As happens, a bunch of things suddenly came together that prompt me to write this essay.
- A post in Danny Fisher's blog where Dano expresses disapproval for a hateful comment posted to his blog.
- An incident in the mission dorm where several black guys decided to have a long, loud conversation before wake-up time about, in part, the terribleness of white people.
- An article my friend Steve Curless wrote on the touchy subject of forgiving a serial child abuser and killer.
- A paper written by Scott A. Mitchell about Buddhism getting all twisted apart by popular American culture.
- Oh, and lastly, I got a book from the library called "Why we hate: understanding, curbing, and eliminating hate in ourselves and our world".
American culture is rich, yet earthy; narcissicistic, yet there are many people with advanced spiritual development; and it's course & reeking, yet seeking & reaching.
Americans also tend to want to look into everything: uncovering hypocrisies; bringing down the powerful; fighting injustice. We consider ourselves the Center for this very sort of thing, which gives us some standing to think of the country as the Brightly Lit City on the Hill, the envy of the world (which is crap, somewhat).
But we Buddhists know better than others that America's chutzpah is its Achilles' heel. The arrogance and creaturely neediness of Americans dams the way to happiness.
So, how do we engage Americans? and make Buddhism comfortably a part of the American experience such that Buddhism shapes America at least as much as America has seemed to have overpowered Buddhism?
Surely, there is only One Way with a beast as multiheaded as America: we engage at every level.
The easiest of it ought to be to embrace what seems hateful: to understand it and engage it.
This is, afterall, the highest spiritual level. Christ went directly where he was most vulnerable (and got crucified; but I ask that you ignore THAT for the time being).
Though it isn't about Buddhism, at all, and was written just after the attack on the Twin Towers in 2001, Why We Hate is pretty interesting and ends with a chapter called "An Enlightened Future."
Basically, the author advocates that we must move from an Us-v-Them world to one of cooperation, where all of us is us, which author Rush W. Dozier calls "us-us."
The problems of a worldwide consumer culture will ... have to be addressed. Is this culture sustainable given global resources? Because consumerism has no core values other than the market itself, it can be shaped by the changing tastes and desires of the consuming public. Those tastes are now heavily manipulated by the propaganda of advertising, which generally appeals to the primitive neural system. An us-us global civilization could move from limbic self-absorption within a culture of materialism to a culture of enlightened meaning. And in a more enlightened age – if tastes shift away from overconsumption and acceptance of the lowerest common denominator in cultural offerings – the market will shift as well.The job ahead for us, then, is this ...
The task of the civilized world is not just to cease acts of terrorism but to curb and eliminate dehumanizing hate. We must expand the concept of "us" until it includes every human being and the idea of "them" falls into disuse as an obsolete stereotyping device. This can be achieved only through the constant and determined use of the advanced neural system when it has been bolstered by a first-rate education and supportive culture that protects the rights of all people. ... Humanity must embrace, both cognitively and emotionally [Wisdom and Compassion; prajna and karuna!!], what modern genetics tells us – we are a remarkably homogeneous young species within which, scientifically speaking, there is only one race: the human race.