A letter to an American activist
The time has come when America must rapidly transform its values through a more inclusive and spiritual vision, based upon a just sharing of the world’s resources. It is up to you, the youth of America, to lead the way by organising a non-stop demonstration in every state, until that nationwide wave of peaceful protest eventually catches on globally.
What has caused the United States of America, such a great nation, to sink to the depths of turmoil and confusion that it finds itself in today? A country that was founded upon the ideals of freedom, justice and democracy, but that has increasingly lost its way and degraded these noble concepts – to the extent that the Statue of Liberty should really bow her head and reassemble her broken shackles, and let go her flaming torch. Those shackles should represent the ugly and imprisoning idea of the American Dream as it manifests in a highly commercialised and divided society, with such dire repercussions for the rest of the world. An idea that breeds more and more division, fear and injustice, and that has led successive American governments to arrogantly domineer other nations. An idea that continues to debase the goodwill of ordinary Americans and push the entire country towards catastrophe, unless it dramatically changes course with all humility and a sense of urgency.
Why don’t most of us perceive the dangers inherent in pursuing the American Dream? Everyone understands its meaning in a general sense, in terms of the desire to be successful, rich and happy. But few of us reflect on how this dream has progressively misled the people of America from sustaining the true values of their nation - indeed a dream that was originally built on theft from the indigenous peoples that rightfully inhabited the continent. For underlying the American Dream is the drive for profit through an ever intensifying path of commercialisation, which is the necessary basis for fulfilling America’s desire to have a wealthy and superior way of life. The American Dream was not abducted by commercialisation, but freely given to it ever since its inception. And in that process the Land of Liberty has become the chief proponent of a market forces ideology that it ruthlessly exported throughout the world, leading to social upheaval in almost every country and escalating international tension.
From an inner or psychological perspective the American Dream should really be perceived as a self-centred and harmful concept, in that it leads so many people to seek wealth and success as a means to finding an ever elusive happiness, regardless of the consequences for others. It is a big lie that millions of young people continue to fall for, one that poses a very effective tool for the forces of commercialisation to manipulate and misguide us. For in our desire to become a ‘somebody’, to become ever more wealthy and perhaps even famous and powerful, it is not long before our personalities are influenced by greed and indifference which inevitably causes a dysfunction of our emotional intelligence. When perceived inwardly it is greed per se that separates us from the reality of the heart and its attributes, and gradually influences us to become indifferent to the suffering or wellbeing of others. Even if we do not yearn to become rich and successful by dint of our fame or achievements, the social conditioning of the American Dream still causes us to distort our life purpose through the narrow, materialistic and selfish pursuit of our individual happiness. Rarely does the question then occur to us: what about the others who didn’t make it? Does the American Dream mean that we have to cancel them from America?
The reality of One Humanity
The one who is heavily conditioned by the American Dream is subject to a form of mental blindness in which they see only themselves, and not the spiritual reality of our interconnected lives among seven billion people. Their love is often crushed in such a way that they are proud to call themselves a patriotic American, even in the midst of other people living in loneliness and misery all around them. This pernicious conditioning also encourages children to grow up with the idea that America is the most important country in the world (if not the only continent that exists), leading them to enter into adulthood with little awareness of the extreme poverty and hardship that is experienced by the people of other nations. It is not uncommon for those who live in the United States to have absolutely no idea where Africa is situated on a world map, let alone any notion of how devastating American foreign policy is for countless innocent people in far-away places.
The very phrase ‘American Dream’ is divisive and divorced from spiritual reality, a phrase that is sustained by a wrong devotional attachment to an aspirational idea. And that idea has always been nurtured by an emotional sense of pride that has misguided generations of ordinary Americans from perceiving the reality of One Humanity. No matter how the American Dream is defined in a dictionary, from a spiritual point of view that idea will always be associated with division and injustice as we have seen in evidence throughout the twentieth century, and still continue to see. It is in fact a peculiarly self-centred idea that is only unconsciously tinted with spiritual aspiration, for if it was inspired by a truly spiritual vision then it would have been the One Humanity Dream, and nothing else besides. As a consequence the American Dream has always separated itself from the highest ideal of the commons; that is, the common good of One Humanity.
