Sunday, May 13, 2007

yeah, pretty much.

Donna reminds me of this cartoon (hadn't known Amp drew it for some reason):



and continues on for a post of her own, which you should read. On the many and subtle (and not-so-subtle) permutations of "I've got mine, Jack."

in the course of which, she links back to an earlier exchange elsewhere, which is, well, yeah, apt:

...Regarding identity politics — it killed liberalism. Just plain killed it. I saw this with my own eyes. That’s why I hate it. It’s also a deluded way to approach issues; it leads to various “identity” groups competing with each other for attention and privilege, instead of building power coalitions, which is stupid. Liberals have been doing this for years, and its another big reason why righties run everything.

I’ve observed that people who get caught up in identity politics get their egos all wrapped up in their almighty identity issues, and they are insensitive to everybody else’s issues. And I really, really hate that.

Finally, from a Buddhist perspective, race and gender are only temporary conditions. They aren’t who you are.

There’s a great parable in Tibetan Buddhism about heaven and hell. In hell, people sit around a big bowl full of soup, and they have spoons attached to their arms, but they go hungry because the spoons are too long and they can’t bring the bowl of the spoon up to their mouths.

Heaven is exactly the same way, except that in heaven people feed each other.

What the angry ones are telling me is that they don’t trust me to feed them. I understand — really, I do — why they distrust a white person (although, in fact I am not a “white person”), but we have to trust each other, anyway, to help each other, and the trust has to go both ways. That’s how it is.

Comment by maha — September 18, 2006 @ 7:52 am

...maha, what if certain people expect their counterpart to feed them from the bowl until they are full, then turn around and give one or two spoonfuls to the other person and say, “I’m so full I need a nap. And my arm is sore anyway. That’s plenty for you. I think we are done here.” This goes on day after day and the other person is grumbling and angry, the first person says, “If it wasn’t for me you’d be dead. Be grateful I give you your spoonful a day and sometimes I even give you two!” This is more like the “heaven” that POC experience with the Democratic Party and liberals. Unfortunately we realize the Republican “heaven” would gang up on us and beat us with their spoons unless we feed them, while they don’t have to feed us at all, so most of us are smart enough to stick to the Democratic “heaven”.

Two bad choices. Some decide to walk away, yes they know they will die, but why doesn’t our Democratic counterpart see that he will die too, and maybe give us 3 or 4 spoonfuls at least?

It isn’t just the minority constituencies that are giving up on politics and walking away, it’s also labor for instance. I was shocked to read that some 40% of union members vote Republican. That should never happen. But they have bad choices too, neither side cares about labor issues, it’s all corporate welfare, privatization, deregulation, to all of them lately, so instead they walk away and are dazzled by “conservative family values” or some other nonsense. The same might apply to a black woman who attends a conservative church. She knows neither party gives a damn about her identity issues, so she might vote for the Republican who will “protect marriage” instead of the “decadent immoral” Democrat. People usually do have more than one issue, if both parties ignore their top issue they go to the next one, it might mean voting for the other party, or if all their issues are being ignored, they will sit it out.

I guess what I am saying is that giving us a seat at the table is giving us another spoonful, actually listening to us is another spoonful, doing something that actually advances our cause is filling our stomach too.


*****

-by- the way, not that I'm -real- familiar with Tibetan Buddhism, although I am working my way through there's more to dying than death by lama shempen hookham, and The Psychology of Buddhist Tantra by too lazy to dig the book from out of the pile of eight million other partially read and neglected books and look up the author

...I don't think you need to be an Enlightened Being to perceive that this:

race and gender are only temporary conditions. They aren’t who you are.

is, particularly in this context, utter booooolsheeeet.

yeah okay. so's this entire LIFETIME a temporary condition. so's this BODY, so, you know, don't you have anything more -spiritual- to do than focus on -electoral politics?-

personally right now i'm thinking rather more fondly of the various Zen parables where someone whacks someone else with a large stick.

34 comments:

Alon Levy said...

Can I blame religion for the "race and gender are only temporary conditions" saying?

Even mainstream left-of-center politicians have to ensure minorities and the poor support them, to say nothing of shrill liberal bloggers who love nothing more than to feud with one another over trivia. That's not identity politics; that's appealing to the voters.

Nor is it a problem when black people don't always care about the same issues as white people. Not making any apologies here: different people have different priorities in politics. Particular conditions always influence that. Black Americans care more about criminal justice issues than white Americans and Hispanics care more about immigration than Anglos, just like how people who are in risk of being laid off care more about unemployment than people who aren't and how people who live on savings care more about controlling inflation than debtors. The worst thing the Democratic Party can do to American liberalism is decree that the only issues that matter are those Kos cares about and that everyone who disagrees should fuck off. Politicial leaders are supposed to be responsive to their constituents, not vice versa.

belledame222 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
belledame222 said...

