Catholic Version:  You shall not steal.

Jewish Version: Thou shalt not steal (20:15).

Muslim Version: As to the thief (man or woman) let their hands be cut off, a retaliation for what they did, a punishment from Allah (5:38).

Hindu Version: Yamas: Asetya. Non-stealing, non-covetousness(Western Hindu).

Buddhist Version: The 5 Precepts: Do not steal-respect for others’ property.

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Imagine such a world. Imagine you could leave your front door unlocked when you went away, leave your keys in your automobile, lose your wallet and have everything returned to you. I lived in such a world for half my life – it was a little town on the north shore of Lake Superior. In a small town, you knew everyone and it was 99% likely that anything lost would be returned, and anything not nailed down would remain in its proper spot nevertheless. As for the other 1% – well, you knew who took it, and what to do to get it back. This is the traditional understanding of theft – to take someone else’s property. I would, however, broaden the meaning of the word to include all that God intended a soul to have.

With this provision, theft is no longer limited to material possessions, but now includes free will, quality of life, developmental opportunity, and the opportunity to have children and to properly raise them.

When we ascribe to the expanded definition, we take a quantum step forward along the path of social and spiritual progress. Theft now describes the act of taking what someone has and the act of withholding from someone that which they are in need of. There is no shortage of examples to draw upon; however at the top of my list would be to deny any child the right to grow up in a safe, nurturing, and loving environment.

For as long as there are children in Canada not growing up this way, I cannot myself abide the mega-dollars the Harper Conservatives were spending on PR, such as the Queen’s jubilee, the royal family visit to Canada, and the shameless self-promotion/propagandizing that they have been wallowing in since being handed a house majority by the “voters-who-don’t-vote” in the last federal election.

Next on my list would be to deny a home to anyone; the most egregious case I can imagine would be that of allowing or being responsible for the homelessness of an entire people. For the failure to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian issue, the blame belongs entirely to ego. Both Palestinian and Jew are reasonable in their expectation of security and safety for their families and way of life. But I do not hear the Hamas faction arguing for Israel’s right to exist; neither do I recollect the Netanyahu government advocating for the Palestinians’ right to precisely the same thing.

Because of the oppression the Jews have experienced over several millennia, I cannot help but think they know better than any other people-nation, the utter tragedy of homelessness. I cannot help but hope the Jewish experience will render them especially sensitive to those who are now living the darkness they themselves had lived for so long. In the spirit of Gordon Lightfoot’s Rainy Day People, I entertain the hope that the Jewish experience will motivate them to champion the cause of the vulnerable and homeless people-nations around the world. Israel could be an advocate that the world truly needs; and their unparalleled resourcefulness guarantees success.

Israel should never allow others to be oppressed as they were, much less contribute to the cause of it. You would think both Israeli and Palestinian would combine and apply their considerable talents for one purpose: an end to the violence being perpetrated upon their men, women, and children. No free-from-ego Jew, Christian, or Moslem can be oblivious to the hypocrisy of inflicting upon others precisely that which you would not want others to inflict upon you. That would be a clear violation of the Golden Rule; and both sides have been guilty of this in the past.

The denial of land to homeless peoples is not the only context for this kind of larceny. What of the theft of natural habitats? Human expansionary “development” is responsible for the diaspora and extinction of countless animal populations. Not only are we destroying the environment that the world’s flora and fauna depend upon, we are destroying the environment we depend upon.

It is not God’s Will for us to “organize” the natural environment to the point of reinventing it – He has already put much thought into it. It is not God’s Will that we should destroy the “worlds” of those species that happen to be in the way of what we define as progress. Whether we acknowledge it or not, Nature is self-regulating – it is already reacting to the violence we inflict upon our Earth Mother, and should we continue with this ego-driven re-organization of what God has made, we will achieve the same end as the cancers our behaviours currently emulate. Some of us are already planning to leave this planet and go to Mars; I don’t see this as human progress; but rather as a cancer metastasizing. Until we learn how to properly respect the Earth which bore us, how is it we can even think to wander off and compromise yet another planet? More ludicrously: rather than seriously invest in the healing of our sickly but still living planet, we are dedicating money to making liveable and colonizing a planet that is already dead.

The cancer metaphor does not fully describe what humankind is doing to Mother Earth and Her response. Whereas cancer expands itself to the point of destroying the organism supporting it, humankind can only destroy the hosting organism’s ability to sustain humankind and some, but not all, other organisms. The hosting organism, the Earth Mother, will survive; Nature will survive. Life on the Earth Mother will make a wonderful comeback – perhaps this time, without us.

Am I able to make a case for “lying” as theft? Lying appears in the context of theft when it is used to obtain something from someone who might, if knowing the truth of the matter, not have given it. Lying to sell your product or overstate its value, for example. Although value may be established by some other means, such as market value, there must be a limit. “Buyer beware” should not appear in our business ethics vocabulary. Rather it should be “seller beware.” This would be the case in a truly “just-society.”

