Tag Archives: Flood Wall Street

Pope’s Visit: Spiritual Power Challenges the Brutal Treachery of Capitalism

This piece, in support of Buddhist Peace Fellowship’s initiative, Slavery on Wall Street: Race & Roots of Climate Injustice (100 Wall Street, 5 pm EDT, Sept 23), coincides with the Pope’s visit to the USA, his call for a fairer and more compassionate world.

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The reality of an economic order built on white supremacy is the whispered subtext of our entire response to the climate crisis, and it badly needs to be dragged into the light. Naomi Klein (This Changes Everything Capitalism Versus the Climate)

A recent article by Tom Engelhardt, Is a New Political System Emerging in This Country offers a diagnosis of our post 9/11 world. He names five areas that constitute a world shaped by the “New American Order.”

  • 1% Elections, the Demobilization of “We the People.”
  • The Privatization of the State
  • The De-legitimization of Congress and the Presidency.
  • The Rise of the National Security State as the Fourth Branch of Government.
  • The Demobilization of the American People (taking the power and teeth out of popular dissent in the guise of protection from “terrorism.”)

In his summary, “The Birth of a New System,” he argues that we should find a name for our new political system. One shaped by five Supreme Court Justices in 2010, when Citizens United legalized a government by millionaires, billionaires, and corporations.

Wall Street icon

A report released in January 2015 by Oxfam, Wealth: Having It All and Wanting More records the current flow of wealth-predicting the top 1% will have more wealth than the remaining 99% of people in just two years. I would call such a system a feudalistic, corporate plutocracy.

An unethical and unregulated billionaire corporate power is now the overarching influence on the destiny of most nations, peoples, species, and the Earth itself. In the face of this, we are losing the struggle to reverse the collapse of a sustainable flood_sign-615x760world, and to protect life from being a means for profit only. To unravel the inequities of our current economic system, which is based on the privilege of inherited wealth, we have to go back in history to see that the astonishing rise of capital wealth within Europe, from the late 15th to 19th centuries, was rooted in the African slave trade, alongside rapacious colonization of lands rich with spices, minerals, gold and all manner of tradable goods. Contemporary African American artist Nona Faustine  comments on her art activism, From Her Body Sprang Their Greatest Wealth, Standing at the exact spot (Wall Street), where they sold Native and African men, women, and children 150 years ago… I found myself at the curtain of time between two eras, past and present. I went into a deep reflection.

To reflect on the roots of our American Eurocentric privilege is truly sobering. By the conclusion of 400 years of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, Europeans and Americans had enslaved and transported more than 12 million Africans to the Americas and West Indies.

The grand stately homes, which are dotted across Europe, and the sweeping plantations, estates, and magnificent city buildings across America are, brick by brick, constructed from immense exploitation of Africa, Asia, and First Nation People. Tracing back the roots of our current economic system to the oppression and servitude of people of color, and semi-indentured working classes, helps us understand an ingrained mindset that justifies the acquisition of wealth through deeply corrupt means. This mindset employs the extreme objectification of the “other,” as so different from us that it is perfectly acceptable to deny rights, and exploit to the full extent, including subjugation through murder and extreme violence.

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Source – (Ref: JCB_01138-1 as shown on http://www.slaveryimages.org) compiled by Jerome Handler and Michael Tuite, sponsored by Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, and the University of Virginal Library.)

British novelist Barry Unsworth captures this act of distancing in his novel Sacred Hunger, which is focused around the slave trade, Picturing things is bad for business… it can choke the mind with horror if persisted in. We have graphs and tables and balance sheets and statements of corporate philosophy to help us remain busily and safely in the realm of the abstract and comfort us with a sense of lawful endeavor and lawful profit. And we have maps.

Rediker, author of “The Slave Ship: A Human History” comments, “Unsworth describes a violence of abstraction that plagued the study of the slave trade from its beginning. It is as if the use of ledgers, almanacs, balance sheets, graphs, and tables – the merchants’ comforting methods – has rendered abstract, and thereby dehumanized, a reality that must, for moral and political reasons, be understood concretely. Numbers can occlude the pervasive torture and terror, but European, African, and American societies still live with their consequences, the multiple legacies of race, class, and slavery. The slaver is a ghost ship sailing on the edges of modern consciousness.”

