When I was active in politics I had as my underlying principle or mission the idea that I was working for political equality to enable wider spiritual involvement. By this I meant that people were unable to follow the spiritual path because they were wage-slaves. I still feel that.
Throughout my life I have been involved in two types of activism, one or other coming to the fore at various times – the spiritual activist and the political activist. My spiritual activism started when I hit bottom, and after that spiritual upheaval I was always on the Path to some extent or other. My political awareness was hindered when I was early on the Path by a collision with the extreme Liberalism of the SWP, this Trotskyite-Liberalism demanding that their creed be followed to the exclusion of all other. Fortunately towards the end of that period in my life I met African and Afro-Caribbean activists who began to open my mind to a world view of understanding that led to a period of political activism in the next phase of my life. Following that I became a teacher abroad, and my community activism was limited to education activism fighting against the inadequacies within the different school communities rather than the wider community of the different countries. If you examine my blog you will see blogs that oscillate between the Inner and Outer with the pendulum swinging between personal Buddhist development and anti-1% political activism (sadly only of a blog form).
On the negative side I retired because of the careerism and profiteering in education, but on a positive level it was because my spiritual path had become distanced from my actual life path and I needed to focus on the path. For the first years of my retirement I was dealing with personal damage. In terms of the blogs it showed in a predominance of Buddhist blogs although I had a separate STC blog which was concerned with political evaluation. But more importantly I was writing my spiritual book, A Treatise on Zandtao, and my education primer, Matriellez – neither of which are finished. The balancing in my life came with Occupy, and at that point I personally fused and recognised there was a wider need for such fusion.
Buddhism mostly has as its teachers monks, or at least people who teach in monasteries. In my view they are in monasteries for two purposes – to preserve and teach the dhamma, and to meditate. Whilst this is a legitimate life path it has an unfortunate side effect, people who follow Buddhism tend to want to do the same – study the dhamma and meditate. But people outside cloisters are living life, and in my view it is the intention of Buddhism to inform an activism in daily life which then transforms society. This is Engaged Buddhism but unfortunately not all Buddhism outside cloisters is engaged. If the role is not preserving and teaching the dhamma as in cloisters, then the Buddhist needs to be an activist, delivering their compassion through an active participation in social change.
This brings me to an excellent talk between Angela Davis and Jon Kabat-Zinn – between a political activist and a mindfulness activist. Let me begin this by re-evaluating Jon Kabat-Zinn. Because what I do is not comprehensive and academic, I do not always look in depth about what I am saying. In beginning examination of Kabat-Zinn I used his Oslo talk. For me there were weaknesses in his position, and I reacted quite strongly to his rejection of robes, that was what he presented in that talk I suspect because it was delivered to academics. I don’t want to swing to a judgement in the opposite direction, but it could just have been a strategy to appease the rules and intellects of academy. For me the essence of his life’s work has been to make mindfulness acceptable to academia, this has also tailored into HHDL’s Mind and Life work.
And the reason I now consider it a strategy is the degree of non-dogmatic Buddhist awareness that is prevalent in the dialogues between he and Angela Davis, I only have a playlist of this dialogue. I took from this talk a mutual recognition of the other’s position and a mutual agreement towards mindful activism in whatever form.
There is a particular aspect of mindfulness that is needed for political activists, and that is mindfulness of the attachment to sankhara; in non-Buddhist terms the dogmatic approach of most political activism towards holding a line and demanding that others follow it.
During my political activism in the 80s the Marxist left was split asunder by extreme Trotskyist parties who were demanding that all activists follow their political line. What they were correct about was that the only way forward was for the proletariat to unite against the bourgeoisie but instead of working in the interests of the proletariat they demanded that all follow their line. There were times when the Trotskyist Left were united but other times they squabbled. Within the proletariat as a whole they only sewed division.
What was needed within the proletariat was mass movement unity, no adherence to dogma, just working together against the proletariat, my great teacher at the time was George Cooper who spent all his life working within the Brighton Trade Union movement to promote mass movement unity. He was a Marxist but it was not the theory that mattered but how it was put into practice, and it could only be put into practice through diligence, compassion and working for unity – that was George Cooper.
Let us examine the world of Trump’s neoliberalism (and Brexit neoliberalism). There are two themes common throughout his presidency – anti-Liberal division and pro-1% policies (often hidden). His tactics of division have been obvious to see from the beginning. In the Republican nominee race, he divided and attacked unscathingly; easy to do given the quality of the Republican nominees.
