Saturday, April 30, 2016

Facts and Feelings

     I feel slightly apologetic, sort of, for the direction this blog has taken here towards the end. Part of the situation is that all I really want to post before ending this, in addition to a concluding farewell and benediction, is an essay on the spiritual symbolism of Melville’s Moby-Dick, a book which I am presently re-reading. But the going is slow, and I’m reading only about twenty pages per day, partly because I read Moby-Dick just a few years ago, so it’s more like review than fresh discovery, and the thing is 500 pages long. So in the meantime I continue to write about what is of greatest interest to me lately, which is what the new leftist and feminist political orientation is doing to 21st-century Western Civilization. I consider it to be an extraordinarily important issue from a secular and worldly point of view; and most people cannot speak as freely as I can on the subject due to the hazard of social persecution. This is one of the advantages of renouncing the world: I am allowed greater freedom of thought and expression than the average inhabitant of the Matrix.
     In the previous post I discussed the idea that men and women are naturally, biologically different from each other, both physically and psychologically; and that one of many ways in which we differ psychologically is that men, generally speaking, tend to be more objective than women, and women tend to be more subjective than men. This is neither good nor bad. It is not a sign of superiority or inferiority on either side. It is just the way it is. Both objectivity and subjectivity have their own peculiar strengths and weaknesses, so it is good for both to be fairly represented in a society, for the sake of healthy balance.
     One particular way in which this psychological difference (not the only psychological difference, mind you) manifests itself is that men are rather more likely to consider facts to be more important than feelings, whereas women appear more likely to consider feelings more important than facts. Any man who has been utterly confounded by a heated bombardment of non sequiturs and conveniently adjusted memories in a disagreement with a woman may vouch for this. But women in particular may take issue with such an observation, so I will offer a pretty obvious recent example of what I’m talking about.
     In the objective world of the so-called patriarchy, the gender of a human being has been a simple and clearcut issue: if one’s nucleated cells contain paired X chromosomes, then technically one is a female, period. And if each has an X and a Y, then one is male, again period. This is very objective, based upon empirical observation. If one considers physical morphology to be more important than genetics, then still the presence of testicles and a penis have historically been pretty conclusive proof that a person is male, with different diagnostic traits, like a vagina, indicating femaleness. However, with the new social movement of progressive liberalism, which is suffused with feminist ideology and feminine thinking, a person’s gender depends upon feelings. If you feel like a woman, then you’re really a woman, and if you feel like a man, you’re really a man, regardless of such physical, objective trivia as DNA and sexual organs. Feelings (plus a feelings-driven ideology) are more important than mere objective facts.
     Incidentally, another way of making the objective/subjective distinction between men and women was told to me by a very strong-spirited woman a few years ago: She said, or at least implied very strongly, that men are more likely to want to be right, while women are more likely to want to be connected. Like many Western women, she thought, or rather felt, that being connected with others was totally superior to being merely right. But I suppose that the best scenario would involve being right and connected—which might require men and women being on the same side in a kind of symbiosis, which is after all the way we were meant to be, but which has been breaking down quite a lot over the past few decades due largely to a lack of appreciation for a diversity of attitudes.
     Yet another way of stating the objectivity/subjectivity distinction, which I heard on a video just recently (about why men make better chess players), is that “men are good at systematizing; women are good at empathizing.” This may all be anathema to political intersectional feminists, but I suppose more spiritually oriented people might be able to appreciate the idea that the male “spirit” and its feminine counterpart really are not the same. They evolved to be different because men’s roles and women’s roles for a million years have been quite different in many respects, so that our approach to life is naturally, correspondingly different; yet at the same time they are evolved to combine together in male/female relationships in a positive and potentially beautiful symbiosis.
     So anyway, what happens if a feminized society is dominated by an ideology that frequently disdains objective truth, or rejects it if it contradicts the established dogma? To some degree Christianity has been like this in the West, especially in the Middle Ages, so we can have some idea at least of what it entails. But the Middle Ages were before science took over and society became very finely tuned and dependent upon intricate objective discernment to keep everything going.  
     But one of the main factors that caused western civilization to become as powerful as it is, and essentially to dominate the world, is its objectivity. Like it or not, men built western civilization, along with democratic social systems, science, and most technology; and they have kept it running since the beginning. Men are naturally good at this, with men of the white race possibly being the best at it, since, after all, they’re the ones who invented it. Western civilization is built on the foundational realization that facts don’t give a damn about feelings, and facts generally win out in the long run. To acknowledge this has been key to the material success of Western culture.
     I could continue rambling onwards in this direction, and originally intended it, with possibly even some discussion of other psychological differences (like men tending to prefer freedom to security, and women tending the other way). I could point out that timeless male virtues—such as fearlessness, unflinching determination, self-reliance, willingness to take risks, love of a good challenge, audacity, austerity, strength, and a deep sense of honor, in addition to dispassionate objectivity—are just as important and valuable as the ones progressive feminists are insisting upon. I was even intending to discuss the old theorem in History that sexual “decadence,” including the rise of eunuchs into social prominence, is a telltale sign of the decline of a civilization. But my heart just isn’t in it. So I will just bring up one choice little issue that I thought of recently, with regard to the new feelings-oriented interpretation of gender, and its potential effect on Theravada Buddhism, especially in the West.
     As many of you know, one of the ways that liberal egalitarianism has made itself known in Western Buddhism is by its vehement, outspoken insistence that the Bhikkhuni Sangha, the order of fully ordained nuns, be revived, for the sake of gender equality, since it died out centuries ago. To those who are most knowledgeable on the subject, i.e. the monastics who have extensively studied Vinaya (the ancient Buddhist code of monastic discipline and ecclesiastical regulation), the revival of the Bhikkhuni order is a matter of technical validity, i.e. whether it can be done without invalidating the procedure by breaking the rules of the order; however most of the people insisting upon it see it as a matter of social justice, considering any technical obstacles to be dishonest quibbles, and with many seeing a kind of patriarchal conspiracy behind the reluctance of the overwhelming majority of the Sangha to defer to postmodern social justice principles in the management of an ancient and very conservative tradition. The debate very often takes the form of feelings despising facts. 
     But let us assume, for the sake of argument, that the Bhikkhuni Sangha is somehow revived and accepted with the consent of the entire order, including the traditional, conservative Asian Buddhist monastics. The next logical step, if we continue to defer to principles of politically correct social justice, is to allow the ordination of transgender monastics—that is, nuns who are biologically male, and monks who are biologically female. This is flatly rejected as invalid and unallowable in the texts of monastic discipline, but the ancient textual tradition itself is disdained by the postmodern Western social justice people anyway, so that will simply be another obstacle to be overcome by them, another set of facts to be trumped by feelings.
     Do you see what I am getting at here? What do you suppose will be the effect of insisting to traditional Asian Buddhists that a woman who feels that she is a man must be accepted as a male monk? A Burmese lady recently informed me that they would “flip.” Yet that really is the next logical step for Western liberal social justice in its ideological browbeating of traditional Theravada Buddhism.
     It has been said many times that the West really needs Dhamma. That appears to be obviously true, even if few in the West perceive this need. But with “progressive” liberalism running amuck in its self-righteous insistence that even ancient traditions must conform to its dictates, I think Dhamma, in the form of Theravada Buddhism at least, may be better off without the West. By the time the Western ideologues are done with it, it won’t really be Theravada anymore anyway.  

