I heard this clip – Democracy Now (26/9/11) epitaph, and it made me realise that Zandtao was missing something – it was missing an integrity that comes from recognising that we are ONE planet (the Religion page was renamed accordingly). Let me get into it by developing that decision. What has religion got to do with ONE planet? Well first we can begin with One the Movie, we are One. This is the theme that is developed throughout the movie by speaking with various religious leaders – perhaps better put as spiritual leaders as in general these were not religious people restricted by institution. Oneness is better felt, once it is described it loses precision. We might start with togetherness, we are all in this together; hurting one person is like hurting ourselves.
This is the position of Oneness that our education suggests we start from, this description of separate people working otgether. But what if we step back and take a different starting point – that of being ONE itself. Suppose as the fundamental position we take that we are ONE, that we are not the separate beings our bodies would indicate but that in fact we are ONE entity.
For me the sea is the best metaphor for this especially as I love being by the sea. Watch the sea, now describe it. As the waves start to form the sea undulates, then at the top as the waves turn over white foam forms with the waves rolling into the shore. Then the water slides slowly back to rejoin the sea as a whole. A reasonable description? Not too poetic. But as soon as I wanted a description I looked at the waves and began to describe something that I could label – a separation. That is the very nature of measuring or describing, it gives separation. Such is the nature of mind it wants to describe characteristics. What is the totality of the sea? It is water that moves in and out with the tides. Are the waves separate? No just that when we describe the waves it is natural to characterise the waves as separate – as attributes to describe.
Now consider ants. As an army of ants move in to devour the carcas of a moth – maybe a moth that had capitulated to an outside light, they function as One Ant devouring. To describe the ants we tend to describe individual ants, one following another separately, but to describe what they are doing they are functioning as one to devour the carcas of the moth.
Like the ants we are One, our bodies appear separate but we function together. This is the Oneness I would like to convey. We are ONE apparently with separate bodies but functioning together on this earth. It sounds stupid to say this with wars and exploitation but for me this is the truth. For me when I think of war I think of me killing myself, hurting myself, it is not just a notion that all people are equal so why do we accept killing Iraqis? It is worse than that. Some people have got so separated from their true nature – within this Oneness they can happily kill themselves.
Such a Unity belongs as a fundamental in our schools where competition, which increases our separation
Oneness is fundamental to the way Nature would like us to live together, but in reality through greed and other detachments we live and kill as individuals.
But I believe that this Oneness extends beyond the species. At a Christian funeral the priest will say “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust” implicitly recognising that on our deaths our bodies merge with planet – merge back into the planet. In Buddhism and elsewhere cremations occur as a recognition that on death what remains is a carcas, and for me that carcas is a physical component of the planet.
How do we live? We eat. Food grows on the planet, we survive because of this food. Now for most people the food of the planet is considered separate, but is it? Consider the image of the mother breast-feeding her baby. You might say there are 2 entities – mother and child, food is not separate from the mother. In gestation the baby in the womb is feeding off the mother, are there 2 entities there? When? At the moment of ejaculation? Rather than seeking to define a time when life is born, why not consider that life is happening all the time and that its outer form is what changes.
The life of the ONE planet is, it functions together, but its outer form changes with time. In description I draw a distinction between the sea, plants, animals and man, but this separation is only caused because of the process of describing. I am part of the life of the planet, not separate, not ONE species separate from the planet, but ONE species functioning within, and a part of, the planet.
Gaia is an approach which describes the life of the planet as One. Gaia tends to describe a holistic approach to earth, its connectivity. How far does Gaia go? Gaia connects sea, land and plants as one system interconnected and dependent. Animals are dependent on Gaia but tend to be considered separate, and usually in Gaia man is completely separate.
ONE planet is not Gaia but GAIA, the interconnectivity of all, Gaia plus animals plus man. There is only one life force and that life force is ONE interconnectedness that includes the sea, the land and all life forms. To destroy the land is to destroy our country, somehow Wangari Maathai’s Kenyan women farmers knew this. Maybe the Green Belt Movement planted trees to save their land, Kenya, but deep down they were saving themselves – ourselves.
When we don’t recognise climate change we are separating from ourselves, destroying our planet – us. Why do we do this? We cannot see the Unity that is ONE planet, and greed takes over alllowing us to exploit the planet – destroy our Being.
We need Insight to clear the fog that prevents us from seeing ourselves – the ONE planet.
ONE planet – my religion
This page began as my religion page and then I heard this epitaph for Wangari Maathai, and I realised that my religion is One planet.
Watch the movie, One – the movie. Religion begins with the One, we are all One, our sila requires that we are all One, and religion needs to know that what underlies any lack of Oneness works through greed and the corporatocracy. Religion needs to embody One planet in what it teaches.
I am a deeply religious man. Early in my life I came out of a drunken haze to realise there was a Oneness that we all are. Once there I was driven by the conviction of this awareness, that at the time I called spirituality. This spirituality fed my time in politics, and although being spiritual did not seem much connected with endless mailings and letter-writing the reality was that it was the motivation. My involvement with the struggle came from compassion. And it is my compassion that makes me look at the world religions and say what are you doing?