Fast forward to now. The use of everyday items, including computers, iPods, and smartphones, are directly linked to a global culture of colonization, servitude, and an extreme lack of environmental responsibility. Every time we use a mobile phone, we handle “conflict minerals,” states Frank Piasecki Poulsen in his report from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where, “children are regularly used to work the mines, and the profits continue to fuel a silent, and rarely mentioned war that is the “bloodiest conflict since the Second World War.” The minerals are then shipped to China to be processed for our everyday use. Xu Lizhi, a 24-year-old migrant worker from Shenzhen, committed suicide on September 30th, 2014 by jumping out of a window at Apple’s mega factory Foxconn.

Xu Lizhi
Xu Lizhi

This is Xu’s poem:

A Screw Fell to the Ground

一颗螺丝掉在地上
A screw fell to the ground

在这个加班的夜晚
In this dark night of overtime

垂直降落,轻轻一响
Plunging vertically, lightly clinking

不会引起任何人的注意
It won’t attract anyone’s attention

就像在此之前
Just like last time

某个相同的夜晚
On a night like this

有个人掉在地上
When someone plunged to the ground

Apple Foxconn ‘city’, China, with netting to prevent suicide, thus mirroring the netting on slave ships to prevent slaves leaping overboard. (Photo, Thomas Lee.)

Apple Foxconn ‘city’, China. The netting is to prevent suicide; thus mirroring the netting on slave ships to prevent captives from leaping overboard. (Photo, Thomas Lee.)

Foxconn

The language of poetry and personal narrative colors in names, faces and stories of the “ghostly ships” that are the cogs within our profit-making machine. In doing so, they move us from abstraction into shared human sensibility. It is empathetic attunement to the “other,” rather than the “violence of abstraction,” that initiates a journey of reassessment regards the systems we inhabit. Empathetic resonance is vital, as it shifts us toward a more equitable world that moves beyond self-concern to an awareness of interconnection.

Max Planck, the founder of quantum physics, said, all matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of the matter. We are beginning to understand the implications of what Buddha taught 2,600 years ago, summed up by Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, We are here to awaken from the illusion of our separateness.

There is no ultimate separation between “self” and “other.” Insight into the seamless nature of reality is an essential catalyst for evolving from a species driven by greed, fear, and violence, to one that understands harming “other” ultimately harms “self.” In reality, we are truly interwoven together within a unified field of awareness.

Net of Being - Alex Grey
Net of Being – Alex Grey

Quantum theory, in accordance with Buddhist philosophy, implies that there is no exact, static objective reality. Instead, all phenomena arise within our awareness. When we don’t see the co-arising seamless dynamic of subject-object; that both arise in relationship to each other, then our subjective experience becomes defined by the gain and loss of “objects,” or people, events, things, and possessions.

The primary focus of Buddhist practice is to alleviate the experience of the suffering that comes from dualistic consciousness, which distorts this deeper reality, through insight into the true nature of mind as pure, unconditioned, “conscious-awareness-knowing.” Dogen Zenji expressed this insight when he said; enlightenment is the intimacy of all things. When we feel the natural inter-connection of all things, we notice and experience the deeper love that moves through sentient life. It is awakening into this reality that supports the radical shift needed to bring about the climate, racial and economic justice that our authentic heart desires (Part two to follow)

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Spiral Speak – Sam Brown

The Challenge of Climate Catastrophe to Axial Age Religion

I’ve just finished reading Chris Hedges piece “The Coming Climate Revolt.” His closing paragraph is daunting.

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Gathering for Flood Wall Street

The response of the corporate state is repression rather than reform then our strategy and our tactics must be different. We will have to cease our appealing to the system. We will have to view the state, including the Democratic Party, as antagonistic to genuine reform. We will have to speak in the language of … revolution. We will have to carry out acts of civil disobedience that seek to cripple the mechanisms of corporate power. The corporate elites, blinded by their lust for profit and foolish enough to believe they can protect themselves from climate change, will not veer from our path towards ecocide unless they are forced from power. And this means the beginning of a titanic clash between our corporate masters and ourselves.

