After so many years of political inaction, only the massed goodwill of ordinary people can bring about an end to poverty in a world of plenty through enormous and continual protests across all countries. So let’s take the path of least resistance and jointly herald the long-agreed human rights of Article 25—for adequate food, housing, healthcare and social security for all. This is the surest route for impelling our governments to redistribute resources and restructure the global economy, writes Mohammed Sofiane Mesbahi.
‘The time has come when we must
demonstrate in our millions not against
this or that, but on the basis of the
goodwill and compassion that defines
who we truly are. For within each and
every human heart is embedded the love
and wisdom of all humanity.’
* * *
A sample chapter of the book follows below. A print version is available in paperback, hardback and e-book versions from retailers worldwide, including Amazon as well as direct from STWR's online shop. A German version of the book is also available in paperback here, and a Slovenian PDF version is available here. Other translated versions in Italian, Spanish and Japanese are available to read online.
'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 and 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.
'Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care
and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of
wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.'
- Article 25, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
One of the greatest hopes for humanity today lies in realising Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for every man, woman and child across the world. As repeatedly asserted in this series of books, it is imperative that Article 25 is protected by the rule of law within every nation, which is far from the current reality. The youth in particular are encouraged to adopt Article 25 as their protest slogan, goal and vision, since these modest provisions hold the key to resolving so many of our intractable problems. Now is the time for huge, continuous and worldwide demonstrations that uphold the long-agreed rights of Article 25—for adequate food, housing, healthcare and social security for all. By this means only, governments may be impelled to reorder their distorted priorities and finally integrate the principle of sharing into world affairs.
In our highly complex and intellectualised societies, such a simple instruction is liable to be met with a litany of cross-questions and objections. Therefore it is necessary to examine from many angles the potential of Article 25 to light the path towards a just, sustainable and peaceful world based on right human relations. If the solution to humanity’s problems is so simple and yet the problems themselves are so entrenched and complicated, then we clearly have to look at these issues afresh and with a different kind of energy and perception. The human mind has been heavily conditioned and misled through past wrong educational methods, hence to perceive the truth in its simplicity requires us to be inwardly free and detached—or at the least, free from the ‘isms’ and ideologies that continue to suppress our common sense and innate intelligence.
With such an attitude of renewed attention, let us try to investigate the implications of fully realising the universal rights set out in Article 25 as a primary duty of the world’s governments. What will be the effects of ending poverty and ensuring an adequate standard of living for the entire human population, not only socially, economically and politically, but also in terms of humanity’s growth and spiritual evolution? How will the realisation of Article 25 lead to solutions for all the world’s interlocking crises, including environmental degradation and global conflict? And why should people gather in their millions to uphold these fundamental rights, day after day in non-violent protests until governments act on a scale that is commensurate with human need? In short, why should we change our tactics by advocating for Article 25 as a universal strategy for world transformation, knowing that all the answers for saving our planet will mushroom out of this most basic set of demands?
Before we can examine these critical questions, we are first compelled to acknowledge why our governments have failed to guarantee the full realisation of socio-economic rights in every country, leaving literally billions of people without sufficient access to the necessities of life. There is no doubt that governments could ensure that everyone has access to an adequate standard of living, given the vast amount of wealth and surplus resources that are available in the world. It is also true that the human rights encapsulated in Article 25 have already been realised to a considerable degree in many affluent countries during the twentieth century, as best exemplified in the various welfare states of Scandinavian and other high-income countries. Yet such entitlements have hardly ever existed for a majority of the population in poorer countries, while the prior social protection measures are being reneged upon or slowly dismantled in many of the wealthiest nations.
An extensive literature examines the complex reasons for this state of affairs, although the immediate cause is easily summarised. Most countries have a president or prime minister whose mission in office is not to fulfil the basic rights of all people, but rather to sign more contracts for big corporations and give the highest precedence to growing the economy. We can consider these leaders to be ‘politico-accountants’, concerned above all with profit for the nation and commercial opportunities through globalised trade and finance, while they hold on to power at all costs instead of cooperating with other parties to uphold ‘the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family’.