During his campaign he cemented a division between Liberals and non-Liberals, and managed to accrue all the non-Liberal vote gaining the Presidency. During his Presidency he has publicly denounced any form of Liberalism through racism, sexism and homophobia. Every week his Liberal-baiting has produced a torrent of Liberal abuse towards him in mainstream media and wider platforms. Meanwhile throughout his presidency the 1% have been adopting policies that promote their wealth the most obvious now being the tax reforms. Let us be clear the 1% put him in power – Robert Mercer, and since he has been in power he has been feathering their nest. This Trump neoliberalism is just an extreme form of the electoral neoliberalism in which a bilateral clone party system fight each other at elections, and then give token lip-service to party differences whilst all the while promoting policies of the 1%. Trump does this but in an extreme way.
I am anti-racist, anti-sexist, pro-LBGT and anti-Liberalism. Let me describe Liberal characteristics. These are people who demand that people follow what they say. Black liberalism demands we are all anti-racist and here is the anti-racist line, reformist feminism demands we are all feminist and here is the feminist line, and pro-LBGT demands that we all support the rights of all genders. What is the difference between what I say in the first sentence and this last sentence? Division. Demands create division.
At the same time these Liberal positions themselves are carrying out the work of neoliberalism because they create divisions. When I see Trump’s America I see Trump liberal-baiting and liberal-bleating, I see increased accumulation amongst the 1%, and I see extreme sadness. Liberals perceive that the system is OK but it needs fixing – reform. They believe that the racism in the system can be reformed, sexism can be reformed and LBGT rights can be won under the existing system. They don’t have to lose their jobs, their houses, their way of life, bleat a bit, a lot, and it will change.
Meanwhile there is a lot that liberals overlook. They do not see as the root of the problem the financial system that sees accumulation to the 1%. They cannot see that this financial system forces people to be greedy, to hold onto their good fortune at the expense of others. When white males claim that liberals are taking their jobs historically there is an element of truth in this. Historically the 1% advantaged white males as their wage-slaves and they became richer accordingly. Along came Liberals demanding jobs for all kinds of people and, once this happened, the whites reacted by bringing in Trump. What is not being attacked, because of the neoliberal system, is that the 1% has accumulated even more wealth than they did historically, and they have encouraged the delusion that this wealth went to the Liberals and their causes.
And where does all the wealth come from – wars and wage-slavery. But the Liberals don’t fight this because they are involved in maintaining their way of life through identity struggles. Liberal demands are dividing the 99% turning people against each other whilst the 1% continue to profit.
The key phrase here is demand for a set of ideas, that is a characteristic of Liberalism. And this is why I call the Trotskyites extreme Liberals. They make demands for a particular set of ideas, and demand that the mass movement follow them. They are all divisive. We seek Unity, and removal of adherence to demanding ideas is the key to this. And this is a characteristic of the mindful activist. Such an activist adheres to compassion, does not demand that we follow a set of ideas but that we be compassionate; compassion directs the struggle. Buddhists go to the monasteries and learn compassion, and then engage that compassion in the struggle.
When I watch Angela and Jon, I see two activists who are convinced of their own approach. But I saw something else. I didn’t see two separate activisms but one mindful activism in which there has been a fusion of the inner and outer struggles – except when Jon suggested Google money might fund a change. Whilst left-wing activism is dominated by Liberal demands, there is no future – there is only division. Mindfulness can help us not emotionally attach to our demands because of the heinousness they are trying to overcome. At present there is legitimate Liberal backlash to the chronic sexism in society that frequently leads to assaults. Unfortunately some of the demands that are coming out can only lead to further division. These Liberals need to consider that 53% of white women voted for Trump, they did not vote for Hillary – a flawed politician but a leading female icon. These 53% were alienated from what would benefit them, white women were divided amongst themselves because, in my view, of reformist Liberal demands. A backlash to sexism needs to attack the source of the problem, the accumulation of money to the 1%. If there were more money available people would not be fighting for the same crumbs, and this would ease the tension created within the 99%.
Once there is money available, people will not be dividing an ever-decreasing cake, and will have the opportunity to attend education in mindfulness and others that removes the conditioning we all work within. With education people can see that racism is caused by the 1% and exploited by the same, sexism is caused by the 1% and exploited by the same, and aggression towards the LBGT community has the same sources. Once liberated from the 1% and their conditioning there is a chance that we can be compassionate.
Only 5 blogs today!!
Blogs:- Ginsukapaapdee, Mandtao, Zandtao.