TREATISE ON ZANDTAO
Insight and Mindful Consuming
Some might categorise chapters 16, 17 and 18 as political analysis, I claim they are not. They are as a result of insight into what is - the way the world is, and that is why it is appropriate to include in this treatise. To be honest a political analysis would be far deeper with a much more rigorous approach than this – with appropriate statistical information to support the argument. This is because the purpose of political analysis is to try and persuade on a rational level – or at least theoretically that is so. I make no analytical claims for these chapters, nor for the treatise in general, however I do contend that it is insight. Because I offer it as insight I make greater claims, far more substantive than the conflicting intellectual claims that masquerade as academia or supposed rational knowledge. This is truth based on observation and meditation, and not clouded by an intellectualism which is basically ideas that become promoted politically by vested interest. Insight is the only way to understand modern-day politics – and in truth it is the only way to understand the relative importance of ideas. Insight is the only way to develop genuine political understanding and a genuine strategy for improvement, intellectual goals soon vaporise as the going gets tough or as political power is not attained. Typically political analysts present diverse points of view, and then it is up to each individual to analyse and choose. This process of appealing to intellect has become totally flawed by the manipulations of the corporatocracy, those that people are now calling the 1%. Typical of such is Tony Blair. No amount of intellectual discussion can justify what Blair did in office, but if you attempt to balance all that is in the public domain you might well accept some of what he says. But insight sees him for what he is, and in general insight dismisses much of what the 1% presents to you through the media. Through meditation (see Ch 1 for a discussion on Insight meditation) you can gain the tool of insight, and insight forces you to bring forth strategies similar to the following – established in chapters 16 and 17:- Facing Reality Strategy:- People cannot have confidence in the money of our economies and to survive people need to be trading in a soundly-based currency – not one controlled by the 1%; they need a skill they can trade with or products they can make. I don’t have either, but for the young, for their own sake, I am imploring them to develop such skills in an economy that is independent of the 1%. What these skills might be and how to avert the worst ravages as finance inevitably breaks down society I discuss later. Facing Security Strategy:- Cultivating harmonious living is a personal strategy that overcomes personal insecurity and leads to a life without fear, how do we transpose that to a national and international strategy? Fear produces insecurity, and the 1% engender this fear to help fuel a jingoism that increases their profits from military expenditure during wars. Recognising the global reality, that insecurity felt in the West is a consequence of western international policy, can begin to alleviate the fear and insecurity that leads to such unnecessary violence – that leads to murder for profit on a global scale. Insight also leads to a future societal strategy such as outlined in ch 18:- Representative democracy supports the interests of the corporatocracy, for genuine democracy there needs to be a return to grass roots activism in which individuals take their own responsibility for action working for a consensus. Such organisations would not be hierarchical, workers in cooperatives for example, and hopefully in the long term would lead to governance that stems from these grass roots. In the short term such activism would seek transactions through barter or community currencies. Before writing the chapters 19 and 20 there had been a significant gap of a few months. I want to describe how the gap developed because there are lessons to be learnt in its development. A few years ago I retired early to focus on meditating, writing and studying, and I have been very lucky to be able to do this. I had recognised that in my working life I had not focussed enough on the spiritual side of my life, and as a meditator I automatically gravitated to Buddhism, and have been greatly helped by people in the institutions of Buddhists. But the institutions of Buddhism are inside, although on the periphery, of the existing financial system, as described in Ch 18. This does not refer to all monasteries in the diverse Buddhist traditions, but it does apply to many.
