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Every age has a dominant vice and its counter-balancing virtue

1.
Where do the Children Play?

Well I think it's fine, building jumbo planes.
Or taking a ride on a cosmic train.
Switch on summer from a slot machine.
Yes, get what you want to if you want, 'cause you can get anything.

I know we've come a long way,
We're changing day to day,
so tell me, where do the children play?

Well you've cracked the sky, scrapers fill the air.
But will you keep on building higher
'til there's no more room up there?
Will you make us laugh, will you make us cry?
Will you tell us when to live, will you tell us when to die?

I know we've come a long way,
We're changing day to day,
But tell me, where do the children play?

- Lyrics from Cat Stevens song, Where do the Children Play?


Child Poverty in UK via Guardian
Save the Children UK charity has recently published their report calling attention to the fact that about 1.6 million children in the UK are living in severe poverty. We are not talking about Africa or third world countries, we are talking about United Kingdom, supposedly one of the most privileged country in the world.

“Children up and down the country are going to sleep at night in homes with no heating, without eating a proper meal and without proper school uniforms to put on in the morning,” said Sally Copley, Save the Children's head of UK policy. “No child should be born without a chance. It’s a national scandal that 1.6 million children are growing up in severe poverty.”

Its very disheartening to know about the situation here and around the world. We are increasingly discovering the shocking fact that in many of these countries the people who are in power, responsible to work for the people, to betterment the lives - are completely sold out to their greed and busy creating wealth only for themselves; buying and selling weapons to their countries of choice while making their own people descend into more and more poverty. The latest uprising across middle east including Tunisia, Egypt and now Libya - happening because people have suffered in similar kind of conditions years after years. Unemployment, rising cost of food, no hope for future have pushed them to utter despair. There are other countries across Europe and even United States are taking steps in the name of austerity measures which are only making life for low and medium income people harder and harder, while the richer portion of the society, the bankers, top CEOs are getting bailouts, cash bonus and what not.

US Defense Budget compared to other sectors fund allocation (click on image to enlarge)

2.
What is thought provoking is that in the present age the scale of human suffering is disproportionately and illogically high, yet we are surprisingly so ignorant about them. We claim to be civilized yet the most modern nations are actively engaged in very nakedly uncivilized, civilian-killing-wars across this plant. The very mechanism through which we get our information are brutally controlled and filtered by the very interest group who owns these information outlets (cable news channels), keeping majority of us busy with dumb entertainment around the clock.

What is alarming is that we as human society have become so fragmented that we have to rely on a charity organizations or a news channel to know what is happening in our very city, town, neighborhood or country. We as human society are living in such isolation (and its increasing day by day) that the concept of caring for neighbors have completely been divorced. The very fundamental human value of knowing and loving thy neighbors is not only forgotten but taken to such extreme opposite that is unbelievable.

Take for example the news about 1.6 million children living in UK under extreme poverty - how come the very borough, the very town, the very counsel in which such problem exist, why they have to wait until a third party organization take notice, do research and publish report after months and years? Then the question is what the people who are responsible to represent these people are doing? Why people in such areas do not raise public concern to authorities? Why people in Tunisia or Egypt had to burn themselves alive in protest of unemployment, inability to find work and feed their family? How far these so called leader of the nations will go to satisfy their own greed, while ignoring social and economic justice for the very people who elect them or put them into power?


3.
The Imbalance in the Empire

Facts of Poverty in America
* 45 million Americans were living in poverty in 2009
* 2009 saw the largest single year increase in the U.S. poverty rate since the U.S. government began calculating poverty figures back in 1959
* The U.S. poverty rate is now the third worst among the developed nations tracked by the OECD
* The number of Americans on food stamps surpassed 41 million for the first time ever in June
* One out of every five children in the United States is now living in poverty. (facts credit)


    Sky Rocket Defense Budget
    * The United States has the largest defense budget in the world.
    * In fiscal year 2010, the Department of Defense has a base budget of $533.8 billion.
    * An additional $130.0 billion was requested for "Overseas Contingency Operations" in the War on Terrorism, and over the course of the year, an additional $33 billion in supplemental spending was added to Overseas Contingency Operations funding.

