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Comments on Society from the Peanut Gallery

The Lie

This is written mostly from my own frustration at seeing what is happening in our society due to the influence of advertising and the competitive marketplace.  I am not averse to competition, but whenever there is competition for anything, people look for advantage.  In battle or in the marketplace, if one can’t win with brute force, one resorts to deception.  Deception has been raised to an art form, with specialists dealing with political and economic appearances.  We have grown accustomed to a society where gray zones of ethical conduct in business, economics, politics and personal affairs are the norm and expected.

The big lie is a lie that we live inside.  It is the constant, background of exaggeration and hyperbole we see all around us every day.  Advertisements pushing the latest product make claims that are right at the edge of insupportable.  Corporations look for ways to make their bottom line appear as rosy as possible to investors, even if they are really on the edge of bankruptcy.  Politicians constantly are putting favorable spin on their own remarks and negative spin on those of their adversaries, to the point that our media needs to do “truth reports” or background checks on what is said.  We succumb to the lie ourselves when we apply for a new job we may not be qualified for or find ourselves before a court of law.  Yes, our court system fosters this in advising the defendant to always plead not guilty, even when the evidence is obvious.  Get a good attorney, plead your case and come out with a lesser sentence.  It’s the way our society plays with truth.  There is an unstated message that everyone picks up quickly, if you don’t play the game, you will pay the price.  We expect to be fed a lie, and then react accordingly, with skepticism and often cynicism.

This constant sifting through to find the reality under the message is a weight we carry all the time.  Our whole society is burdened by this extra baggage, this energy load on our thinking and behavior.  Since it is so pervasive, there is a feeling that we need to partake in this behavior ourselves in order to be competitive.  Children grow up quickly loosing their innocence to the burden of the living lie.  Even the most talented of our athletes are not immune.  It is so rampant that we really don’t see it most of the time.  We simply accept that life entails some level of deception.

I would venture that most people would love to live a life unburdened by the constant barrage of half truth in our marketplace, politics and daily life. Religion has failed in this regard, with no discernible change in human behavior in the last 3000 years.  Governments have not had any better luck. I am fond of saying we really don’t have a Democracy as much as an Economy.  Much more of our life is dominated by economic conditions than political. We would like to think we live in a society governed by higher principles than behaviorism, but I don’t see the evidence.  Admitting we live in an Economy that revolves around the dollar, the only real way to change this state of affairs is to reward those that stick to the reality of truth and financially punish those that insist on feeding us stretched reality and outright fabrication.


Suffering or the Desert Dessert
There is a common thread among all Buddhist paths that says there is suffering and there is a way to end suffering.  That path is the way of selflessness.  Selflessness from the standpoint of putting others first and also from the view of emptiness, where the self is seen as part of the larger concept of all things being illusion and empty of intrinsic reality outside of relationship.  There is also the element of dissatisfaction with accumulation of wealth, attachment to the physical world.

This theme has been the justification for self chosen poverty and a detachment from the materialistic world.  Yes, there is a lot of suffering, and sometimes the endless pleasures of the material world are a catalyst for suffering.  But we see just enough examples of people enjoying their wealth, with fewer worries than most people, acting responsibly and philanthropically, that it acts as an unscheduled, intermittent reward in the economy.  This is the most powerful motivation scheme in behaviorism.  We see few get the reward.  We see it happen at random.  Therefor, there is a chance, however slight, that we may one day end up in the same position. Everything from lottery tickets to the Small Business Assistance Program enforces the American Dream that anything is possible, and you to can be on easy street one day.
So at least in this society with our economy, selling the idea of samsara is a tough sell.   Yes, everyone will admit there is a lot of suffering going on, that everything changes and most people are paranoid about their own aging and eventual death.  But selling an agnostic that doesn’t believe in an afterlife, on the idea that they should forego immediate material wealth for a better life next time won’t cut it.
I know this is off base as far as dealing with the everyday hang-ups of most Americans.  We can greatly lighten our karmic load if we simply detach from much of the stuff and relationships that create the craving that drives us nuts.  It’s finding the balance between simply collecting stuff long past the point of diminishing returns, and having functional stuff that doesn’t become an albatross around our neck.  In fact I think it might be better to have fewer things that satisfy my needs, than work with a succession things that were purchased as a good deal and never lived up to the hype, creating a craving for the one I should have bought the first time!

The craving for something better is, of course, coming from within.  We think we need or deserve the latest and greatest thing, or justify our need on some activity that will require the features and functions of our new toy.
It IS all in our heads!



Posted on Monday, May 7, 2012 at 01:30PM by Registered CommenterStephen Bosbach | CommentsPost a Comment | References1 Reference

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