It is natural for the people of America to love their country and their way of life, if they find they can fit into that way of life and close their minds to the world’s problems. But the American Dream of individual prosperity and happiness is not connected to reality anymore, not in light of all the crises and mass injustices that plague the Earth today. To carry on repeating the Pledge of Allegiance every morning is a narrow-minded and meaningless gesture in this respect, so long as America fails to open her arms to the rest of the world. Can you imagine pledging allegiance to the flag of the United States of America with your hand on heart, while your other hand holds a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – which declares that everyone in the world has the right to liberty and justice, and not only Americans? Would that make any sense, and how would that feel – knowing that millions of people are needlessly dying from hunger and poverty each year, while so much of the world’s resources is hoarded and wasted in affluent countries, particularly within the United States? Notwithstanding the dire poverty that is quietly experienced by millions of people within America itself, who are mostly unheard of and hidden as if they didn’t exist.
The true American Dream – a dream that represents the soul of the nation as a whole – is to help and uplift the world in cooperation with other countries. But that is very different from the old idea of the American Dream that has crystallised over many generations, and exists with its polar opposite in the form of socialism and communism. A true and noble concept should be inclusive and not exclusive, and yet both the capitalist and communist nations have failed to live up to their respective visions of equality and justice, and have instead violated human rights on a colossal scale and instigated widespread global conflict. Despite all the pain and suffering these ideologies have caused both before and after the two World Wars, none of the major powers have learnt the necessary lesson of sacrifice or adopted a true path of multilateral cooperation and economic sharing. And in the unique case of America, whose presidents still espouse their role in leading the world towards peace and prosperity, it has continually chosen to go the opposite way by pursuing an aggressive self-interest that is thinly disguised as national security.
A deceiving world philanthropist
We may argue that the United States has given so much in overseas aid, but it really assumes the role of a deceiving world philanthropist by first exploiting other countries through unjust trade and illegal wars, thereafter donating a tiny proportion of its ill-gotten gains to help alleviate the suffering that it also caused. And that aid represents utter hypocrisy when billions of dollars are given to help poor or distressed foreign countries, while millions of citizens within the United States are sadly ignored by their government. Why has America recently given a billion dollars of aid to Ukraine in Eastern Europe, for example, while it abandons the poor and marginalised people of its own in Detroit? The only possible answer is that the federal government primarily serves the nation's strategic self-interests and opportunities for profit, which is the game of commercialisation that has gradually fused with the old idea of the American Dream until both are now virtually synonymous.
For too long has America been guided by this harmful concept that is sustained by the pursuit of profit and power, thereby damaging the lives of other nations with scant regard for its self-professed values of democracy, freedom and justice. If nothing else, the sorry state of America today shows that political and business leaders need a total re-education along more spiritual lines, based on the principle of right human relationship. America has to drastically change its priorities, towards itself and towards the world, so that common sense, humility and compassion become the shining hallmarks of its government and society. Yet even to state this unavoidable truth sounds like a fantasy when most of those in a position of power are held sway by the forces of commercialisation, in which context the basic spiritual and moral values of humanity almost appear to be utopian.
Unless America radically changes its ways it is about to go down a dark and dangerous alley for some time to come, one in which riots, violence and all kinds of social upheaval could increasingly take place. Such is the by-product of continuing to follow an individualistic and divisive idea of progress, as evidenced in all the neuroses, hatred and crime that has long been rampant across the nation. The political process in the United States has become so corrupt and profit-oriented, together with a national debt that is clearly unpayable, that a prolonged period of financial turmoil will undoubtedly worsen in the years ahead. And the prospects are dire for a nation that still trains its citizens to believe in, with pride, their right to achieve an extravagant level of personal wealth and material comfort, no matter what the cost in terms of environmental ruin and the exploitation of poorer countries. Now that the prospect of indefinitely sustaining the American way of life has become a palpable absurdity, many citizens across the nation are beginning to question with a sense of deep foreboding: ‘where is the hope that our leaders vainly promised, and what is the fate that will soon befall us?’