Basically religions have been bought off. The institutions themselves marvel in grandiose buildings, temples, churches, mosques and other religious buildings are perhaps some of the most beautiful architecture in the world; yet thes buildings can exist in some of the more impoverished areas of the world. Is that compassion? For me this is an indication that the survival of the institution is more important than its compassionate teaching. And this is the crux of the issue, how much do the religious institutions compromise themselves to get the funding they need for the religions to continue? Survival is essential, but how much must they compromise to survive?
Buddhism has three refuges – Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha, belief in the Buddha’s enlightenment and all that follows, the teachings, and the community of the teachers. Perfectly sensible. Then you start to ask, in this day and age how does the Sangha continue? They need finance, and like everywhere the nominal donation from the rich (1%) is far more important to the survival of the institution than the 1% of the poor. And when the rich donator asks, does the Buddha say that being rich compromises you the monk is encouraged to answer no. And it is this no, that starts the slippery slope of compromise that is part of the general social compromise that avoids the political awareness of the corporatocracy and its consequences. In Buddhist terms the wealth needs to have come from Right Livelihood, and how many rich people can say that in the capitalist system?
But for me the greatest burden lies with Christianity, quite simply because the hegemony is in Christian countries. How much has the Christian church avoided the political truth so that it can survive? Why is it that I grew up in a Catholic family, and the more vehement Catholics in my family are the more right-wing? Quite simply why don’t Christians in general associate caring and compassion with the Struggle of Left-Wing politics? Especially Christians in the hegemony. This is a question that has always bemused me. For me the aims of socialism are quite clear, better treatment for all people. Isn’t this caring and compassion? What else can it be? Now there might be names such as Marxism, there might be calls for revolution from some on the left, but overall the Struggle is about caring for all. And isn’t that fundamentally what religious people are about?
So what happens to stop this identification between religion and the left? Let’s start with fear. Christians have their lifestyles. They go to church, and meet other christians whose lifestyles are similar. The priest tells them to make a donation to the church, s/he tells them that they should be moral, and then the Christian goes home to carry on with their lifestyle of avoidance. In the hegemony politicians on the right use religious rhetoric to support their positions especially in the US – although Tony Blair misused religion in his political life as well. How can Christianity allow this? It totally bemuses me.
And what happens on the left wing of politics? They eschew religion. I know Marx talked of religion as the opiate of the masses, but I am not sure that he decried religion per se – I hope he didn’t. When he describes religion as an opiate I agree. The way religions operate they allow people to avoid. The church might encourage donations to Oxfam but what does it do about the underlying politics that creates the conditions for the poverty that Oxfam is trying to help with. Christianity avoids the politics yet it is western democracies whose politics creates the poverty. The corporatocracy requires the votes of these Christians to continue. Why does the church not extend its purview to all of daily life, to an awareness of all the forces that in dailiy life creates the conditions of poverty. Quite simply it can’t because the fabric of western daily life is not sustainable if carried out on a Christian caring basis. How can Christians survive without the sales of the weapons industry and the wars the industry requires? That money underpins the economies of Christain countries. This avoidance of the truth in the institutional aspects of the Christian community is integral to the way of life of Christians in the West, and whilst not all westerners are Christians it is a prevalent justification of the establishment. And in America you have the Religious Right? Again I am bemused as to how these people are accepted as Christians.
And the left wing? Do they take the moral high ground? No in general they cede the religious territory to the right, rejecting religion as not being connected with the Struggle. Yet the religious Struggle is the same as the political Struggle. The distance between religion and compassion is perhaps the same distance as politics and caring. If we can begin to identify these two struggles together then perhaps we have a chance of relieving suffering.
Religious convictions is far more powerful than any political convictions as political theory comes from the intellect whereas conviction is insight. This conviction needs to encompass a political understanding that requires struggle, for most the institutions dissipate any conviction if not directly promoting the establishment at least not promoting antagonism by accepting the reality of what has been done in the established name. Religious people often end up fighting their religious institutions, quite simply because institutional survival has led to a corruption of the truth.
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 (article removed), 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- this originally was on the blog but I have moved it to my website.) 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.
Moral Integrity – 08/09/11
Sila, moral integrity, is the foundation on which the Buddhist Path and Practice is based, without sila a person cannot genuinely call themselves Buddhist. Unlike Christianity and Islam the requirements of sila are not defined so a person must work out for themselves what their moral position is. However there are lay guidelines listed here (with the Pali original):-
The Five Precepts:
Determining where you stand with regards to these principles and making a commitment to apply them to your daily life begins to open the Path that is Buddhist understanding, and at the same time it develops in the person an integrity which others can rely on – trust. Trust and sila have a symbiotic relationship, without sila a person cannot be trusted and we cannot trust people without integrity.
For government trust is an essential commodity, we need to trust that our government works in our interest – essentially the meaning of democracy. This is why it is necessary to understand the relationship between the corporatocracy and government, and I suggest that it is best understood as employer and employee. Rather than considering the notion that we trust our government because it is a democracy, to understand the way of the world it is best understood that the government works for the banks and corporations, and that is why we have the policies we do. What can we trust the government to do, work for the corporatocracy. Until this relationship is recognised democratically, then there is little chance of change. For me this is where political awareness is now at – the need to educate people that the relationship between the corporatocracy and government is that of employer and employee.