To look at world problems as broadly and candidly as possible, we may therefore observe that one of the greatest obstacles to Article 25 is the negligence of our governments and the harmful practices of ruthlessly profit-driven business activity. Countless civil society reports and books catalogue the indifference of multinational corporations with respect to the human rights of extremely poor or underprivileged citizens, explaining how these global money-making entities have developed expert proficiency in what may be called ‘theft and destruction within the law’. This may entail appropriating the land and other vital resources that belong to the people of a nation, or exploiting workers and depriving them of a living wage, or simply avoiding paying their due share of taxes to public coffers. And in such a world where giant corporations are more powerful than many governments, our political representatives have no time for principled ‘declarations’ when thousands of business contracts are at stake.
To be sure, the true advisor of world leaders today is not Article 25 with its straightforward guidelines, but rather the forces of commercialisation that increasingly dictate every governmental policy in whichever country we may consider. Even if a government or politician attempts to serve the common good of all, it will not be long before corporate lobby groups and financial interests push them in the opposite direction. And in that process of a well-meaning politician trying to change the world, it is more likely that the world will change the politician—through the sheer power of a malefic system that is based on the old ways of profit, privilege and competitive self-interest.
The distorted priorities of our governments are most visible on the international level where foreign policies are fundamentally driven by the aggressive pursuit of hegemonic goals and economic dominance, and least of all by the rights of Article 25. Trade between nations remains ever predicated on the urge of stronger nations to dominate the weaker, as reflected in the divisive geopolitical strategies of major industrialised countries. If we could follow the movement of all the millions of lucrative business contracts around the world, we could perceive the source of all the major tensions and conflicts that continue to define the international picture. One nation wants a piece of cake in Africa; another wants its stake in South America; another vies for its claim on the energy assets in Asia or the Middle East—all the time sowing seeds of distrust among competing governments and fomenting global warfare. Thus the arrogance and duplicity of foreign policy in which powerful nations profess their high-minded values as enshrined in constitutional and international laws, and then proceed to exploit and grab from other countries instead of truly giving, aiding and serving on behalf of the good of all.
Since the inauguration of the United Nations, there is a clear link between the non-realisation of Article 25 and American foreign policy specifically. For it is the domineering and self-seeking ambitions of America that have led to so many wars and so much destruction throughout the world, as ever supported by its subservient allies and followers. The global stratagems and covert manoeuvrings of the Pentagon, the C.I.A. and other U.S. intelligence agencies are effectively a case study in the indirect denial of Article 25 in many impoverished or conflict-ridden nations. World politics is a field of endless research into the incidental creation of poverty by powerful states, often hidden behind supposedly righteous pretexts such as the ‘national interest’ or ‘national security’. Even the phrase ‘foreign policy’ connotes division and injustice in a world of excessive wealth inequalities, and represents the antithesis of right human relations—no matter what is deviously stated in official documentation and policy rhetoric. In such an unequal world that is brazenly governed by the principle of self-interest, not even a single foreign policy is based on right relationship between the peoples of different nations and their elected governments.
We are therefore credulous if we believe politicians when they profess to be concerned with eliminating poverty and securing the human rights of Article 25, when the only way they can remain in power is by facilitating large corporate and influential private interests, both domestically and overseas. It’s actually a hypocrisy if an international conference is convened by heads of state to professedly end the existence of needless human deprivation, while these same governments continue to sign contracts for multinational corporations to appropriate land, extract natural resources and privatise essential public services in foreign countries—often with devastating consequences for the very poorest people and communities. It may be a decent and moral ambition to completely eradicate so-called ‘extreme’ poverty by 2030, but it is not the first time that world leaders have made such vain promises to uplift the poorest of the poor. Despite the best intentions of bureaucrats and policymakers, it will remain impossible that any such aspiration can be achieved within the context of the ‘commercialisation paradigm’, to coin an appropriate term.
