Community Building

Posted: 15/12/2011 by zandtao in Democracy, ONE planet
Tags: , ,

I am perhaps coming full-turn back to Buddhism after listening to this interview with Thay. Anger is not a way to build a community, it is perhaps fuel for organising but it is not a way to build a community.

He talks about despair, people are so desparate after what the 1% have done to us, where do they go? This is Occupy but Occupy is a movement built in desparation and anger at the 1%. So how much community building is going on at Occupy? I cannot know because I am not in the Occupy Community. There is evidence of many good things, but it is still a community in adversity.

What about a positive community? A community that comes together to celebrate Nature and spirituality, maybe the Occupy meditation group are already doing this. This is such a fascinating discussion to listen to given the importance of the Occupy movement politically – community building. This is Occupy – building a community. So what are the basics of this community? It began as a movement in response to the oppression of the 1%, but it is developing from there. It is developing socio-economically when you start to consider Occupy Farms and Alternative Banking and Economy working groups. But these are a response to the 1%.

But Thay is suggesting “take it a step further”. Not only do you take community building out of the existing economic shackles through alternative economy, but you build that community on a recognition of what are human needs. And once you have begun to recognise those needs, with appropriate teaching people can recognise that there is great happiness that comes from recognising and controlling these needs for survival and developing spiritually leading to that happiness. Has Occupy gone that far with the meditation and wellness group?

Thay focussed on despair. The 1% have driven some people into Occupy through despair, for many I suspect it is anger but despair will come the way the 1% are behaving. For those in despair they can see through the examples of his Plum Village(s) that a spiritual community can bring happiness, and take one out of despair. Despair can be assuaged through Occupy as an economic-based movement, but fundamentally despair is human and personal, and needs a spiritual response.

Thay avoided a direct contemporary political response to the 1%. He talked about the grander picture of civilisations coming and going, and offered the spirituality and community of Plum Village as an alternative. But at the beginning he offered a road map for community building. You build communities from the bottom up. This bottom-up group, say for example a General Assembly, defines the ethics and rationales of this community, and its leaders are exemplar in holding to these ethics. These ethics would encompass an approach to climate change – ostensibly what the discussion was about. The community revolves around these ethics and rationales, and would meet regularly to confirm this charter. In Plum Village he cited the precepts that were part of his mindfulness that binds the Plum Village brotherhood and sisterhood together.

It is love that drives Plum Village. The precepts that might be an Occupy charter free the monks from desire enabling expression of this love. When asked about the environment and the lack of willingness to correct the damage that is being done to the environment he talked of the man whose child loved him and couldn’t understand why he was smoking. Love can conquer the negative desire for smoking, love can conquer all negative desires. Love obviates the needs that come from a society dominated economically. In this Love there is Love for Nature, this is key to happiness for Thay. Experience love of Nature and that brings Happiness and love for each other.

As pointers Thay offers Occupy a lot but at the same time he does not. Occupy is an economic movement, and Thay is saying move beyond the economic shackles and find a spiritual solution. Yet Thay sees himself as part of the Engaged Buddhist movement. Where does this fit in with engagement? Insight recognises that in this day and age the 1% are creating suffering, Thay’s response is become happy through spiritual community building. His insight does not seek political involvement but separate spiritual communities. I am stuck here, do I agree? The last 6 months I don’t, but have I full-turned to agree? Need to meditate then go to the beach.

Here is a guy connected to Occupy who has the notion of community building positively through love:-

and here is a nice dance Occupy from their website:-

Addendum on confronting

In society we do not confront the problem for what it is. In the community building talk there was the mayor of Vancouver present, perhaps Vancouver is progressive; maybe it looked good for him to be seen on a platform with Thay and David Suzuki. The chair broached the 1% and there was talk of vested interests. Let’s be honest the 1% are exploiting us rotten. Their influence controls most social aspects of our lives especially our working lives. If ordinary people want to make changes in their communities, they cannot – unless it does not interfere with business interest. The Occupy movement are trying to hold the 1% accountable and all kinds of trumped-up charges are bringing them into conflict with police. Thay intentionally does not confront this, but the others, the chair and David Suzuki, talk around it. The politician is relatively comfortable. Why should he be? I don’t know when this discussion took place, the original vimeo clip was 18 August this year. I was conscious throughout watching that post-Cop17 Canada was the first country to withdraw from Kyoto. August was in the middle of the Keystone XL debacle before Obama withdrew. And we have a pleasant debate involving a politician who throughout was never confronted except when Thay said that the community building charter should start from the bottom-up and the leaders should be exemplary. That was the extent to which this politician was threatened, he was accepted. In fact at the end of the talk the politician was complimented by Thay on the beautiful city.

I am debating whether these people should be made to feel social pariahs.

What about the straight-talking Anjali Appadurai? Did COP17 feel uncomfortable? Can they accept that they are doing good when they have done nothing all of her life? Of course most people in public office become inured to criticism in public office, but isn’t it time we stopped making it easy for these people? All my life we have made it easy for these people for the occasional crumb they offer us. Is what they offer worth it? Has it been worth eating crow all the times in my life that I have? Financially it probably has been. I have some money in the bank and a satisfactory pension if they pay it. Morally it has not. Would it have been better when I had the opportunity to tell these people to stop taking advantage and do some good? I just don’t know. I had enough conflict in my life, and that would have meant more. I had conflict when I tried to play their game, if I confronted them would more have been gained? But the trouble is all these people I met and let them feel comfortable whilst I compromised myself in discomfort, would it have made any difference to their thick skins if I had told them like it is.

Yet the trouble is a Canadian politician like this is gaining politicial acceptability by being on a platform with Thay and David Suzuki whilst his country is digging up Tar Sands and had plans to get out of Kyoto. I remember David Suzuki saying that Canada and Europe were taking positive climate steps. How ironic is that! And this man apparently has the confidence of Canadians. Does he now?

Is it time that people who know confront those in power and make them uncomfortable? Is it constructive? Certainly appeasing over the last 40 years has left me with a feeling of frustration that I have just been used, and whilst deep down no-one who knows me could have seen any acceptance in me, for the casual contacts maybe they should have been confronted.

  1. […] positivity. In community building Thay discussed his reasons for setting up Plum Village – I discussed this here. Thay’s Plum Villages exist to show the right way to live yet within his perspective he gives […]

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