Reflections on South Carolina, Super Tuesday, and a weekend of Buddhism study and practice focused on developing a framework of ethics suited to a dissolving world.
Zen & the Art of Activism
Every once in awhile, it is worthwhile to step well outside your comfort zone and expose yourself to an entirely different way of thinking and looking at the world. Prior to this past week, Roxanne and I had had a limited exposure to Buddhism, one or two books and articles read, a few conversations with friends with Buddhist studies under their belt, and Transcendental Meditation and yoga forays experienced in our 20s. But this past week we attended a five-day workshop at the Upaya Institute here in Santa Fe featuring the noted secular Buddhist thinker and rebel, Stephen Batchelor. It was far more than a foray, with days beginning at 7 am and ending at 9 pm.
Roxanne gets full credit for our being there, as I would never have noticed the event notice, but the title: “Autonomy, Imagination & Care,” caught her attention. And I decided to join her. A very good decision.
Days were comprised of alternating sessions of Zen meditation, samu (work practice), vegetarian meals, and lectures/discussions. As a leading secular Buddhist scholar, Batchelor offers Buddhist teachings as a framework for developing an ethics of care that can be applied to the challenges of contemporary life. There were 60-70 attendees, most of whom had significant background in Buddhist philosophy and practice. I am quite sure I have never sat among so much intelligence and mindfulness in my life. At the end of this post, I offer a YouTube lecture from Batchelor: “A Secular Buddhism.”
It will take some time to debrief and think of the important ways what we learned can inform what we do with Retake. Indeed, Roxanne and I have planned a full day retreat of our own, just the two of us, to sort this out. Stay tuned.
The Primary Past & Primaries Tomorrow. Needless to say, I was badly wrong in projecting that Sanders could well compete and even win in South Carolina. It appears African Americans and moderates lined up solidly behind Biden, and this could have a significant impact on Super Tuesday’s results. Having learned important lessons about humility throughout the retreat, and having those lessons reinforced in South Carolina, I am holding off on making projections or calling for joining a bandwagon. Let the bandwagon appear first.
Tomorrow’s Post: Cannibals & Columbus. The past week was full of insights and dots connected, as during the few retreat breaks I was reading Columbus and Other Cannibals, by Jack Forbes. At Journey Santa Fe last month, Dahr Jamail called it “the single most important book you could read this year.” He had that right, as I am devouring it. The book lays bare the interrelationship between Christianity, capitalism, colonialism, and imperialism, and the transformation of man’s relationship with nature. An indigenous leader and historian, Forbes is also an adept storyteller who lays out in a very clear way how Western “Civil”ization has led us to where we are today. Stay tuned.
A Look Back
Last week, we featured three posts that covered very different topics. Because we’re poised between the Biden landslide in South Carolina and Super Tuesday with 15 primaries and the likelihood that a few candidates may ponder withdrawing, the last post below is the one to read if you have time for just one. It focuses on the media’s manipulation of the truth to undermine the Sanders campaign.
I want to emphasize here that while the media’s focus is now on Sanders, two months ago when Warren was surging, stories surfaced about her electability, the flaws in her health plan, and the impracticality of a wealth tax. And her numbers suffered. So “Mainstream Media Goes Apoplectic” is not really just about Sanders, but about how far the media and the Democratic Party will go to undermine any candidate who substantially threatens the status quo.
My second recommendation would be the Medicare for All post immediately below, as it reinforces the theme of how misinformation is being used methodically to erode confidence in anything that rocks the boat and might deliver America what it actually wants.
Facts & Myths About Medicare for All
Much is said about how progressive policy is unrealistic. Retake is going to take a very deep dive into the truths and falsehoods involved in these claims. This post on healthcare is a preview of what this sustained focus might look like issue by issue, policy by policy.
Here, we went beyond examining the financial research behind the efficacy of Medicare for All. We also examined public support for the policy in America and in countries that have implemented it. The post also identifies a number of myths about M4A and then offers responses. This is well worth a read, as it dispels many myths. More importantly it exposes a dynamic that I expect we will find over and over again, a systematic misinformation campaign fueled by industry and Wall St. to keep control and maintain their profit while keeping us from whatever we want.
Human Impact in Methane Release Greatly Underestimated: So What Are Our Options?
This is a good news–bad news story. New research indicates that humankind is contributing far more methane release than previously understood, which suggests human control over those emissions. And the report outlines some promising signs that investors see the climate catastrophe ahead and understand that there are likely devastating financial consequences. Capitalists do not like to lose money, and so there are signs of shifts in investment leaders’ priorities as they realize that shifts in their policies are required.
The bad news is, thus far political leadership has been slow to act on methane and the actions have been insufficient. Nonetheless, if a larger proportion of methane release can be prevented, the math changes a bit on what may be possible, something we will explore more deeply in the future. Certainly, one immediate focus to activism would be expanded advocacy to vastly reduce NM’s thoughtless spewing of methane. Stay tuned.
Mainstream Media Goes Apoplectic
In prior posts, we have analyzed why Americans so rarely are able to legislate laws and policies that Americans want and that would be of great benefit to the world in which they live. The image at left captures one aspect of this: News structured to misinform, generated by six corporations who control 90% of media content. Clearly, this media monopoly generates enormous profit from their advertising coming from their brothers in theft, corporate America. It is no wonder this media then is fearful of and therefore undermines any presidential candidate who might threaten the mega corporations. Two months ago it was Warren who appeared to be posing a threat. Now it’s Sanders.
In this post, we examine the almost rabid representation of “the threat of socialism,” and the risk of total financial chaos and ruin should the US finally use the vote to advance their interests with either a Sanders or a Warren candidacy. What I find most interesting is the degree to which very thoughtful people, regular readers of this post, read some of the media’s rants and write to me that we’d be better of with a Bloomberg or Biden leading the ticket (anything but Trump). While I understand that perspective, with climate change I feel we do not have the benefit of time and moderation. I admit that this is an open question, but a question that does not benefit from inflamed media rhetoric aimed to scare voters into voting for their preferred candidate. A most worthwhile read.
For those interested in being exposed to Stephen Batchelor and what Roxanne and I experienced this weekend, take a peek. A familiarity with Buddhism helps, but is not required.
Paul & Roxanne