Let’s get to the root of the problem, shall we?
According to UNICEF, only 58% of secondary-aged children world-wide regularly attend school. In highly industrialized areas, like North America and Europe, that percentage rises to 92%. But in areas like Africa, those numbers fall to less than 30%. Two thirds of the world’s illiterate are woman. In some countries, it is even illegal for young girls to receive an education.
The lack of education has a cascading effect on the level of poverty. Consider these facts:
– Women in impoverished nations who have a secondary education have an average of 3 children. Those with less education have an average of 7.
– In developing countries, an additional year of education has the potential to increase yearly earnings by 10%.
– Women with a primary education level are 13% more likely to understand that condom use can help prevent the spread of HIV.
The level of poverty has a domino effect on the health and well being of the world’s population.
– More than 6 million children a year die from completely preventable causes like diarrhea and malaria. Most of these children are in impoverished nations with limited access to health care and clean drinking water.
– Another 6 million children under the age of five die every year from malnutrition.
– Almost 39% of the world’s population survives on less than $2 a day. More than 1 billion of those survive on less than $1 a day. To put that in perspective, someone in the US who is paying $589/month for a car loan for their gas-guzzling Hummer is paying every month almost twice what some people earn in an entire year.
In this day and age, numbers like this are almost unfathomable. Perhaps a better word would be unconscionable. Yet this is the very real situation for more than a third of the world’s population. And the gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots” is getting larger, even in industrialized and prosperous nations like the US. A 2013 report by the ALF-CIO places the average salary of a CEO in a US company at 364 times that of the average worker. Even in Poland, a CEO makes 28 times what the average worker earns in one year.
How we got to this point would—and does—fill volumes. Countless theses have been written on the causes of poverty and an untold number of studies have been done on how to eradicate it. Unfortunately, none of those efforts will succeed no matter how many times we try, no matter what variations we enact into policy, no matter how strict we make our laws, no matter how many social organizations we form to combat poverty because none of them address the root cause of the problem: the steadfast belief in the absolute truth of the Five Fallacies about Life.
1. Humans are separate from each other.
2. There is not enough of what human beings need to be happy.
3. To get enough of the stuff there is not enough of, human beings must compete with each other.
4. Some human beings are better than other human beings.
5. It is appropriate for human beings to resolve severe differences created by all the other fallacies by killing each other.
Fortunately, the masters down through the ages have given us a very simple way to overcome our beliefs, since we seem so unwilling to change them. It is most commonly called “The Golden Rule” and it was first found in the Vedic tradition of India almost 5000 years ago. Virtually every faith and religion, every philosophical and spiritual practice that man has created has some version of this truly insightful statement. Simply put, “Treat others the way you want to be treated.”
The reason that following this simple rule would change life as we know it overnight is due to the fact that, at the very root of the matter, every one of us wants to be treated exactly the same way! Every one of us wants to live our life as we see fit, according to the beliefs that we hold dear, without undue interference from others.
If every one of us followed the Golden Rule, there would be no need for laws, no need for governments, no need for armies, no need for nations. There would be no poverty, no killing, no abuse, no wars, no rape, no discrimination, no wanton destruction of the environment.
I would not kill you because I would not want to be killed.
I would not pollute your water supply because I would not want my water supply polluted.
I would not let you go hungry because I would not want to go hungry.
I would not interfere with your choice of who to marry because I would not want someone to interfere with my choice.
I would make sure you had access to all the knowledge you needed to live your life as you saw fit because I want access to all the knowledge I need to live my life as I see fit.
“But that will never happen!” I can hear the naysayers cry already. “You’ll never get everyone to follow the Golden Rule!”
You don’t have to.
The Golden Rule is a unilateral, unconditional command. It does not say “Treat others the way you want to be treated only if they treat you that way first” or “only if they treat you that way in return” or “only if they’re the same color/religion/orientation/socioeconomic level/etc. as you”. It says simply “Treat other people the way you want to be treated.” Period. End of discussion.
You are to follow the Golden Rule in spite of how other people treat you. You are not to sit around and wait for someone else to follow the Golden Rule before you begin to follow it.
When you do this, small miracles happen. People start to like the way you are treating them and they begin to take notice and they begin to imitate how you treat others and they begin to treat others the way you treated them. With Love. Unconditional Love.
When unconditional Love is given out, it multiplies. It is contagious. It spreads. Because it is healing to be Loved unconditionally. Just as when one cell of your body begins to heal, the cells around it begin to heal, so too will the human race heal when Loved unconditionally.
Are you willing to be the first cell in your world to heal?
(Shelly Strauss is a civil rights activist and speaker. In addition to becoming an ordained minister, she has written 20+ novels and is the “resident visionary” at One Spirit Project. Shelly is also a spiritual helper on the ChangingChange website, offering support and guidance to people faced with unexpected and unwelcome change .)