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Postmodernism vs. Empiricism

     Just a few years ago I was living under a rock and almost completely oblivious to a relatively recent intellectual movement called Postmodernism. A little over a year ago I somehow became aware that “postmodern” didn’t refer simply to the most recent events and trends of the modern world, but something else in particular. I asked a friend of mine who is an architect what postmodernism is, and he gave me his take on postmodern architecture; and shortly afterwards another fellow gave me a copy of Simulations by Jean Baudrillard (author of the book in which Neo stashed his bootlegged computer discs in The Matrix), which I read and found to be almost unintelligible in most parts. So even just a few months ago I was still of the impression that postmodernism was just some kind of intellectual esthetic fashion within Liberal Arts, an effete philosophical art form with some applications in architecture, art, and literature, but still quite on the fringe of mainstream culture, something for people who read Foucault, wear berets, and actually take abstract art seriously. 
     Then very recently, during my fascinated, occasionally horrified binge of studying recent developments in Western “progressive” liberalism, I learned that recent “third wave” feminism, along with the new liberalism in general, has adopted a fundamental postmodern tenet with regard to the culturally conditioned nature of truth, and thus of virtually everything else. Thus postmodernism is plunging right into the heart of Western society. And so I feel the urge to write about it.
     As far as I could tell from the dense, convoluted, self-indulgent, and almost unintelligible prose of Baudrillard’s book, he considered symbolism to have reached a point in Western civilization where it no longer represents anything but itself. Symbols are purely artificial, yet nevertheless have become the highest reality of our society. Postmodernism on the whole seems to endorse this view to some degree: truth is merely relative, and created by society; therefore, we create truth to suit ourselves, or rather to suit whatever cultural positions we consider to be proper, or expedient.
     As a Buddhist I can accept this to some degree. Buddhism teaches two truths, conventional and ultimate; and I consider any “truth” that can be put into words or otherwise symbolized to be merely conventional. The “reality” of the ordinary person is also merely conventional and not ultimate. Also, I consider it very possible that our beliefs radically condition the world as we see it, and may even alter the empirical world accordingly.
     My acceptance of this aspect of postmodern philosophy goes beyond the limitations of Theravada Buddhist philosophy, as I can accept it more than a devout Abhidhamma scholar possibly could. I can seriously entertain the idea that we create our own reality practically from scratch; so that an alien being radically different from us in its perception of reality might somehow be in the same room with us, yet it would not see us, nor we it. (This is getting into the realm of philosophical idealism, which admittedly has gone very much out of fashion in the West ever since scientific realism became almost a monoculture, metaphysically and ideologically.) I wouldn’t insist upon that point of view, but I do consider it to be a possibility.
     In such a state of things, it would be our similarity as people that allows us to interact in this world. Although we human beings have many differences, with each of us being unique, still the similarities far outweigh the differences, psychologically as well as physically. In other words, it is our shared human nature that allows us to agree on as much as we do, one with the other.
     The point at which I deviate from this relativistic attitude of postmodernism, and at which “hard” science in general also deviates from it, is where the postmoderns declare that this same human nature is itself purely a social construct. (I suspect that to some degree this belief of the postmoderns is derived from Karl Marx, as he also ignored natural human instincts, and as Baudrillard in his book seemed incapable of keeping Marxism distinct from metaphysical and epistemological issues. This tossing together salad-wise of philosophy and social theory seems to be a characteristic of much of European philosophy in the past century.)
     This is rather a tricky issue, since ultimately I consider objective truth to be an artificial construct; yet we really do appear to be born with innate human nature which restricts the range of what we are able to perceive or create without being insane to a clinically significant degree. In other words, we apparently have to have certain similarities even to be born into the same empirical universe. Objectively and empirically, if we look at the evidence scientifically, we see clearly enough that Marx was wrong, that most 20th-century psychologists were wrong, and that we humans are a species of animal as laden with animal instincts as any other mammal.
     A classic and very typical example of this was given by Charles Darwin in his monumental and ground-breaking The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, namely: When we are surprised, our eyebrows go up and our mouth drops open. Why? Is this simply a cultural construct that somehow has become universal in the human race, or could it be called an animal instinct in us humans? (It’s more than just a knee-jerk reflex, as emotion is the trigger of it, the emotion itself arguably being a kind of animal instinct.) Imagine that you are a stone age hunter-gatherer a hundred thousand years ago, you are walking alone down a forest path, and suddenly you hear a twig snap in the underbrush nearby. To react naturally with the aforementioned symptoms of surprise would have real survival value: the eyebrows go up to help you open your eyes more widely, thereby increasing your peripheral vision and allowing you to see danger more easily. And your mouth drops open to allow you to stop breathing through your nose and start breathing through your mouth, which in humans makes less noise and allows you to hear danger more easily. (Darwin points out that a panting dog who is suddenly surprised does the reverse: he stops panting and starts breathing through his nose, since in dogs that way makes less noise.)
     We humans, from a biological point of view, are laden with these kinds of instincts, generally speaking. There will be exceptions to the rule, but even so it is human nature for us to prefer sweet food to bitter; to prefer flowery smells before we reach puberty, to prefer musky smells when sexually mature, and to start preferring flowery smells again in old age; to dislike slimy substances or small multilegged creatures getting onto us; to shout or scream in alarm when something really bad or frightening suddenly happens; etc. I have even read that the human brain actually has a snake recognition center, thereby presenting a physiological basis for a common human fear (or at least wariness) of snakes. All of this had real survival value to our prehistoric ancestors, again going with a scientific perspective. To believe that a human mind is a blank tablet at birth, and that all our emotions and seemingly innate human tendencies are purely social constructs, betrays a profound ignorance of basic human nature.
     This is not to say that we are entirely driven by instinct, or that we cannot counteract some of our instinctive drives via cultural conditioning. We are no longer in the stone age, and the modification of some of our natural drives is quite necessary. But even some behaviors that may appear to be purely artificial have a basis in instinct. To give a nonhuman example, few people would deny that the domesticated cat has a hunting instinct. Kittens chasing and pouncing on balls or each other are clearly acting out this instinct. But still the hunting instinct may be reinforced, as when the mother cat teaches her kittens to kill, or suppressed, as when a kitten is punished for trying to catch the family gerbil, or by simply lacking opportunities to hunt. We human beings also are born with instincts which can be culturally reinforced, suppressed, or modified. Our language may appear to be a purely social artifact, yet we do have speech centers in the brain, and even the babbling of babies follows a kind of proto-grammar which, along with a human eagerness to learn and practice talking, instinctively ensures that almost all humans learn how to speak a language, though not any particular one. Instinctive human drives are well documented by countless reputable scientists, and should not be controversial except to those whose ideology compels them to reject this.
     Enter 21st-century Liberal Studies (including much of what now is called Cultural Anthropology), and third wave feminist Gender Studies in particular. For reasons of their own, the followers of these ideological fields of study have largely adopted the same postmodern, pseudoscientific idea of the blank tablet that helped Marxism to fail as a viable system in the 20th century—any system that ignores or denies fundamental human nature is bound to be a bad fit for humanity and unstable in the long run. (This is not to say that Marx himself was a postmodernist. He was simply an intellectual who was ignorant of human nature—including the power of innate greed to fuel an economy—and of cognitive science, which did not yet exist in his day. He was also under the spell of Hegel, who wrote masses of verbiage even more elaborately incomprehensible than Baudrillard ever did.) 
     The way in which so-called “third wave” feminism has adopted postmodernism, which apparently is in vogue in the humanities to a degree I had not suspected even a few months ago, is to adopt this artificiality of truth, and of human behavior, to declare that gender itself is purely culturally conditioned, that gender has zero basis in biological human nature.
     This idea or ideology, like the denial of instinctive human nature in general, is essentially pseudoscience, debunked over and over again by scientific studies, not to mention careful introspection. Way back in the 1980’s I read a book entitled The Tangled Wing: Biological Constraints on the Human Spirit, by Melvin Konner. He described a study by psychologists in which children were raised in a gender-neutral environment, with boys and girls being treated essentially the same since infancy. Even under such conditions, the researchers found that there were some clear differences between the boys and girls with regard to their behavior: girls still much preferred playing with dolls, and boys were much more likely to prefer rough play and machinelike playthings such as toy trucks. 
     Similar studies have been conducted in the 21st century, especially with infants too young to have been culturally conditioned. Baby girls, even if they are too young to play with them, show significantly more interest in doll-like objects, while baby boys show more interest in objects like toy trucks. Interestingly, this kind of study has been conducted with chimpanzees and at least two species of monkey, and the results are similar: girl chimps and monkeys prefer dolls and faces, and boy chimps and monkeys prefer mechanical objects. (This is not a scientific paper, so I’m not bothering to include bibliographical references; although you can pick up some details on the toy preference experiments in publications by Gad Saad.) These differences are attributed mainly to prenatal testosterone levels, and their effects on the human brain.
     It should not be too difficult to see how a liking for dolls could be more or less instinctive in females: It is a manifestation of a mothering instinct and a fascination for nurturing babies. It is quite natural for women to be more interested in babies than men are, especially considering that for most of the existence of the human race, up until the last century, raising children was one of a woman’s primary responsibilities in almost every culture.
     The liking of machine-like objects in young boys is maybe less obvious, but for that very reason more interesting to me. Based upon my many observations of the human race, it seems fairly obvious to me that men tend to be more objective, and women more subjective, speaking generally, in terms of average trends. Men are more interested in manipulating objects, like figuring out how to make better hunting weapons, while women seem more interested in interpersonal relations. Thus it is no surprise that men tend to be more interested in fixing machines, and women are often much better at public relations and learning new languages. A woman may make a better family physician due to a natural tendency toward compassion and a better bedside manner; yet men tend to make better surgeons, since a surgeon’s job is to treat a human body like an object, like a machine to be fixed. I would guess that most surgeons are men, even in societies in which most family doctors are women.
     But this is all politically incorrect of course, because it goes against the preferred ideology. Even plain facts are suppressed in the West nowadays as a result of what is called “cultural Marxism”: sacrificing empiricism and even sometimes reason itself at the altar of postmodern ideology. This is what happened in the glory days of political Marxism also; for example Lysenko’s theories of heredity were endorsed in the USSR for years, despite their conflict with internationally accepted empirical science, because they were somehow more in harmony with Marxist ideology—which eventually turned into an embarrassing fiasco, effectively sabotaging Soviet agriculture, since denying facts for the sake of political correctness is to deny empirical reality, which eventually leads to trouble.
     Nowadays it is politically correct to speak of sexist discrimination when trying to account for the fact that there are many more men than women in hard science and technology fields. Even when affirmative action is applied and women have the social advantage in getting an engineering job, still there are many more men. The feminist ideology blames an oppressive patriarchy for this, but a major reason is simply that men are more interested in such technical fields, being naturally more object-oriented. (This is also one reason for the notorious “pay gap”: highly technical and object-oriented jobs such as metallurgical engineering, along with dangerous jobs such as crab fishing in the Bering Sea, are simply less attractive to women despite the fact that they pay well—not so much because women are ostracized, but more because most of them just don’t want to do it, in accordance with innate feminine human nature.)
     Setting aside engineering, let’s look at a field that I have never heard a feminist complaining about: auto mechanics. Very few people would deny that fixing cars is almost entirely monopolized by men. I do not remember ever seeing a female professional auto mechanic. Why is this? Two obvious answers come to mind.
     1. There is a patriarchal conspiracy to prevent women from making a living by fixing cars. 
     2. Women in general simply are not interested in making a living by fixing cars, or by fixing machines in general.
     One can say that if men and women were truly treated equally, with totally free choice for everyone, there would be as many female mechanics as male ones, but I consider that to be extremely unlikely. Research has even indicated that in the most liberal societies, such as that of (rapidly disintegrating) Sweden, women deviate more from men in their life choices than women do in more traditional societies. So a woman may be even less likely to work at a traditionally male occupation in Sweden than she would in, say, Guatemala. Although I would guess that there are extremely few female auto mechanics in either country.
     What we’ve got going now in Western countries—especially among the political left, although it is becoming pervasive—is a case of cultural Lysenkoism, a rejection of empirical fact, along with natural human nature, in favor of an approved ideology, followed partly out of conformist herd instinct and a fear of being publicly attacked as a sexist, or racist, or whatever, and partly out of subjective emotionality. If disliked truths simply cannot be denied, a newly devised defense against them is to label them “hate facts.” It is largely the aforementioned feminine tendency for relative non-objectivity which is conditioning this trend. The situation is currently out of balance, in addition to being at odds with objectivity; and if this imbalance is not to result eventually in some kind of societal collapse, a more harmonious balance of masculine and feminine forces will probably be required.
     Of course this essay is totally politically incorrect, and so I may as well conclude by gratuitously making it even worse. Based upon an interest in philosophy and an observation of who the greatest and worst philosophers have been, in my opinion, I arrived long ago at the hypothesis that women, artists, and French people should stay away from philosophy, as they rarely make a decent showing of it. My guess is that for whatever reasons they tend to be too subjective and “touchy-feely” to come up with philosophical theories that hold water. I like Voltaire, who was an artist as well as a Frenchman, although his greatest philosophy consisted of little more than mocking the stupidity of the human race. This is not to say that I’m against women, artists, or French people. I like women, I like art, and most of the few French people I have known have been very likable people. I’m just unimpressed with their attempts at philosophy, with extremely few exceptions.
     The reason I bring this up is because I wish to point out that the philosophy of Postmodernism appears to be predominantly a French invention. So it goes. And finally, at the risk of tiresomely repeating myself over and over again like a mantra, Fuck Political Correctness.


