Death, taxes and the life of the soul

1 Nov

Some years ago I went on a superb course called ‘Reflections on the Life of the Spirit’ run by the Baha’i Community (www.bahai.org.uk).

In it, participants are encouraged to discover and explore a spiritual or mystical side to their lives by studying writings of the Baha’i Faith. The goal is not to indoctrinate but to equip; you aren’t required to join anything. The premise is that human nature is multi-faceted: more than biological, psychological or emotional, we are spiritual beings too. And this doesn’t mean airy-fairy superstition, nor becoming a mindless drone following some daft comfort-blanket rituals, but recognizing and developing a whole range of higher qualities in ourselves like love and selflessness. Highly recommended.

One thing I learned from it was that every human being is really responsible for their own goodness or badness. And that brings me on to the economic crisis (all paths seem to lead there eventually). Here’s a spiritual, or moral question: if you are, shall we say, a banker who trousers a mountain of cash by milking the money markets, are you behaving more badly than a middle-class property speculator who makes a fast buck buying and selling houses in a bubble? Is your wrongdoing essentially greater than that of a call centre operative who preys on the vulnerable to flog electricity, gym passes: you name it…

Many would argue that it’s worse to lend irresponsibly as a banker than to borrow greedily as a baker. I’m not sure about that: although it’s quantitatively worse, it it qualitatively any different? Both, if not actively crooked, are damaging themselves inwardly. They may be using pseudo-moral justifications: “We are spreading wealth and improving standards of living”; or “we are just trying to make ends meet”. But that just obscures the truth.

It’s something that worries me a lot, seeing the super-storm of opprobrium that swirls around the bankers, who end up being the Guys at the top of our moral bonfire, blamed for the whole of the financial crisis. What then of the doctor, the lawyer, the plumber who made a few £K speculating in property, time-share or buy-to-let; or treated themselves to a Merc, a Beamer or even a Nissan Micra? (the latest ones are quite nice actually). At the very lowest end of the scale of poverty we might make more allowances, but here’s the point: how does all this affect the inner health of the person doing it? That is surely measured in relative terms, both from the victim’s perspective and in terms of the effect on one’s own soul.

In the end, the spiritual malaise we are suffering from underpins the economic one. We need a massive injection of both spiritual and material capital invested in the development of the soul; a relaxing of the costs of human cooperation and collaboration; a reduction in the red tape of prejudice and a clearly set out programme of growth for the human spirit.

Otherwise, a third certainty can be added to death and taxes: the current financial crash will be succeeded by another, more severe one.

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One Response to “Death, taxes and the life of the soul”

  1. isdigby November 1, 2012 at 8:51 am #

    Reblogged this on Diggers' Blog.

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