Buddhist teaching does speak of applying insight to daily life, I cannot recall being encouraged to do so through the institutions, but through my own experience I had gained insight into working practices, an insight that cannot be gained by those who do not work – monks and others; I am happy to accept the institutions as places for learning Buddhist theory. This insight into working practice led to a conflict with a monk that crystallised over the issue of his supporting Tony Blair. Whilst that monk was doing much good work, the incident made me realise that monastic intellectualism was also part of the problem, and awareness of this intellectualism and the need for insight in daily life were something that I had been lacking. This has led me to recognise that for any treatise that is attempting to offer a way of life, an understanding of the time we live in must be included in the presentation of that Path. Whilst cloisters might be a responsible choice for some – especially those who feel it is incumbent to perpetuate the tradition, the teaching is not sufficient if it does not present an insightful way into daily life. As monks do not work they have not come into conflict with the hierarchies created by the 1%, nor into conflict with the power of that influence which pervades throughout the global system. Some monks have such experience and can advise, but in truth such understanding needs to come from a combined interaction between lay followers and those accepting the responsibility for the teachings. Without such interaction monastics leave themselves open to justifiable criticism. As described in Ch 18 religious institutions are part of the financial system and are controlled within it. Lifelong monks trained within the institution have to seriously consider whether their understanding and insight is complete. What is most important to recognise is that insight is the greatest natural gift we have. It is refuted in our schools, and people who claim insight are often marginalised by the society of the corporatocracy. Insight is the tool to see through the activities of the 1%, and it is a gift to be lauded and paraded – with suitable humility. Intellect is a misused tool manipulated by the corporatocracy. Intellectual argument tends to have its basis in ideas that are promoted by the person for acclaim, commercial and career interests. Insight has strength, an ability to dismiss the mass of false evidence and gives those with insights the ability to fight the social flow and stand for the truth. It is not ideas that change nations but insights. Maybe historically ideas have been utilised to change nations, such as Adam Smith, but these are ideas that fitted into the economic needs of the 1% at the time; they used whatever ideas were available to promote their interests at the time. Recognising that process of societal appropriation of ideas, an insight into democracy as it has evolved is that the representative democracy of the neoliberal model promotes the interests of the 1% and not democracy. Evaluating this democracy and recognising the need for grass roots democratic structures is an insight concerning strategies for the development of future societies. I commend the collective insight being shown globally initially in Argentina, then through the Arab Spring, Indignados in Spain, to the Occupy Movements. And a significant part for me of what the Occupy Movement was promoting is mindful consuming. A key message that came to me from watching the movie “Ethos” [F4] is that people have power in what they spend and how they spend it. It is this consumer choice which the 1% seek to control through advertising in the mass media. It is your money gained from your earnings that business and the government seek to control. The government takes your money through taxation, uses that taxation to spend huge amounts of money on munitions and gives huge amounts of money to the financial institutions. This is your money that you allow governments to spend. In Britain we have the notion of take-home pay. Whilst the salaries offered appear very good competitively in the world, what we actually take home is significantly less. As we grow up with this it is accepted, and every five years we vote for “a change of clothes” to decide which part of the corporatocracy takes our money. I remember the sale of the state silver. After the second world war many aspects of society were nationalised, North Sea oil, utilities etc., to remain in power these organisations were sold off to the private sector by the government. I never received any money for them yet I was a part owner. At the same time I remember that they were sold off cheaply to encourage more people to buy shares. Share prices rose quickly so that those who bought made a quick profit encouraging more to buy. Those who had the money basically took from other citizens who did not. Was this decision based on the genuine interest of all of the UK people at the time? There are many examples in which government decisions benefit the private sector – the 1%, the best way to understand what is happening is to see the consistency within government actions. Whilst words of politicians might sound democratic and supportive of the 99%, the results of their actions consistently support the 1%. We need to seek approaches which effectively work for the 99%. The biggest tool the 1% have is compromise. Many of the 99% are aware of the political realities of the 1%, and compromise for the money they believe they need to survive. Let us consider what Nature gave us to survive. Originally there was land and materials that we were able to use to build homes for protection. From the land earlier humans were able to find food, and as people grouped together this free land and food were appropriated by the more powerful. This accumulation of land led to control of others as they needed homes and food, the people’s labour was used to obtain the needed homes and food, initially as serfs. Once money changed the means of trade from barter, this servitude changed to wage-labour which is fundamentally the system we have now. I consider it wage slavery. As we grow up the education system develops an acceptance of this wage slavery, we are brought up to agree that we pay for homes and food that was initially given us for free as part of Nature. We grow up in a community, and the community agrees that we have to earn money to pay for these originally free gifts of Nature. You can step back and watch as corporations find more and more to charge us for. Increasingly for example water that flows freely on this earth is being charged for whether as bottled or from the tap, watch Blue Gold. Such is the way we have agreed to be exploited, but it needn’t be that way. The greatest way we have been exploited is that we agree to consume far more than we need, not only is that consumption of basics such as food and home but unnecessary consumption such as escapism through entertainment and drugs. Why do we need escapism when Nature provides us with Natural Beauty? Thay sees the solution to global problems as community building, in his Plum Villages he works in a community that does not need much consumption and enjoys the Beauty of Nature. Thus greatly limiting the exploitation of the 1%. But outside of such communities what do we do? We earn money for our lifestyles and are forced to compromise as I have mentioned to earn that money. But in that compromise we have accepted to perform actions that are highly immoral, and we accept it because “it’s only business”. In appendix D I have listed what Buddhists know as magga – the 8-fold Path discussed in ch 12. Included in this magga is an appropriate code of conduct that has moral integrity – sila. Under these generalised moralities I find an appropriate integrity but it matters not to chose this morality – find your own morality. But first and foremost in our work we need to attempt not to compromise this morality. Fundamentally what compromises this morality in the workplace is a high level of consumption in our personal lives, that then leads us to desire higher wages that increases the compromise at work – increases the immorality. Because of compromise we accept immoral actions as part of our labour. We all do it, and we say “it is only business”. Because each and every one of the 99% does it we are in the state we are in.