Can I blame religion for the "race and gender are only temporary conditions" saying?

What for? It's not as though there aren't 1001 other ways to be a fatuous, self-serving ass. i just found her using it in that context was particularly rich.

Donna said...

When Kai heard what Maha said to me, he explained it like this:

Donna, I just wanted to chime in on this Buddhist excuse that Maha employed, because as a lifelong Buddhist myself, I see confusing statements like Maha's all the time. Of course there are countless misconceptions about and misappropriations of Buddhism, but one of the most common is blurring the line between relative and absolute wisdom teachings (something which you seem to have intuitively identified). Many Buddhist texts from all the various dharma traditions are quite clear about this distinction.

It's one thing to practice meditating on the absolute teaching that all identity, and indeed all phenomenal existence, is transient and ultimately illusory. It's quite another to misappropriate that meditative practice in the manner that Maha did, for the purpose of dismissing another person's manifest reality and marginalizing their experience and indeed their humanity. Taking an absolute teaching into the relative sphere tends to produce a slippery slope into nihilism, which is one of the misunderstandings of Buddhist mysticism you often see among Westerners who mistake a meditative practice as a philosophical assertion. Indeed, Buddhist masters have long considered this particular problem to be a serious danger, which is exactly why they used to keep many absolute teachings secret, sharing them only with the initiated. Because the uninitiated might take the statement that "all phenomena are unreal and there is no self" and use that as an excuse to, say, rape and pillage, since after all it's all unreal and nothing matters. Not exactly the purpose of the teaching; and not exactly the right way to contextualize an exchange between social progressives explicitly seeking race and gender equality.

I'm not trying to demean Maha's or anyone's spiritual practices or beliefs. I'm only saying that according to the Buddhist teachings I study and practice, every sentient being's manifest reality in the phenomenal world, including their transient physical and psychic identities, is recognized and respected.

Peace.
Kai

Deoridhe said...

...I was more thinking of the irony of citing Tebetian Buddhism when their entire body of religiou sleaders have been run out of Tibet and their people are under colonial Chinese rule.

Not to mention that Tibetians and Chinese are victims of racism in the US.

Talk about colonial appropriation.

Alon Levy said...

Whenever a Westerner tells you he's a Buddhist, ask him, "Theravada or Mahayana?".

Kai said...

Hmmm...well first off, great post, belledame.

And Donna, it's amazing that you're so organized that you can pull up these age-old quotes on a moment's notice.

About Zen, I'm with belle: Lift stick. Whack!

About Tibet, I'm totally unsure about the relevance. And about Theravada vs Mahayana also; it's not quite so polarized as that sounds. I mean, I meditate on both the Dhammapada and the Heart Sutra, so what does that make me? Ya know? We don't need to get all sectarian about dharma.

Namaste.

Deoridhe said...

Thought of this after I logged off last night - there's an added irony. Tibetian Buddhists are Mahayana Buddhists; the most basic way of expression the philosophy is "As long as one is not free, all are not free." It's the ultimate liberal philosophy.

Yeah. Irony. Using "As long as one is not free, all are not free" to bludgeon people into not bothering you with their problems.

Kai said...

To be fair to Alon Levy, he did specify asking "a Westerner" about the Theravada vs Mahayana thing, which in hindsight I realize maybe I'm not (am I?).

Anyway I think I get it: Alon's saying that New Agey Buddhists have no real rigorous clue about that which they claim to be studying. Which is, well, all too often true.

Cheers.

Kai said...

Deoridhe,

Ah, I gotcha. You're right, the foundation of Mahayana is the "bodhisattva" ideal (which, um, precludes racism), whereas Theravada tends to embrace the "arhat" ideal. But I really question separating these two ideals in practice, because there are times for seclusion and times for social action. I don't believe these are in conflict.

Also, just to add a wrinkle, Tibetan Buddhism is usually considered "Vajrayana" which is a Tantric elaboration of Mahayana, certainly distinct from the Mahayana of most Northern-school or Japanese Zen monasteries.

Nevertheless, I see your point. It's a good one.

Peace.

belledame222 said...

I mean, truthfully, she could've used any religion there ("There is no male or female, there is no ___, we are all one in Jesus Christ," or however that goes exactly). it's also yer basic "well, I SEE NO COLOR" with a sanctimonious quasi-spiritual overlay to make it especially nauseating. it's bollocks.

Kai said...

belledame, exactly. It really has nothing to do with Buddhism and I probably shouldn't treat it as such. It's just, I suppose, a sophisticated way to describe or justify colorblind racism. And that's pretty much that. ;-)

R. Mildred said...

I’ve observed that people who get caught up in identity politics get their egos all wrapped up in their almighty identity issues, and they are insensitive to everybody else’s issues. And I really, really hate that.

