Economics and Morality
Progressions: A Voice of Muslims America (VOL. 1 NO. 5)
ECONOMICS AND MORALITY
By Imam W. Deen Mohammed
People in this day and time are not as unified as they were when I was a younger man. Today people seem to be trying to find room to get away from each other. It was not too many years ago, people were trying to find and get with each other. Of course even today there are exceptions. We know that there are small private interest groups who form a bond of unity through a common commitment to each other. However, for most Americans, there is no sense of unity. In fact, most Americans have lost the American sense of community life.
I pity those individuals in America who don't identify with a community life because we cannot make it through this world living as individuals. We must live as a community. The real sign that a society has advanced is in the presence of a healthy patriotism in that society for community life.
The African-Americans have experienced so many painful disappointments as Americans that they have become so wrapped up in sensitivities from the hurt of yesterday and in their personal problems that they cannot see that the way out is to forego personal concerns for community concerns.
In the American society, the race or ethnic group must leave its personal concerns if it expects to exist and prosper. If the African-Americans expect to prosper, we must take on the concerns of the American community as a whole. We must take on the responsibility for the American community, and share in the shaping of the future for all American people.
I have come to appreciate my life more than ever in recent years, and it is because I have come to understand that my life is really 'the community.' The personal life of the individual and national life are one and they cannot be separated. If you separate personal life from national life, it is like cutting off the main artery. Pretty soon you will die. If enough people separate themselves from the national life, pretty soon the individual, the society and the nation will die.
The Survival of America
This world has become so crowded, so busy, so burdened with international and local concerns that it takes all people living together as one to survive. America can no longer survive by setting itself apart from the rest of the world. America must see itself in the world scene. America must become aware of its place in humanity if it is to survive. G'd has created this condition. He set the pattern when He created one, and it was just a matter of time before the pattern brought us all to conform to it.
When a people draw their strength from community consciousness, they have a stronger power to propel them forward. When they draw from their personal concerns, they have little or nothing. We would see a great change in the African-American community if we encouraged people of our own ethnic group to think America. Many other races in this country that have had all the opportunities have eaten their fill. Some of them are now trying to go elsewhere. But we have not eaten our fill in America, thus our appetite should be the stronger.
If Nat Turner and others who died to see these opportunities come to us were able to see how we are responding, they would think that we are uncle toms in not talking America. If any of our great African-American heroes were here today, they would think of us as traitors for not talking America. They wanted a place and their rights in America. They wanted opportunities. They wanted their families to live safely and prosper in America. They wanted discrimination and racial hatred removed from America. These things have been removed, at least with the stroke of the pen, and that is all we should ask. If you take the law off of my back, I can do the rest for myself. If I can't, then I am just a loser, and I deserve whatever I get.
Opportunities are here, and we must take full advantage of them. To take full advantage of these opportunities, we must identify with the whole of America. We must draw our inspiration, our moving power from the constitution of the United States because that is the life of this nation. We must become patriotic, and I don't mean the kind of patriotism that African-Americans suffered under Caucasians in the past.
I remember when Caucasians used to be patriotic, but their patriotism was blind. They thought to love America meant to exclude Blacks. When they spoke of their love for America in association with us, they would consider us as 'their Negroes' whom they had to take care of. They were giving us charity, being nice to us. But I can't recall hearing that kind of talk over the last ten years or so. That kind of talk has disappeared because so many great changes have come about, and with these changes came opportunities for the African-Americans that we did not have before.
As a people, we need courage. We need to think big. We need to think bigger than ourselves, than our race. We need to think in the dimensions of the whole world, but the first important step is to think in the dimensions of America. As opportunities become greater for us, we have to take on a greater sense of responsibility. So far this has not been the case with African-Americans. As opportunities have grown, the sense of responsibility in our communities has diminished.
Community Responsibility A Must
This problem of community responsibility has become a national problem. People all over America are thinking selfishly, and they are losing the community sense of responsibility. We must take on a commitment to live not just for self, but for the future of the American people. If we could fire up that spirit in the citizens on our block and in our cities, pretty soon America would spark once again with new life.
Several years ago, I met with some leaders from the African-American community. One of them, a man whom I respect very much, made several talks and addressed the problems we are to face during the 80's. In his talks, he said, "Oh, there is going to be less money." Well there is less money everywhere.
