Because I Care ~ FOR SALE

IT MIGHT BE THE OLDEST profession in the world, but few people would consider it honorable, and even the most-liberal people would probably have some reservations if their sisters or daughters were to announce their intention to ply the trade, especially in this time of AIDS. However, before we open our mouths to condemn, we should realize there are many kinds of prostitution, and not just the sex-for-sale kind. We can prostitute— degrade or sell— ourselves in a variety of ways. It is said that every man has his price and can be bought, and though there must be some incorruptible people, they are probably so rare that, for the sake of our purpose here, we may consider this statement to be generally true.

For most of us, how long would our principles (supposing we have any) and indignation stand up and hold out before we surrender to one or some of the many forms of pressure that may be brought to bear upon us— poverty, hunger, sickness, fear, greed, envy, desire for fame and power, and so on? Who would dare say he would never succumb?

Most of us have role-models, especially when we are young. Unsure of ourselves in our tender and formative years, or not yet having found our own minds and a direction in life (which, sadly, some never do), we tend to hang onto, identify with, emulate, and follow people we admire and take as our ideals— people like parents, singers, TV-and-screen personalities, sportsmen, and so on. I was once in this position myself, and some of my idols were The Beatles, The Moody Blues, The Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan, who inspired me with their words, and contributed a lot to my own journey through life. They were— and I liked them for this as well as for their music— rebels against authority and spokesmen for their generation. They said things to and for me then that I could not say for myself at the time; of course, I was also caught up in fashion and the ‘counter-culture’; it is hard to go against the current when we are young, even if we want to, which I didn’t.

As with so many others of my generation, their influence upon me was considerable, not just in the area of rebellion against authority— (which is a normal part of growing up, of bursting the bonds of parental protection and guidance, and striking out on one’s own. Sadly, rebellion at this stage is often blind, destructive and unguided by intelligence; thus, its force is soon wasted and spent)— but also in helping me discover the spiritual dimension of life, which now, as I look back, seems to have been near the surface, awaiting something to trigger it off. The Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper’s album, widely regarded as a revolution in itself, included a song called Within You, Without You, the words of which I wish to present here, as they had such an impact on me, and for those who might never have known them:

"We were talking
About the space between us all,
And the people
Who hide themselves
Behind a wall of illusion,
Never glimpse the Truth,
Then it’s far too late,
When they pass away.

We were talking
About the love we all could share,
When we find it,
To try our best to hold it there;
With our love, with our love
We could save the world,
If they only knew.

Try to realize it’s all within you,
No-one else can make you change;
And to see you’re really only very small,
And life goes on within you and without you.

We were talking
About the love that’s gone so cold,
And the people
Who gain the world and lose their soul,
They don’t know,
They can’t see;
Are you one of them?

When you’ve seen beyond yourself
Then you may find
Peace of mind
Is waiting there;
And the time will come
When you see we’re all One,
And life flows on within you and without you.

Another song by The Beatles, released in 1968, was The Inner Light, which used words from the Tao Te Ching:

Without going out of your door,
You can know all things on Earth;
Without looking out of your window,
You can know the ways of Heaven.
The farther one travels,
The less one will know.

The Hippy movement that came into being towards the end of the ‘Sixties, with its ideals of love, peace and sharing, was short-lived, probably because so many phony people jumped on the bandwagon and corrupted it; but it was a significant milestone, nevertheless. Some people retained the ideals they found in those days, and the Green Movement has grown out of it; it hasn’t simply disappeared and ceased to exist. Most ‘hippies,’ however, changed like chameleons, and adopted other fashions; many of today’s ‘yuppies’ were previously hippies, though they might deny it now. (And who did Bill Clinton think he was kidding when he admitted smoking marijuana during his university days, but claimed he did not inhale it? Next he'll be claiming that his wife became pregnant by ’immaculate conception,’ without his help! Who gives a damn if he did smoke marijuana before, as long as he doesn’t smoke it now? It’s a different thing, however, to tell transparent lies about it).