The most obvious tool for recognising this relationship is that of consistency. Let us consider war in the light of this tool of consistency, how consistent is our government’s stance on war? The first Gulf War was fought for democracy – trying to help the democratic rulers of Kuwait to overthrow the enemy, Saddam Hussein. What democratic rulers of Kuwait? The Kuwaiti rulers are dictators – inconsistency. NATO supported the rebels to overthrow the dictatorship of Qaddafi – possible. Who are they supporting? The Libyan people – we are not sure yet, but the National Transitional Council certainly has no right to call itself a democracy – inconsistency.
In both of the above cases the arms manufacturers gained greatly. Western allies used taxpayers’ money and money borrowed from the bankers – their respected Feds (Federal Reserve and the Bank of England) to pay the arms companies for their weapons to fight the respected wars. At the same time as a result of both wars NATO countries have gained control of the oil supply. Consistency.
Let’s then look at the recession that we are supposedly in. Who benefits from the recession? Prior to the crash sparked by the manipulations of the sub-prime loans, more than just the bankers were gaining through financial exploitation. After the crash the banks claimed they needed money, and because of their control of governments they were able to get money form the government to stabilise the banking system without which the economies would go under. I dispute that the peoples’s economies would go under as if your economy was forced back to a sustainable one, the people would not suffer. The vast amounts of credit that underpins our economic system only shows itself in zeros of the accounts of the super rich. Ordinary people don’t necessarily benefit from the vast amount of credit directly, over a period of time removal of a credit economy would stabilise into a working barter system (or return to the gold standard). People would never accept the obscene amounts of money the super rich claim they have if the people were starving, this superclass would come under threat quite rightly. That threat doesn’t happen now because whilst the super-rich still have an obscene amount of money idling away in offshore accounts the majority of people have sufficient to get by either through personal credit or through credit on a wider scale.
So during the recession the banks, who started the problem have been given bailout money, are they expected to return it? Where does this money come from? Normally we say taxes but if there is not sufficient money from the taxes the money is borrowed or created by the various Feds. Once borrowed from the Feds, it must be paid back, so the bankers gain from the interest and the payback. Do the banks have to pay the government? Unsure. Does the government have to pay the banks? Definitely. Who is the employer? When you understand this, there are no inconsistencies.
People want to trust their government, they want to give their governments responsibility for their actions. A country needs a government to ensure fairness and justice, and in the US this is the basis of their constitution. But in the UK there has never been a constitution, the government has always been in league with the landowners and then finance and the corporations. However in the case of the UK the politicians claim democracy, and claim that they have the interest of the people. In the US the paper, constitution, claims the interests of the people. But in neither case is this the truth, the function of the government is primarily to work for the banks and corporations. To understand taxation you need to understand this. Taxes are paid so that the government can accumulate money. Some of this accumulated money is paid out for public services, why not all? Money is paid for “defence”, is all the money spent necessary for defence? No. Why is it spent? For the profits of the MIC. When you look at the way government spends its money, it only makes sense if you see it as the banks and corporations taking money from working people and needing to convince working people that it is necessary to do this. Taxation is for the banks and corporations – consistency.
Once people are aware of this fundamental relationship, then the struggle can begin in earnest. Does this struggle have to be violent? I hope not. Many left-wing theorists say it is necessary, I genuinely hope it is not. Suppose we have that awareness and are not seeking a violent solution, what can we do? If the awareness is solid, then we can apply pressure to democratic representatives to break the relationship with their employers – get the politicians to fight the banks and corporations. This can only happen with a tremendous amount of popular support – such as in Nicaragua in 1979 or in Cuba. But in both those cases it was violent. Are there examples where the people have ascended power and it has not been violent? No. BUt if the democratic power is strong enough then the superclass will be willing to relinquish some power, maybe there is a way for compromise. But that power needs to be strong, and the people need to trust their representatives. In the UK and the US we have had leaders who have misused that trust, both Tony Blair and Barack Obama presented themselves as leaders for the people but in practice they were the same employees as previous politicians but with sugar moths that spouted lies. We need to break the existing party machines that ensure that liars become leaders, and people with integrity work their way through the ranks. Politics needs to be seen as a place for sila and politicians as bastions of such integrity; then we can have trust.
Let’s examine the lay principles. I have and there is little point, they have nothing to do with politics. If they did it would be great, but certainly no leading British politician can follow then whilst functioning in a corporatocracy. Just because it is a Pali word sila is not the prerogative of Buddhists, underpinning all religions is a moral integrity that is worth fighting for. Consider the 10 Commandments, if a politician followed them the world would be a better place, and the same would be true of codes within other religions. The Four Agreements would benefit humanity if politicians were to follow them.
The issue is not the code, it is power. Working in Grass Roots politics there were many genuine people – even somewhere underneath the intellectual egos of the Trots must be a heart of compassion – otherwise why did they take the path of conflict with the establishment; they could have been intellectual and earn money (how many Trots give up and do that?). And the stage at which Grass Roots politics loses sila is when the politician compromises themselves to gain power. Look at Obama. Wonderful rhetoric – phenomenal. He pushed all the correct buttons of compassionate people. But you have to know that the corporatocracy would not give him campaign contributions if they couldn’t be sure he was pliable. And lo and behold, at every opportunity he has failed to deliver. I am sorry for all the disappointed people, but even though he has misused everyone people must still struggle to empower the democracy.