Saturday, April 16, 2016

A Brief Analysis of the Apparent Suicide Attempt of Western Europe

“TRIGGER WARNING”: This post is almost certainly the most rampantly politically incorrect article I’ve written. It is not merely poking at PC hysteria, but is blaspheming the Holy Spirit, slapping upside the head all that postmodern PC society holds sacred. Any of you who require ideological safe spaces should turn off your computer, leave the room, and curl up in the fetus position under a table.

     Your destiny is written in the books upon your shelf,
     For history invariably returns unto itself,
          And all the seers and the sages
          Who survived throughout the ages
     Have decreed that you will castrate yourself.

     History is full of gutless bleeding hearts like you
     Who destroyed themselves for lack of gut and thew;
          And the heroes of the past
          Will have their laugh at last,
     For they know that you are finished—you are through.
     The Romans lasted near a thousand years,
     An Empire carved with axes, swords, and spears;
          The world trembled at their feet
          And saw their harvests reaped,
     Their cities raped and plundered, through their tears.

     But Rome grew soft and spoiled and timid just like you,
     And the men who survive this combo are too few;
          All the jewels on their sandals
          Couldn't stop those howling Vandals,
     And they fell like gutless wonders always do.

     You're as weak as milk, and soft as currant jelly,
     So beware the Vandal with the empty belly:

     He will never leap the net to shake your hand;
     He will never try to make you understand;
          He will kick you in the nuts,
          Grease his tank treads with your guts—
     At least you'll do to fertilize his land.

     The following discussion is only very indirectly and tenuously related to Dharma in general, let alone Theravada Buddhism; but now we are at the Epilogue of this blog, or so it seems anyhow, and I am writing about what is of greatest interest to me at present (I begin writing this on 23 March 2016). I have not entirely given up on Dharma however, and even this post will have a little blatant Dharma toward the end, like a stinger in the tail. 
     It has been said many times that history repeats itself. Also it has been said that the only thing we learn from history is that people do not learn from history. This may be especially true nowadays, as many people consider the modern (or postmodern) world to be so different from everything that came before it, with its science and technology for instance, that the events of long ago are no longer really relevant as a guide for our present behavior. We’ve outgrown all that, supposedly. But human nature is still very much the same; humans are still human—all too human—and people continue to make essentially the same mistakes that their ancestors made centuries or millennia ago.
     Consequently it should be no great surprise that the current migrant crisis in Europe (not so much a refugee crisis, since most of the immigrants are not Syrian refugees, but young men from other predominantly Islamic countries in search of opportunity), and especially German chancellor Angela Merkel’s role in the whole mess, can be called a case of history repeating itself. According to the historian Edward Gibbon, author of the great classic The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, after a long decline, the Roman Empire finally began collapsing in earnest as a result of a crisis brought about by a massive influx of foreign immigrants. What happened is that Huns invaded the territory of the Visigoths, east of the Danube, in around 375, with the Ostrogoths having been already defeated and subjugated. Fearing the Huns more than they feared the degenerate Romans, a Visigothic leader named Fritigern requested permission of the weak emperor Valens for his people to settle peacefully in Roman territory west of the Danube; and Valens ill-advisedly granted the request. What began as a controlled resettlement soon degenerated into an uncontrolled exodus of un-Roman barbarians; and within two years these same Goths began running violently amuck, destroying the only large army that the now unwarlike Romans could muster against them. According to Gibbon, the Battle of Adrianople in 378, in which the Roman army was defeated and pretty much destroyed by the “peaceful” Gothic immigrants, marked the beginning of the actual collapse of Roman civilization.
     I suppose I should state at this point that this essay, or whatever it is, is mainly inspired by a brief YouTube video I saw recently, in which a Danish journalist puts forth intelligent, objective, reasoned, and consequently politically incorrect, blasphemous arguments to the effect that the current transliberal feminist orientation of postmodern Europe is leading Europe into cultural and political suicide. The journalist, a woman named Iben Thranholm, begins with comments on the fact that in response to the mass sexual molestations of German women last New Year’s Eve, men in the Netherlands put on women’s clothing and peacefully demonstrated. In order to understand the situation better, you would do well to click the link (which is here) and see it for yourself.
     Consider, just as a kind of foundational circumstance, the hob feminist ideology has played with male/female relationships in the West. Much of feminist ideology sees white men as the enemy, representatives of the repressive patriarchy, the privileged ones who must be brought down in order for there to be equality and a better world. Consequently there is an open season on white men, with many women seeing “equality” as a matter of gaining as much superiority over them as possible. Men may be punished not only for paying unwanted attention to women, but even for having the temerity to disagree with them in public. Many Western men see Western women as having become such monsters that they simply avoid them as much as possible—leading to what is called, in America at least, MGTOW (men going their own way), also known as the “sexodus.” In the USA and probably in Western Europe also, a lower proportion of men desire marriage nowadays than ever before in history. This, besides women being taught by feminism that raising children and holding a family together instead of pursuing a professional career is demeaning and shameful, leads to reduced populations (which might be a great blessing ecologically if everyone were this way, but is a sociological disaster when nearby countries with a radically different culture continue to multiply prolificly and then overflow their borders). It also results in boys being raised without fathers, and being taught to think and act like women, which further results in greater gender confusion, leading to even more disruption of natural heterosexual relations and to the biological sabotage of the race. It also helps, of course, in producing a generation of soft, weak, effeminate men. But that is just for starters.
     The reduced populations of European countries were seen as one obvious justification for welcoming literally millions of immigrants from predominantly Islamic cultures—which, still being male-dominated, traditional societies, still have a centuries-old family ethic and positive population growth.
     These immigrants are predominantly single young men, many of whom are no doubt sexually frustrated in their new environment; and they come from a culture that is lacking in respect for women in general, and especially lacking in respect for women viewed as immoral—which certainly includes most Western European female liberals. Many traditional Muslims view these same women who so enthusiastically welcomed the migrants as shameless wantons worthy of death. Many Muslims also despise Western secular culture in general, and soft, “decadent” men.

