Liberalism

Posted: 28/08/2011 in Finance, Insight, Struggle
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(Added to Religion page)

I read this in a Buddhist article “Our freedoms and privileges in a liberal democracy are ultimately guaranteed by the willingness of the state to use violence to protect them”- Spaces by Stephen Batchelor, and it is the standard liberalist arguments that western Buddhists tend to subscribe to. Paraphrasing in part we use violence to defend our liberties, and it is that same principle that forces us to go to war. I do find this frustrating. When Buddhists have the tools of insight (see Insight page for discussion) at their disposal they stop short of applying
insight to the political. It stems from the institutional weakness that is
born out of naivete and innocence.

In the 4 Pillars of War I pointed out that the fourth Pillar – what might be called the Status Quo pillar – is the only pillar that has leeway for change. In summary the first three pillars, the military, armaments industry and government are all tied together fundamentally profiting industry. In the status quo the government is in the pockets of the first two – the corporatocracy, and the only possible way forward is if the people relinquish their standard of living (the necessity for this is discussed in the same blog) in an effort to alter the status quo so
that it is not acceptable for government to wage wars because they will be
voted out.

The above quote illustrates the standard liberalist position that war is entered into begrudgingly, and this position lacks the insight to investigate the political realities discussed in the 4 Pillars of War. Yet meditating Buddhists have the tools to see beyond, but it appears that many don’t. Certainly institutionally they don’t. I recently had a disagreement with a lifelong monk concerning war in Iraq. His position also lacked political insight – he believed Tony Blair, and previously I tended to forgive him because of his living in cloisters although it always frustrated me that he aired these views which begrudgingly supported western war. (Check the Iraq page for my views on Iraq.) Now although I understand his position I don’t want now to be so tolerant. This institutional weakness of cloistered monks is part of the status quo, for war to be stopped Buddhist institutions, religious institutions in general, need to take their insight into the political arena, and apply their religious conviction and insight into that same arena. For religious institutions in the UK this is not possible as the religion will then lose its charitable status. Whilst I believe it is important that religious institutions continue, the fact that so many people have died as a result of what Stockwell calls the Third World War brings this institutional acceptance into question. Wars instituted by the West are far too heinous, and this religious compromise with charitable status has to be brought seriously into question. Tony Blair values his Christianity, how is it that he can still be accepted by the church and yet take a country into war for profit? Whilst I suspect a majority of priests and church members were against the war throughout, the institutions did not make any irrefutable gestures concerning Blair and his policies. Of course Blair span obfuscations concerning the issue yet the majority of people knew that this was spin – lies.

When I am asking that people sacrifice to break the status quo that has to apply to institutions that claim morality such as religions. The heinous crimes that are committed under the name of “War on Terror” have to be reigned in. “Terror” as an enemy is far more ghost-like than the imaginary “reds under the bed” I grew up with. When you have oppressive actions such as in Iraq, Afghanistan and to a lesser extent Libya (whilst NATO interfered it seems certain that in the end the “rebels” were a populist uprising) that are perceived by these populations as aggression against them, there will be an increase in the people who want to fight back. These people defending their own countries will be perceived as terrorist in the metropoles of the West, and there will be increased repression as the West tries to create a security that is impossible – whilst they continue with their Third World War.

This arbitrary “War on Terror” is frightening because it can only lead to greater violence. The military who act out of defence have no targets. Their need to defend will see supposed targets throughout the world, violence will be spread with no solution in sight, and the only people who gain are the MIC – Military Industrial Complex. This ongoing war is a war – however arbitrary metropolitan peoples consider it (like myself until recently). I knew it was unreal and manufactured by the media machine of the governments instigated by the corporatocracy, but once manufactured this war became real not in the metropoles – people were not dieing there, but in the Third World. These Third World deaths, in the Middle East, are horrific simply because of the huge numbers. Yet the devastation in the countries concerned is also horrific, as the MIC have determined a way to make profits through reconstruction; the devastation is intentional as a means of the MIC making a profit. Whilst the dhamma, catechism, Bible, Koran or any other religious texts do not have a political analysis as they are timeless, it is time for religious institutions to take a political stance in view of the deaths that are being committed in the names of their people. Such political analysis is dangerous as it can be misused, but at the moment the liberal positions taken by most religious institutions
support the status quo – support war.

Ideally all religious institutions should stand together condemning the War on Terror. In the movie “Why we fight” there was a poignant moment when during 9/11 the Iranians were on the streets of Tehran abhorring the violence against US citizens – even though the WTC could be considered a political target. Why are Christians not on the streets abhorring the violence in Iraq, Afghanistan and to a less extent Libya. Are western Christians not as moral as the Muslims? Now instead of condemning violence in the Middle East western people are being manipulated into accepting a
war against Iran – the same people who were in solidarity during 9/11. How can our religious institutions accept this?

I am proposing a political wing of the religious institutions but the danger is that there will be the naivete as described above. Such a political wing needs lay people who have insight into the political process. Somehow these lay people have to be independent of the financial pressures that would be placed on such political analysts, either as financial reward or as pressure on financial reduction such as salary. That independence is far easier said than done, but the liberal naivete that is the standard religious fare at the moment is contributing to war – as it maintains the status quo. This political wing cannot happen!!

Suppose I consider a lay member of a religious institution. Maybe they are having doubts
about the “War on Terror”, and seek counsel from a religious postholder – priest, Iman, monk etc. Are these postholders going to tell them the truth? Will they have the understanding of this global war? Even if they did, would they be allowed to say? Morally speaking the “War on Terror” is heinous yet our moral guardians cannot say. Although Imans have been politicised the Third World War strategy that ensures killings occur in far-off lands and that the metropolitan people remain safe ensures that western institutions are not forced into awareness. Religions need to recognise that this is a strategy, and make efforts to be aware of the problem and offer legitimate counsel as a solution. As it now stands such advice is unlikely to contribute to the struggle against the “War on Terror”, and for me that is a moral crime in itself.

Having insight into the 4th Pillar of War, recognising that the MIC needs the status quo, religious institution need to move away from accepting pronouncements that war and violence are begrudgingly entered into, and recognise the political reality that the MIC engages in war for profits given democratic credence by voters in their congregations – tacitly sanctioning war and the death of millions.

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