Is Ideology Genetic?
Websites pour forth heated arguments between liberals and conservative about almost everything-or, as is becoming clear due to brain research, what seem to be arguments but in fact are genetically determined reflexes. While saying so will enrage conservatives, it is clear that conservatism is a Darwinian relic, a selective adaptation to primitive times. Perhaps the sharpest difference between Left and Right is that conservatives lack empathy or, in English, compassion. Conservatives do not hate the children of Bangladesh. Harvard psychologists John Halpern and Alexandra Warmme-Coates performed PET scans on self-described liberals and conservatives.
When shown a photograph of the mangled remains of a puppy run over by a bicycle, the brains of conservatives showed no response. When the photo was of the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange, liberals showed no response, but in conservatives the prefrontal palpate lit up, an indicator of intense interest. Conservatives, without compassion, see the problems of blacks and say the hell with them. Conservatives, carrying the instinctual baggage of times when killing animals had a purpose, were utterly incapable of understanding why the bunny-huggers were upset. Liberals and conservatives were shown various photos and asked to say the first word that came to their minds.
Republicans, conservative, are traditionally the party of war. The police, also conservative, demonstrate the same aggressiveness and are likely to have the same neural responses, though further research is needed.
Why Eckhart Tolle’s Evolutionary Activism Won’t Save Us
Given the central role Tolle plays in modern spiritual thinking, his ideas have world-wide implications. Tolle identifies a shift in the inner world as the only significant factor in social change. As we have seen, Tolle believes that God is evolving through us to awaken his or her divine planetary will on earth. It’s important to understand that when Tolle is referring to shifting inner consciousness, he is specifically talking about stilling the mind, not shifting inner social or political consciousness. Tolle is suggesting that what communists needed and what environmental polluters need is internal spiritual transformation – not education, training, relationship building, diversity training, political understanding, environmental awareness or anything else.
If we were to take Tolle seriously we should instruct environmental educators to stop teaching about pollution and start teaching about how to connect to Being. Increasing the amount of creativity in the world won’t support the political ideas of Mr. Tolle. Any sort of universalizing divine quality that Tolle believes will speak to a particular social or political agenda is pure fiction. At the end of A New Earth, Tolle describes his understanding of how acting in the world lines up with one’s inner purpose.
According to Tolle what is most urgently needed to address the thought addicted insane world is the cultivation of presence. Like many others Tolle mistakenly conflates presence with justice. Certainly Tolle has transformed the lives of many people.
The NGO-ization of resistance
In the murky waters of fake NGOs set up or to siphon off grant money or as tax dodges, of course, there are NGOs doing valuable work. It’s important to consider the NGO phenomenon in a broader political context. In India the funded NGO boom began in the late 1980s and 1990s. As the state abdicated its traditional role, NGOs moved in to work in these very areas. Most large-funded NGOs are financed and patronized by aid and development agencies, which are, in turn, funded by Western governments, the World Bank, the UN and some multinational corporations.
NGOs give the impression that they are filling the vacuum created by a retreating state. NGOs form a sort of buffer between the sarkar and public. In the long run, NGOs are accountable to their funders, not to the people they work among. It’s almost as though the greater the devastation caused by neoliberalism, the greater the outbreak of NGOs. In order make sure their funding is not jeopardized and that the governments of the countries they work in will allow them to function, NGOs have to present their work in a shallow framework, more or less shorn of a political or historical context.
Eventually-on a smaller scale, but more insidiously-the capital available to NGOs plays the same role in alternative politics as the speculative capital that flows in and out of the economies of poor countries. NGOs have funds that can employ local people who might otherwise be activists in resistance movements, but now can feel they are doing some immediate, creative good.
In Engaged Buddhism, Peace Begins with You
Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1967, after playing a central role in the Vietnamese peace movement. So we were very eager to practice Buddhism in such a way that we could bring it into society. Buddhism has to do with your daily life, with your suffering and with the suffering of the people around you. Thich Nhat Hanh.: The last time Martin Luther King and I met was in Geneva during the peace conference called Paix sur Terre.
Thich Nhat Hanh.: People were very compassionate and willing to support us in ending the war in Vietnam during the sixties. People became angry very quickly because what they were doing wasn’t bringing about what they wanted. If you don’t have enough peace and understanding and loving-kindness within yourself, your actions will not truly be for peace. People often feel that they need to choose between being engaged in social change or working on personal and spiritual growth. If you don’t know how to listen to your own suffering, it will be difficult to listen to the suffering of another person or another group of people.
Then we will ask the people who suffer to come forward and tell us what they have in their hearts. The fact is that people know America has the capacity to hit. John Malkin: Many people have the view that happiness and enlightenment are things that happen only in the future, and that maybe only a few people are capable of experiencing them.