Western Europe’s front line against Islamist aggression

     At this point it is expedient to plunge deeper into politically incorrect unthinkable abomination by pointing out some pretty obvious facts about scriptural, traditional Islam. This may be easier on a Buddhist blog, as I suppose I’ve already weeded out many of the secular humanist types who consider all religions to teach pretty much the same stuff. The prophet Muhammad was no doubt an inspired person and cultural progressive in 7th-century Arabia, but fourteen centuries later traditional Islam, as found in the Quran and traditional literature like the Hadith, is anachronistic and barbarous to all in the West but the Muslims themselves—and, ironically, to liberal progressives who consider it to be racist to acknowledge obvious unsavory facts about this particular ideology, not about a race. Muhammad began his spiritual career as a humble man, but ended it as a conquering warlord. Unlike the Buddha or Jesus of Nazareth, he ordered the deaths of hundreds of people, sold women and children into slavery, led armed pirate raids against caravans to supplement the incomes of himself and his followers, and he reportedly had sexual intercourse with a nine-year-old girl. All of this may have been liberal, relatively enlightened behavior for 7th-century Arabia—yet he is still considered to be the ideal role model for 21st-century Muslims. The Quran itself repeatedly exhorts Muslims to kill nonbelievers and hypocrites. The tradition itself commands the chopping off of a thief’s hand as punishment, as well as the killing of immoral women and homosexual men. To all of this the Muslims admit freely, and honor it as the perfect word of Allah, the benevolent, the merciful. This is not just an extremist fringe movement, but is represented within traditional Islam itself, even though most Muslims are presumably peace-loving people who do not participate actively in such draconian 7th-century morality. 
     I suppose I should clarify and emphasize that Islam is indeed a religion of peace, to the extent that peace and mercy are praised in the scripture and the tradition. It is also, however, a religion of violence, as war and the killing of human beings, for certain reasons, are also endorsed. Most Muslims presumably emphasize the peaceful aspects, which is a very good thing, although the warlike aspects are nevertheless still there; whereas canonical texts like the Buddhist Tipitaka and the Christian New Testament condone peace only, and not war. Thus Islam may be a religion of peace, but violent people may use it as a justification for violence to an extent that other religious systems cannot.
     It is true that the Hebrew Bible is even more violent and blood-soaked than the Quran, also condoning the killing of human beings, but there are some significant differences, one of the greatest of which is that Biblical Judaism continued to evolve, as did the Jews’ conception of God: as they became more “civilized,” for lack of a better word, so did their Deity. The Quran, however, by its very nature as a pure, divine revelation to a single prophet, has not and could not be changed or supplemented as civilization progressed. Also of course the Jews have had little intention of spreading their religion, by force if necessary, to everyone in the world, unless maybe their promised Messiah were to take responsibility for that. Also the Hebrews have had little conception of the glory and heavenly rewards of jihadist martyrdom—an idea that has inspired a great many Islamist suicide bombers of late. So of all the major religions in the world today, there can be little doubt that Islam is the one which most condones violence, the killing of human beings, and also the forceful subjugation of women. It is built right into the traditional Islamic system, and no amount of Western politically correct hysterical denial will change this. Traditional Islam and its Sharia law simply are not compatible with Western liberal humanist values.
     So ironically, very ironically, feminized liberals who traditional Islam views as abomination have welcomed with open arms traditional Muslims, most of whom are admittedly peaceful people, and many of whom are willing to conform to European culture, but some of whom are aggressive Islamists who don’t give the slightest damn about Western values, including the rights of women. Even the relatively peaceful Muslims who nevertheless believe that archaic Sharia law should be mandatory constitute if not a majority, a very numerous minority.
     Thus hundreds of thousands of aggressive young men from a traditional Islamic male-dominant culture come to Europe, are sexually frustrated, and gradually become generally frustrated and angry at the non-Islamic “defilement” prevailing all around them. It is no wonder that sexual molestation has become endemic in countries with many new Muslim immigrants; it is no wonder that terrorist attacks are more common; and it will be no wonder at all if the situation becomes much worse before it gets any better. The most aggressive of the migrants do not want cultural diversity; they want mandatory Islam.
     And what do the Europeans do about this? Well, for starters the men put on women’s clothing and peacefully wave signs. Is that going to solve the problem? Of course not. If anything it will make it worse, as such weak responses demonstrate to angry young Muslim men that Europeans are weak and decadent, and manifestly worthy of contemptuous hostility. For that matter, conformist ultraliberals refuse even to see the problem out of fear of looking like politically incorrect racists and Islamophobes and thereby being persecuted by their peers. When several hundred German women were molested in one night by gangs of Islamic immigrants, the feminized governments of Europe, including that of Germany, first tried to cover it all up, but there was such an indignant outcry over social media that they realized they would have to admit to the event…yet still they tried to conceal, or at least downplay, the fact that these attacks, and many others like them, were perpetrated by the same Muslim migrants they welcomed so enthusiastically. In short, the feminized system of Europe can do nothing to stop these events from happening, and for the most part are too hysterical in their denial even to deal with the causes of the predicament. Instead, efforts are being made to censor social media to prevent criticism of the crisis. 
     If you watch the video with Iben Thranholm you may notice that the primary argument of her interviewer, obviously a liberal feminist, is along the lines of, “But the sexual molestations shouldn’t happen!” Regardless of its truth, it is irrelevant. It would be just as ridiculous to say of an earthquake, “But earthquakes shouldn’t happen!” It happened anyway, didn’t it, and earthquakes will continue to happen, regardless of how we feel about that. And the soft, weak, feminized Europeans, including the men, and especially the liberal feminists more or less in charge, lack the backbone or the cojones to stop it.
     It may be that, as Thranholm says, Western Europe’s only hope for survival is a “men’s revolution,” which unfortunately may be perpetrated by pissed off, outraged men, the few remaining who still own a spine, in a reactionary, radical swing to the political right. Thus either way, whether Europe becomes Islamic or not, Western European women will probably lose the insane dysfunctional dystopia they are currently in the process of creating—with the best of intentions of course. The women of Europe may eventually have the choice of either fascism or Islamism! And especially in the latter case retreating into lesbianism won’t be much of an option, as Islamic law has ways of dealing with such women.
     And it may be that America’s greatest hope, aside from reliance on its geographical isolation, is for Western Europe really to be overthrown and supplanted by an Islamist emirate, with homosexuals and “immodest” women summarily put to death (and possibly millions of Jews also—which may sound familiar), to demonstrate the consequences of the insane fucked-uppedness of the policies of the regressive left. As it is, even now, disgust, indignation, and even horror at the endemic insanity of the new left, with its PC culture, victim culture, thought control, feelings police, demonization of white men, etc., is driving Americans by the tens of millions into the arms of Donald Trump.
     Joseph Stalin is said to have said, presumably before the end of World War II, “We don’t have to worry about the Germans, because they will arm themselves out of existence. And we don’t have to worry about the British, because they will expand themselves out of existence. And we don’t have to worry about the Americans, because they will spend themselves out of existence.” Despite being a genocidal sociopath, Stalin seems to have had some political acumen, if not prophetic talent. Anyway, now it appears that Western Europeans in general, and possibly the Americans and Canadians also, are feminizing themselves out of existence.
     If a nice, gentle, cooing little dove meets with a hawk, what do you think is gong to happen? What should happen is irrelevant. If a soft, fleecy lamb as it frisks along meets with a hungry wolf, what can you realistically expect? Wolves gotta eat too you know. Now I may as well toss in the Dharma stinger I promised, so here it is: From a purely Dharmic perspective, violence is ethically unskillful; it is better to die than to kill. So if we in the West all adopt such a view, with nobody willing to sacrifice his own karma, by fighting back, for the sake of society, then the best we can do when violent people want to destroy us and our society and we no longer have anywhere to hide, is to die with equanimity, and to forgive our destroyers. Ultimately, if karma is all that Buddhist philosophy says it is, then we are really destroying ourselves anyway, and getting exactly what we deserve.
     In conclusion I wish to remind you, dear reader, if you managed to get this far, that I am not against the equality of women. (Neither am I an Islamophobe in the literal sense, as “-phobe” means “afraid.” I would advise caution rather than fear. Hell, I don’t hate Islam, as it really can be and is a source of good and of wisdom, not just of violent fanaticism. Sufism is profound. I could become a Muslim much more easily than I could become a Christian, because of all that stuff about the Trinity and Jesus dying for my sins. And I must admit that from the perspective of social Darwinism, survival of the fittest civilizations, traditional Islam may turn out to be a much more viable system than what has come to prevail in the West nowadays.) But although I do endorse equal rights and female equality, I very much do not believe that men and women should be the same. Equal, but different. A civilization that socially castrates men and requires them to behave like women or eunuchs is a feeble, defenseless, doomed civilization, totally regardless of what should be the case.   