There is only one route to end poverty and bring balance to this earth, irrespective of how long humanity has ignored this perennial obligation: to cooperatively organise the global economy in order to share the produce of the world, and redistribute wealth to where it rightfully belongs. Considering the overwhelming scale of severe poverty that persists within our fast-growing human population, there can be no true expression of world goodwill without such a massive redistribution of resources to the most disadvantaged and beleaguered countries.
As each critical year passes by, how many millions of people will have died from preventable poverty-related causes, whether we experience another global financial crisis or not? And what will it take for the world’s richest governments to share their surplus food and other material goods with the millions of impoverished people in dire need of immediate help and sustenance? Such an accomplishment would necessarily involve diverting considerable amounts of additional finances to underfunded humanitarian agencies, and even the use of military personnel and equipment that is always on hand for ‘other’ purposes. It could certainly be achieved with a mere fraction of the money and resources that is always at the disposal of governments, corporations, wealthy individuals and private institutions.
But until the common sense of sharing governs economic relationships, may God help any person who lives in a vast slum with nine children they can’t adequately provide for. And don’t count on any government pledges or development goals to prevent any such family from falling into complete destitution. Hence Article 25 is the big thorn that politicians will find in their sides during any international conference about eradicating global poverty. We can expect more of the same conferences every ten or fifteen years so long as they continue to follow the prevailing paradigm of commercialisation—presuming that humanity can survive in the meantime.
What’s more, if we allow the mindset of charity to pervade our society and culture, it is foolish to believe that our governments will ever tackle the root causes of hunger and poverty. What is charity, in truth, if not the result of the state manipulating the benevolence of its own people, while leaving the least privileged among us to fight just to feed and sustain themselves on this bounteous planet? The very existence of charity is undignifying in a world of material and financial abundance, where everyone could easily be granted the means to guarantee their basic health and wellbeing. Arguably, it is our government’s historical indifference to poor people’s economic insecurity that has given rise to the existence of charity over the course of many centuries. In this sense, charity is borne out of social injustice and not true sharing, solidarity or love.
Despite all of humanity’s progress in science and technology, the only system in place to share global resources is voluntary donations of ‘overseas development assistance.’ But as long recognised by civil society campaigners, such support has always been debased to a significant degree through self-interested political and commercial objectives. We can also observe how the continued existence of ‘humanitarian aid’ is an affront to our commonality as a family of nations, when those surpluses of food and other resources should not have been accumulated by rich countries in the first place, but rightfully shared all along. From a planetary viewpoint, it may make sense to talk of humanitarian aid if people from Mars or Venus were helping us here on Earth; but humanity is one interdependent family that has always been bestowed with the produce and capacity to ensure that everyone’s needs are unconditionally (and permanently) met. Would we describe our actions as humanitarian aid if our own children were dying from hunger, God forbid, and we shared with them a meagre amount of the provisions that we casually enjoy each day? Or would we unreservedly and urgently help them as a humble act of love, caring only for their life and welfare without any thought that we are being charitable?
To look at this question with awareness and compassion reveals how the very term ‘humanitarian aid’ is psychologically meaningless and absurd, and it tells us everything we need to know about how humanity has become so divided and corrupt. How arrogant and degrading to use phraseology such as ‘U.S. Aid’ on freights of basic goods that are transported to destitute people abroad. Observe how wealthy nations first accumulate their surplus produce through unjust economic practices that routinely exploit the labour and natural resources of less developed countries, before redistributing a tiny proportion of these ill-gotten gains to help alleviate the poverty that they also caused. Can we perceive how the mainstream conception of aid is therefore contrary to the real meaning of goodwill and humility—especially when governments have long agreed that the necessities of life should be made accessible for the benefit of all (as indeed spelled out in Article 25)? Like the word charity, such a phrase would never have come into being if our societies were based on common sense and right relationship from the start, for there is no such thing as ‘humanitarian aid’ from within the psychological awareness of love.
