Val’s View: The Angry Buddhist

by V.J. Leventhal

For the last 30 years (or maybe longer) I have been engaged in a concentrated effort toward self-awareness and mastery. I’ve studied most of the world’s religions, read philosophy, science, literature and poetry – all with the goal of understanding the true nature of reality. I’ve spent many entire days focused on a specific idea – measuring and applying a life lesson to see whether the wisdom holds true. After all this work, which I intend to continue throughout my life, I feel that I’ve arrived at a place of at least some knowledge of how things actually work, and an understanding that allows a glimpse of the bigger picture that may be unfolding in a given set of circumstances. This has enabled me to remain calm ‘while all around me’ are not, to not be swayed too much by the ups and downs of life, to rest easier in the knowledge that things are not always as they appear, and that the cyclical nature of existence leads back eventually to balance. I have come to a place where, generally speaking, anger is not an emotion that I nurture in myself, or others, preferring always to work from a position of peaceful and open awareness.

During the Obama campaign in 2008, I spent a lot of time talking to people and trying to energize them to vote and to believe that change was still possible — no, necessary — if we were to recover our control of our own government and move forward to fix all that’s gone wrong in the last 30 years. I was excited by Obama’s success for many reasons, not the least of which was the seeming awakening of sectors of the American public who hadn’t been engaged at all in their own political system. I knew that the reality of governing would be very different from the promise of the campaign, and that the mess we were in as a nation was daunting, but I also believed that the quality and integrity of the man we elected would mean that progress could finally be made, after 8 years of backsliding, toward a recovery of our American Dream for every citizen.

Then I watched in disbelief as many of those newly engaged voters almost immediately began to shift from elation to deflation, as the reality of trying to accomplish anything in the cesspool that is our Congress and our Courts started to play out. Within 6 months, those people who wept and jumped for joy at having elected Obama were ready to cast him off because they didn’t agree with something he said or someone he appointed or the priorities he was setting. With very little information, and apparently no interest in whether the information they did have was true or false, they were willing to throw him to the wolves of the corporately owned media and the big money interests without defending him, or even being willing to give him some time to try to unravel the tangled web in which he found himself. Instead of standing by him for at least a year or two, it was an almost immediate abandoning of the ship.

Well, now I’m PISSED OFF!

Buddha nature or not, I feel a growing anger at the childish behavior of the American public, and I’m including the progressives. Grow up, people! Don’t you realize what’s at stake? Obama is not a miracle worker or a king. He can’t just want something to happen – there’s a reality to deal with. The corporatists are ruthless and have an extremely well-funded and organized network of media, lobbyists and politicians who will stop at nothing to get their way. These are the anti-democratic forces that run the world. They are the ‘hungry ghosts’ who are never satisfied until they own everything – oil, minerals, money, water, air – they want it all. It is a sickness that can never be cured. Their thinking is short term gain, and they don’t care who gets hurt in the process, and the crazy thing is, that because of their sophisticated understanding of the marketing of an idea, they’ve convinced even some pretty smart people that they have it right: that it’s a dog eat dog world, competition is the American way, survival of the fittest and all that. It’s patently untrue. The world is actually run on a mostly cooperative model – even in nature. If you do just a little thinking about this, you’ll see it.

Total strangers, millions of them, go about their daily lives waiting their turn, sharing space, helping one another. Even among the animals, there is more cooperation than competition. Just watch any herding group, or gorillas, or dogs, or birds – the majority of their time is spent in peaceful coexistence. Competition emerges for scarce resources, and over mates, but there is lots of sharing and helping. The idea that life is a single pie, and if you get some, then I get less, is a very old lie that has been used for thousands of years by unscrupulous and greedy people to justify very bad behavior. The truth is that together we can create what we need. What we haven’t learned is how to rein in the behavior of the greedy ones who ruin it all for everyone else because they insist on more and more at any cost.