oh for the good old days when men fought lions with their bare hands what we've got is this

          Let your wife make your decisions;
          Drink your beer, watch television;
     But your children who are sleeping in their beds
          Will be softer yet than you are,
          And that's taking things too far:
     Oh, you've really put a curse upon their heads!

     Does your daughter, when she trembles in her sleep,
          Hear rockets roar, and hear the marching feet
     Of men who know a craving and a thirst
          For loot of war—and know they'll take her first?

Saturday, April 9, 2016

With All Due Respect

     Last year when I was in Bali I was asked to give a talk about Respect. I started the talk by pointing out that an American teaching Asians about respect is like a turtle teaching birds about flying. But, we do the best we can, which is really all we can do.
     Then not so long ago, shortly before my return to the USA, a friend of mine whom I've never met advised me that, when I return to the West again, I shouldn't expect the same kind of respect that monks receive in the East, and I certainly shouldn't insist upon it. After a few years of attempting to find a place in America and interacting with Western Buddhists, this advice was so plainly obvious as to go without saying. Even to expect even one fifth of the respect that monks receive in a Buddhist culture like Burma would be laughably unrealistic.
     This is a matter of American culture, and of Western culture in general—so it would be foolish to blame Westerners for being Westerners. This is just the way it is. In a humanistic, egalitarian society like America, where everyone is supposed, theoretically at least, to be equal, and thereby just as worthy as anyone else, then it follows that deep reverence pretty much flies out the window. I recently had a strange disagreement with an American person about respect which is a case in point. We had both attended a brief talk given by an American Dharma teacher in which he referred to a Buddha image, which he was officially installing under a Bodhi tree, as "this little sucker," twice, in possibly the most devoutly Buddhist country in the world, with Burmese people in the audience, and I pointed out the ironic strangeness of that, the strange contrast of the two approaches to Buddhism. She stated that in her opinion Americans have plenty of respect…and then went so far as to cast an aspersion or two on the validity of the Burmese version. Now, I have been totally overwhelmed by Burmese respect, sometimes even embarrassed and shamed by a relentless respect onslaught, and have gone hungry in America due to the indifference (or worse) of an American Buddhist community; and so this riled me a bit, and I didn't let it slide. So, I pointed out how, in my opinion, American respect and Burmese respect are like night and day, with the American version corresponding to night...and one statement led to another, resulting in her becoming so annoyed, or something, that she informed me she didn't want someone like me in her house or around her kids...which was the most extreme disrespect I had ever experienced coming from her direction. I admit, though, that from an American point of view she may have been perfectly justified. That whole interaction still strikes me as ironic, and very strange. 
     I am sure there are many genuinely respectful people in America. Not just polite or friendly, but deeply respectful. I have no doubt of it. Yet some folks in the West may consider themselves to be respectful; they may feel some respect sometimes and thereby have sufficient evidence that they are indeed properly respectful; and so if they are told that they aren't respectful they may become annoyed, even a little abusive. Yet, from what I have seen in rural Burma over the past twenty years, the average Burmese villager probably has at least ten times the amount of respectful feeling as the average American, at least with regard to religion and to other people. Maybe even fifty times as much. In this respect (no pun intended) the Burmese are so completely off the Western scale as to be incomprehensible. I've mentioned in a previous post the young village women who knelt along Taungpulu Sayadaw's path, bowed down, and spread their long hair over the path for him to walk on it. Even the old Indian tradition of showing reverence by touching an elder's bare feet is beyond the scale of most Americans. It's degrading. It's demeaning to one's own dignity and equality. It's obsequious bootlicking. It's even unsanitary. In America respect is shown by treating others as one's equals; and since most Americans, apparently, do not believe in themselves all that much, they don't believe in others all that much either. Or, in other words, most of us lay unnecessary, negative limitations on ourselves, and so in order for everyone to be equal we lay unnecessary, negative limitations on everyone else also.
      Even though monks must not expect much respect in the West, and certainly not insist upon it, still there is a minimum amount, a minimum daily allowance, below which the whole situation becomes, according to the Pali texts, inappropriate and unacceptable. In other words, a monk is pretty much obligated to clear out of such a situation, in the Buddhist equivalent of shaking the dust from his sandals. Even if people do not have respect for a monk personally, still there is the matter of respect for what he represents, what he has done with his life and why, and what he is able to share, in order for it to be appropriate for him to share it. Even if people dislike some monk in particular, still there is call for respect for the ideals of Dharma and Sangha, and maybe Buddha also. But this kind of respect is clearly not an established part of Western society, and it does not come naturally. Once I noticed on a Buddhist forum that one Asian person had mentioned that I had lived in a Burmese forest for years (often not even in a building), and another (Western) person's response was along the lines of, "So what. Forest rangers live in forests too." Living the so-called Holy Life appears not to be valued much in the West. A few people actually seem to resent its very existence. And this is setting aside the more practical rock-bottom issue of lack of respect for renunciants resulting in lack of support with regard to the requisites of life, such as food.
     To some degree the issue may be seen as a matter of Buddhist etiquette. For example, sitting on a chair or high seat when a monk (especially a senior one) is sitting on the floor or on a low seat has been considered crass bad manners in Buddhist culture for 2500 years. To Westerners it is nothing. It is no big deal at all to sit in a chair with a senior monk sitting at one's feet. I remember once when I was a very junior monk in California an older American woman came to visit me, and while I was sitting on the floor she sat in the only chair in the room—one reserved for the senior monks, so that even I was not supposed to sit in it. Burmese monks would look in and see something moderately outrageous (one could see it in their eyes), while the American woman probably thought absolutely nothing of it. There is actually a rule of monastic discipline forbidding a monk from teaching Dhamma to someone so disrespectful that he or she would sit on a higher seat than the teacher. This has nothing to do with American culture, however, and most people don't see it as a matter of respect at all; it's simply a desire to be comfortable, a matter of common sense. So, many monks in the West, including me when I'm there, let the rule slide and teach Dhamma sitting on a mat on the floor to people sitting on chairs.
     Of course one could say that Westerners simply are not familiar with Eastern etiquette, including traditional Buddhist etiquette. But even if they do become familiar with it, they may still have aversion for behaving in accordance with it. "Why should I have to sit on the floor? It's hard. I'd probably get sore, or at least uncomfortable. Besides, a monk is just a human being like anyone else." A more obvious example is bowing. Most American Buddhists don't bow to monks, at least as far as I have seen. I'm an American too, of course, so I can speak from my own experience on this: For the first twenty times or so that I bowed to a Buddhist monk, I felt very awkward and self-conscious, somewhat like the way I used to feel when I would dance without being drunk yet. But in my case it was't much of an option, since I was intending to become a monk at this monastery, and I wan't about to start acting uppity. Besides, I really did respect some of them—all of them, at first. And I had great respect for what they represented. 
     Still, though, if people do not have respect for Dhamma, if they attend a Dhamma talk as though it were a college seminar or public library lecture, employing cool, critical reasoning, or following a desire for entertainment, without regard for Spirit, then they probably aren't going to get much out of it. If you go to the ocean with only a cup, you get only a cupful. 
     Recently in Rangoon/Yangon a fellow from New Zealand was sentenced to two years in prison for publishing an advertisement for his pub showing a Buddha image wearing stereo headphones. Two years in prison for that. I assume that he vehemently assured the judge, more than once, that he meant no disrespect at all toward the Buddha, or toward Burmese religion; yet passive, unintentional disrespect is still disrespect. The guy may have been a clueless blunderer, and I suspect the Burmese government deliberately made a harsh example of him to show the Westerners flooding into the country that Western irreverence toward religion and Dhamma was not going to be ignored; yet even Western Buddhist teachers can behave in similar ways. Recall the "little sucker" incident. We Westerners just don't know any better. We may not mean to be disrespectful, we just naturally are. Or unnaturally are. Anyhow, that's the way we are conditioned. And again, since we've been conditioned that way since infancy, there's no point in blaming anyone. 
     But here's the thing: With respect, if someone tells us a truth that we very much don't want to hear, out of respect for who said it we may actually hear it, and maybe even act upon the advice in a beneficial way. Without respect, we simply won't hear it, and may spend the rest of our lives beating our head against the wall that we refuse to see. We Westerners acknowledge that a surgeon knows more about surgery than we do, and an auto mechanic knows more about fixing cars, but many of us assume that we know more about what is good for our spirit than anyone else, including extremely wise saints.
     Here's another thing: When a pickpocket meets a saint, all he notices are his pockets. And America, my friends, is a nation of pickpockets, so to speak.  
     We each create our own version of reality; and most of us in the West are creating a "reality" without sacredness, without anyone or anything being deeply respectable. The situation reminds me of René Guénon's observations about modern humanism and rationalism—humanism teaches us that anything higher than us is unimportant, if not totally nonexistent, and rationalism teaches us that nothing is higher than the reach of the human intellect. That is, that critical thought can understand anything, even the mind of God, if such a being actually were to exist. Thus everything in the whole Universe is brought down to the human or intellectual level, and rendered thoroughly mundane. We have an artificially created ceiling over us, limiting our world to what we can criticize. Wide-eyed wonder is for children. As for respect, maybe that's not even for children anymore, since children in Western culture are more and more viewed as the equals of their parents and teachers, and tend more and more to see themselves that way.
     In a sense, of course, we are all equal. Actually in more than one sense. Yet modern ideas of equality seem not very conducive to respect, let alone full-blown reverence. If we do not revere someone as being better than us or wiser than us or closer to Enlightenment than us, then it would seem that another valid sort of mutual respect could be found in the sentiment of the Indian word "namaste," which means, or so I've been told, "I honor the Divine within you." It is a word that is extremely egalitarian, since it acknowledges that we are all equally a manifestation of the Ultimate. But the Ultimate is beyond humanism, rationalism, and mainstream Western culture, and so we have not been taught to have much appreciation for it, if any. But because we are alive we cannot help but have a deep, subliminal consciousness that it is there.
     Getting back to the Burmese and their much more traditional culture, it's not just to monks and nuns, statues and pagodas, that they show respect that is off the scale by American standards. They respect their worldly teachers, and loyally support them and bow to them for many years after they stop being their students. For example, if a man learns how to fix cars from another man, he may stick up for him, his teacher, for the rest of his life, even though the guy might be a drunken troublemaker. They respect their doctors, too—once a monastic friend and I were visiting a Burmese surgeon (who ran a clinic in his house and performed throat operations in a room next to his sitting room), and two of his clients came in and bowed to him before they bowed to us monks. They really got down on their knees for it, too. In the villages near my cave monastery in upper Burma there are festivals held in honor of everyone in the village at least seventy years of age; they offer them a feast and gifts, and then they sincerely bow to them and ask for their blessings. Even the standard respect of one person for another, at least in village culture, is remarkable. It helps to explain why the Burmese don't care all that much about their appearance (unless maybe they are trying to attract a mate); people accept them even if they have a pot belly, one milky white eye, and missing or black teeth. And even the village idiot or crazy person is treated with a certain dignity, even if he gets really difficult sometimes. But in the West, as a general rule, things tend to be different.   
     We are creating an unspiritual modern world for ourselves. The stereotypical Western mind insists upon spiritual destitution, upon a spiritually comatose society that now appears to be in the process of dying. We feel a certain respect for the earth (the likes of which the Burmese do not pretend to understand—that is completely off their scale), yet in general we refuse to stop afflicting this same earth with our energy consumption, waste, and contributions to the birth rate—our convenience is more important than Gaia, or our respect for her/it. We live in a culture in which selfishness and alienation are actually encouraged by the system. We give everyone the same Please, Thank You, I'm Sorry, etc., out of a kind of mechanical, mandatory politeness, yet deep down we really don't trust each other all that much, and try to protect ourselves behind a wall of institutional regulations that don't work, instead of believing in each other, and in the human spirit, the divine spirit honored by the word namaste. But honoring each other, really respecting each other, let alone spiritual teachers, may be our only real chance of survival. The current way doesn't work so well, and is going to stop before much longer, whether we like it or not. Everything is impermanent, and our way of living is becoming impermanenter and impermanenter. 
     So, what do we do? Just saying "Be more respectful" isn't going to work. If you don't have it, you just don't have it, and talking about it is pretty much futile; on the other hand, if you do have it, then talking about it is pretty much still futile, in the sense of unnecessary. I really don't know what is going to happen with modern society. I do suspect, though, that a major change is necessary, and that it may be the result of a nationwide or worldwide crisis, something big enough to knock us out of our convenient ruts, and out from behind our convenient walls and barricades. People won't change until they have no choice. Maybe, after that, respect, including respect for teachers, spirituality, and Dhamma, will come into fashion. Once it's in fashion people will really go for it. But until then, I dunno.
     Anyway, be well and happy, and I hope you're not out there giving me the finger for suggesting that you, and we Westerners in general, are disrespectful.
     I conclude this harangue with a quote from Sai Baba which I have quoted before. He made his point in Hindu terminology, with regard to God in the form of Krishna, but it could easily be translated into the language of any spiritual tradition.
If you take Krishna to be a mere cowherd, a man of the world like others, then for you he will be just a cowherd! You too climb only up to that stage….You will have noticed that Uddhava who looked upon Krishna as his Guru benefitted more than Arjuna who looked upon him as a Sakha, a friend. If you have faith that he is God, He will be God to you; if you dismiss Him as a mere man, He takes on that role and becomes useless for you. Search for Him with the heart, not with the eye for externals. The superpower has to be sought in the super-state itself, not in the lower states. Then, if you have the eyes that are fit to see and the wisdom to understand, you will find Him. 

