At the Unitarian Universalist fellowship we often attend, some Sundays are given over to open forums: perhaps on a named topic, perhaps completely free-ranging. On such Sundays everyone gets to express their opinion. The other day Randy talked about inequality in the world; he mentioned specifically the rising influence of China and the effect China is having and will have on the economy of the United States. His point was that the tremendous famines of the 1930s and onward, and the terrible poverty of the peasant classes in China, are gradually being alleviated, and that this alleviation may cost everyone in the United States something in their opulent standard of living.
In the United States, even the poorest of the poor have a standard of living far above that of the majority of the hundreds of millions of Chinese peasants. But the peasantry is being lifted out of that grinding poverty.
Should we as human beings and as members of a world community feel shortchanged? or jealous? or fearful that because those millions of people are being helped we will have to lower our standard of living a trifle?
Yes, we all realize the vast inequality that is getting worse between the rich and the poor in the United States. And we realize that our cost of living continues inexorably to climb out of sight. Where are our priorities? If we were to stop buying Chinese products, our standard of living would automatically drop because many products would then become more expensive.
There is a balance that we must think about when we criticize China for its trade policies and for its treatment of its people, especially its dissidents. We Frosts have been following with interest a series presented on BBCAmerica’s evening news. A rural Chinese community called White Horse Village is the subject. A government fiat decreed that the entire village be razed to make a new town. The villagers were promised a better school and new apartments. Sure enough, the apartments were built, but were so shoddy that many villagers refused to move into them and tried building their own houses; but those houses have been demolished, leaving the villagers with essentially nothing. Still the government has sent word down the chain: the new town housing tens of thousands of people shall be called a “success”.
At the time of writing, China is Number 1 in world population. Because of its one-child-per-family decree, though, it will shortly be overtaken by India. Then Hinduism, essentially a pagan religion without centralized power, will have the world’s biggest head count. Fortunately it has been an article of faith for Hindus for more than 5,000 years that God-ess is in everything and that therefore you should not critize or denigrate anyone’s spiritual path.
Unfortunately Judaic, Christian, and Muslim leaders will try their best to denigrate Hinduism and convert its followers to monotheism.
Where will the spiritual balance come to rest? It may not be pretty. But it’s going to happen and it’s going to happen within in the lifetime of most of us. Can we as a group be joyful at this time of year for the emergence of the Chinese peasantry and for the rise of the Hindu ethic and of pagan spirituality? Or must we criticize and strike a negative attitude?