There is no doubt that the people of goodwill throughout America must rise up in unison together, and peacefully stand in opposition to the government’s policies as it profits from wars and defends corporate interests, instead of helping ordinary people in their time of greatest need. Who is going to help Detroit now that it is bankrupt, for example – will it be the Pentagon or the CIA, who usurp so much of the nation’s income and resources? America has become like a dysfunctional family in which, by analogy, the children are being abused and neglected until they are eventually forced to leave home and look after themselves. In a similar way, the government in Washington is like the parent who is failing to look after all her children – namely the fifty states, many of whom like Detroit may soon fall into crisis as the economy melts. Is it not inevitable that many of these states will ultimately abandon Washington completely? For it is the people of Detroit who made Detroit, the people of New Orleans who made New Orleans, and not Washington.
The popular demonstrations that spread across the United States in 2011 revealed how many intelligent young people have had enough of the American Dream and all it represents, even if that awareness is felt unconsciously. And that act of demonstrating as one in peaceful protest is actually an expression of love and maturity, as well as intelligence. For in love there is freedom in the truest sense – a freedom from the old, from injustice, from the grand theft and corruption that has blighted America’s profounder greatness for so many years. Those who stand in the streets and uphold the real meaning of liberty and justice are the ones who Americans should be duly proud of, instead of clinging onto a false pride in the so-called American way of life.
The real heroes of America
Many of the Occupy protesters perceived with common sense how the American Dream has misled and divided an entire nation, and given America a vulgar reputation on the global stage. They are the real heroes of the nation, the ones who should be standing on top of the Statue of Liberty and lighting her torch. They are the ones who want to live with maturity and responsibility, rather than allowing their free will to be constantly manipulated by big corporations and self-serving politicians. They are the ones who are denouncing the forces of commercialisation that hide behind the American Dream, and that incessantly try to misdirect our attention by telling us what to think and what to do, instead of allowing us to live freely in the moment of now with honesty and detachment. Of course there are many others who still strongly believe in the American Dream with a misplaced sense of pride, and who therefore looked at the tents in Zuccotti Park with bewilderment and misunderstanding, and even felt that the protesters were betraying the American way of life. But the hour is coming when all the people of America will have to ask themselves: what is the meaning of this way of life, and where is it leading us?
The government and police may believe that they have eliminated those tents from public areas, but they do not realise that they cannot eliminate all the tents that remain in the hearts of America’s youth. The politicians are gravely mistaken if they believe those tents will not return, for they are already multiplying more and more, silently and gradually from heart to heart. It may seem as if nothing is happening right now, but it is foreseeable that sooner or later there will not be just one encampment of tents in a city park, but an entire nation of tents that cannot be dismantled by even the national guard. Thus perhaps the hour is coming when the police must ask themselves what justice really means, and what is the meaning of law and order. Perhaps they should set up a special body within the Department of Justice to study the political causes of social unrest, and then tell the government to stop causing that unrest through their harmful policies and wrong priorities. For if the government is creating disorder and injustice, does it make any sense that it calls on the police to bring back order and stand for justice? When the many people on the streets are compassionate and intelligent, and out of love they leave their homes to demonstrate for justice in accordance with its true meaning? Should the police continue to arrest and bully their fellow citizens who valiantly march with such goodwill, or should they turn their attention towards the government and say: enough is enough! We are human beings and not machines, and we will no longer follow your corrupt orders to stand against our own people!