Hedges preceding words detail a grim litany of usurped power by the “corporate state” that “perpetuates the facade of democracy.” Why I feel so daunted by Hedges diagnosis is that much of it unfortunately rings true. In the face of corporate and oligarchic power once again I feel like a Hobbit journeying to Mordor. I would like to stay in the Shires and not have to venture further into a terrible journey of confrontation, struggle and risk.

hobbits-at-mordorI am also reluctant to move to this “reality check” while still coasting on the good feeling of our Peoples Climate March and its hopeful buoyant joyful exuberance.

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For now, I’m still digesting the impact of the last week as well as the implications of the challenges ahead. In the midst of that I’ve been talking with friends and teachers about our “Buddhist” piece in all this. Basically, we seem to agree that the reality of our current times is going to profoundly challenge Buddhism along with other Axial Age religions which forged many evolutionary shifts in their time. These focused on an individuated experience and relationship with the divine/ transcendent while also connecting that to an inner moral imperative. However they also shaped a profound split with nature in the tendency to posit “salvation” and “nirvana” as apart from this world.

While Buddhism has followed its own evolutionary arch which dissolved that fundamental split in texts like the Heart Sutra, it is still deeply embedded in the philosophical template that sees the world as samsara and therefore “bad, seductive, lesser and corrupting.” It is this fundamental split and the rise of a patriarchal — earth and female averse — religious doctrine that contributes to our catastrophic and perilous situation.

Rev angel
Rev angel

Fast forward to this last week. I listened to Rev angel Kyodo williams at Shambhala New York talking a straight message. Rev Williams explored “de-white-ing” our collective conditioning. While an obvious reference to skin color and the entitlements of “whiteness” she made the point of including everyone in our “whiteness” focus. The decolonizing of the mind means moving beyond our tendency to characterture and package everyone according to painful social and racial conditioning which generates the inability to actually see each other. In response to her talk, a young African American woman gave the example of arriving at the meditation center where another attendee said to her and her black friend, “Oh the fun people have arrived.” This was painful because immediately the young woman was objectified and stripped of depth, gravitas and seriousness. While it may have been a clumsy attempt to reach out, it actually gave the message “you are other.”

When it comes to the revolution that is needed to ensure our collective survival, we have to understand that part of the problem is our chronic “othering” which denies the reality of a seamless web of life. At Flood Wall Street I was interviewed (a rare occurrence I assure you) and found myself talking about this “othering” as a crisis in consciousness that underpins our energy crisis. We have to stop seeing the earth, the world around us, and the vast diversity of peoples, animals and creatures as apart from ourselves, our tribe and our “special entitlements.”

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Bhikkhu Bodhi @ Flood Wall Street

This new evolutionary arch is summarized brilliantly in Zenji Dogen’s statement Dogen-zenji[1]Enlightenment is the intimacy of all things. Buddhism, when at its best, has never divided evil and good but sees the origin of all dualities within our own mind. We have not launched holy struggles against “evil” but seek to purify our own heart and transform our own consciousness. In doing so, the Buddha engaged Kings and Generals and he sought to stop wars and social injustice. But he did so from an inclusive consciousness.

So blog pieces should not be too long. To be brief here. While I believe Chris Hedges analysis – we have to have a revolution that takes down a rogue fossil fuel state machinery – how we do this is critical. We saw this last week that people power is indeed a brilliant power. We also saw that when it coalesce diversity, youth, grandmothers, indigenous peoples, workers, leaders, people of faith, and a variety of concerned citizens across the globe with creativity, joy, focus and determination, then we have found ourselves a movement. A movement that expresses our new evolutionary edge.

We are warriors and we do have a battle to engage; but we will not default to hatred and violence (though we may feel both impulses.) And it is at this crux that Buddhism has a valuable offering to make. I hope we can get beyond our tribal sangha competitiveness, our narcissistic introversions and sanctioned quietism, our inner splits and entitled “whiteness,” and our fear of the sacred feminine enough to meet the coming wave. Our work is cut out!

Santussika Bhikkhuni carrying a banner made by her 6 year-old grand daughter
Santussika Bhikkhuni carrying a banner made by her 6 year-old grand daughter

The week the world changed by thanissara

Pause and take a moment to realize what a phenomenal and unprecedented happening has occurred across the globe this week in support of immediate climate action. We are witnessing the birth of a people power united across race, geography, faith, class, gender, expunging all other socio-colonial-patriachal defined “isms.”