      4.
      If Christ is Love, Anti-Christ is just the absence of it

      If Christ figure and his message literally represents love and compassion, loving one's neighbor, then Anti-Christ is the absence of love and compassion and particularly lack of loving-kindness for the neighbors, for the other. And we are descending into such an age characterized by Anti-Christic attitude. We no longer know the faces of our neighbor, nobody tells us that we should. We no longer know our neighbor, nobody remind us that we must. And since our neighbors are now faceless, their human sufferings are no longer in existence and there exist no opportunity to act as human to help them in their need, to extend small kindness or to care for them when its the most needed.

      Instead of waiting for a promised Messiah, if we all could tackle this Anti-Christic attitude inside of us, we probably could help undo some of the damages that we have already inflicted upon the soul of the humanity and we each could raise ourselves to be more worthy of what it means to be human. 

      5.
      Every age has a dominant vice and its counter-balancing virtue

      If there is one thing that needs urgent and collective spiritual action in our time, that is to recognize the existing human suffering, its nature, scale, the cause and culprits of such suffering. No one has achieved enlightenment unless one felt compassion for those who suffer and acted towards it. 

      It is paramount for any individual who claim to have any kind of spiritual perception, to recognize the cry of humanity as cry of the Soul of the universe, as the very wound in the Heart of God. 'The cry of the oppressed shakes violently the Divine Throne' - as it is expressed in sacred tradition.

      Its not enough to be individually spiritual while ignoring the human family and those around us. Its not enough to talk about oneness, while allowing humanity to descend into more and more fragmentation in terms of economic, social and political segregation. Oneness of God is by extension manifested in the oneness of humanity. 

      Every age has a dominant vice and in the age that we are living, the dominant vice is extreme greed, furious consumerism or covetousness. In Sufi path these are clearly identified as disease of the heart. When individuals of the society are suffering from these diseases of the heart, then its not a surprise that those who are elected on top to hold positions of power are no different. And thus what we see is the rampant greed and a total disregard of human values when it comes to profit making for those who are sitting in the authority and power.

      If that is the dominant vice, then what is its counter-balancing virtue?

      The counter-balancing virtue of our age is charity (sadaka, tithe, zakat), to care for others, to give to others as oppose to selfishly hoard and consume. Ancient Hindu wisdom tells us that in the Kali Yuga (Later cosmic cycle) charity is the supreme action. It goes on to tell us the nature of the later cosmic cycle: that in this age rulers will become unreasonable (in their greed): they will levy taxes unfairly. Rulers will no longer see it as their duty to promote spirituality, or to protect their subjects: they will become a danger to the world. In human relationship this age will experience: avarice and wrath. Human beings will openly display animosity towards each other. Ignorance of dharma (spiritual path) will occur. People will have thoughts of murder with no justification and will see nothing wrong in that. Lust will be viewed as socially acceptable. Sin will increase exponentially, whilst virtue will fade and cease to flourish. People will become addicted to intoxicating drinks and drugs.

      Even though the newspaper headlines may not feature it, even though the cable news channel may not break the news, but the truth of the matter is, the air of this planet is thick with screams from innumerable voices of those who are oppression, of those who have lost everything in their lives unjustifiably, screams of innumerable who are incarcerated without fair trial, screams of mothers whose sleeping baby is killed by drone attack; and the list is endless. 

      We ask forgiveness for wrongs committed by us, by the humanity. We ask for guidance, may God save us from tyrants, oppressors, hypocrites, those who cover up the truth and those who forget their own reality. Indeed at the end the journey is to God and all must come to stand before the Master of the Day of Accountability where none will be judged with an atom amount of injustice but every affair will be dealt with perfect Divine Justice. May our leaders be reminded that every single soul must come to accountability for the responsibilities that they were given as a sacred trust. Indeed God is the Absolute Authority in Power and Severe in Retribution.

      Sadiq Alam
      London, UK


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      Every age has a dominant vice and its counter-balancing virtue
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