On the Ethical Dilemma of Dharma in the Secular World
A materialist conception of history, ruled by laws of causal Nature, leads to the setting up of usefulness-ideals such as “enlightenment,” “humanity,” “world-peace,” as aims of world-history, to be reached by the “march of progress.” But in these schemes of old age the feeling of Destiny has died, and with it the young reckless courage that, self-forgetful and big with a future, presses on to meet a dark decision. —Oswald Spengler, in The Decline of the West
One of the main themes of this blog, especially over the last year or two, is the problem of Dharma being incompatible with political and social realities. This is one of the most important issues for lay Buddhists in the west, methinks, and so I’d like to ramble about it a little more today.
Buddhism, and Theravada Buddhism in particular, is uncompromisingly pacifistic. This is largely due to the subjective ethics of early Buddhism: right and wrong are not matters of some God Almighty’s decree, and they are not even utilitarian matters of whether or not we cause suffering to others through our actions or inaction: rather, right and wrong in early Buddhism are purely subjective, a matter of human psychology, and more specifically a matter of volition or will. If our volitions are violent, then we are making unskillful, unwholesome, or “bad” karma. Consequently, it is more virtuous, according to Theravada Buddhism, to watch a murderer kill another person, or even a thousand people, than to use violence to stop that murderer. An ordained Buddhist monk is permitted to “strike out in self defense,” but not with intention to cause harm; he may struggle to escape his assailant, but if his choices are kill or be killed, then the virtuous and proper thing to do is to die.
This sort of attitude is clearly not optimal for a person living in the world with people (like children) relying on him for their safety and wellbeing. Of course this is why the most serious practitioners of Buddhist Dharma are urged to renounce all family and social obligations, to opt out of society, and to “go alone like the horn of the rhinoceros.” Any man living in the world who is worthy of the term “man” may have to defend his family, his friends, his neighbors, and his country (not to mention himself) if their safety and wellbeing are threatened. He may be required to exercise violence, preferably without hateful motives but rather a sense of justice and duty, possibly even to the point of killing fellow humans.
Consequently the notion of a totally nonviolent Utopia is unrealistic, especially if there are warlike non-Utopias remaining in this world. Such a Utopia, like the matriarchal agrarian societies that allegedly existed in the prehistoric world but were wiped out by warlike patriarchal ones, may sound very nice in theory, but empirical reality ALWAYS wins out over utopian theories in the long run, regardless of the feelings of dogma-driven Buddhists and low-testosterone leftists.
Some globalist lefty types have insight enough to have an inkling of this ugly fact, despite the fact that acknowledging certain ugly facts is taboo for the new indoctrinated left. It may be that, like seminaries teaching bleak facts about the authenticity of the Bible that the lay congregations never hear, the globalists at the top of the embryonic Brave New World Order realize that the entire world must be domesticated and emasculated in order for world peace to be even plausible. There are definitely problems with even a peaceful global Utopia, however, as Aldous Huxley tried to point out almost a century ago in his prophetic novel Brave New World.
In order to have a peaceful global community we must make people not only nonviolent but practically incapable of violence. This is what the Karens, female and male, who run various western countries are aiming at when they want to disarm all populations, with the only people remaining with guns being servants of the Government (and non-government criminals, but utopian theorists tend to gloss over that part).
But what happens when an entire population becomes incapable of violence, even when there are no warlike barbarians threatening the borders? A society of emasculated sheeple will simply collapse from the weight of its own effete degeneracy, even without the barbarians helping it along. No amount of female and feminized politicians, tending to the population at large as ignorant and needy children, is going to keep a nation, or a global community, strong and healthy. As is stated in the cycle of history, strong men make good times, good times make weak men, weak men make bad times, and bad times make strong men; and I seriously doubt that the billionaire financiers and the politicians and economists that they own will ever break the law of this cycle. A kind, gentle, compassionate world sows the seeds of its own destruction. This is an ugly fact.
So, we should look back at history to see what works best, not to utopian theorists and their theoretical futures. It turns out that EVERY prosperous, successful society began with tough, aggressive men and women. The founding fathers of western civilization, the Indo-Europeans, were warlike and aggressive as hell—in fact it was a custom for teenage boys to become semi-outcasts from their tribe and to live as predators on other tribes. Much later, the Greeks and Romans sealed the deal by turning violent ass-kicking into a veritable science: not only did they develop relatively fair and just governmental and legal systems, but they excelled at fighting and defeating their enemies and rivals. Thus did the Greeks defeat a huge Persian invasion force, outnumbering them ten or twenty to one; the ten thousand hoplites of Xenophon’s Anabasis marched to Babylon and back, most of the way through very hostile territory; Alexander with a few tens of thousands of soldiers defeated the world’s most feared and powerful superpower at the time; the Romans, who were ignorant of naval warfare, audaciously went ahead and defeated the world’s predominant naval superpower in the first two Punic Wars; and the British were able to conquer and rule the largest Empire in history with a relatively few well-trained and well-armed soldiers.