In the ‘60’s, there was a song which satirized the hypocrisy of singer-musicians, some of the words of which went:

The folk-singer came from America
To sing in the Albert Hall;
He sang his songs of protest,
And fairer shares for all;
How the rich were much too rich,
And the poor too poor by far;
Then he drove back to his penthouse
In his brand-new Rolls-Royce car.
What a world! What a place!
Ain’t you glad you’re a member of the human race?

This was clearly about Bob Dylan, the undisputed leader of ‘the Protest Movement’ that began in the US and spread all over the Western world. His most well-known song, Blowin’ in the Wind, was one of the anthems of the anti-Vietnam-War movement. He often sang of the poor and underprivileged and the injustice in society, but in the end was swallowed up by the lucre he generated. It is hard not to feel cynical about things like this. And even the rock-concerts that have been staged in recent years to raise money for charity: it is a simple matter for singers and musicians to perform for an hour or so, doing something— singing and making music— that really, is more play and pleasure than work; although many people do benefit from their efforts, they themselves lose nothing and become no poorer thereby.

Is it a sign of becoming old that I am thinking this way, and am no longer interested in or inspired by such people, who do not mean what they say or sing? If so, I have no regrets about being no longer young; I have found something better to compensate me for that loss.

I was in the Bataan Refugee Camp in Philippines when I belatedly heard of the murder of John Lennon in New York in 1980, and it came as a great shock to me, as I had long admired him. This was the man who wrote and sang:

Imagine no possessions:
I wonder if you can?
No need for greed or hunger,
A brotherhood of man,

but who left assets totaling about $150 million. And fellow-Beatle, Paul McCartney, at the time I wrote this in ’91, was said to have a fortune of over $700 million! Money in such amounts is obscene in a world where millions of people are starving to death. Why do we place such preposterous value on entertainers? Surely, we have our priorities wrong!

At a party in Manila’s Malacañang Palace before Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos were toppled from power, their children sang the current hit-song We are the World, obviously unaware of the meaning of the words. How casually we open our mouths to speak!

It is common for celebrities to ‘star’ in commercials on TV, endorsing a multiplicity of products; but are they convinced, one wonders, of the quality or superiority of the things they promote, or do they say what they say merely for the huge fees they are paid therefore? Have they so little self-respect and dignity that they can say anything for money? Are they, like beggars, so in need that they willingly discard their integrity? Or had they none to discard? I’m reminded of the four British businessmen who carried the cannibalistic mass-murderer Idi Amin on their shoulders in a procession while he yet ruled in Uganda. Did they really have no choice about this? How will they ever explain to their grandchildren why they were prepared to demean themselves so?

Of course, governments worldwide supply examples of unscrupulous behavior, and if we are not careful, we might find ourselves adopting their standards in our personal lives. Trade is carried on with murderous regimes in other countries, just to bring in more revenue for the ‘pollies’ and government-officials to waste and squander. Australia still trades with Burma, for one current example, just as the Thai government, for years, played host to one of the most brutal and genocidal regimes in history, allowing its ports to be used for the importation of arms for the Khmer Rouge, and provided luxury accommodation, armed escorts, and treatment for minor ailments in Bangkok’s best hospital for the monster Pol Pot himself! Britain, among other countries that produce arms, supplies land-mines to whoever will pay; many amputees owe their misfortunes to Britain’s greed! And why does the US continue to insist that Iraq is still hiding weapons of mass-destruction, when Iraq claims otherwise? Because it supplied them in the first place, and so knows what is there! Governments have no scruples or sense of shame whatever!

If the world is like this, must it always be so? While we must know how it is, must we be like that ourselves? Is there no alternative? Of course there is! We can regard corruption, hypocrisy, injustice and so on as our teachers and learn from them what not to do. It requires a certain amount of scorn for the way of the masses, who do not, I am convinced, know where they are going, but it is scorn based on understanding and love of truth and real values, rather than on conceit and a feeling of being better than others. If we want our world to improve instead of deteriorating further, we must take a stand.

To conclude: It should be possible to learn something from everyone, without necessarily following or even liking them. It is just as important to know what is wrong as it is to know what is right.

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