Power corrupts, somehow we need to consider how the genuine compassion of the grass roots activist can work its way up into power. It only takes one person in power to enable us all. Obama has shown us one thing that is very positive, a platform of genuine compassion is electable. In the US it is not the electability of the platform but the financial requirement to be a candidate – corporate sponsorship.
Let’s make sila the price politicians pay for our trust and our vote.
Is this blog showing anger because it is political?
A friend asked me yesterday why my blog has gone political, why have I become angry and is that right for a Buddhist? This question contains many good points to answer.
In my retirement I have chosen to live in a smallish community far from the rat-race where people live modestly amidst some signs of gross opulence. Life is pleasant here. The cost of living is low – £400 a month usually, £6000 a year with major items. The school I mentioned at the end of this blog is in this community. For myself my consumption is mindful in that I choose healthy eating and minimise other expenditure except for the computers. In general my life is sufficient and comfortable. The person asking me was born in this community. The politics of this blog passes her by, she cares for her family and for her that is sufficient, and the community as you can judge by the costs I have noted is not part of NATO.
I am British and have chosen for a long time to live outside of the UK, so I have abrogated my responsibilities as a British citizen. Yet Britain is part of NATO so I have more responsibility than my friend for the deaths in Iraq and elsewhere. This responsibility is weighing on me a little at the moment as for 20 years it was not to the forefront of my thinking. When I left the UK there was a great relief, a burden was lifted in part to escape the repressive society that is now far worse – see the affects of Tony Blair in Taking Liberties, and also to escape the burden of community responsibility for the actions of my government – there were personal reasons as well. I know that at present I am redressing a balance.
But am I angry? I am angry at myself for going to sleep for nearly 20 years – allowing my awareness not to include political reality and so not accepting my responsibility, but because I am now writing about politics does not mean that I am angry. It means that I am showing my compassion. But at the same time it means more in terms of Buddhism.
For this I need to consider Buddhism and how I learnt about it. The main source of Buddhism is in monasteries, the preservers of the tradition. Let us consider this source. These monks have chosen to take orders, to withdraw from the world, to study the dharma and meditate – and also to teach the dhamma. Whilst some have done this after almost a lifetime in the world of political reality, many more have spent their lives there. So I as a lay person learnt Buddhism from people who in general have not been active in the world of work nor in the world of political reality. Significant to Buddhists are the notions of insight and mindfulness, and it is important to understand how this insight and mindfulness might work for cloistered monks. Through Vipassana meditation directly or through other forms of meditation monks gain insight, but this insight tends to focus on insights into the dhamma – in a sense how the mind works. From this insight mindfulness and awareness follow, how is an individual matter. In the cloisters this is unlikely to develop into political awareness, and very unlikely to develop into the level of awareness that is gained through insight into the corporatocracy, one main reason for this is that monks tend not to believe that there are people who can behave as inhumanely as these corporatocrats. Lay people learn their Buddhism from these monks, and lay Buddhists are expected to, and do have, reverence for these monks. Whilst the key factor in living is to understand the mind, in a lesser sense in Buddhism there is a situation of the blind leading the blind, monks who are by intention politically unaware (because they choose cloisters) are teaching the world of Buddhists, and Buddhist writing and activity reflects this teaching.
At the same time we must understand the institutional restrictions that are placed on Buddhist monasteries. They require money, and these donations are provided by their lay community. Amongst the lay Buddhists are the rich and powerful, and if such monasteries were to begin to discuss the influence and implications of the corporatocracy such poweful people might withdraw donations. There becomes a tacit acceptance that mindfulness stays within the necessary understanding of mind, and that insight does not move into the world of politics. Whilst the Buddhist institution as a totality does not see this this tacit acceptance becomes a tacit acceptance of war; yet surely our humane compassion needs to address the issue of war. One of the Noble Truths says that suffering exists, war does. The Noble Truths suggest that we must not become attached to emotions connected with compassion and war, this detachment is important for peace of mind, but the Noble Truths do not say that we should ignore our compassion for those dying in war.
All Buddhists abhor war, peace being a key platform of Buddhism and compassion. Some Buddhists will then become activists fighting for peace, but how many of these Buddhists see war as a consequence of the financial imperative of the corporatocracy? How many draw the conclusion that the more than a million deaths in Iraq:-
bring the profits back to the home communities, and these profits pay for the salaries directly and indirectly within the communities that good western people live in. It is not by intention that good western people do this, such people will often voice opposition to the war, but by practice their democratic rights are misused by the government and media wing of the corporatocracy to facilitate these wars. Insight, mindfulness and awareness makes this obvious. When lay Buddhists seek advice from their monks, are they told of the corporatocracy? The soldeir asks their monk “should I sign up?”, and the monk says that if you believe in democracy to that extent then the logical conclusion is that you defend it. This is sound advice if these wars were defending democracy, but if the monk asks “Do you believe that you should fight in order to increase the profits of the corporatocracy?” this advice is clearly not acceptable to any Buddhist or religious doctrine. As a Buddhist I am asking that people extend their insight into the reality of daily life, our meditation is there to help us in daily life. For some this help is needed simply to cope with daily life, and for them I do not wish to add such a burdensome realisation as to the relationship between war, corporatocracy, and the foundations of western daily life. But for others including renunciates I am asking that they take their insight beyond the confines of their monasteries and make a decision for themselves as to the importance of insight into the corporatocracy and struggle.
