I jotted this down after coming home from viewing the excellent Occupy Love documentary with the excellent people at The Roosevelt 2.0 in Ybor. If you’d prefer to hear the message coming from The Dude view the video above.
What is the biggest problem facing this country today? To answer that, it seems, we first must ask how far down the rabbit hole you want to go. A large number of people would answer this question with: the economy. But, clearly, the economy is a surface level issue. Addressing issues on the surface level is not going to solve the problems at the source. So, let’s look a little deeper.
What is the cause of the problems with the economy? The problems with the economy (and many other things) largely stem from a lack of regulation. Without regulation our representative government has been turned upside down. The illusion is that we have a group of elected officials that act on our behalf; the reality is that the government represents the corporations, lobbyists, and special interest groups who purchase the legislation currently being passed. For the most part, we could stop with money in politics as being the biggest problem in this country today. But, still, let’s dig a little deeper.
What is the cause of money in politics? How did we get to this place where it became possible to buy laws that benefit the people making the laws at the detriment of everyone else? Maybe the question isn’t so much about identifying the time and date when certain people allowed this to happen, but instead to see it as part of a bigger part of our culture and collective psyche. I think at this point we’re getting into the realm of greed, for starters. But, equally, we’re dealing with a notion that people’s lives are happier, more meaningful, and more successful when we are able to consume and acquire large quantities of things. The fact that this acquisitive behavior comes at the expense of other people is somehow accepted shamelessly. Further, it presumes a model of scarcity- that there needs to be a mad rush to acquire to be secure, before everything runs out. This, of course, leads into fear.
Could there be a single source of all of these points? Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, in his Shambhala Day address, proclaimed that this biggest question facing our world today is- Do we view the fundamental nature of human beings as being innately good, worthy, and healthy, or do we view it as being evil, lacking, or somehow degenerate? To which of these positions does the manifestation of our current societal paradigm point?
Our current model operates under the assumption that for some people to thrive and prosper, others must be without. But, isn’t it the case that the resources needed to adequately feed, clothe, and shelter every person on this planet already exist? In America, there are more abandoned houses than there are homeless people. Furthermore, if the recognition of the interconnectedness and sameness of people on Earth existed, would a situation ever exist where some people lived in frivolous excess while others starved to death?
New laws and regulations may be necessary and beneficial in the short term, but it is also clear that in order to address the endemic degradation of our societal existence what is needed is an overhaul of the way we view our entire culture, society, and fellow humans altogether. This is happening in Shambhala Buddhism, science, and many other social movements today. It begins with deeply reflecting on what it means to be human and what it means to live in a society. Is it possible that, at our most fundamental level, human beings are pure, strong, and wise? This is not a question to be answered intellectually. It is something that requires deep reflection and contemplation. If it is the case, that modern science and ancient wisdom traditions are correct, that people, animals and other sentient beings, our environment, planet, and universe, are one interconnected and interdependent organism with a basis of cooperation, compassion, and shared destiny, then we need to create a society that honors and sustains this sacred ecosystem for the benefit of all sentient beings now and into the distant future ahead.
We can contemplate and reflect on this nature, educate ourselves, organize and work together, and stand up to the forces that are still confused, for their benefit and for ours, and for our future.