We may well have accepted this terminology of aid without contemplating its significance because we are habituated to leaving such issues to politicians, expecting them to do everything for us. But if we can perceive the duplicity of our governments who profess to be concerned with ending poverty while continuing to exploit the poorest people and countries, maybe it’s time for us to stand up and ask them: Where’s the missing part? Where’s the love, the kindness, the morality in allowing people to die of hunger in a world of plenty? Perhaps we should all crowd into those government summits and conclaves about eradicating poverty, and together demand of our political representatives: ‘If you really care about helping the poor then why don’t you share the world’s resources more equally among all nations, instead of making non-binding development goals and merely redistributing insufficient amounts of foreign aid?’
And if we are genuinely concerned about ending the injustice of hunger so that it never happens again, then maybe we should apply the same questions to ourselves: Where’s the missing part? Where’s the caring, the compassion, the concern for defending the basic rights of those who live in a continual state of want and penury? Is it enough to press our politicians to send more aid to poor countries on our behalf, or does the love we have for our fellow human beings compel us to go before the government and say: ‘This shameful situation cannot continue—it’s time to save our starving brothers and sisters with the maximum urgency!’ What kind of education and conditioning has led us to accept this state of affairs, and what’s to stop us demanding from the governments of the world: WHERE’S THE MISSING PART?
As a consequence of our engrained and debasing attitudes towards charity and overseas aid, those charities that are seriously engaged with ameliorating social problems and helping the poor are themselves forced to become politicised. They, too, must oppose the government policies and corporate activity that is further perpetuating the causes of poverty. Otherwise, the more energy that is given to charity by well-meaning groups and citizens, the more governments can continue to pursue their harmful priorities, such as by building up more armaments for war instead of feeding the hungry as if it were a global emergency.
Let’s be clear that we are not criticising the venerable work of charitable organisations, which are largely and thankfully a force for good in our grotesquely unequal social order. Rather, we are trying to holistically observe the absurdity of our governments pledging to end poverty at some later date—through charitable means as opposed to genuine sharing and justice—in a world that has plenty of resources available for everyone. Hopefully in generations to come, we’ll look back at history and perceive the existence of charity in the twenty-first century for what it really is: the inevitable and ultimately unnecessary by-product of political indifference and public complacency.
In our dysfunctional societies with their confused and mentally bankrupt politicians, it is instructive to ponder on the relationship that exists between the meaning of prosperity, economic growth and Article 25. What does it mean to prosper in a world where you have many nations with large numbers of their population living in unbearable poverty, amidst a minority of nations that are relatively wealthy and privileged in their lifestyles?
Imagine there is a town where people are so ‘prosperous’ that they leave surplus foodstuffs rotting in huge storehouses and costly waste products scattered in rubbish dumps, yet a neighbouring town is so poor that they do not even have enough resources to ensure the right of everyone to live free of preventable suffering, as stipulated in Article 25. Does it make any sense for the mayor of the wealthy town to proudly hail their high level of economic growth and prosperity, regardless of the indigence and misery that is lurking over the horizon? If the mayor does not decide to share the town’s resources with its neighbour, sooner or later the neighbouring town will come to them in one way or another—even the stray cats and dogs of the poverty-stricken town will try to eat in the wealthier one by any means necessary. Is this so dissimilar to how countries relate to each other between the northern and southern hemispheres, where affluent nations live with relative indifference to the deprivation experienced by the majority poor overseas?
