Living with despair

Posted: 01/01/2012 by zandtao in Insight, ONE planet, Struggle

On Saturday I relived my youth and began to understand the importance of the word “despair” in this talk from Thay. I was at a party, and arrived late, there were few people there. It turns out that the host with the drink had freaked out smashing plates and stuff. By the time I arrived he was just talking gibberish, and the other people there were shell-shocked. I was there for three hours and his partner and die-hard friends were treating him with kid-gloves hoping there would not be another freak – thankfully there wasn’t. As the evening wore on the friends relaxed and got drunk. I then realised who they were, they were adolescents getting drunk – all 3 were over 50. I then realised that this was despair.

What happens to western youth? They grow up and turn to drugs, what choice have they got? Despair. I am often critical saying that these people are not adult, but being an adult means that you have to come to terms with despair. How do you do this? Few manage it. Why do people turn away from the assessment of 1%, their addiction and what they are doing to people and the planet? Because to face it leads to despair, and they are afraid of that despair. If you are in despair how can you cope?

Some people turn to political activity. Such grass roots activists turn their despair into activity, and whilst many such activists can live their whole lives in activism often they burn out and sell out. This activism is a response to despair but it significantly lacks “maturity” because they have not coped with despair but turned away from it through their activity. For most people despair is bought off by a refusal to accept reality, and they hide behind materialism and drugs, acceptable sociable drugs. Because of despair people work to attain material possessions and find drugs or hobbies to keep their minds away from the truth – the reality of the suffering that is being caused by the 1% in their addiction. How can you not despair when you realise that these addicts are so damaging our near and far futures?

I believe this is why Thay talks about despair when talking about community-building, he offers a solution. There is a spiritual Path that can cope with despair, a spiritual Path that does not require money, does not require materialism, but simply the strength that comes from living together spiritually in harmony with nature.

And this is significant for Occupiers. What happens when the movement fails? If Occupiers remain in the state of activism, where they are in a state of response to the despair, and don’t move on to accept some form of spirituality, then they might well get caught up in despair – and burn out and sell out. Compare this to the hippies, what has happened to them? I imagine a group of ex-hippies who have managed a life either in or out of the system, working within and fighting or financially struggling whilst working alternatively – perhaps in organic farming. Such lives are worthwhile and mature because their maturity has accepted despair, followed some spirituality, and determined some form of contribution. I hope Occupiers can find some such life.

But for Occupiers life has changed. Hippies came just before the beginning of the serious impact of the 1% addiction. Following the second world war there was austerity that brought with it frugality for most. Hippies spoke of love but were ridiculed. Love was what was to overcome the ravages of the addiction of the 1%. But instead came the economic craziness that characterises the addiction of the 1%, instead came the increasing of the wars for profit for the addicted. In such a short time, 50 years, the western world is on the brink of implosion, and their addiction is leading to climate change and weather anomalies globally. And that is without considering the devestation caused by the profit wars. When the hippies sold out they had a choice, in the current world Occupiers do not. The sentiments that are driving the global Occupiers are survivalist. People are dieing on the streets of Syria and Egypt, people were locked out of their bank accounts in Argentina, and police in the US are pepper-spraying passive peaceful protesters in flagrant disregard for all that is human decency. What outcome is there for the shows of honesty and integrity by the Occupiers? There can only be despair at the ravages of the addiction of the 1% unless they find spirituality.

But what good is that spirituality if it does not turn against the dominant addiction? How can we seek sustenance in Nature if the addiction is destroying it? Can communities survive such destruction? Could Plum Village survive the apocalyptic gangs of Mad Max? Plum Village can show us more through its spirituality but we do need a stance against the ravaging addiction. And that is more than the usual Buddhist platitudes of the damages of human greed. Of course addiction is greed but it is far more, and it is not the greed of the many but that which is isolated to the few – the 1% addicted few.

This spiritually-inspired stance requires the dual strategy of workplace integrity and the survival skillset. Accepting that we earn money by embracing all that is required for corporate life is now not an option, we cannot now accept such collaboration. The 1% addicts require minions to embrace all the inhumanity that are corporation ravages. Such corporate minions cannot now be accepted. The addiction has gone beyond the rational. Wars are fought for profit. Climate change is producing weather change that is frightening yet COP17 defers to 2020. Did Rothschild and Rockefeller attend Durban? No. Their influence was such that minions had done enough. In war terms that is collaboration. Collaborators need to be labelled. The 1% need our labour and we have no choice, but embracing corporate addiction is collaboration. Ostracise the collaborators, recognise the spiritual wealth that exists in the world and move away from the materialism. Their materialism is not what we want, it is not what the world can now cope with. The 1% addiction spreads through minions as collaborators, it is time to say collaboration is part of the problem. The 99% need to not be collaborating. Politically the path cannot be compromising to maintain unions and other outmoded institutions that have been bought off. They also are collaborators. It is time to call an end to collaboration.

But to do this we need to face despair and accept the spiritual Path.

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