Saturday, March 10, 2007


This thought has been taking shape slowly in my mind--as a result, perhaps, of digesting all the new information that has been emerging this past week about the misguided and incompetent efforts of our current administration in Washington to keep all the consequences of their actions under control: Intimidation differs from terrorism only in degree. It's a matter of scaring people into bending to your will. In its effort to combat terrorism, this government has been practicing institutional intimidation on an unprecedented scale. We see it in every aspect of public life. The latest example is in the Justice Department, which has been intimidating its own prosecutorial staff by dismissing those who fail to perform according to the administration's political contingencies in its relentless quest for a permanent Republican majority. Oh, and then there were the revelations, yesterday, that the FBI has been systematically abusing the so-called "Patriot" Act to obtain massive amounts of information about private citizens. We are now a nation governed by fear, with a president himself elected through a process of intimidation.

Speaking of intimidation, Ellie and I watched this movie about the Dixie Chicks last night. It's based on the story of the group's fall from public grace--at least in the "country" territory from which their music sprang--and their refusal to be intimidated by an angry, ignorant lynch mob of former fans who were infuriated by the off-hand remark by Natalie Maines on a London stage, at the time of the start of Bush's invasion of Iraq, that she was ashamed that the president came from Texas. It makes for a compelling story, and a heartening one, to see their sorely tested solidarity and their spirit of fiercely-protected independence finally win out over the bully tactics of mindless fans and the radio stations that capitulated to their fury. I'm happy that these women are "Not Ready to Make Nice." They seem like a gutsy trio, with more of a sense of what this country is about than Bush and all his powerful friends in Congress and the corporate empires that seek to run our lives.

If this Buddhist path I'm on is about freedom, a part of that is surely the freedom from intimidation of all kinds, whether personal or institutional. Three cheers, then, for the Dixie Chicks, for modeling the courage to resist.


carly said...

It's a very interesting film on several levels, a lesson. I thought it interesting how they might have buckled under pressure, until their English agent saw a way to turn it into gain; normal business thinking, but also very Taoist - in the hands of a master, no material nor circumstance is unuseful.

Do you think one can find freedom in the ability to master situations? But one must be a master - much harder to do than dropping out, only open to those who learn the skills.

It makes me wonder if escapism is really caving in, for I suppose "caving in" comes from falling into or hiding in a hole or cave, or collapsing where the sage only smiles with understanding.

Of course, the Taoist sage may "escape" too, but it is when he knows the seeds of things to come and leaves before the storm. He always knows when to retreat and avoid the opprobrium of failure.

But the lead singer of the Chicks became a master in that film, and had the strength to carry her two friends through the storm.

carly said...

Lees says, if you think you know much about the Evangelicals, see the film Jesus Camp.

I was painting while she watched it and said it is unbelievable.

carly said...

FYI; Books; Zhuangzi

In general, Zhuang Zi's philosophy is rather antinomian, arguing that our life is limited and things to know are unlimited. To use the limited to pursue the unlimited, he said, was foolish. Our language, cognition, etc. are all biased with our own perspective so we should be hesitant in concluding that our conclusions are equally right for all things (wanwu).

Mao Qiang and Li Ji [two beautiful courtesans] are what people consider beautiful, but if fish see them they will swim into the depths; if birds see them, they will fly away into the air; if deer see them, they will gallop away. Among these four, who knows what is rightly beautiful in the world?

considered a precursor of multiculturalism and pluralism of systems of value. His pluralism even leads him to doubt the basis of pragmatic arguments (that a course of action preserves our lives) since this presupposes that life is good and death bad.

Zhuang Zi expresses pity to a skull he sees lying at the side of the road. Zhuang Zi laments that the skull is now dead, but the skull retorts, "How do you know it's bad to be dead?"

Mark said...

On a fairly unrelated note, I just thought you might like to check out this website. It's the works of one of my buddhist philosophy professors. She cites her buddhist lifestyle as the main influence in her works. I find them fantastically beautiful.

PK said...

Hats off to the Ladies... And something else to consider. Now that everyone is seeing the light, they are having to re-purchase all the CD's they destroyed:D. Oh my... they profited from not being ready to make nice, be it themselves or the record... That Karma keeps on a move doesn't it? Wonder how Bush is handling South America today/evening. Think he'll come back from his tour with them being part of the axis of evil also? I'm just waiting for him to tick off the Canucks and our Mexican friends... Time to meditate, have a peaceful evening Peter, and don't forget to turn your clocks forward...