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A hate-free, fear-free, and greed-free world

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Passion need not be about fanaticism, but about commitment and an open heart, sharing the pain of others.

In a speech at Caux in June 1949 Frank Buchman stated: 'What man wants is security – a hate-free, fear-free and greed-free world.' [Remaking the World, page 171]

This vision in the introduction to this website is for sure a longing that millions share and have expressed in a variety of ways. Yet, time and time again people, movements and nations choose to mobilise hate, fear and greed to change the world. At this point in history, we are witnessing terrible scenarios with these forces at play. 

The Palestinian people have been oppressed for a long time with dwindling hopes of freedom and independence. Sadly, Hamas’ cruel attack on the 7th October bore the hallmarks of people who have nursed hatred for years and years. In its revenge the Israeli government seems driven by extreme levels of hatred and rage. The lives of innocent Palestinians do not seem to matter. The slaughtering of people is relentless. 

We can go to Ukraine. Russia tries to crush a nation’s identity to rebuild its own lost glory and power. We can go to the civil war raging in Sudan, or Myanmar. In the United States Trump is fanning the forces of fear and hatred to get back into power. In the recent elections for the European Parliament various political parties exploited people’s fears of mass immigration.

Fear and hatred are being used as fuels in a battle for a better future.

Some of my friends at school were ardent believers in a Marxist revolution to achieve a just and fair society. However, when we learnt about the French revolution, our teacher asked: Why did the revolution kill its own children? It became clear to me that hatred simply cannot be the fuel for liberation and the arduous work to build a just society. When I went to Latin America working for MRA/IofC in the 1970-ies, I saw that fear can be a potent force for the opposite of what people long for. The fear of Communist revolutions gave the rise to brutal military dictatorships.

Ideals often describe the unreachable and are written off as illusions. But, as anyone knows who has watched the sport of high jump in athletics, the following rule applies: Unless you keep raising the bar, you do not jump higher. Ideals are always about striving for perfection, getting closer, but never quite reaching them. For me the words of a 'hate-free, fear-free, and greed-free world' are eternal candles of hope which continue flickering in gusts of cold winds and darkness. They are words written on white clouds that may give way to dark ominous ones and disappear behind the horizon. But they will always reappear and inspire. 

I have made a deliberate omission so far. I have hardly mentioned the power of greed. Like the other two destructive forces, greed is wrapped up in language that deceives us, but this one even more so. Take fear before I get on to greed. People want to protect their culture and identity. Many newcomers have been brought up in societies torn apart by violence. They will bring their conflicts with them and to some extent this is true. The problem is that fear hinders us in seeing fellow human beings in need. It divides. 

Now, what about greed? We have used some wrapping paper which is not exactly unselfishness, but definitely more acceptable than greed. For years we have been told that the motive of self-interest is ingrained in our human nature and through good organization this will be channelled into building a better society for us all. The freedom to pursue advantages and profit for ourselves will encourage creativity and initiative. And it cannot be denied, we have an economic system which has given us a higher and higher standard of living and impressive advances in technology. 

I can see the shockingly luxurious lifestyle of the rich and super-rich and get angry about their greed. But what about the millions of ordinary people who have managed to get out of poverty and now enjoy a good standard of living? I walk through our big local shopping centre. Rows and shelves with an amazing abundance of products. So many kinds of food, clothes, tools, electronic equipment, books, kitchen utensils. The range of choice is overwhelming. Aren’t all these people simply enjoying the benefits of a society and an economic system which have achieved a very advanced stage of development? They are hardly driven by greed.

I believe there is an uncomfortable truth hidden in this apparent success. In our consumer society ‘enough’ is never enough, ‘enough’ is ‘a little more’, and we never stop. An army of people working in marketing and advertising make sure our desire for something more and better is constantly stimulated. The Internet has given them seemingly endless opportunities to reach into our privacy and get our attention. The greed of the few has been transformed into a restless pursuit for a little more by the millions.

When our European ancestors ‘discovered’ the rest of the world, they began an exploitation of natural resources and their fellow human beings, fuelled by greed that was hard and brutal in its consequences. Slavery was one of the worst crimes, but there is an endless trail of oppression and humiliation as well as destruction of the environment. On the one hand, our development is an impressive achievement. On the other hand, there is misery and destruction, and some of the roots of this success are pure greed. 

Don’t let us be fooled by the wrapping paper. I was adamant in my discussions with friends that hatred could not get us close to true justice, but I was not as clear-sighted about the greed at the heart of our own economic system. 

Frank Buchman was passionate about giving an answer to the ideologies of Nazism and Communism in the years before, during and after the Second World War. He was deeply concerned that materialism had become the ideology of his home country USA. But was he and all of us who have followed in his footsteps, aware of the dangerous engine grinding on at the heart of our economic system? An engine fuelled by greed, breaking down our environment, a threat not just to our spiritual and moral life and our relationship with God, but to our very existence. 

One of the core truths of IofC is that people can change, in their motivation, purpose and actions. And we have often quoted Dr Hans Boeckler, Chairman of the Trade Unions in what at the time was the British zone of West-Germany: 'When men change, the structure of society changes, and when the structure of society changes, men change.' [Remaking the World, pages 172-173]

I have become increasingly dissatisfied with the way I have used these words. Initiatives of Change was born within the European and American culture and society. Has the challenge to our structures been limited to the frameworks within our economic system, but kept away from rocking the very foundations of it?

Returning to the vision of the headline, and the power of these forces at the present time, I feel quite helpless. But I do believe that Buchman hit the nail on the head when he said:

'An extreme of evil must be met with an extreme of good. A fanatical following of evil by a passionate pursuit of good…. Only a passion can cure a passion.' [Buchman’s speech The Answer for any ‘ism’ – even materialism’ on the 10th anniversary of the launching of Moral Re-Armament. Remaking the World, page 163] 

That passion is not about fanaticism, it is about commitment and an open heart, sharing the pain of others.

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