There is an interesting consideration of the observation by my friend that I was angry. Yes, my compassion produces anger but is that anger controlling me? Am I attached to that anger? At the moment I know that I am to a certain extent, because for a long time this political awareness was not in the forefront of my mind. This does not invalidate what I am saying. Examine this blog with the same insight that you might examine any Buddhist blog. Does insight tell you that what is written is wrong? Do NOT use intellect but examine this with insight. At the same time do not examine it with emotion. Throughout our lives we have to come to terms with our emotions about war, for many their compassion dictates that they turn off their minds to the horrors of war. For most people war cannot be part of their awareness. But what happens when someone writes about the corporatocracy, and explains that profits from war are paying their salaries. This brings war home to them and they respond emotionally. But these people still need to keep these emotions at a distance so rather than examining such political analyses with insight they use their intellect to reject them by saying that these analyses are emotional. I have previously said that the struggle for me is now a recognition that in my limited activism there is a state of calm, the calm that comes from being aware more completely and accepting that awareness. I feel less held by the dogma and more by my compassion, is that not Buddhism?
Choice and Suffering
Are we free from suffering whilst others die in war?
As Buddhists there is a recognition of fundamental unity, we are all one species, one entity, oneness. One. We are not killing something else, we are killing ourselves. This is a fundamental understanding that has to lead to pain and suffering, we feel the pain at the death of others. How do we deal with this pain? Coming to terms with this pain begins to set us free so it is important to understand how we interact with this pain. In the 4 Noble Truths the first Truth talks about suffering existing. So with this suffering existing how do we become free from it, are we not a part of that suffering? Yes we are, because we suffer. When an Iraqi dies we suffer.
Before I go on, I think of the recent Republican debate in which the audience were cheering when someone spoke of people dieing, it is sad how far these people have strayed from their humanity to lead them to cheering. There is such sickness in their hearts for them to do that, so much suffering in their own hearts.
All of the above are what is included in suffering existing, and why are we here? Compassion, free people from suffering. That is our purpose, free ourselves, the rest of the world, the unity, from suffering. How can we do that? By ourselves not suffering, and by helping others to free themselves from suffering.
In ourselves we need to recognise suffering, and we need to recognise the causes of suffering. For many Buddhists they see this as meaning freeing ourselves from suffering by not attaching to desire personally. But what about compassion – freeing others from suffering? Must we do this? I think so as a measure of compassion – being compassion. For many this leads to good works – understandably, and of course this goes part way to compassion. But does compassion end there? For me it definitely does not.
In the 4 Pillars of War I discussed the 4 components that make up a declaration of war:-
The military and corporations by their very nature push for war, the government usually complies, and the only control lies with democracy. It is our vote that legitimises war, it is using our voice that the MIC takes on the war for corporate benefit. Yet Britain went to war against Iraq when a popular demonstration clearly showed disagreement. Tony Blair said “He did not “seek unpopularity as a badge of honour”, he said, “but sometimes it is the price of leadership and the cost of conviction”.” In a democracy the price paid should have been the cost of his leadership – not lamenting his lack of popularity, because that is what democracy is – he was an elected representative. The war went ahead and more than a million Iraqis have died:-
In the UK the public demonstration was not enough, but what more could have been done? The answer to that is individual and lies with our own conscience, but my conscience tells me 1,455,000 + Iraqis died, my sisters and brothers died, and yet in a democracy that I am connected to my leaders and my soldiers killed them. This is suffering, Iraqi suffering and my suffering. I am not free until my conscience frees me. I am only free from suffering when my compassion has been active.
And that is the dilemma that I have been facing just recently. I am not free from the suffering my Iraqi comrades have suffered, my heart is not free. I seek freedom, to be free from suffering my conscience genuinely needs to be satiated, before it was not.
I am seeking freedom from my suffering, and without that freedom any thoughts of enlightenment are deluded falsehoods.
And when we go beyond the suffering we seek explanation. Here we need insight to discern the truth as to the need for war, we need to go beyond the lamentable excuses that are the stock and trade of the politicians as they serve their corporate masters. And when we go beyond their falsehoods a new world of intrigue and rationale open up that eventually leads to proper understanding of war, corporatocracy, influence and compromise. Recognising this understanding begins the freedom from this suffering – on the way to true compassion.
Now that I am beginning to come out of the legitimate anger that can accompany political understanding the question I am asking myself is “what is all this blogging and angst for?” Quite clearly a significant aspect of the zandtao-corporatocracy blog has been my own learning process, a process that has involved an updating on political reality, a recognition that the system I am a part of is responsible for the deaths of so many people, and also preparation for the next section of the treatise. In the end the politics must settle down and be integrated into my journey – wherever that takes me next.
As with Buddhism there is an unreasonable part of me that wants to force this down peoples’ throats and make them understand – especially the monk. But that is not right. Awareness has to be personally driven. I think back to my dissertation on black achievement in schools – there was no doubt that imposed black awareness had a deleterious impact on the achievement of black students. We never forced white kids to understand how nasty the white system is, why did liberal teachers black and white think it would help black kids? I suspect the black intellectuals were angry and feel that they should teach all the black kids about the oppression but it hurts trying to cope. And that’s what I feel about the politics, it hurts, it makes you angry – or it should. However the understanding should be made available.