For the time being, the predominant laws of commercialisation have swept away those tents and protests from our towns and city squares. But if we look carefully within ourselves, we can see that a planetary tent has begun to vibrate in our consciousness. Now is the time for us to begin constructing this planetary tent in a collaborative endeavour, and to build it in such a way that finally, when we look up into its dome, we can see the reflection of all the faces of every human being around the world. Now is the time for the youth of America to show us the way, and to call upon the youth of other nations to help build this planetary tent together. Let the youth of America seize upon the old idea of the American Dream, and transform it by aligning their hearts and minds with a more inclusive and spiritual vision. Let them take it to the river of freedom and justice, and like a child that places a paper boat on a running stream, let them release the American Dream onto its destined course. It can be done, it should be done, and it must be done with urgency! For the world is changing now with rapid speed, and a new hope for humanity is emerging. It is up to you, the youth of America, to show us the way by organising a non-stop demonstration in every state, until that nationwide wave of nonviolent protest eventually catches on globally.
All those groups who seek a just and sustainable society based on right human relationship should quickly come together, mindful of the fact that it will take time to structure a common vision of change. Do not be discouraged by the pundits in ties and suits who speak on television about your marches and sit-ins, saying that you have no leadership or clear demands. Most of those complacent critics have no idea what is taking place in the hearts and minds of America’s youth today. And it is to be expected that an inclusive call for justice and freedom cannot be structured to begin with, for the forces of commercialisation are like a powerful magnet that constantly overwhelms and pulls us in different directions. So do not worry about how to structure your call through formal demands for new institutional arrangements, but instead continue untiringly with your creative demonstrations, and in this way try to inspire the rest of the world to join you. Perhaps this is the surest way to structure love in the minds of all of us, where common sense and goodwill will be the norm in our relationship to each other and to the world.
Sharing is the master key
Through the unification of our efforts we may quickly realise that the principle of sharing is the master key for structuring our expression of love in society. One of the foremost attributes of this mistaken principle is to bring people together in freedom and joy, which was beautifully if transiently realised in the spontaneous protest movements of recent years within many cities worldwide. Compared to many violent revolutions witnessed throughout modern history, we can feel that something new has arisen in the expression of these huge demonstrations in their togetherness and joyful celebration, away from all the ‘isms’ of the past and the divisive poison of commercialisation. And that new factor is the releasing of the heart en masse among many thousands of people, by simply allowing the heart to speak and express itself into the world.
If we empty our minds of intellectual content and look at the world through the perception of the heart, the first thing we see is not injustice but solely a lack of love. Indeed it is the non-expression of love in a body politic that brings about the expression of injustice per se, which can only be remedied through human processes and governmental policies that are predicated upon the principle of sharing. The youth of America must know that freedom has never, and will never exist without love and sharing. Today we live in such complex and commercialised societies that even love has become a wounded, sorrowful and meaningless word. And yet our lives together could be so joyful, liberated and creative if only we shared the world’s resources more equitably among us all.
Therefore it is imperative that we set aside some time to reflect upon the meaning of sharing in relation to the political economy and our everyday lives, for sharing is our trustiest guide to the expression of a healthy, sustainable life with justice. We are not talking about socialism, or communism, or any other political ism; we are talking about the universal principle that, when implemented into social and economic policies by our governments, can finally heal our ailing societies and solve so many of the world’s problems. Why are we demonstrating after all, if not for the love and joy that has been taken away from all of us? Why are we demonstrating, if not for the extremes of poverty and wealth that has divided us from one another in a world of plenty, where millions starve while only the few live in excessive luxury? Why are we demonstrating, if not for the ideologies and isms that are constantly thrown at us in such a polarised and demoralised society, where each day feels the same as every other day in its soullessness and anxiety? Surely the occupy protests were not only initiated to change politics and reform the economy, but also to regain our joy of living and spiritually re-occupy our hearts. Are we only fighting for the sake of our children and future generations, or also because we yearn for something better for ourselves – to live each day afresh and new with a sense of connectedness and purpose, free from the constant stress and money-making that suppresses who we truly are?