This sort of masculine, tough, occasionally violent approach to government and politics is clearly the most successful from a historical point of view. It is true that now, with nuclear weapons especially, all-out war is not much of an option, for obvious reasons; but on the other hand, feminine and feminist degeneration into soy-ingesting hipsters is at least as dangerous. Allowing mommy states to deprive entire populations of the right to follow their conscience (whatever conscience that survives indoctrination), defend themselves from common criminals AND tyrannical governance, hear ugly truths, exercise free speech, and so on produces a kind of prison planet inhabited by weaklings and degenerates. The weak and timid would say that such a Brave New World would be preferable to even the risk of nuclear Armageddon, even though they may perversely endorse NATO encroaching on the Russian borders and cheer on the ensuing fight. They may endorse nonviolence and some semblance of human rights, even though they support, directly or indirectly, the Chinese Communist Party, who of course are aiming at world domination of a very non-Utopian sort. As Jordan Peterson said, we should be able to be monsters, and then NOT be monsters; but even the possibility of being violent is too much for the Karens attempting to control the world.
I have written before on ways of directing masculine aggression in ways that are wholesome, or at least not detrimental to society. Sports, the military, working at a tough job to support one’s family, even bullfighting and bringing back dueling and voluntary gladiatorial combat, could be effectual in producing a tough, vibrant, prosperous, and arguably honorable postmodern western civilization.
Still, there are people who wish to live in accordance with Dharma, and consider dying to be preferable to killing. Hell, some are so saintly that they even consider dying to be preferable to stealing or lying. The world definitely needs such people. But if they reach a certain critical mass in secular society they will result, ironically, in the degeneracy and ultimate death of the entire society. Consequently the ancient Indian tradition of the uncompromisingly dharmic in society renouncing society altogether and becoming contemplative hermits is a good one. For those who would not fight to protect their children but have children anyway, the best we can do is to keep them at a safe and stable minimum, not grant them much honor, and avoid at all costs a critical mass of such semi-saintly people.
The strange thing is that I was a devout pacifist in my early years, and became a radical renunciant monk for thirty; yet I have to admit, acknowledging ugly facts, that a prosperous society requires aggression, occasional violence, and the rise and success of the fittest, and that compassionate protection of the weakest, and even letting them vote, is a recipe for decline and inevitable fall. It is truly a dilemma for me, and I do not adopt this view out of a liking for violence and aggression. I adopt it because it appears to be true.
I have found that some people, especially on the feminized left, have little use for empirical objectivity, and assume, in an accusing way, that acknowledging ugly facts means one subjectively wants them to be true. So if I say that women are less capable, on average, of governing effectively, or that some ethnicities, on average, have different cognitive abilities than others, such folks would accuse me of believing this data because I want women or certain ethnicities to be a certain way. But to acknowledge, say, that we are all going to die does not mean that I want everyone to die. The left, I suppose, has always preferred theory to ugly empiricism, though lately they have left empirical reality behind with, their inability to define what a woman is, their insistence that the best person for the job should not be hired, but that such an attitude is racist, and so on. I suppose the truth is sexist and racist, not to mention homo- and trans-phobic, to say nothing of Islamophobic—and I suggest that rejecting ugly truths for the sake of equity and political correctness is just hysterical and deluded.
APPENDIX: A LITTLE STORY ABOUT MEN VIOLENTLY AND HONORABLY PROTECTING THEIR CHILDREN
“When I was nine years old (1955), I spent a Sunday afternoon at a friend’s farm near a lake. We played outside all day and in the late afternoon went down to the lake. A man who was well known to us was there in his fancy speedboat. He asked us if we would like a ride. Woohoo! Sure! Then he said that the very large boat was “too small” for all of us and he could only take us one at a time.
“I was a logical little girl even then and it was obvious to me that the boat would hold at least six. Alarm bells went off, but I was so innocent I didn’t even know what to fear. I had been warned of Stranger Danger, but the man was not a stranger. He took me first. Somewhere in the middle of the lake, out of sight of the shore, he turned off the motor and my little heart sank. I thank the dear Lord that what he did, though disgusting and terrifying, was not as bad as it could have been. He made me promise not to tell, under threat of being thrown overboard. I could not swim. It took me 20 years to lose my fear of deep water.
“We came back to shore and I tried to warn my friend without alerting the monster. Shaking my head ‘No’ and trying to use my eyes, I said softly, ‘Let’s just go play.’ But, naturally, she wanted a turn too. For decades I harbored guilt that I had failed to prevent her abuse. He did exactly the same thing to her. Afterwards, we ran to the farmhouse, crying. Her mother realized something was terribly wrong and asked us what had happened. We told and a virtual bomb went off. She ran into the field where her husband was on the tractor. He ran back to the house and called my father. Though the farm was about 8 miles from my house in town, Daddy showed up in less than 10 minutes. With a loaded shotgun, God Bless him.
“They separated us and questioned us intensely, lest we were just two imaginative little girls making stuff up. Our stories were identical and unshakeable. They got in the car with two shotguns and went to the man’s house. He denied it, but our Daddies said if they ever saw or heard of him coming within a mile of their daughters again, that they would kill him. I told; I was believed. Daddy took care of it. I learned that there were bad men and good men who would protect you. I also learned always to trust my instincts, my gut. A forever lesson.” —a woman who calls herself Ammo Grrll, on the Power Line Blog