So, I’m angry at people for not seeing the truth that is right in front of them: that we are supposed to do this together. If the system is unjust or unfair for any segment of society, then it is unjust and unfair for us all. Our system of checks and balances is designed so that no one group or individual can take over the government and create tyranny. Our Founding Fathers knew that there would always be those elements that would try to warp our democracy into serving their own desires. Any human organization is vulnerable to corruption. The Constitution attempts to guarantee that everyone’s rights are upheld, not just some people’s rights. Even at the very beginning there were those who wanted a monarchy, and our Constitution (which is not a religious document, by the way) only protected white men at the time. There were those who wanted only landholders to be allowed to vote. But greater wisdom prevailed, and the document that created our government was designed to allow more and more inclusion, not exclusion. We are supposed to be ruled not by one specific ideology, but by a collection of laws that protect all of our various ideologies.

All this being said, I have questions for Mr. Obama about some of his actions, and I approve heartily of people communicating their dissatisfaction with his decisions, but at least try to get some information before you accept some silly media notion of what’s happening. And could we try to understand the magnitude of what this President faced when he stepped into office, and the major (if incomplete) accomplishments of his first year? Do we have to be completely stupid about this? We know that Fox tells lie after lie to their audience because they think their demographic is too dumb and lazy to learn the truth. They have manipulated their viewers into accepting complete nonsense that could easily be checked, and the corporately owned media other than Fox just goes along with the program way too often. Recently, in part, I think, because of the growing progressive media, the so-called mainstream media has begun to ask a few more questions and challenge untrue statements in real time on the air when they are made. This is a helpful development.

I’m not saying everyone must be a political activist; but try to educate yourself a little. Learn to think through an idea to see if it makes any sense before you believe it. Take a look at the agenda behind the information. Don’t despair because you don’t know who to trust. There are some actually fairly unbiased sources of information that remain (even though they are under attack): the public library; often the news feeds (AP and UPI). Talk to people of various points of view and make up your own mind what makes sense. There have to be some accepted sources of truth, or we can never move forward. We have to able to agree on some facts, and learn to separate fact from opinion, and even from outright fiction.

The 2010 election showed me how many people still have no idea what’s really going on. They see the high unemployment rate, the bad economy, their on-going struggles, and they vote for the guy who’s not in power. Totally understandable as this may be, it becomes self-defeating when its result is to take power away from the very people who are working to improve things – slow and small as that improvement may be — and give it back to those whose intent is not to make things better for the average citizen, but to retake the reins of power in order to continue to reward their wealthy patrons and deplete our public resources even further.

There is a difference (corporately-owned Democrats aside) between one party and the other. One side wants to work on real solutions which have a historical and even recent track record of actually fixing problems: rebuilding roads and bridges which is necessary work every nation must do and will provide good jobs and long-lasting benefit (our current highway system, hydro-electric plants, and many public buildings are the result of such work); putting new technologies to work and restarting American manufacturing so that we can actually make things again, which is a matter of job security and also national defense (if China makes all our computer chips, then how can we secure our computers effectively?); bringing our education system into the 21st century so our kids can compete with the rest of the developed world. The other side wants to give our air and water and other public resources to private companies who can then charge any price they wish; they want to destroy public education – if you can’t afford it, your kids can’t go to school; they want to fight endless war after endless war to support the bloated military-industrial complex even though we already have the ability to blow up the entire world many times over. And forget welfare, they even make the argument that we should not give unemployment checks to people who paid in their own money for years to insure they would have that coverage if they were out of work. If you think about it realistically, which approach would you prefer? What kind of country do you want to live in? What kind of world?

So I’m angry. I’m angry that some people are so misguided that they constantly look down at the weakest and least powerful as the target of their rage, when they should be looking up at the strongest and most powerful who are actually running things. I’m angry that those who should know better can’t seem to put their egos and personal peeves aside to see what’s really going on, and try to help in a constructive way. I’m angry that our media has devolved into mostly “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, and signifying nothing,” when it could and can still be a tremendous force for good in the world. And mostly, I’m angry that people can’t seem to remember that money and personal gain are not good things on which to base a life or a society or a world – something that every major religion in the world teaches, but humans have yet to learn.

So I will continue to meditate and study and try to cleanse my heart so that I can be of service in the world, but as things are now, I’m afraid I will also still be…The Angry Buddhist.

Email Val at VJLeventhal@ltsaloon.org

© 2010 V.J. Leventhal. All Rights Reserved. Reprint with permission only.