Thursday, May 26, 2016


The bad news gets worse. I glanced at the online version of the New York Times this morning and realized how little I wanted to read any of it. The country is in a mess, with the electorate dominated by anger and fear. The world is in a mess, its affairs also dominated by anger and fear. I myself risk being dominated by anger and fear. The respite I find in meditation is all too short-lived, once I turn my attention to the newspaper.

Still, what do I do? Close my eyes? Cover my ears? Put my hand over my mouth, like those three monkeys? Leave the country, which I fear is spiraling into chaos? Move? To where? We finally rented Michael Moore's newest movie last night. Where to Invade Next? paints a rosy picture of certain European countries where, um, socialism has left so many good things in its wake--things like universal health care, free education, welfare for those in need, a prison system that is just and humane, and so on. Moore makes America looks like it's still stuck in the late 19th century; the New Deal was a pale effort at social justice compared with the socialist advances in those countries; and even, today, the social benefits of the New Deal are under attack from the right.

Move to Europe, then? Or, um, Canada, as many of us liberals have been threatening, only half-jokingly, to do since the days of the Vietnam war? Trouble is, news from Europe is as disturbing as news from our own country. The extreme right wing, not to say fascism, is again on the rise. Immigrants are increasingly unwelcome, if not outright rejected.  The European union is shaky, to say the least, with England debating whether or not to leave. Whole countries teeter dangerously on the edge of financial collapse. Unemployment skyrockets, particularly among the young.  Angry protests abound.

So, Michael, there is no Eden. And the unpalatable truth--for one of my own political leanings--is that many of the vexing problems in those countries stem from the very same socialist policies that have brought about improvement in so many lives. And, with increasing populations competing for diminishing essential resources--food, say, and water--in a natural environment that we humans have exploited to its eventual detriment, planet Earth is in turmoil. We have yet to devise a socio-political system that answers equitably and efficiently to the needs of people everywhere. Socialism has cracked apart at the seams, revealing its limitations. Our much-vaunted capitalism is creaking with age, exploited by the greedy few and neglectful of vast hordes of the needy.

Something has to give. We have ample evidence that something is already giving. We need only look around us in this country to see that all is not well in "the land of the free". Can we even say those words with  a straight face when millions of our citizens are disempowered by poverty, injustice, and abject neglect of their legitimate need for dignity and opportunity? Where, I wonder, is the philosopher, the Buddha, perhaps, with a vision broad enough--and a voice loud enough--to lead us out of this morass? If we do come up with solutions, they will need to be radical beyond anyone's current imaginings, and I doubt that it will happen in my lifetime.

Meantime, I keep looking for a refuge. I know that the Buddha, the dharma and the sangha are the threefold refuge of Buddhism. Can Buddhism "save the world"? I don't know. Perhaps, in the words of John Lennon's Revolution, we have to be content with merely "doing what we can."

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