I'm pretty sure this isn't the picture
that got the New Zealand guy thrown into prison, 
but the one I think is the right one is so ugly
(lurid pink, with thick, ugly features)
that I don't want to publish it on this blog

Appendix: A Few Pointers on Buddhist Etiquette

     Even if we Westerners are "respect retards," at least we can learn some simple good manners from a traditional Buddhist point of view. Remember that, even though they are not Western manners, still one will appear like a rude and/or ignorant barbarian to those with a more traditional attitude if one ignores them. One may even unnecessarily offend people, or undermine one's own credibility as a Buddhist.

~Don't offer to shake hands with a monk or nun. It's better just to put your palms together in front of you and smile (especially if you don't feel like bowing).

~Don't point your feet at anyone, especially at a monk, nun, teacher, or elderly person, or at a Buddha image, Buddhist text, or anything else which could be considered sacred.

~Don't sit on a seat higher than a monk, nun, teacher, or elderly person; and if you yourself are elderly or injured and just can't sit on the floor, at least explain the situation and ask permission first.

~Don't sit listening to a Dhamma talk with your knees up, hugging them. (It shows one's butt to the teacher, and there's actually a rule against teaching someone who is sitting that way.)

~Don't even touch a monastic of the opposite gender—especially if you don't know their attitude on such matters.

~Don't approach a monk, nun, or teacher with your shoes on if that person is barefoot, especially indoors.

~Don't place Buddha images or scriptures on low or dirty places (like on top of the toilet tank), unless maybe a Buddha image is too huge to place on a shelf.

~Don't help yourself to food that has been offered to a monk or nun (this may seem obvious, but a few people have actually done this with me, even while I was eating it). Ask first, and then offer the food again, since your taking some of it may technically have broken the original offering.

~If you are walking with a monk or nun, don't discuss Dhamma with them if you are walking in front, or if you are walking on the path and the monastic is walking beside it.

~Try to remember that some monastics are relatively very innocent, and many of the remainder are attempting to regain their innocence; so exercise some restraint about what you choose to talk about. Casual conversation between laypeople is often much too irreverent and spicy to be appropriate, especially for Asian monastics that have been ordained since they were children.