So where should it be made available? In the same place you look for Buddhism, the monks. So in the end this awareness is about monks as they are the teachers of Buddhism, this awareness issue is about the institution that has sold out. Where do monks take their insight? As far as is safe for the institution, but this is not awareness. The real issue comes down to this. For someone to achieve enlightenment there needs to be mindfulness – 100% awareness. What happens in practice at the moment is that it appears that monks shut off their minds to the consideration of the political causes of suffering. Suffering always exists as the Buddha said so it is Nature, why look into the causes now? There is some truth in that. But there is also truth in the fact that people are dieing because of tacit acceptance of humanity – the voters of US, UK and France for example.
For a monk seeking enlightenment should they not be aware that the donations for their upkeep could have come from the spoils of war? And that those spoils of war were the reason for the war in the first place. Can they do anything about it? Very little. But without understanding this can they be considered enlightened? I would suggest that part of enlightenment is understanding the times in which you live as well as the more important dhamma, isn’t that compassion?
But it is not just Buddhism. The churches I visited when young lived off the collections. Where did those collections come from? People mostly working for corporations. And where did the corporations get their money? Initially immoral wars, wars for profit, MIC wars. Surely war for profit is the greatest immorality, and yet did our priests tell us this?
But the real point for me is that political insight is insight, and insight is required for enlightenment. Monks seeking enlightenment seek insight at all levels including the political. How can people be expected to live with the reality of compromise with their society’s participation in war for profit when their spiritual teachers don’t?
And when those people choose that awareness can they get it from their spiritual teachers? NO. Living with the death of a moral war is hard enough but wars are not moral they are driven by power for profit. The reality of living with war for profit is suffering, it is hard. People should not be forced to do this. But if they are seeking complete awareness then that is a suffering they have to go through. How will their teachers be able to help them when they haven’t been through that suffering?
ONE planet and the economy
On Friday 25 November Democracy Now spent the whole programme on a conference on Occupy held at New School, New York. The whole programme is worth listening to concerning Occupy – download here.
But I want to focus on the climate message. Naomi Klein begins by explaining why Occupy helped the Keystone XL pipeline.
Then she explained that Occupy has an “ecological consciousness” including:-
grey water system
In Seattle the media asked “what are the alternatives?” Since Seattle (anti-globalisation movement) people have been organising local movements, farmers’ markets, community-supported agriculture, diversifying local economies, community-renewable energy, the “solutions to the economic crisis are the solutions to the ecological crisis”. These are not two problems but one solution.
“What do we want to build in the rubble of this failed system?” Solutions have to have the ecological crisis front and centre”, “these are where the jobs are”. Obama’s green imperialism that hasn’t taken off.
Later she spoke of how the movement might progress:-
“State power can just be as alienating as corporate power”. “State action can systematically devolve power to the community level”, but “we won’t get there without strong intervention”. She didn’t go into why the state would allow such a strong intervention, but perhaps now such realities don’t belong with Occupy.
She earlier described that Occupy is the “no kidding-around moment”. My age makes me feel that this moment is not unique in history, but I do feel that this is one of the few moments in peoples’ lifetimes where there is a unique air for change. It is a moment to mobilise. For me I missed Vietnam in ignorance, and I miss this one in retirement and location, but I hope it is mobilisation for many others. It is the moment to be grabbed by all and sundry in the West, it is the moment when grass roots trade unionists say that their unions are cap-in-glove to the 1% that the patchers turn round and say that left-wing activists will not hold together the Labour party, Democrats and other corrupted Labour movement parties. Occupy is the movement.
Here is the full talk at New School (2 hours) taken from her website:-
and here is a talk she gave at OWS.
The essence of these global Occupy movements is a complete change to the grass roots working for One Planet, and not capitulating to outmoded controlled negotiation for marginal profits.
I have one final fear. Following the the love and compassion of the 60s was the deregulation of Thatcher and Reagan that hastened the current crisis. If this “no kidding-around moment” is not siezed, what will the 1% do to us?
On COP 17
In this article from Truthout it describes the results of the COP17 talks as “an agreement to try to agree”. Is this a worthwhile resolution in this time of climate crisis? As Anjali Appudarai said they did not “get it done”. Quite simply they didn’t want to get it done, and it is important to understand why they didn’t want to get it done.
In this article by Naomi Klein we begin to see why there is no desire to get it done. Capitalism cannot continue to make its profits, and work towards climate change. Whilst there are many levels to the reasons why capitalism cannot continue it boils down to the notion that resources are finite and capitalism always needs to expand its profits. Recognising that resources are finite requires an ideological understanding that we have to live within the limits that nature gives us, and we have to use resources sustainably. This is fundamentally contrary to capitalism, and how the corporatocracy makes its profits. If they want to profit they create more money and more wars, at the same time the destruction of the environment does not matter to them – except in its ensuing limitation of profits.
Naomi begins her discussion on this by pointing out the absurdity of climate change “deniers”. Originally climate denial was not fashionable even on the right, because the corporatocracy believed they could profit from green capitalism – I too had hoped this. But now capitalism has decided that they cannot profit from climate, they have instructed their puppets to change tack and deny the existence of climate change, and they did all they could to prevent COP17 from making decisions.