Climate March in New York

We the people have walked and we now speak for a reality which has been dangerously twisted, distorted, denied and suppressed by the corporate-fossil fuel-oligarchic owned media agenda. This reality is catastrophic climate chaos is upon us, it is real, it is happening, and if we don’t act now, we will destroy the biosphere and render the earth unsustainable for all life. There as no one on the 2,700 marches across the globe, or the 400,000 marchers in New York City that didn’t know this to be true.

London marching
London marching

The march was a statement for political leaders gathering right now to talk our planetary future. Take another moment to watch this stunning opening offering from 26 year old poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, from the Marshall Islands at the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit. As world leaders hash it out in the UN Climate Action Summit, we need to acknowledge the true leaders that are among us which is the First Nation Peoples who led our 4 mile long (7+ kilometers) people march through the streets of New York. They know the territory, they understand the disease and they have the remedy.

They have the remedy because they also understand we all have the remedy. We know this when we listen beyond our colonized minds to hear the deep, urgent impulse of sanity that is aligned to the heartbeat of the earth, of the ancestors, of the animals, and of the total web of life. This is the deep feminine primordial mother earth who births all things and who cries out to us now, each of us, to hear her urging. Stand up and be my protector. Do what you can, embody the sacred masculine and be a warrior-lover of the earth, of each other, of our best heart.

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NYI

So dear friends, our task is before us. We must take the inspiration of this historic moment in the climate movement and bring it into our lives while also speaking out to share the message the best we can. While there is no turning back, it is important to remember we are doing this together.

As a Buddhist practitioner it was especially great to see a strong gathering of cross denominational Buddhists turn up to align forces with People of Faith. The determination I felt on the march from those stepping out alongside me was palpable. We must go forward and work hard to secure our collective future.  As we do so, we will see game changers happening.

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BB

Already as the momentum for change is building, results are coming in. Divestments from the fossil fuel industry are happening fast. Yesterday it was announced that Rockefeller’s divested $860million, the World Council of Churches representing 590 million people in 150 countries have divested, 30 cities in the USA, Stanford is dropping coal holdings from its 18 billion endowment funds. (C’mon Harvard, you can do it!) Especially love Dogs for Divestment! Meanwhile investments in renewables is the leading edge in the market.

What’s happening is a eco-re-evolution. When we tune into this our life will start changing, inwardly and externally. As the truth is all things are interconnected, the coming years of this energy and consciousness re-evolution will impact us all in destabilizing, challenging and positive ways. So time to put our practice to use as we connect with refuge, community and our own inner spirit and guidance.

Yesterday I observed Flood Wall Street and had the honor of hanging out with David Loy most of the day as we walked with this activist happening. David was not averse to getting arrested (I was not  up for arrest – not right now anyway.) As we became surrounded by police and as the march moved into a “sit down” David and I went for coffee, aware that it was turning into a long day with an inevitable outcome.

Polar Bear gets arrested
Polar Bear gets arrested

As those on the front line aimed for the belly of the beast, our capitalistic-addicted-steriod-crack-pumped-disembodied-bull-market-machine, (commonly called The Stock Market), David and I talked Buddhist fem-eco-activist-evolution. More about that later, meanwhile, here’s David’s talk from the Eco-Dharma conference in August, Tale of Two Icebergs.

David & DaRa (from NY Insight)
David & DaRa (from NY Insight)

I’m going to finish off by reverting once again to my dear friend Gayle Markow and her “bring it home” advise, after the great joy of walking with a million+ people, across the world, for our mother earth.

Today was truly remarkable because of the really Huge numbers of people that did turn out, their enthusiasm, their creativity, their diversity (in the positive extreme), the enormous positive energy of this march that went on an on and on and on, it was fulfilling and hopeful.  And we All have a lot of work to do to save our Home, our planet, our Mother Earth. This magnificent demonstration was the culmination of much planning and organizing, but Only the Beginning of the Serious Journey to be undertaken. May we all go forward shoulder to shoulder. Much love from NYC. 

I echo that – Much love from NYC – what a city! What a week!

TT