Even from a strictly rational perspective it is strategically advantageous to be among masses who call for the principle of sharing to be implemented by our governments, rather than to engage in an endless fight against capitalism or the system. The youth should also know that when we assume a position of anti-capitalism, we immediately fall into the mouth of the wolf that is commercialisation. The system wants us to adopt the mind-set of ‘anti’ and ‘isms’, for capitalism itself is a very clever and sophisticated ism that voraciously feeds off our opposition and antagonism. While we have the right to express anger and oppose the systemic causes of injustice, it is futile to fight against the system as the forces mobilised to defend it are so formidable and apparently within the law. The moment we oppose those forces they will immediately bring us down and humiliate us, and cunningly push us towards violence. And that violence will beget further violence, which is exactly what the system wants in order to defend and perpetuate itself.
We should therefore be very cognisant of falling into this trap, and should not even entertain a thought in our minds of being ‘against’ or ‘anti’ the inequities of our society. We should rather work with our heart, because this is where the forces of commercialisation cannot get in. It is the heart and not the idea itself that unites us, for within the wisdom of one human heart lies the wisdom of all humanity. A revolution that is instigated via ideology invariably leads to further social division and violence, but a revolution that originates via the engagement of the heart will naturally lead to common sense, togetherness, sharing, and of course love. Could it be that through millions of people coming together and calling for sharing as the means to achieving justice, even the establishment pundits and the police will eventually come and join us?
Sharing, freedom and justice for all
So let’s permanently gather in the streets and wisely articulate the yearning of our hearts, away from all the isms and our wrong education of the past. Let’s not demand that our government restructures itself and the economy in the name of socialism, capitalism or any other ism, but rather in the name of who we are – that is, in the name of we the people who are born with an equal right to evolve with dignity, in freedom and in peace. This is the shift in consciousness that is necessary to change America and the world, which can only arise in the absence of any thought of ideology or personal self-interest. We know that all the problems in society are escalating day by day, and it is impossible to go on living as we did before: we are tired of those selfish and materialistic ways, we don’t want to return to that bygone era, and besides we can no longer afford to. So let’s demand a just sharing of resources and not be concerned when the pundits call us naïve, knowing that the call for sharing comes from the heart when fused with common sense and reason. Let’s refuse to conform any longer to the maleficent game of commercialisation, and instead let’s demonstrate for a new way of life, a new world and a new dispensation.
We don’t need to stand against this or that, but only for sharing, freedom and justice. This should be the triangle of our demands, in that same order: for the sharing of wealth and power, freedom in every meaningful sense - political, economic and civil, and thence social justice for one and all. A new era for America will never begin with a complicated list of policy demands, however, but only through a concerted and continuous call for everyone in the country to be fed, sheltered, educated and protected with universal access to the basic necessities of life, including healthcare and social security. Such is the straightforward nature of the demands that we can ask our governments to meet on a nationwide level: to prioritise the daily concerns of ordinary people, and to stop acting like private accountants who preside in office merely to negotiate contracts for big corporations. Which means, at the very least, that our elected leaders must stop pouring billions of dollars into the machinery of war, and instead redirect the nation’s resources towards securing peoples’ essential needs and creating useful employment. What demand can be more simple: to serve the populace in its entirety, or to immediately get out and make way for those who will!
At the same time let’s be aware that there is no such thing as an American justice, but only justice per se. And the concept of freedom does not represent or belong to America alone – it represents life, wherever you are, and belongs to love itself. Such has it always been, and always will be. In this way our demands should not be confined to American national interests, which was a crucial mistake of the Occupy movement in its first manifestation. Why don’t we also uphold a vision of sharing, freedom and justice for our brothers and sisters in other countries? Why say we are the 99% of all the people in America, and not the 99% of all the 7 billion people throughout the world? We have already focused on our national priorities for as long as we can remember, but now is the time for our shared concerns to embrace the needs of the world as a whole. It’s time to ennoble ourselves with dignity when we go out in peaceful protest, and to expand our consciousness to the planetary level on the basis of our morality, empathy and compassion for those who are less fortunate than ourselves.