What are the decisions that COP17 were looking to make? The small island states and Africa were saying that global warming is beginning to take affect now. These countries cannot wait until 2020 (or some other arbitrary date) for solutions to be implemented, they cannot wait until the majority of the US is suffering form climate change and their government needs to enact change in their own self-interest. Global warming is affecting these countries now. But it is not their emissions that are causing the problems, it is emissions from other countries such as the First World and China. These affected countries needed something to happen now, and it didn’t. They wanted COP17 to “get it done” but the West didn’t want to reduce their emissions so lessening their profits. And their brinkmanship doesn’t need to at the moment so let the rest of the world suffer – even though they were not the cause of the problem.
Then there was the desire to create a fund for reparation. Historically the US Canada and Europe have contributed the most to the climate damage, COP17 was asking that these countries pay for that damage. They of course didn’t want to accept responsibility. Not only this but they wanted to control this climate fund in much the same way they control the IMF and World Bank. The IMF and World Bank ostensibly loan money to struggling nations, but they apply conditions to these loans. This sounds reasonable until you start looking at the affects of these conditions. IMF and World Bank loans require the growing of cash crops that damage the environment, they require export to be a priority, and they require the sale of state assets – privatisation. All of these measures benefit the NATO countries. The third world resisted this for the climate fund so the West simply said we are not going to accept our historical responsibility for the climate problem. They are going to allow climate problems to decimate the countries so that the countries will be forced cap-in-hand to accept the conditionality imposed on them. This will lead to the loans being used to benefit the West whilst also taking debt repayments.
Here is how the Green Belt Movement describes the existing measures for green relief using carbon trading and carbon offsets. I don’t understand fully what is happening but there does seem a number of clear issues. To comply with financing regulations requires far too much of a financial outlay for grass roots organisations. Secondly regulations do not draw a distinction between indigenous trees that would promote ecological sustainability and fast-growing trees established as monocultures. Both of these drawbacks which for some might sound like nit-picking gear the carbon offset and carbon-trading regulations for the benefit of the profits of transnationals rather than for the benefit of the communities and the environment. This typical of 1% exploitation concerning the environment. Unleaded petrol was lauded for years in the UK as environmentally sound, but it was only introduced when the petrol companies could profit from it and tax breaks were introduced. Again detractors would argue that I am nit-picking because unleaded petrol was introduced, shouldn’t I be grateful? Of course I am grateful but why wasn’t it introduced earlier? Is the only way the world is going to work towards climate change when business can profit. Quite obviously that is the truth, and that is the path top environmental destruction. Capitalism and climate change cannot be partners as discussed above and in Naomi Klein’s article. Let’s say it like it is, and begin to address that problem. Transnationals get in the way of climate change, and transnationals have installed puppet givernements in the West – as is the message of the 1%. By facing this reality we can begin to alter the democratic dialogue and possibly there will emerge politicians who genuinely seek change – as opposed to Obama, Wall Street’s lobbyist general. Whilst the majority of climate-aware people hope that seeking partnership with business will produce results, transnationals will continue to manipulate that partnership thus enabling exploitation of ecology emissions such as the carbin offset and trading as described by the Wangari Maathai & the GBM. Patching and compromise are misused and are not producing results, the situation is only worsening. COP17 is a cop-out, it is compromise and patching and that’s why Anjali’s Appudarai calls to “get it done” are falling on deaf ears. Far too many of the people who are delegates at this conference are making a comfortable living pretending to have an impact when in reality their compromise is being used by the 1% as a means of appeasement and control. When I look back at teaching and think of all the effort I put in to fight the prevailing paradigm, and then evaluate the results my life amounts to little. This is a reality climate apologists need to come to terms with now, confronting the puppets of the 1% in governments needs to be more than just Anjakli’s prerogative of eloquent and vehement youth. It also needs to be more than just youth saying it, so that 1% media cannot dismiss such truth as a youthful phase to be “grown out of” or the blinkers of left-wing extremism. When recent carbon figures show an increase of 5.9 % and “according to the New York Times it represented “almost certainly the largest absolute jump in any year since the Industrial Revolution””, COP17 is no different from the previous 16 and the process is relatively meaningless giving the appearance of doing something that mainstream media can pretend to report on as activity. Isn’t it time to withdraw from this cover-up?