So let’s be psychologically aware of these misleading, ugly and vulgar terms ‘prosperity’ and ‘economic growth’ that are often repeated by politicians on our television screens. In this unfortunate world where levels of population growth and poverty are rapidly rising, where the environment is being continuously ravaged and despoiled, where climate change is already causing havoc and ruin for millions of poor families, how can prosperity be anything other than precarious and lead to anything but disorder? How can these terms be anything but ugly, vulgar and even stupid in the present-day reality of extreme global inequality? And how can they make any moral sense in a world that allows millions of people to die from needless poverty, and denies many millions of others enough nutritious food to eat, or clean water or adequate shelter, or even the most basic form of healthcare to keep them alive and well?
Our political leaders may well profess that they want every citizen within their nation to thrive and prosper, but how can that prosperity be achieved within one nation alone when the world is infected with a deadly virus—one that is not called Covid-19, but rather the forces of commercialisation? For indeed, the latter is a far worse plague and determinant of inequality in our societies. It not only conditions you to become prosperous at the expense of others, but also influences you to think that you’re better than those less fortunate than yourself until you, too, are part of humanity’s collective arrogance and indifference. What we call ‘the system’ is now so deeply characterised by the selfish pursuit of wealth and success that it is even creating a new wave of thought, which can be crudely précised as hatred of the poor in one’s own country as well as underprivileged peoples further abroad.
The quest for endless economic growth is therefore dangerous in our confused and fragmented societies that are almost entirely overshadowed by the forces of commercialisation. In this context, such growth can only lead to further division, disorder, sorrow and ultimately violence. Underneath all the deceitful propaganda and mind conditioning of modern times, the myopic pursuit of economic growth signifies a growing separation between citizens and the state, and really means ‘let’s enable the rich to grow even richer and create more billionaires in the midst of the poor’. Economic growth in these circumstances is tantamount to private accountancy for large corporations, and its psychological meaning has become as absurd as the concept of charity in a world of plenty.
Hence it is a grave mistake for politicians to keep using this phraseology that connotes ‘commercialisation growth’ and not the growth of a healthy, just or sustainable economy. What is that economic growth for, in a society that is increasingly inequitable and divided? Even in the recent past when many nations didn’t have the same levels of debt as today, there was still widespread poverty and hunger in the rich world as well as the poor. So we should ask our political representatives: Economic growth for what purpose, and for whose benefit? For the sake of a system that has caused immense suffering and chaos, and is now rapidly melting from within?
No politician can talk meaningfully about economic growth while allowing the forces of commercialisation to take over their agenda. A head of state with the most inclusive and honourable intention will still incite danger and eventual disaster by promoting further growth of the present system, regardless of whether their short-sighted purpose is to ‘create more jobs’. Again, we should ask our political representatives: Jobs for what purpose, and for whose benefit? For the purpose of building mega-casinos, private shopping malls, luxury apartments and more armaments factories in the middle of a spiritually, morally and economically broken population? And for the benefit of millionaires who pay their disposable workers the minimum wage according to the law?
If the government of any nation is truly concerned about meeting the needs of all its citizens, perhaps then it can talk with sagacity about economic growth (presuming it speaks through Article 25 as its bible). But if such wisdom were to prevail, the government would immediately have to restructure the economy to ensure that wealth, resources and economic opportunities are fairly shared among the population. And the precondition for ensuring a just distribution of resources is to remove the claws of commercialisation from every aspect of society, and to reorient public expenditures away from armaments and other harmful corporate subsidies. At the same time, no longer can each society continue to degrade the environment through conspicuous and wasteful consumption, if the guiding principle of economic activity is to ensure that everyone has what they need for a dignified life on a habitable planet. For clearly, an economy can only be sustained within a biosphere that is healthy and self-renewing, and no longer strained beyond all limits of endurance.
But even if a more enlightened nation enshrines Article 25 into law and commits itself to a sustainable, fair and balanced distribution of resources among its own population, their contentment and prosperity will be short-lived if they try to remain separated from the problems of other nations. To recall our analogy of the neighbouring prosperous and impoverished towns, it won’t be long until the nation that rightly shares its domestic resources is besieged by the poor from distant places who try to enter into its borders. And so shall the problem continue and worsen, whether or not there are punitive immigration controls and a state security apparatus in the way.