Clearly the problems that are happening in America are also happening across the world, as reflected in the mass protests that are now periodically erupting in diverse countries on an unprecedented scale. By hailing our common demands from a truly international perspective of justice and equality, we will therefore be more encouraged to see other groups doing the same in other cities overseas, and vice versa. Together we will galvanise each other to carry on participating in around-the-clock demonstrations, which is why we must protest with an urgent sense of global priorities in order to gain more and more support. This is how the youth of America can inspire the rest of the world to join them, and how the call for sharing can rapidly grow on a worldwide scale: by upholding the concerns not of the 99% of 300 million people in America, but of the 99% of 7 billion people with whom we share our planetary home.
Resurrecting Article 25
From this understanding we should adopt as our slogan Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which will naturally structure our uprisings at home and light the way for demonstrations in other countries. As the venerable Article states: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing, medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.” Nowhere in the world are these basic rights fulfilled for everyone, and for the evident reasons we have acknowledged above – such as the laws that protect the interests of elite privilege and commercialisation, and the politics of international competition that effectively renounces the founding vision of the United Nations. The covert manoeuvrings of American foreign policy is, in itself, the denial of Article 25 for many millions of the world’s people, in conjunction with the self-interested and divisive economic strategies of all the other major powers. Yet still the United States government shamelessly professes that it stands for global justice and human rights, in the midst of 40,000 people dying every day from preventable diseases and poverty. Do they take us for fools, or shall we continue to remain silent while this daily massacre endures?
If we identify ourselves with the common good of One Humanity, it is thus appropriate that we uphold Article 25 as a slogan that represents the hearts and minds of everyone in the world. We all want peace, we all want justice, we all want a clean and safe environment; but before we ask for that peace and justice for ourselves, we want to see an irrevocable end to the blasphemy of hunger and penury in a bountiful world. It is not only a question of morality and justice, but of strategy and common sense in relation to our awareness and intelligence. We’ve been fighting capitalism and the system for hundreds of years, and yet the situation is getting worse and worse for the majority poor and excluded: hence now is the time to change our tactics by advocating for Article 25 as a universal approach for transformative world change.
With millions upon millions of people in every country calling for this Article to be guaranteed by our respective governments, we cannot underestimate the uplifting effect it will have on our societies and our collective consciousness. Never before have we witnessed vast numbers of people in the street calling for the abolition of extreme poverty, as expressed in ceaseless worldwide actions of solidarity and massed goodwill. Can we envision what may happen if American activists lead the way in advocating, by this means, for international governmental policies based on the principle of sharing? We can be sure that New York City will be full of tents and non-stop protest activity, because the poor will also join in and strengthen the call for their basic rights to be fulfilled. And above all, billions of people will heed the call in other continents, from Africa and Asia to South America, because then we are talking about their lives too.
So let this be our resounding call: not to instigate a revolution ‘against’ this rotten system we live in, which becomes a nonsense when our voices get lost in the interminable fighting of ideologies and isms. The system is here to stay, in one form or another, so we should rather transform it through a wholly inclusive demand for what is most urgent and important: which is to immediately guarantee the human rights in Article 25 for every man, woman and child in every nation. Just imagine how easily this could be achieved if our governments were impelled by overwhelming public pressure to completely reorder their priorities, and to work in genuine cooperation with other nations to share the resources of the world. As history has often revealed, even a handful of people can create unbelievable changes on this Earth if they are in the right place at the right time with an idea whose time has come. And now is the time for us to breathe life once again into The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World, until she drops her torch in protest and holds up a giant banner that reads: “Article 25: The True American Dream!”
RISE UP, AMERICA, RISE UP!
I miss those tents and those occupiers who lifted my hopes upwards into the light.
Where are you people?
I can still feel your pain and your aspirations.
I can still hear your voices in the heat of the night.
I miss your faces, your joy, your call for a new life. I miss you all.
Where are you people?
For you are the hope of all the world, if only you knew.
Mohammed Mesbahi is STWR's founder.
Editorial assistance: Adam Parsons.
Photo credit: Shutterstock, copyright Misti Hymas