Isn’t it time that intelligent people withdraw from a rat-race? Corporate life are making increased demands on the time of their employees. They become sucked into a race to be executives acceding to demands for more and more commitment to the office above and beyond their commitment to family. But not only this the demands turn these aspirees into complicit minions of the 1%. These minions show the same dispassionate exploitation of humanity that is shown by the CEO, and for what? A marginal increase in salary and a huge increase in hours and personal commitment. Is this right livelihood? We cannot choose everything that we do but if all people minimise the negative impact of our labour then gradually the exploitation of humanity and environment will lessen. This is part of the dual job strategy I have discussed here and here. There is a need to work for income to live whilst at the same time providing a survival fallback platform. Commitment to the transnational can never benefit humanity, commitment to the school rather than education, commitment to the hospital rather than healing, make these our human priorities in the workplace. Education is not the corporate paradigm, healing is not servitude to the profits of Big Pharma and the cancer industry. And of course commitment to the hierarchy of a transnational benefits the 1% mostly, the compromised a little, and detracts greatly from humanity and the environment. When we begin to delineate in the workplace we begin to control change, but we do so at a cost to ourselves. We lose out on salary and career as others who compromise do the required dirty work, but the more such people who “collaborate” are seen in such a light the more there is the possibility of change. As with trade unionists we risk dismissal as the 1% recruit from the reserve army. But with integrity we have the personal tools to be able to cope. Recognising the possibility of financial hardship as a result of our integrity allows us to make plans, adjust our lifestyles and live sustainably, this living beyond the control of the 1%. In the 60s I grew up with this notion of integrity versus collaboration – seling out, sadly soon after the 60s the majority did in fact sell out leading to the wholasale collaboration of Thatcher’s children. We now need to fight for a return to such integrity. It is no point saying that the other ha sthe luxury of principle, my family needs me to be a breadwinner. We all need integrity, we all need to apply principle when the school requires us to teach acceptance of compromise. Trade unions need to turn away from purely the struggle for an increased share of marginal costs into institutions of integrity fighting for the rights of members not to have to compromise their integrity. For trade unions simply to fight for increased wages in metropolitan countries is a complete collaboration with the 1%. Politicial strategies that compromise in order to promote the building of trade unions irrespective of integrity have proven not to work, and the independent power of trade unions has diminished as a result of this collaboration. As instiuttions trade unions are as much a part of the collaboration as are people selling out for a rung on the ladder. And how has this occurred? Because there are echelons within trade unions whose survival depends on salaries from the institutions, again collaboration for comfort. In terms of trade unions such views were always rejected as “Trot” and considered destructive for the movement. But at the time mobilisation of the movement was possibly an effective strategy against the bourgeoisie, it is now the time to recognise that such a strategy only fits into the corporatocratic paradigm leading us to the current situationof permanenty recession whilst our taxes become banksters’ bonuses.
Climate justice starts with personal justice and personal integrity. Seeking such justice in the workplace whilst also working for consensus mobilisation such as Occupy whilst adopting a dual approach to outr iown survival might enable personal and human survival – if we stay outside sustainable spiritual communities. Along with Anjali we can then say “get it done” with integrity.
Naomi Klein, in The Nation, has written a charter for grass roots action to resolve the climate change crisis. The article begins with a denouncement of the “climate deniers”, and how this is fundamentally a change of attitude on the part of the 1% who were initially willing to accept climate change as a means of profiteering but have now determined that the climate crisis cannot be resolved through profiteering as too many profits will be lost if they accept there is a need to reduce climate emissions. Therefore they have started a campaign to deny there is a climate crisis, and as usual their puppets are standing up making these denouncements even at the expense of people, such as Newt Gingrich, looking even more stupid. Such vehement denial can be understood as a recognition by the 1% that they are not willing at the moment to solve the climate crisis.
Taking her lead from this, in the second part of the article Naomi accepts that the 1% will not attempt to solve the problem and she takes that recognition as a charter for grass roots organisation on the climate. The 1% will not solve the problem so grassroots democracy is the only option. This of course makes so much sense. Business has to exploit the environment in order to profit. Business is dependent on oil and has demonstrated a lack of willingness to invest in renewable energy such as the wind and the sun. The business strategy has also been to turn the onus onto individuals to be ecologically more sound, and after a long period of such strategies there is no change as carbon emissions rose to 5.9% in the year 2009-2010.
Here are her ideas for wholesale change. They fit clearly in with the Occupy movement as you would expect, but I think it is important to say that we need to do something about climate change and by doing what is needed we get people back to work whilst renovating the planet. The only loss is the profits to the 1%. Her charter is therefore revolutionary but we have to understand that the 1% are addicted, and such a solution is not going to come from them. Nor is it going to come from piecemeal strategies that have characterised the Climate Change Movement so far. No compromise, no patching, confront, accept Naomi’s charter and “get it done”.
I have uploaded this charter here.
There is no doubt that this charter is ambitious but a charter needs to be that in our world in which exploitation is so endemic and common-place. But it is important to recognise that grass roots movement have already moved towards this:-
“Not only do these economic models create jobs and revive communities while reducing emissions; they do so in a way that systematically disperses power—the antithesis of an economy by and for the 1 percent. Omar Freilla, one of the founders of Green Worker Cooperatives in the South Bronx, told me that the experience in direct democracy that thousands are having in plazas and parks has been, for many, “like flexing a muscle you didn’t know you had.” And, he says, now they want more democracy—not just at a meeting but also in their community planning and in their workplaces.
“In other words, culture is rapidly shifting. And this is what truly sets the OWS moment apart. The Occupiers—holding signs that said Greed Is Gross and I Care About You—decided early on not to confine their protests to narrow policy demands. Instead, they took aim at the underlying values of rampant greed and individualism that created the economic crisis, while embodying—in highly visible ways—radically different ways to treat one another and relate to the natural world.”
Accepting this need for climate change fits clearly within a mindful consumer network and the individual approach that says no patching, no compromise and confront the dishonesty. Such individuals work within communities built on ecological lines such as Thay’s Plum Village. Or they work within the main system with a dual approach minimising the ecological compromises imposed by the corporate workplace, and maximising the ecological harmony in their private lives, in the alternative skills they develop, and in the home that is ecologically as sound as possible. Once the corporate sector perceives the sea-change that such uncompromising workers can induce, they will initially try not to employ them. But as the correctness of such lack of compromise is recognised and becomes part of mainstream thinking corporations will be forced to alter their own platforms. They need a workforce, they need us to cooperate for their profits – and they significantly need collaboration.