Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Maha pointed me to this, for which I'm appreciative.

"The Buddha's teachings are deeply conservative" says Robin of Berkeley.

So who was the Buddha, anyway? Was he like Alinsky, steamrolling social justice through by any means necessary? Or was he a conservative, teaching prudence, ethical behavior, and accepting the world as it is?

This is interesting. "Prudence, ethical behavior, and accepting the world as it is" are being called defining characteristics of being conservative. That's pretty stupid.

Well, technically, it's not. It's true that if you honestly felt that those virtues defined political conservativism, you'd have to be an idiot to have failed to notice that conservatives in the US are quite imprudent and unethical - Iraq (and the lack of political consequences for Iraq) prove that. Telling (or merely accepting) untruths told so that you can start a stupid, expensive war, causing hundreds of thousands of deaths is neither prudent nor ethica.

In fact, one would have to be blind and stupid to fail to note that prudence, ethical behavior, and realism exist across all political divisions.

But that's just it - it's not blindness or stupidity. It's ugliness.

Robin doesn't really believe that ethics, prudence and realism belong only to conservatives. Robin wants to pretend that this means that non-conservatives (undoubtedly, including those horrible awful *liberals*) do not have these qualities. In short, it's a lie. And what's the purpose of the lie? Well, to spread, and reward, anomosity towards a group of people who are different.

Trust me: that's not what Buddhism's about.

But that is what we're fighting in this country - not "conservatives" but the kind of hatred that tries to define people as evil, and other, simply because of a difference in opinion.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Well, now we learn.

So, the Democrats found that if you promise health care reform, and screw around and play all kinds of games for the better part of a year, and just can't get it done, you'll get people ticked off enough that they'll elect a Republican in Massachusetts.

So, now we learn something.

Do the Democrats really want health care reform?

It's still there, for the taking; they can pass the Senate bill, and fix it via reconciliation. Or, they can pass a smaller, common sense bill via reconciliation. Or, they can pass the bill piecemeal, and keep hammering the Republicans who will have to take unpopular votes against popular measures.

If they don't pass it, we'll know the truth: they don't really want it. Not if it's going to be hard. They were willing to pass it when they had all the time in the world to screw around and grandstand and demand goodies for cloture votes. But now, it's going to be hard. Now we know if they really want it, or not.

I hope they come through. Their credibility as a party is at stake. If they don't want health care reform enough to make it happen, then nothing they've said to us is worth anything.

And then, it'll be Massachusetts all over again in November... and deservedly so. Why should anyone vote for a party that they just can't trust?

Monday, January 18, 2010

This made me think of something strange.

A while back, I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and there was a line in it that stuck out in my memory. At the time, I wasn't sure why it had such an impact, but I think I just figured it out.

In his hustler days, Malcolm was taught to straighten his hair with a mess of gunk including lye. And he mentioned - this was the line that stuck out - that no one ever complimented any black man on his hair for being straightened, but they all just did it anyway. This painful, aggravating process, and they just did it.

Something about Pam's article made me think of an earlier part of my life. I was a frequent victim of bullies as a child, and I also suffered from chronic depression. (Note: these two are not as closely related as you might think.)

I had my share of people point out that I acted in ways that helped invite the bullying, and, to be honest, those people were not entirely wrong. (However, let's keep in mind that bullying is entirely within the control of the bully.) But I have always been a bit rebellious in that way, and I wouldn't change how I acted on behalf of the bullies. To me, it would be letting them control me, and I wouldn't do that.

I think that was a very healthy adaption, for the most part. Imagine if I'd tried to act in a way that didn't set off the bullies. I'd be constantly monitoring myself to see if I got teased or attacked, and decide whatever I'd done that led up to being bullied was a bad thing. I'd be letting myself be controlled, not just by other people's opinion, but by other people's cruelty. I'd be doing all that work, I'd be that self-conscious, and what reward would I get out of it? I wouldn't have to deal with some crap that I'd have had to deal with otherwise.

I wouldn't get complimented for not talking about weird stuff, or bringing in an off-topic idea, or for learning a bit more about sports or the latest kid-fad in my neighborhood. I just wouldn't be hurt as badly. At least, as long as I didn't slip up, and as long as the bullies didn't decide it was more fun to make up a reason to attack me.

And that's what hit me, about Pam's post, and about Malcolm's observation, and
skin lightening, and hair straightening, and hell, let's add the eternal quest for thinness, and I'm sure we could find some other examples.

I wonder how many of those things are people who feel forced to give up, and let their actions be controlled, not even by other people's opinions, but other people's cruelty? Knowing they may never be complimented for having lighter skin or straighter hair or the eternal quest to lose enough weight, but only avoiding some of the crap they might face otherwise.

It changed my perspective a bit on the whole issue of artificial ideals. I'm not sure that these artificial ideas are bullying; I can't prove they're driven by cruelty.

But I also can't prove that they're not. And that's a bit scary.

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