We live in a world currently dependent on an economic system that demands widespread mass production to satisfy the demands of corporations for profit and customers for goods and pleasure.
Few adopt intentionally the philosophy of minimalism. Millions find themselves subjected to minimalism due to an economy that rewards the rich and dismisses the poor.
The majority in rich nations belong to the middle classes living our life as consumers of goods, information, social media and more. This places critics of the current state of democracy, politics, economics and corporations, like myself, in an awkward position. We bite the hand that feeds.
The fiercest critics cannot extricate ourselves from the scientific/economic system that influences our daily life. Yet, let us not move silently into the night. Those who say nothing contribute to sustaining the current state of affairs, even if they boast we cannot accuse them of hypocrisy.
Those of who promote ethics, integrity, sustainability, spirituality, diversity and compassion have a particular challenge to deal with. Our lifestyle might appear modest to the wealthy but middle class to the poor. Some have to choose for their family and themselves between spending money on food or heat in the winter months.
Dharma teachers engage in a singularity of undertaking, namely, to address suffering with a view to showing a way through it.
Suffering manifests in the personal, family, social national and global life of humanity. Suffering arises through the behaviour of governments and corporations. Dharma teachings address both kinds of suffering even though the personal often seems to take priority.
Some prefer freedom of the voice, freedom of the written word with the flack that follows to the terror of not saying anything in case it sounds like we are taking sides.
I touch upon major contemporary topics in public talks, zoom talks, books, essays, this blog, poems etc. Over the years, people regularly send me an email advising me to dissociate completely from certain powerful influences in this world.
Conclusion of Readers of Blog, Facebook Friends, e-mails etc.
Here is a list of their suggestions/expectation/demands to take such steps according to context.
Advice from others includes to
- avoid reference to
- cancel subscription to
- disassociate from
- have a balanced view to both sides
- keep noble silence on
- let go of
- make no reference to
- publicly condemn
- show compassion.
People tell me I have influence due to my role as a Dharma teacher so I should stick to teaching meditation. I regard meditation as one link in the Dharma to an awakened life. Questioning/Inquiry/Reflection is another link to address suffering. There several more.
A range of thoughtful people, a range of angry people and occasional threats/abuse come my way. I remind myself that as a creature of becoming, of evolution, I am born with two ears – one for praise and one for blame and not to lean the head, metaphorically speaking, to one side of the head or the other.
Dharma teaching can remain in the safety zone of mindfulness, meditation and loving kindness. A minority of servants of the Dharna endeavour to address directly a wide range of issues affecting humanity, creatures and the environment. If we speak ups, write critiques, we lay ourselves open to criticism, accusations of hypocrisy and saying/writing one thing and doing something else.
If we say nothing on any controversial issues, social, political, medical or global, we stand accused of having our head in the sand. To speak up invites opposition. To stay silent invites submission to voices of exploitation.
My blog alone contains more than 900 posts since 2006. I have not deleted any so far, but I make small edits due to the comments and feedback from readers, which have regularly proved to be helpful.
A critique can sound angry to a reader. If I feel comfortable with the critique, I let it stand. Occasionally, I soften or tweak the language on the blog/essay, so it is little easier for the reader to stomach.
List of Areas Inviting Critical Feedback
- Amazon. I have written critiques of Amazon for its business practices, treatment of workers, small businesses, obsession with profit and a boss who lives on another planet. My books are on Amazon. I buy goods from Amazon. Amazon’s Alexa, the home-based voice technology, has its dark side – recording home activity. I use Alexa – received as a Christmas present.
- Covid. Constant questioning of government policy, medical science and vaccine industry invites condemnation from pro and anti-vaxers. Have had the double jab.
- Dairy Products. Treatment of animals in factory farms, impact on health of excess of dairy product etc. Am 95% vegan. Milk in tea.
- Drugs. Marijuana contributes to mental escapism, mental delusions and in time trigger abusive outbursts. Manufactured mind-altering drugs can have damaging impact on mental health of users. Plant based drugs can trigger trauma, unresolved personal issues and loss of connection with immediate reality. I state wise use of plant-based mind-altering substances can reveal spiritual benefits.
- Facebook/Instagram. A surveillance agency to accumulate profiles of customers to gain massive advertising revenue. This agency shirks responsibility for harmful and inflammatory social/political content, shows disregard for mental/neurological impact of addiction to Facebook, hate speech, tax avoidance. Obsessed with global influence above ethics and protection of young and old al. Facebook has become a tainted brand name so has changed its name to Meta. Facebook now describes itself as ‘technology company.’ I use Facebook.
