I came across a great video depicting the bleak reality of modern society’s current economic model. This short film depicts the model of a careless and grossly materialistic American corporate culture which is nurtured by an ignorant, despondent, and highly-distracted-by-entertainment public.
In the simple and profound writings of the world renowned Vedic scholar, spiritual leader, and critic of America’s postmodern materialistic value system, Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada wrote:
The propensity to utilize nature’s own gifts is still there, even in the heart of modern civilized man. The leaders of modern civilization select their own residential quarters in a place where there are such naturally beautiful gardens and reservoirs of water, but they leave the common men to reside in congested areas without parks and gardens.
Advancement of civilization is estimated not on the growth of mills and factories to deteriorate the finer instincts of the human being, but on developing the potent spiritual instincts of human beings and giving them a chance to go back to Godhead. Development of factories and mills is called ugra-karma, or pungent activities, and such activities deteriorate the finer sentiments of the human being and thus turn society into a dungeon of demons.
“Human energy should be properly utilized in developing the finer senses for spiritual understanding, in which lies the solution of life. Fruits, flowers, beautiful gardens, parks and reservoirs of water with ducks and swans playing in the midst of lotus flowers, and cows giving sufficient milk and butter are essential for developing the finer tissues of the human body.
“As against this, the dungeons of mines, factories and workshops develop demoniac propensities in the working class. The vested interests flourish at the cost of the working class, and consequently there are severe clashes between them in so many ways.”
I thought this was a pretty good video about Nike's horrible treatment of its workers, and I think that the steadfastness of Jim's rejection of supporting immorality in the face of losing something he had worked hard to achieve is quite nobel. But one thing about it struck me. In the beginning of the video when Jim Keady is just about to leave for Indonesia, he says that he is going to because "I want to know the truth. Doesn't everybody want to know the truth?". Well, what this made me think is, doesn't the truth go beyond just the conditions people live in? Doesn't pursuit of service to God go beyond simply helping those in poverty? Don't get me wrong, these are all good things, but there is so much beyond just that. It surprises me you could say that the modern pursuit of spirituality so often consists of trying to help address the material needs of people. How does that make any sense?
Good point. And it seems that although one may view the video and very clearly see the truth of the situation, most will say "oh my God, how very sad–how horrible" and then just continue on with their day.
Because this is just a by-product of a much deeper spiritual, existential problem. We must water the root, not the leaves, right?
Giriraj Gopal Dasa
Spirituality that addresses the material needs of people is basically a type of under-developed understanding of the extend of spirituality itself. Because their understanding of the soul’s situation in this world is not clear, they must always come down to a mundane level when trying to apply their religious philosophy.
Still, it is a step in the right direction, because from goodness knowledge can develop.
Srila Prabhupada seemed to stress this in the purports I quoted above. Spiritual realization is more fertile in a mode of goodness atmosphere where the civilization is in harmony with nature and the leaders are benevolent to the workers.
I think these kinds of videos are extremely important for the average person in America. For the most part they do not understand even how the lifestyle they currently subscribe to can affect and devastate another part of the world, by forcing them into global economy.
For Jim, this situation opened his eyes a bit to the real nature of his religious institution and the often corrupt nature of corporate culture. Very often, people must first lose faith in the fantasy of enjoying this world, and must also lose faith in its leaders before seeking out a transcendental authority and a spiritual conception of life. Many people like Jim begin their journey towards transcendental authority by first thoroughly investigating the suffering of the material existence and the ethical shortcomings of atheistic and materialistic men.
It’s true that for many people seeing the suffering in the world is necessary to bring them to search for spirituality, but in Jim’s case it was the opposite. On the basis of his belief in God, he searched for the suffering in the world and searched for material means to end that suffering, with the idea that doing so was a spiritual act. So that’s a completely backwards idea. He started from what the conclusion should be, and ended with what should have been the motivation for coming to the conclusion. In other words, he either regressed in his path towards spiritual understanding, or he got into a loop between spirituality and materialism.