There can be no such thing as a healthy society in our divided and yet economically integrated world, where greed, selfishness and theft are driving forces behind financial and economic activity. If we suppose that only a single country implements Article 25 to its fullest extent, while every other nation that has the means to do so follows the path of unbridled commercialisation, it doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with every country except for the one that collectively pools and shares its wealth. It means there is something wrong with the whole of humanity, because humanity is one in its nature, or one in the eyes of what we might term ‘Life’ or ‘God’. We are one human family within one spiritual evolution, which is not a strictly religious or ‘New Age’ observation but an eternal truth that is being gradually realised within numerous fields of scientific investigation. Every nation of the world is interconnected not just in a material or objective sense through global trade, travel and telecommunications, but also energetically and subjectively in terms of the One Life that we share with every living being on Planet Earth, from the mineral kingdom to the non-physical and highest spiritual realms.
From this revelatory understanding of our existence that can either be realised intuitively or recognised through a study of the Ageless Wisdom teachings, we can see how humanity is like a physical body that has to be cared for as a whole, without neglecting certain limbs or parts while only tending to others. If one side of the human body is functioning well but the other side is neglected and diseased, then the sickness will clearly affect the health and wellbeing of the entire person. Similarly, no single nation can remain separated from other nations however fairly and healthily they try to live—especially not in a world where commercialisation is intensifying with such speed that neither society nor the environment can withstand the strain for much longer.
Such is the paradox of policymaking in this era of planetary crisis and transition. No politician can afford the luxury of doing something good for his country in isolation, when that good has to be achieved in every other country proportionately and simultaneously. Hence no nation can make it alone, but all nations can make it together—through the principles of cooperation and sharing. We have no other exit strategy from the world’s problems and so it must be achieved with urgency whether our governments are ready or not. There cannot be one country out of more than 190 countries in this world that implements Article 25 to its fullest extent, unless we decide to call that one country ‘humanity’ and ignore the rest. For there is only the one Humanity, indivisible from the whole.
What other reason need there be to share the resources of the world, and thus realise the fundamental rights of every man and woman—if not to allow the soul to carry out its life purpose within the unique personality of its reflection? This is the deeper reality of our lives that ever was and forever will be, however much our understanding of world goodwill and right human relations has been corrupted by the melding of our self-centredness, ignorance and confusion over many lifetimes. If humanity is to become united as a reflection of who we are in our true spiritual nature, it is imperative that activists, engaged citizens and our political representatives call for Article 25 to be comprehensively guaranteed in every single country. The time has come when we must raise our voices not only for the good of our own nation, but also for the good of all the people of the world. The fortunate citizens who have their basic needs met already should sympathise with and join the many groups who do not, and thereby herald Article 25 and the principle of sharing as our common cause.
Every person in North America, Western Europe, Australia and other affluent world regions should pause to ask themselves the question: What about the others who don’t have access to the basic resources that I take for granted? These are the words that our politicians should also use about the millions of people living in poverty abroad, as well as within their own country borders: What about the others? Then we will at least be inclined to share the surplus resources of our nation, and demand that our governments work with other nations to meet the enduring goal of freedom from want. That is when a nation becomes an ally to Article 25 and the principle of sharing, until the very idea of an ‘illegal immigrant’ becomes contrary to our understanding of how the world functions, along with any contemporary notion of ‘charitable giving’, ‘humanitarian aid’, ‘foreign policy’ or ‘national interests’.
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Mohammed Sofiane Mesbahi is the founder of Share The World’s Resources (STWR), a civil society organisation based in London, UK, with consultative status at the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. STWR is a not-for-profit organisation registered in England, no. 4854864.
Editorial assistance: Adam Parsons.
To join our campaign for Article 25, please visit: www.sharing.org/Article25
Image credit: avivi, Wiki Creative Commons / flickr