Ah, a member of the "prone to heavy irony" school of "thunder that sounds like an old man saying 'and one more thing...' half an hour after he has lost the arguement" buddhism.

Thought of this after I logged off last night - there's an added irony. Tibetian Buddhists are Mahayana Buddhists; the most basic way of expression the philosophy is "As long as one is not free, all are not free." It's the ultimate liberal philosophy.

Unfortunately that actually translated into the most hyper-colonial, and hyper-patriarchal form of buddhism once it no longer had to compete with hinduism, which is why I always class buddhism, especially lightning vehicle, as in the same class as christianity, or islam or early judaism, bits of it are nice, the people who believe it are usually nice, but it's just a shame about that long and tired history of attempting to convert non-believers by the sword that their religion has.

And the even bigger irony of hte entire peice is that he mentioned "tibetan buddhism", but some how missed that the current dalai lama is a renowned bigot, who, if I'm recalling it correctly, went off on this quasi-eugenicist interpretation of karma that for some reason required him to vocally cuss out all black people everywhere.

And the white guy aims... and he hits one of the clearest possible example of what he's trying to say doesn't exist in the world that isn't actually catholicism! And omg, he's actually gonna try to use it to support his position!

This man can suck my delicate feminine lun.

belledame222 said...

i think it's actually a white chick, if you're referring to the person who said the original assery (Maha)

kactus said...

ok, I've been puzzled by this since I read the original exchange last fall. Maha says she's not white, but I thought she is. What is she?

belledame222 said...

i'm not positive, but i think she might be referring to some .000004 percent NDN/FN heritage. don't take my word for it though, just reaching for very vague recollections of what may or may not be correct.

kactus said...

oh yes, the great-great-great ancestor theory of non-whiteness. I get it now.

belledame222 said...

Like I said, don't quote me on that; not sure.

Alon Levy said...

Anyway I think I get it: Alon's saying that New Agey Buddhists have no real rigorous clue about that which they claim to be studying. Which is, well, all too often true.

Well, exactly. A disturbing number of Westerners who heard that Buddhism is a nice religion and don't want to be atheists say that they're Buddhists, not knowing a single thing about it.

ok, I've been puzzled by this since I read the original exchange last fall. Maha says she's not white, but I thought she is. What is she?

She's white. Any nonwhite heritage she may have is probably the kind people discover about themselves for affirmative action purposes. By the same token, Cameron Diaz is not white, and every Jew can claim to be nonwhite for historical reasons.

Sassywho said...

on the issue of race identity, a pretty good litmus test is reflection on any time you did not get a job, a cab, a loan, a date, an appointment, a prescription, service, an education, the benefit of the doubt from law enforcement or courts, and if you questioned the rejection on the basis of assumptions made about you race. Chances are if you are white, you didn't.

Deoridhe said...

Also, just to add a wrinkle, Tibetan Buddhism is usually considered "Vajrayana" which is a Tantric elaboration of Mahayana, certainly distinct from the Mahayana of most Northern-school or Japanese Zen monasteries.

That type HAS A NAME? Kickass. 8D 8D I knew T. Buddhism was distinct, but I didn't realize the distinctness had another word in a foreign language for me to learn. If you know, what's the approximation for it in English?

And yes, there is an irony in the theoretically most inclusive Buddhism being the one which encouraged colonialism in practice. Sometimes I wonder if Buddha Prime didn't make his teachings self-centered forseeing that. He was a smart man.

Mahayana gave me my favorite saying of all time, though, via Joseph Campbell. "Joyful participation on the sorrows of the world." Ah. Love it. I may not be Buddhist, but I'm all about joyful suffering.

I saw no color for about a decade. Then I realized that seeing no color made me an asshole and got back on that seeing color thing.

Chuckie K said...

Since the discussion has ended up so engaged with Buddhism, my favorite saying from a master of the Middle Way is "A day without working is a day without eating."

andi said...

Vajrayana - Is usually traslated as "Diamond Vehicle". It can also be translated as "Adamantine Vehicle", but since most westerners are familiar with the diamond as an indestructible substance, we usually hear of it being translated as the "Diamond Vehicle" here in the west.

Donna said...

Kai, I always keep your quotes handy. LOL

Ok, no I don't. But I did know where to find that one. What Maha said to me made no sense, and I was glad you came along to explain.

Kai said...

Damn, when did Westerners get so frackin educated about Buddhism? When I was a teenager, if I said "Buddhism", people would say "Oh that fat dude stretching his arms up at the Chinese restaurant?" These days it's all "adamantine vehicle" and shit. Awesome. I guess progress happens.

Donna, well I'm glad Maha wasn't able to snow you with the pseudo-Buddhism (which she clearly tried to do). Do you know what her name means? "Maha" is Sanskrit for "great". Um. Yeah.