When Adam Clayton Powell, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Honorable Elijah Muhammed were speaking to the African-American's problems, there was a sense of intimacy in our race. We felt a closeness. We were beating up each other even then, but we still had a family spirit among our people. We didn't think we needed a black mafia in the city to suck the blood from the weaker ones among us. We call it 'Black on Black' Crime.' Why did that develop? It developed because we took our sights from the aspirations of a people as a whole, and focused our sights on personal interest. As a result of that, most of our people are now suffering.
If we still had a sense of purpose or a sense of commitment, our businessmen would be much more successful than they are. It has gotten so bad that not only is the Caucasian businessman unable to operate in our neighborhoods anymore, but even the black businessmen find it hard to survive there. Because of the millions we steal each year from business operations, only the big chain stores can survive in our neighborhoods.
If we had a moral sense to see that community life is really for the individual, and we passed that sense on to our children, we would be enjoying a much higher level of material comfort, and we would have a much greater future ahead of us. I hate to think about the economic state of our African-American people. In the city of Chicago, all of the business enterprises of African-Americans combined does not represent a big business. If all of them were put together, you would still only have a small business.
Why am I addressing these concerns? I am not just saying these things randomly. I have a point in mind, and it is this: the essences of our problems are moral. I don't care what kind of problem we have, at the base it is a moral problem, a moral question. In other words, we have gone wrong morally.
Inflation, A Moral Problem
When we talk about inflation, we speak of it as an economic problem. If you think it is an economic problem, then why can't the economist solve it. The moral problem at the root of inflation is that big businesses, individuals, and our nation as a whole has become too greedy. The only person who can solve this problem must be someone who can see the moral nature of the problem.
The poor economic condition of the African-American race is a moral problem. If we were morally strong, we could do more with our dollars. We wouldn't be on welfare in the numbers that we are, or confined in prisons in such large numbers. You may say, "I don't want to hear any religious talk." Well you need religion more than you need an economist. And I'm not talking about a Jesus to come and work some miracles. You need some good common sense talk to enable you to see that moral life is the base of other life.
Humanity is a moral body, and no matter what we are involved in, it depends upon our moral strength. Those who run away from moral questions thinking they are going to fill their pockets quickly are fools. It will be just a matter of time before what they get by dishonest means becomes a burden on them. If we had moral intelligence, we could come to grips with our moral life and its demands on us as individuals and think in terms of humanity. If we would begin to think humanity, we would think America. Thinking humanity is the only problem we have when it comes to thinking America.
Actually, we don't have many racists among our people. What we do have are cowards, people who put up excuses. Many of our people will say, "Oh hell no brother. I ain't going to sit down with no whitey. I ain't going to call no whitey my brother. A whitey as a Muslim? The Honorable Elijah Muhammed didn't teach us that. I'll never accept it, ever!" But, if you follow that same one around long enough, you will find him trying to get a white woman in the bed with him. He is just putting up excuses. He doesn't have the courage to live in the world with the Caucasian if everything is open, square and equal. He is afraid of being shown up.
My hope is that we can get a vision, a sense of purpose for our lives, for our communities, and for our country. We must move with the force of community life if we are to enlarge and improve the meaning and worth of our personal lives, our ethnic group, and the whole American society.
We need to identify with the national aspirations and accept to shape the future, or chart the course for all people of America. Don't say you are not qualified. You are qualified. All we need to do to qualify is to take on bigger minds and bigger ideas, work for bigger causes, come out of the mind of a recipient, and see ourselves as a benefactor, giving help to others. Believe me, that is life, and you haven't lived until you start living for causes outside of yourself.
To conclude this article, I want to say this. The human capacity to love when in the right condition will make you productive. Without the proper kind of love, we cannot be productive. With the wrong kind of love, we can be destructive. If we are to get the correct love in our life, we must first love G'd. And, it takes great strength to love G'd. Love of G'd can give you the measure of love that is due to everybody and everything else, because the love of G'd expands your breast, expands your heart and enlarges your capacity to love.
If we want to improve our condition, we have to come back to G'd. We have to become religious once again. In fact, that is the only way we are going to survive in this world today.
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