Most significant of this is the planet. Climate change is affecting the world, some regions more than others at the moment. Historically the damage to the environment has been purveyed by the corporations of the 1%, but they refuse that responsibility, and stall climate change talks such as COP talks. Naomi Klein has come up with a 6-point plan of action discussed here. But every day compromised workers add to the climate damage because they are doing what the corporations require of them. This cannot continue. Whilst the 1% are controlling nearly 100% are acting harmfully, and that needs to change. It is time to understand that compromise means collaboration with the 1%, and it is time that we start a process of ending this collaboration.
This is very easy to write but it is far from easy to put into practice. The first thing that will happen is that the 1% will sack us – undoubtedly. Be prepared for this. Minimise consumption, and then there is less need for the money that traps us. Once you end your compromise you become happier as the immorality of the compromise is what eats at our soul and creates the despair that Thay talks about here. No amount of money can buy happiness it only comes when we are free, and that freedom I will discuss in ch21.
Let me be clear, in many ways I do not blame anyone for compromising. I spent my life in teaching compromise. At teacher training I learnt that education meant to lead out, and in my teaching I wanted to bring out the best in all my students. I failed miserably in this because of the compromises I was forced to make in what I have called the corporate paradigm of education. Because I fought some of the time I maintained some integrity but in truth in retirement I feel a sense of dirtiness at all the compromises I made. I always site as my education reasons for retiring early as careerism and profiteering - and in my teaching career it was the careerism that I feel particularly angry about. Whilst the 1% exert influence on education through benefaction such as the Broad and Gates Foundations, what should have been a moral livelihood that uplifted humanity became completely compromised by those who sought careers and power with the education system. As soon as education authorities introduced change to move away from education principles, in stepped minions on the career ladder to implement. When you stood up for principle these careerist minions stepped in, carried out the actions of the 1%, and ignored that much that is humane and considerate to others to do so. “It’s only business” became in education “it’s my career”, and much immorality was justified. Such needs to end for education.
And such needs to end in corporations. CEO’s might give the orders but it is corporate minions that enforce. Rather than wages being money to provide basic needs, corporate minions climb the ladder immersing themselves in the particular corporate structure. The careerism of this collaboration enacts all that is immoral, and we get climate change and so much more. The level of collaboration with the profit-making at all immoral costs has been increasing drastically throughout my working life. From what might have been considered as 9-5 Monday to Friday is now far longer including work at home. And it is not moral work but work to increase the profits of the 1%. This level of collaboration needs to be reigned in, morality needs to be reintroduced into the workplace. And it can only be done by moral people taking up the gauntlet.
I choose the word collaboration intentionally. In a wartime scenario people are shot for collaborating with the enemy, I’d be rather stupid to recommend that. But what I want to stress is that many of the people who work within corporations and whose attitude of immersion in corporate culture need to be seen as collaborators and somehow treated accordingly. These corporate minions are “selling their souls” collaborating with the 1% who are damaging the planet for their profits whilst they hijack the economy just so they can put extra zeroes in their bank account.