During election campaigns, the tolerance of misdirection, and even outright lying, is one of the Canadian electorate’s greatest failings. In this case, we are allowing our right to know the ‘whys’ and ‘why-nots,’ indeed, our democracy itself, to be taken away. The common egoic response is to get frustrated with the status quo and proceed to elect someone else; however, like the pigs in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, the politicians we elect end up behaving too much like those we voted out of power.[ii] We get nowhere. Politicians continue to make promises they are unable, or do not intend, to keep. At the same time, the politicians currently serving Canada appear to have honed promising the moon, while mollifying with a pebble, into an art form. They sound promising without promising anything. They diligently criticize the policies of their opponents, even when they would do, or have done, precisely the same thing. What frightens me is that they do not appear to experience any discomfort in playing  falsely with the people they serve.

Very recently, a provincial Liberal government misled the people they are duty-bound to serve, about the cost of cancelling power infrastructure projects in ridings they very probably would have lost had they not done so. The compensation paid to contractors as a result of the cancellation might have been used to thwart the closure of hospices dedicated to serving the needy in our communities; an opportunity these politicians gave away in favour of enhancing their status in the provincial legislature. That any government would consider doing what this government did is as revealing of a problem in government, as a fox is of a problem in the henhouse.

The theft of innocence. At some point, we might have convinced ourselves of our eternal devotion to a romantic interest, only to find ourselves, in a matter of only months, professing the same thing to someone else. Romantic feelings are natural; however once the ego -spin-doctor extraordinaire- gets hold of them, our words, spoken in all sincerity at the time, end up mere trappings with which to couch the natural urge in; but with devastating consequences. Just how do you suppose the rejected feel? I have felt this. I’ll bet you have too. I’ll bet nearly everyone has. You feel worthless. I knew that I couldn’t do that to her, so I was given to conclude the new boyfriend was a much better person than I.

Rationalization is an egoic phenomenon, and the ego will automatically rationalize the hormonal urge as true love; and rejection as utter worthlessness. The mind not bound by ego is able to discern between love and sexual desire.

Becoming involved with the wife/husband – girlfriend/boyfriend of another is a form of theft that requires little explanation. The ego will try to convince you that the current object of desire is the one, the only; that you must be together. But experience teaches us the fires of romance only burn so bright for so long. No relationship in which ego plays the main role is able to maintain its initial intensity for long. There must be connection along other interpersonal dimensions, or the relationship is going to end. At some point, ego must defer to a non-egoic framing of the relationship; otherwise,  the hapless participants will be obliged to move on and experience the same process all over again. No one would pay as dearly to see the same tired “b-movie” twice. Why would any of us choose to be on its Dramatis Personae?

Theft of Life is so serious it has a commandment to itself. Any taking of life is a crime against God and the universe. Self-defence and defence of the vulnerable are the only exceptions. Self-defence is only self-defence up until the threat to one’s person, or to one’s sovereignty, is neutralized; beyond which, it is murder. Capital punishment must never be used to punish crime. Once incarcerated, the evildoer is no longer a threat to society.

Not paying your fair share of taxes is theft – whether you are an individual or a corporation. No one likes to pay taxes; you cannot even experience the joy of giving, because the government is taking it from you. But if we cheat on our taxes, or, if a particular government does not oblige corporations and wealthy individuals to pay their proper share[iii], then the primary mechanism to control wealth distribution is compromised. It is hard for any of us to support any taxation because of how governments spend their time and our money; however taxes fund social programs and build infrastructure. The few dollars you might cheat the government out of, ends up cheating the child whose parents cannot afford the cost of house-league hockey. He or she will have to sit out and watch their friends play; wishing to join them, but because they are of a poor family, they cannot.[iv]

The ‘lesser-than-everyone-else’ feeling that poverty forces a child to cultivate runs deep, and one never gets over the feeling of being ‘lesser-than.’ The society that fails to ensure equality of opportunity for all of its members, especially its children, cannot remain a viable society, much less ever be a just one.

[i] Hamlet I (iii)

[ii] That being said, the Pearson, P. E. Trudeau governments, and, most indicators are, the Justin Trudeau government, belie this statement.

[iii] I define “Fair-share” as the level of taxation that is necessary to ensure every Canadian lives above the poverty line and has equal access to affordable housing, education, health, legal, and all of the other services governments are obliged to provide society’s members with.

[iv] This recalls a story my father told me from when he was a boy. He was a fishing enthusiast, but his family could not afford even a rowboat. Every Saturday morning, he got up early, gathered his fishing gear, and went down to the boat docks. There was a boat he cleaned, with the hope that the owners would take him along fishing with them, in the way of saying ‘thank you.’ But each time he was disappointed: the fishermen did thank him, and then left him standing on the dock, wanting, wishing, hoping – disappointed and feeling unworthy.