Saturday, August 20, 2016

Politics of fear.


I first wrote this post roughly a year ago. Since that point the songs haven’t changed much but some of the fine tuning has. The also-rans faded away and we are now left with a single choice for Republicans vs. a single choice for Democrats. From time to time I revisit my posts to see if any have legs that continue to walk. This one does so I’m reposting to remind myself and others of the basic issue at stake.

 Unless you’ve been away on a distant planet, out of communications with people here on earth, you know the race for a new U.S. President is in full swing. From now until the swing culminates in November of 2016, the media will be dominated with news, debates and cat fights from both candidates vying for the position of POTUS. Much of what each has to say about the challenges humanity faces and their anointed solutions, will be a reflection of how each of us assesses our domestic and foreign fears (which are awesome in both scope and magnitude). That being the case it’s worth repeating a post written more than two years ago concerning the more fundamental question of how we humans make decisions when thinking about solutions to any challenges, foreign or domestic. Are we basically seeing life through the lens of peace or fear? The lens we hold will determine the outcome of the election and world affairs.

Years ago I made a choice to attempt to persuade a formidable audience who knew little about Zen, and even worse, regarded it as some esoteric religion with no meaningful applications in our everyday world: a fool’s errand most likely. The first order of business was to correct some tightly held misunderstandings. If I could accomplish that, then I might be able to point out how the philosophy emanating from a proper understanding of Zen does in fact greatly influence our everyday world, and the opposite: how our everyday world functions lacking this understanding.

Since that beginning point I am most likely still spinning my wheels in the starting gate and my audience lingers under the influence of powerful forces that are largely destructive. It is very challenging, in the midst of such overwhelming forces, to rise above the fray and see where this unenlightened road to oblivion is leading: fear keeps us blind. It would seem that the human race is so wedded to fighting over differences that it may be embedded in our DNA.  I’ve wondered about this during the years since I took on my challenge and now it would seem that social scientists are also considering the possibility.

In a New York Times blog written now more than three years ago, Tom Edsall—professor of journalism at Columbia University and political commentator writing on events inside and outside of Washington—grappled with controversial perspectives from a cross section of social scientists who are researching the matter of “genopolitics:” the premise that we are hard wired to see life through defined prisms that determine our political perspectives and affiliations. His article was inconclusive but ended by saying, “With so much riding on political outcomes—from default on the national debt to an attack on Syria, to attitudes toward climate change—understanding key factors contributing to the thinking of elected officials and voters becomes crucial. Every avenue for understanding human behavior should be on the table: how do we evaluate our goals? How should we judge trade offs? And just how do we actually make decisions?” I couldn’t agree more. Indeed every avenue for understanding human behavior should be on the table, and that takes me to the focus of this post.

So long as we remain ignorant of the fundamental basis of being human, genopolitics or not, will make little difference and I (and many others) will continue to spin our wheels. The only relevant question is this: What is the fundamental basis of being human? And the related question: What happens when we fail to understand this central issue? The answer to that last question is painfully obvious: We continue on with the same failed behavior, dictated by fear, as always—we fight over differences, to our mutual destruction. All of us are riding in the same boat, enlightened together with the unenlightened. There are not two boats, only one, and how we collectively behave determines the outcome of us all. And to the first question, the fundamental basis of being human: Unity. Underneath all is our unity. As wise men have noted in the past—when water is subjected to the freeze of negativity, it turns to divided ice crystals. Heat ice with the warmth of unity and it turns back into indivisible water. We are all fundamentally water. After that nature and nurture can and does shape us into divided conclaves.
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