"Yana" means "path" or "way", so "Mahayana" is "great path".

"Vajra" means "diamond" or "thunderbolt" (though it's a spiritually-infused word), so I generally I translate "Vajrayana" as "diamond path" or "thunderbolt path" (okay "adamantine vehicle" is just too non-flowy for me).

Anyway...yeah I'm all about "joyful participation in suffering", ain't it cool?

Cheers.

Trinity said...

Out of the stoopid cometh one jewel of truth:

"I’ve observed that people who get caught up in identity politics get their egos all wrapped up in their almighty identity issues, and they are insensitive to everybody else’s issues."

This actually happens *a lot* -- most people have a very hard time remembering intersectionality, especially when they find themselves at apparent cross-purposes with another oppressed group.

tho' this person was probably actually saying "pleeez think of the white peepul/the straight menz/the able-bodied/the middle class/etc." and... yeah, ugh.

belledame222 said...

ding ding ding!

R. Mildred said...

Vajrayana - Is usually traslated as "Diamond Vehicle". It can also be translated as "Adamantine Vehicle", but since most westerners are familiar with the diamond as an indestructible substance, we usually hear of it being translated as the "Diamond Vehicle" here in the west.

Buckminsterfullerene Vehicle? No wait a second, a vehicle made of a really hard substance - A DELORIAN!

I thought it was translated as "lightning vehicle" because it was a vehicle by which lots of people could go buddha at once?

Chuckie K said...

The hard-edged quality does figure in the metaphoric use of diamond in these discourses, for instance "the diamond cutter of doubt."

Deoridhe said...

Damn, when did Westerners get so frackin educated about Buddhism? When I was a teenager, if I said "Buddhism", people would say "Oh that fat dude stretching his arms up at the Chinese restaurant?"

I prefer the Indian Buddha. ^^ Positioned touching the earth. Sixth or seventh stance, I think?

Multiculturalism is one of my interests. I spent a few years as a teenager trying to find my religion, and I stopped briefly on Buddhism. Plus, my mom is involved in the new Spiritualism movements which lay heavily on Buddhist and Hindu philosophy, so I hear about a lot of it.

My big problem with Buddhism is that I don't want the lives to end. *looks shifty*

A DELORIAN!

You win at life.

Double win for mentioning Mr. Fuller. Buckyballs ARE, in fact, my favorite form of carbon. Yay Carbon 60 and 70!!!

Politicial leaders are supposed to be responsive to their constituents, not vice versa.

This really stood out to me today. Recently someone polled the US, and almost universally the US people are more liberal than the US government - that includes the Demoncrates.

What does it say about the system if the representatives AREN'T representing?

arrogantworm said...

Well, if they're not representing, I'd say that the gov'ment thinks it's so secure in their power that they don't need to pander to voters.

arrogantworm said...

Sorry, forgot this;

Then it says the system ain't workin' out right now. Do you remember where you read the poll at? I'd like to take a look at it.

Alon Levy said...

It depends on the precise issue polled. On health care, the American people are very pro-universal; they respond negatively to terms like "socialized medicine," but ask them about whether it's more important to keep taxes low or provide universal coverage and they'll go for universal coverage, ask them whether the American health system is better than the Canadian and the median respondent will say they're the same while more will say the Canadian is better than will say the American is better, and ask them whether it's acceptable to spend more money on prescription drug coverage and they'll say yes. In addition, the American system that's closest to single-payer health care, the VA, is also the one that has the highest satisfaction rates.

On other issues, it depends... on Iraq, the median voter supports a phased withdrawal. On gay rights, she supports civil unions. On immigration she supports both giving illegal immigration a path to citizenship and building a border fence, though I'd argue the former is way more important. On other issues, she can be perfectly conservative, though - e.g. she doesn't think women should be able to get abortions just because the pregnancy is unwanted.

There's probably a way to weed out the effects of center-shifting from all of those results - e.g. the people would be more pro-gay if the Democrats were pro-SSM - but it's incredibly difficult to say how far the median voter is from the median member of Congress on each issue.

magniloquence said...

Donna, well I'm glad Maha wasn't able to snow you with the pseudo-Buddhism (which she clearly tried to do). Do you know what her name means? "Maha" is Sanskrit for "great". Um. Yeah.

Heh, Kai... that's actually what stood out for me in the whole debate. Talking about Mahayana and the Heart Sutra, (and any time CM brings up what her name means), it just occurred to me that one could be quite mean and say things like "Mahavastaya: the version of Buddhism where everyone has to be just like you or shut up," and "The Fifth Heart Sutra is the one where you pretend having a siginificant other of another race gives you special powers!" Made up religious words for made up idiocy.

(For clarity: I knew those words/concepts were real, but I though it was a hella coincidence that they were being used as bits of screennames by people who would misuse their meaning.)