(This is the second piece in a series. The first one is "A Consumer Is a Subject, A Citizen Is a Verb.")
Check out this headline: "Corporate profits up, but consumer optimism sagging."
The conclusion of this headline doesn't bother me as much as the principles named. Sometimes a different word choice can generate an entirely new meaning.
This rewrite is an upgrade: "Corporate profits up, but citizen optimism sagging." Eventually, the headline would transform into a world changer, "Corporate profits down, but citizen optimism rising."
Why am I making such a big deal of semantics? How could this possibly be a spiritual issue?
Universally, the great religions teach us that the mind is ground zero for eternal values to reign on the earth. Our identity is fundamental.
The ancient letter to Christians in Rome exhorts, "Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God re-make you so that your whole attitude of mind is changed."
Fast-forward 2,000 years. Standing at America's ground zero, our would-be-Emperor beseeched us to "go shopping."
I'm asking you to do two things: número uno, sharpen your eyes and ears to the noun the corporate media uses to reference you; and número dos, every time you are referred to as a consumer (which is virtually every time), say resolutely to yourself, "Citizen."
The consequence of seeing human beings as consumers bores down not only to the marrow of our identity, but also of our literal existence.
On July 29 the United Nations General Assembly declared for the first time that access to clean water and sanitation is a fundamental human right. In a historic vote, 122 countries supported the resolution, and over forty countries abstained from voting, including the United States, Canada and several European industrialized countries.
When asked about the nations that abstained, longtime water justice activist Maude Barlow stated that it is the "neo liberal countries who have bought into this whole agenda that everything is to be commodified." When everything is commodified, people become commodities as well.
Bolivia's permanent representative to the United Nations, Pablo Solon, introduced the resolution at the General Assembly. He told of the long struggle for water rights in Bolivia, which successfully fought against Bechtel's water privatization efforts 10 years ago, then went on to say:
At the global level, approximately one out of every eight people do not have drinking water. In just one day, more than 200 million hours of the time used by women is spent collecting and transporting water for their homes.
The lack of sanitation is even worse, because it affects 2.6 billion people, which represents 40 percent of the global population. According to the report of the World Health Organization and of UNICEF of 2009, which is titled "Diarrhea: Why Children Are [Still] Dying and What We Can Do." Every day 24,000 children die in developing countries due to causes that can be prevented, such as diarrhea, which is caused by contaminated water. This means that a child dies every three-and-a-half seconds. One, two, three. As they say in my village, the time is now.
The Buddha taught, "Everything has mind in the lead, has mind in the forefront, is made by mind. If one speaks or acts with a corrupt mind, misery will follow. If one speaks or acts with a pure mind, happiness will follow, like a shadow that never leaves."