The word compromise flows into the position of collaboration and in this world we are always forced to compromise. Originally we might have been able to live off the land building homes, eating Nature’s food, and partaking of Nature’s beauty. But this has mostly been taken away from us as we are forced to buy land, pay for homes, pay for food (usually processed to cause disease), and encouraged to seek consumer entertainment rather than enjoying what Nature has to offer. The point is how near this Natural state of free consumption can we aspire to? Of course our choice is limited and we compromise, then compromise turns to collaboration for those who want to consume more, bringing us to a world on the brink of disaster.
For a long time I have believed that the world is safe, and that the 1% live in a world of brinkmanship; why would they want to destroy what provides their profits? In the back of my mind I have watched these people exploit the world. I have seen them pull back from a nuclear holocaust, the Berlin Wall came down, so whilst I don’t hold them in much esteem morally I have always believed that they play brinkmanship and will pull back from global disaster. This brinkmanship has changed since my political rebirth because I have come to realise that the 1% are sick. They are so addicted to their profits and power they have lost control of themselves. Would you trust the world economy to alcoholics or drug addicts? Of course not, knowingly. But these 1% are addicted differently, but the result is the same. The desire for a drink is the raison d’etre, a drug addict needs a fix and will do anything to get it, and the 1% must increase their profits irrespective of the consequences. It is for this reason I have not attacked them, they are addicted, they are beyond human recall as are the alcoholics and drug addicts. It is only when they go cold turkey, can they rejoin the human race and work with us as One. Some have managed this. Gore Vidal gives us great insights into the lives of the 1%, and Foster Gamble has made efforts to move away from his background in favour of sponsoring “Thrive”. But these members of the 1% are very scattered – few and far between. For the most part the 1% live in expensive enclaves protected from the world they have ravaged. Appealing to their humanity doesn’t work, they are pariahs. As with all addicts we need to eschew them from our lives until they rejoin the human race – ONE planet.
But sadly until then we are forced to compromise with their addiction. If we live with addicts their addiction rubs off. Children of alcoholics have alcohol problems, drug addiction passes through generations, and so addiction to power and profits is almost congenital. For those who accept corporate culture, the collaboration becomes part of the addiction, and we also need to cut ourselves off from the collaborators – at least collaborators are not 100% addicted as the 1% are. Maintaining a principled compromise with addiction is very hard, and the addiction will cause conflict so I don’t envisage change starting by a principled compromise because the conflict is too much. Moral alternatives need to come first, and these alternatives need to come in by working outside the existing structures. I have called these Mindful Consumer Networks, and I referred to this mindful consuming in the oneness of ch12. Once such networks exist the principled compromise can say “use our labour with integrity or we will find an alternative”. Without the alternative no compromise with principle can exist, and compromise will continue to suck us into collaboration with the addictive consequences.
There are two key aspects to Mindful Consumer Networks – money and products. First and foremost as explained in ch16 ordinary money is risky. Money that is controlled by the 1% cannot be guaranteed as they print it when needed, and eventually its value must collapse and they will take theirs first. So mindful transactions need to develop from a traditional basis of barter, and money introduced from there – as the Argentinians did with creditos. For transactions to be carried out with an alternative currency or through barter is the only way that those transactions can be free of the impact of the 1%.
Occupy showed us the way with products as they clearly have shown ecological soundness through consuming organic produce. Occupy farms also held out hope when they linked with the organic movement. For good health we follow the Zandtao tenet:-
Improving your body.
To do this it is better to eat organic food as discussed in Chs 6 & 12, this is mindful consuming for health.
Skills-bartering can also hopefully occur through this sort of network, and conceivably Occupy can formally begin skill-bartering – the Argentinians did during their currency crisis when the government locked the people out of their bank accounts.
Significant in such Occupy and other networks needs to be consensus democracy. From what I understand of it, the food cooperatives that grew out of post-hippy disillusion are democratic, but that needs confirmation – not the scope of this treatise. Certainly they need to reflect on the democratic guidance that has grown out of Occupy, and they can take the lead from Argentinian cooperatives as described in The Take (F12).
Once such alternative networks are functioning, there is a future for people forced by their skillset or otherwise to make their compromise principled. Put an end to what is now socially-accepted collaboration through being employed by the 1% that is leading to the destruction of our planet.