- Flying. Use of fossil fuels. Pollution. Global warming. Huge carbon footprint. I occasionally fly to teach the Dharma but not for holidays. I gave up car ownership in the first months of the new millennium. I sometimes suggest to people, who criticise those who fly: Give up your car first whether living in a city or countryside. Population of Totnes is 8400 residents.
- Google/Gmail. Use of AI to exploit customers. Profit above ethics. Spying, Violation of privacy. Promotes pornography and gambling. Dark web. Monopoly. Anti-trust. Tax avoidance. I use Gmail.
- Israel. Occupation of Palestine. Bombing of residential areas in Gaza. Apartheid state. Torture. Treatment of refugees. I gave teachings in Israel and Palestine annually between 1992 and 2019. (I taught in USA, UK and other NATO countries/Australia with decades of bombing and invading countries or supporting such military actions).
- Microsoft. Unlawful monopoly. Swallowing up competition. Excessively expensive products. Multi-billionaire Bill Gates, the CEO, has appointed himself to buy influence in his desire to control worldwide public health, farming and education. Censorship in the interests of Microsoft. On June 4, 2021, Microsoft Bing search engine worldwide censored all searches the Tank Man image on the 32nd anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. I use Microsoft products.
- Mobile phones. Addiction. Harmful impact on brain cells. Contributes to dark moods. Exploitive treatment of workers in China/Asia. Fossil fuels. Expensive gadgets. Constantly discarded for latest version. I use a mobile phone.
- Muslims. Sustained stereotyping by Western governments, military, media, politicians of the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims. Acts of terror upon Westerners and fellow Muslims. I have love for Islam and the Muslim community.
- Nat West Bank. Due to chronic financial mismanagement, government bailed out Nat West in 2008 to the tune of £45 billion. Technically, Nat West is 62% a nationalised business. In 2021, police launched investigation into Nat West for its failure to investigate large scale money laundering. I bank with Nat West.
- Politics. Criticism of left, right and centre of politics. 19th – 20th century politics unsuitable for social and global issues facing the Earth. Am accused regularly of being a leftie despite no wish to be associated in any way with the left, nor with the right, nor centre.
- The 1% (billionaires and super rich). Criticism of the superrich from CEOs to superrich religious/spiritual leaders. I have lived in the same terraced house in Totnes for just under 40 years. I finished paying for the mortgage 15 years ago. It is a privilege to be a homeowner.
- War. A form of barbarism. Uncivilised. Utterly inhumane. Endless slaughter of men, women and children, plus destruction of their environment. The sickness of the arms trade. People tell me I am an idealist and out of touch with reality. Am happy to be in the same company as The Buddha and Jesus, who unwaveringly gave non-violent teachings.
- Wine. Widespread alcohol addiction. Alcohol industry encourages teenagers to become addicted to alcohol. Impairs clarity of mind. Widespread binge drinking. Serious health consequences for all age groups. I enjoy a glass of red wine.
I take the view of constant criticism of influential forces as a small contribution to change. If we give out criticism, we have to have the capacity to receive it.
I use the voice, social media, critiques and books to voice the criticism. For example, I write a blog criticising Facebook and put a link on Facebook. Facebook sometimes sends me a warning or put up a link on my Facebook page to an official strongly pro-vax website. I believe users/customers can have more influence by remaining a customer and informing other customers than by stepping away from the social media. Others may regard such a position as a rationale. Others take the moral stand of not using any businesses who have disregard ethics.
Dharma teachings engage in transparency, questioning and working with the contradictions.
A reminder: Do not go silently into the night.
I’m a fairly new Buddhist and articles like this are very helpful.
Do you have any compassion for the objects of your ethical focus? Do you find hatred arises, because of events, and how do you deal with it? for your own health does criticising do anything for your welfare and energy or does it progress your pursuit? Do you aim to right wrongs, or are you just wanting to be heard? namaste /\
Thank you for continuing not to be silent Christopher. Your voice is a much needed one.
Is islamophobic more ethical than antisemitic/antibudhist/hindouist/black/gay/
Is it more part of what constitutes the big One?
Hi Christopher. Thank you for your honest, insightful blog. No matter which side of the political spectrum we live, we are all part of the One and must be aware of and live with our own contradictions …I am a woman, and a human rights activist. Having visited the Middle East on several occasions, I am sensitized to the teachings of the Koran and the contradictions existing therein of choosing between supporting the religious rights of Muslims and the human rights of women. I have observed the obsession of the Koran over issues of “crime”, punishment, and its promotion of the abuse and subjugation of women. I also am aware of Buddhist discriminatory practices toward women. I consider myself to be a Bufi…a Buddhist and a Sufi practitioner. I’m also admittedly Islamophobic. It’s challenging to live with our inner contradictions. It’s good to know I share good company with you on some of these dilemmas.