~And remember that many monks (probably at least half of the Western ones) don't handle money, and they're simply not going to survive without the generosity of others. To offer food to a monastic is really not all that difficult or expensive, and you gather up treasure in heaven.

I'm sure I've forgotten plenty of important ones, but this is a fair sample. If you know of some crucial ones I've forgotten, feel free to let me know.

(written one year ago, in Yangon

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Mourning the Death of the Spirit of Freedom

     An optimist says that the glass is half full.
     A pessimist says that the glass is half empty.
     A feminist says that the glass is raped.  
               (—a comment to an antifeminist video on YouTube)

     Warning: This is essentially an indignant political and social rant. There is, however, some genuine and important Buddhist Dharma in the third to last paragraph of the essay.
     It started like this: My friend Eline in the Netherlands sent me the link to an extraordinarily politically incorrect YouTube video by a certain Black Pigeon Speaks, in which the narrator describes how 21st-century feminism is destroying Western civilization in general, and Western Europe in particular, with plenty of reference to the fact that feminized societies are undermining their own existence by welcoming and defending millions of young Muslim men, some of whom are radical Islamists who openly despise European civilization. I’m not exactly sure why Eline sent it to me. Possibly an outrageously loud, confident voice aggressively challenging “progressive” liberalism can cause a European college girl some uncertainty. Which is a good thing by the way.
     Anyway, although I didn’t agree with all of the video, I found it very interesting, and containing more truth than could possibly be accepted by the vast herd of politically correct conformists, and I was intrigued enough to investigate…and before very long I was deep down the rabbit hole, observing in fascination more and more of this kind of public rebellion against the new world order. (Some prominent names among my sources are Dave Rubin, Milo Yiannopoulis, Sargon of Akkad, Chris Ray Gun (one of my favorites), Christina Hoff Sommers, Lauren Southern, Thunderf00t (way too hostile and sarcastic for my tastes), Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, SkepTorr, Paul Joseph Watson (another favorite, so long as he talks about PC hysteria), and one called Naked Ape.) I watched many indignant anti-authoritarian reactions against so-called PC culture, and more on the European migrant crisis, which gradually ramified into such surreal realms as sexual molestation epidemics in Europe and Britain predominantly as a result of Muslim immigration (which feminized governments have attempted to cover up out of fear of appearing politically incorrect by admitting that brown-skinned Muslim men have molested European women), the “regressive left,” “victim culture,” Sam Harris’s repeated public criticisms of and warnings about Islam, and even Gamergate, a kind of scandal viewed from opposite poles by its advocates and detractors, which, from the advocates’ point of view, was largely a hostile reaction against feminized political correctness invading the world of video games. It was astonishing. I went into a kind of agitated trance, and spent many hours, three days in a row, watching more and more of this, occasionally backing up the research by reading a written article. I had no damn idea it had come to this. Although I am a Buddhist and a monk, there were times when I was more indignant and/or outraged than the ranting narrators themselves.

     A few examples. 
     ~Relatively recently some students at Yale University, including a hysterically shrieking young woman, were angrily protesting—not against US military involvement in foreign countries, not against corporatocracy, not even for fundamental civil rights, but because the administration refused to ban potentially “offensive” politically incorrect Halloween costumes on campus, out of consideration for freedom of thought and expression. Also, in another report, many students at Yale were actually engaged in activism to repeal the first amendment of the US Constitution. (The first amendment, by the way, is this: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”)
     ~A few years ago a man in Toronto was publicly condemned and jailed for no greater crime than disagreeing with two or three feminists on Twitter, mainly over their attempts to essentially ruin the life of a young man whom they considered to be a misogynist. Although he had previously endorsed their organization, these women reacted by getting him banned from Twitter, and later from the entire Internet, awkwardly framed and falsely accused him of being a pedophile, tried to have his art (he is an artist) banned from public exposure (with some of his artwork vandalized and destroyed), and finally got him imprisoned—despite the fact that they admitted that the guy had not actually threatened them or even gone so far as to make sexist remarks. Still, they had him arrested and prosecuted for “cyberviolence,” and PC hysteria duly condemned him. (see for yourself) Recently, after a Kafkaesque legal process lasting about three years, he was finally found not guilty by a judge who was politely and “correctly” apologetic to the artist’s accusers because their evidence was insufficient. The mass media, and especially female journalists, continued to favor the feminists in this case.
     ~In 2014 a scientist succeeded in landing a space probe on the surface of a comet. This is the first time anything like this has ever been accomplished. At some sort of interview he was wearing a garish bowling shirt that a female friend had made for him—presumably wearing it because he was celebrating the highpoint of his entire career and was feeling jubilant and silly; and a news article covering the interview had this for a headline: “I don’t care if you landed a spacecraft on a comet, your shirt is sexist and ostracizing.” I am sorry to say that the man submitted to PC authoritarianism and made a public apology, immediately after which he broke down into tears, still on camera. His scientific achievement was contemptuously dismissed in favor of bashing the fact that he wore a shirt with cartoon pictures of sexy women on it. The event has been called the Shirt Storm.
     ~Also in 2014 a young woman entered a police station (apparently in America), stealthily came up behind a police officer sitting quietly at his desk, and assaulted him with a knife, apparently intending to cut his throat, with him receiving injury to his neck before finally subduing her (while she was obviously trying to stab him), and all of this was captured on video. An open and shut case of assault with a deadly weapon, right? Wrong! She was found not guilty after the jury deliberated for less than two hours. And why? Because she is female. See for yourself, if you consider this too far-fetched to be believed. (here)
     ~Feminists have begun requesting that people no longer clap at public functions but should just wave their hands around (called “Jazz hands”), because the loud noise of applause may be “triggering” to some (presumably female, presumably emotionally fragile) members of the audience. In fact, feminists are attempting to ban just about anything that anyone could conceivably use as an excuse to be triggered or offended—except to white men, whose feelings are dismissed with utter contempt, often with unconcealed hostility. 
     ~Certain liberal feminists have started a campaign of “Storming Wikipedia” by injecting feminist ideology into science articles. One example I saw involved an article on sexual dimorphism, a biological tendency in some species for males and females to have markedly different anatomical features, as is the case in lions, chickens, bees, and human beings. The Wiki article states, as an example, that women have 40-60% less upper body strength than men, and elsewhere states that even men who do not exercise regularly have significantly greater physical strength than female athletes, on average. These statements were backed up by references to well-known scientific journals. Within the same article is found a statement that greater male upper body strength is merely a cultural artifact caused by males being encouraged to exercise more than females. This statement referenced a feminist article, based more upon feminist ideology than upon empirical science. (I just rechecked, and this statement has now been removed, which is understandable, as it is pseudoscience.) In fact it is a common tenet of feminism that there are absolutely no inherent psychological differences between men and women, that all such differences are the artificial result of an oppressive patriarchy. Thus, presumably, the fact that more men fix machinery for a living or fish for crabs in the Bering Sea is due to sexist oppression. Some obviously wish to believe that this alleged gender sameness is true of most physical differences also.
     ~Not only are some high school and college students required to take Gender Studies classes, which are of course classes in neo-liberal feminism, many male students are now required to attend classes on how NOT to be rapists, let alone sexists, going with the feminist tenet that all men are potential rapists, and must be carefully reprogrammed to prevent this. “Rape” nowadays may include consensual sex with both parties being drunk, after which the woman regrets what happened, a man refusing to have sex with a woman, or even a man speaking to a woman without her previous consent. 
     ~It has become very common for people to assert that only men can be sexist and only white people can be racist, thereby flinging the door wide open to hostile bigotry on the part of everyone else. Due to the newly embraced concept of “microaggression,” even for a white person to deny being racist is racist, for someone to ask where an immigrant is from is racist, for someone to acknowledge unpleasant facts about the violence and discrimination against women in traditional Islam is racist, for a man to disagree with a woman about anything at all is sexist, and even for him to show obvious consideration for her, as by letting her take his seat on a crowded bus, is offensive sexist microaggression. Yet high-profile feminists can propose that all men should be killed or put in concentration camps, or threaten men with physical injury, and public opinion will take her side, with no negative consequences.
     ~I could go on and on and on, since this kind of stuff is not only firing indignant commentary from a new breed of “cultural libertarians” fighting against the hostile, repressive authoritarianism of political correctness thought police, but it is flooding mainstream media as well (although the latter often are endorsing it). But I will add one more which is especially poignant for me because it concerns my old alma mater, Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington. According to an article in The Daily Beast, students at WWU calling themselves the Assembly for Power and Liberation are demanding a kind of Orwellian extremist liberal junta on campus. Here are some excerpts from the article: 
Activists are demanding the creation of a new college dedicated to social justice activism, a student committee to police offensive speech, and culturally segregated living arrangements at the school….Students have the right to push for robust changes to campus conditions, of course. But if administrators care about free speech at all, they will ignore these calls to create an almost cartoonishly autocratic liberal thought police on campus….Activists have also demanded the creation of an Office for Social Transformation, which would employ 15 students—young Robespierres in training—for the purposes of monitoring “racist, anti-black, transphobic, cissexist, misogynistic, ableist, homophobic, Islamophobic, and otherwise oppressive behavior on campus.” (Anti-Semitism, one notes, is curiously omitted.) These students will be granted terrifying powers to discipline faculty members who commit microaggressions. Professors—even tenured professors—can and will be placed under investigation if they are accused of maintaining insufficiently safe spaces within their classrooms. These measures are hailed as “progressive” by the activists—because what could be more progressive than committees of liberal extremists conducting thoughtcrime investigations?…it seems like the idea is to turn the campus into a zone of liberal ideological conformity from which there is no escape….At the heart of this effort lies a bizarrely totalitarian ideology: Student-activists think they have all the answers—everything is settled, and people who dissent are not merely wrong, but actually guilty of something approaching a crime. If they persist in this wrongness, they are perpetuating violence, activists will claim. The list of demands ends with a lengthy denunciation of WWU’s marginalization of “hxstorically oppressed students.” The misspelling is intentional: “hxstory,” I presume, was judged to be more PC than “history,” which is gendered, triggering, and perhaps violent. It’s easy for me to laugh at these clumsy attempts to make language obey the dictates of political correctness—but I laugh from a position of relative safety, since I am not a WWU professor.
I ask you: How is this different from 20th-century Marxist radicalism? Two ways in which it is similar is that it is outrageously unrealistic, rejecting and attempting to ban even empirical truth if it challenges the ideology, and that it is bound to fail horrendously after inevitably resulting in a great deal of oppression, violence, and misery. A primary difference is that instead of physical violence and terrorism as means of compulsion for acceptance of the system, intolerant radicals usually rely on media bias, complaints to the police, attempts at ruining the antagonist’s career by getting him discredited and fired, deluges of hostile comments on social media, and of course the human sheeplike conformity with whatever is in fashion.
     This is no longer a fringe movement, but has gone stark raving mainstream, taking over the media, university campuses, and even some European governments. It is nightmarishly surreal to me, just freaking insane. How can the West have come to this? Whatever became of freedom? (face palm)
     The PC thought police, a.k.a. Social Justice Warriors or SJW, a.k.a. “crybullies,” are apparently incapable or totally unwilling to see that their preferred form of political correctness is itself sexist, racist, hateful, hypocritical, and stooping to such Orwellian props as thought control and doublethink. They say they’re opposed to sexual discrimination and then cook up new PC words like “mansplain,” which is a derogatory term for explaining things the way a stereotypical man supposedly does it. Even to claim that all men should be killed is considered acceptable, although the opposite (that all women should be killed) would elicit screams of bloody murder—unless maybe Muslims say it, in which case to criticize it would be deemed racist. Recently feminists were rallying to ban Father’s Day in America, based partly on claims that men and fathers are useless. This is all quite acceptable, apparently, yet even publicly to disagree with a woman (as happened in Canada) can land a man in jail. But pointing this out is useless.
     One interesting phenomenon is that some liberals and conservatives are joining forces, declaring a new polarity in Western politics: cultural libertarians vs. repressive authoritarians, which seems primarily to imply freedom of thought and expression vs. politically correct thought and feeling control. And it appears that finally, over the past few years, some people (mostly men, but also including many women) have had enough of the insanity and are standing against it, often in a state of outraged indignation. But at this stage in the game, the champions of liberty are the underdogs.

