Tapping into a higher level of consciousness

In recent days, concerns have been raised about the high level of food imports and rising food prices. Many among the working class are struggling to make ends meet.

May 27, 2022

By Anil Netto

The world seems to have suddenly grown even more turbulent and uncertain.

In recent days, concerns have been raised about the high level of food imports and rising food prices. Many among the working class are struggling to make ends meet.

All the while, the corrupt and those who have siphoned the nation’s wealth are still roaming around freely.
Globally, the sanctions on Russia have sparked rising food and fuel prices and worries about the future. Sri Lanka, which is bankrupt, and Myanmar, under oppressive military rule, provide lessons for all of us.

Given the many global challenges, some believe we are living in 'end times', with the threat of a world war and climate change adding to the anxiety.

Many ordinary people are feeling despondent, and it is common to hear defeatist, alarmist talk about where the nation is heading. If we are not careful, such talk — though not without basis — could turn into self-fulfilling prophecy.

Prominent civil society activists have stressed the importance of institutional reforms.

Indeed, a book Why Nations Fail (Acemoglu and James Robinson, 2012) suggests that pluralistic, inclusive political and economic institutions have a vital role to play in any nation.

So we have to be vigilant in ensuring that institutions are not subverted to serve the interests of the rich and powerful.

Civil society groups, for their part, believe we have to immediately attend to the people’s hardships and concerns.

Six civil society groups have come up with a People’s Agenda, which has been endorsed by about 50 NGOs so far.

The agenda, bearing the theme Reclaim our Nation – People first, democracy now, is based on five pillars or aspirations:

-- Uphold the dignity and quality of life of the people
-- Promote equitable, sustainable development and address the climate crisis
-- Celebrate diversity and inclusivity
-- Save democracy and uphold the rule of law
-- Fight corruption and cronyism

The NGOs are hoping this agenda can be used as a platform to reignite hope to stem the slide of the nation.
In the Gospels, Jesus felt compassion when He saw what was happening around him – hunger and disease, joblessness and economic insecurity, evictions from farmlands and rising debt. He was furious at the greed and corruption, the hypocrisy and self-righteousness, and the concentration of wealth among the ruling elite.

Independent farmers were losing their land — and their food and economic security — to large estates owned by the elite. Even the fisher folk were finding it tough, as they had to contend with fishing rights and tax collectors.

The peasants faced an array of taxes, tolls and tariffs to raise funds for the lavish lifestyles of the corrupt elite, their mega-projects and the Roman war machine.

Resistance and the spiritual search for alternatives came in various forms: peasant uprisings led by zealot ‘messiahs’, the withdrawal of the Essenes from urban life, and the masses turning to John the Baptist, and then Jesus, to find meaning in their suffering.

The Temple during the time of Jesus served as the political, religious and economic centre of the land. But it had failed the people.

To Jesus’ chagrin, His Father’s house had been turned into a “den of thieves”. It had become the seat of collaboration between the Roman occupiers, the religious leaders and the economic elite — all of whom profited handsomely from this cosy arrangement.

This extractive and exploitative economic system was siphoning wealth away from the countryside to greedy, corrupt elites in the centre in Jerusalem and then to the seat of the Empire in Rome.

At the bottom of the pyramid were the peasants, the dispossessed, the ritually “unclean”, the “undesirables” and the destitute. Think of the prostitutes, the tax collectors, those suffering from mental illness and leprosy.

Jesus’ message was not just a narrow ‘religious’ one. He came to show us a whole new way of life – based on love, compassion, inclusiveness, solidarity and fraternity. He broke down social, religious and economic barriers in His new kingdom.

This must have been such a threat to the existing order that they all converged and conspired to eliminate the threat He posed to their interests.

Today, our fixation on the material world often blinds us to the spiritual and even the cosmic dimension of the Spirit that Jesus left behind for us.

Some may pin their hopes on new leaders to emerge as political 'saviours'. But the reality is we have to change ourselves first and decide whether we want to be part of the problem, the old decaying world — or part of the solution, the kingdom of justice and compassion and inclusiveness.

We cannot do it on our own. We have to tap into a higher level of consciousness and seek the help of the Spirit to transform the world. This is something to think about as we prepare for Pentecost.

-- Anil Netto is a freelance writer and activist based in Penang. He believes we are all called to build the kingdom of God in this world.

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