two cultural libertarians (Lauren and Milo)
 peacefully holding up a sign at a feminist “slutwalk,”
 with a hostile feminist trying to take it away from them
 (shortly after this the two heretics were ejected by the police)

     I am really sorry about this whole situation. Maybe it's just that I’m just getting old, but the Western world seems to be going profoundly, self-destructively pathological. I used to consider myself to be more liberal than otherwise, but I feel like the outrageous foolishness and hypocrisy I have seen coming from the “progressive” left is shoving me toward the right. If I were to remain in America, which I probably won’t, then I might even vote for a Republican president for the first time in my life. This is actually an increasingly common phenomenon, with even many young people being driven away from liberalism in utter disgust, if not horror. A more extrem(ist) example is the speed at which neo-Nazi and other ultra-right organizations are growing in Europe recently, as the cluelessly naive liberal feminist politicians are incapable of not driving their countries into cultural and political suicide. 
     There is one very fortunate aspect to this dismal situation, however, and that is the colossal weakness of the new dominating force. It is not only an ideology based largely upon easily debunked myths, rhetoric, name-calling, and irrational wishful thinking, thereby lacking a sufficient foundation in truth, but more importantly it is also based upon spinelessness and pathological emotional dysfunction. From the looks of it, all that will be necessary is for those fighting back to clap their hands loudly and many of these emotional weaklings will be triggered into having meltdowns. They seemingly can be traumatized by a dropping hat. As you may notice from my language, this whole situation has me somewhat exasperated. It’s enough to make me want to punch a metrosexual.
     So, I should cool down a little and inject some Dharma. This is, after all, an ostensibly Buddhist blog. Therefore I point out here that the central point of political correctness hysteria, its moral nucleus, is practically the opposite of Dharma. It is based on the colossal lie that one’s own unhappiness is not one’s own responsibility, and that one should therefore blame somebody else for it. If you say or do something that triggers me, regardless of what it is or what your intentions are, then you are causing me suffering and victimizing me, and you must be stopped—that’s essentially the idea. Your rights end where my feelings begin. And apparently this attitude is creating the victim culture which is justifying people’s resentment, self-pity, emotional instability, and misery, discouraging them from accepting responsibility for their own happiness and unhappiness, resulting in such nonsense as microaggression, in which the supposed aggressor is totally oblivious to just how hurtful he really is. He may even have the best of intentions (like offering his seat on a crowded bus), but he must be stopped because some chronically miserable, foolish malcontent may be offended by it. And evidence does indicate that, ironically, modern Western women are more unhappy now than they were fifty years ago, i.e. more unhappy than they were before they attained the privileges they now enjoy, which in many cases far exceed the privileges of the venomously hated white male. The first and second Noble Truths of Buddhism are totally ignored, even by many who consider themselves to be Buddhists.


     Furthermore, unfortunately perhaps, the liberal left is the group in the West which primarily favors Buddhism, especially in its form of Vipassana. Consequently, much of the aforementioned political correctness mania is inextricably mixed up with what is casually called “Dharma.” (Spirit Rock reportedly having an image of Buddha and an image of the mythological Tantric goddess Tara on the main altar, for the sake of PC gender equality, is a case in point.) I have recently been informed that there is an American Buddhist organization called Against the Stream, which on its website declares itself dedicated to “rebellion against the system”; but I admit to being very skeptical. For one thing, they claim to derive the ethical standards of their teaching staff from the policies of Spirit Rock! Also, they have one of their largest centers in San Francisco! It may be that the “system” they are rebelling against is that of the racist misogynistic homophobic patriarchy. Or maybe they used to be genuine freedom-loving rebels, but then became popular and conformed to the liberal mainstream. I suppose I am fortunate that within the realm of traditional Theravadin monasticism almost the only symptom of PC mania that I am exposed to is, occasionally, the greater respect that quasi-bhikkhunis receive over the male bhikkhu oppressors among many Western liberals.
     So…I am a dinosaur. Oh, wait—I saw on one YouTube video that some school policies have determined the word “dinosaur” unacceptable because it may be offensive to believers in creationism. So I’m a caveman then, and I don’t give a shit whether “caveman” is polite or not. Society has become so freaking insane that I suppose it’s good that I’m giving up and going back to my cave at the edge of a traditional Buddhist culture. Life here is like watching the decline and fall of the Roman Empire all over again. History repeats itself. (Angela Merkel over there in Germany is like the new Valens Augustus, welcoming a huge population of migrant Goths into the Empire. Here in America we are watching the rise of Elagabalus.) But if libertarians, true lovers of liberty and individual rights, ever start becoming Buddhists in large numbers, I may have to come back. And if there is anyone out there who is really rebelling against the increasingly insane system, may they please let me know how I can help with it.


“I wholly disapprove of what you say—and will defend to the death your right to say it.”  —attributed to Voltaire, although maybe he didn’t really say it

Appendix: A Select List of Outrageous YouTube Videos

(Anita Sarkeesian, the Darth Vader of neo-feminism)