Collective Unrest


Material Madness

May 6, 2019

As the modern world, this ‘high point’ of our civilisation, slides inextricably towards its own self – constructed demise, it does so, characteristically missing the point. That being, that it is we ourselves, the ordinary people, who have taken each other to this point, not just the politicians, bureaucrats, bankers and the usual scapegoats, for they too are people. We are all ordinary people. All responsible. For buying goods on credit. For buying the inexpensive plane tickets to fly cheaply and conveniently to a Mediterranean island holiday. For wanting cheap, mass-produced clothes, that to be affordable must be manufactured by dangerous factories employing children in the far east and the subcontinent. 

Why would the poor of Africa and Asia not think similarly to the way we in the west do and want to buy into this illusion of the ‘better life’ in Europe? Why would they not risk the lives and limbs of themselves, their family and friends, to make these perilous boat crossings from war-ravaged north Africa to a Greek or Italian tourist resort? We in the west sold our illusion to the world, that our models of democracy and economics are correct, progressive and therefore advantageous for them and for their nations to adopt and replicate.

Western populations have bought into this system of electoral cycles and the promises and lies that accompany it for centuries, time and again, election after election and continually complain about it. We dislike our politicians but vote for them. We dislike the banks but use them. We dislike war but demand strong armed forces and secured borders. We demand the best services but are unwilling to pay for them. We form the armament companies and develop the weapons that are sold to the countries ravaging themselves. It is our politicians’ constituents that demand their governments protect local jobs in such industries, indeed bolster and subsidise them from taxpayers money.

For their interminable hypocrisy.

We are essentially immaterial entities experiencing the material world. At birth, we are material and continue to be so until death. In between, we are creating and experiencing material things as being real, tangible and meaningful. We force them to become physical realities so that we can better understand and experience them. Even with ideas. Even with religious or philosophical metaphors. This tragic misconception even straddles the usual boundary that is assumed to exist between the Abrahaminical faiths and those faiths that have emanated directly from Hinduism.

Buddhism, specifically the western converts to it, talk of Xanadu, the mythological Buddhist utopia, Shangri – La. For many that ‘city on the hill’, was and remains Lhasa, capital of Tibet, now governed by the officials of the Chinese communist party. The tragedy here is not so much on who are the rightful governors of that beautiful high plateau, rather that the adherents of the Buddha’s teaching are able to consider Xanadu to be a real, physical place rather than a spiritual place. A place in the soul of the believer that can never crumble or decay, that will never be conquered and sullied. This utopia is within not out with. It is found by traveling far and wide within oneself, within one’s own nature until it is discovered.

Jews and Christians have made this same error trying to find this Xanadu, although they call it Zion. This dogmatic and determined desire to manufacture a physical nation out of a philosophical notion, that was conceived to liberate from the physical, material state, is actually entrapping the hearts and minds of adherents. Enslaving and ghettoising.

The Dalai Lama recently asserted that when the crisis is over, the refugees should return to their places of origin, for that is where they belong and that the continent of Europe belongs to the Europeans. Belongs? To be attached to? That is the very antithesis of Buddhist teachings. This of course, from the lips of the same enlightened being who told in an interview on an Indian TV channel, that George Bush II was the most compassionate and likable of all the world’s players that he’d met throughout his decades as the leader of the Tibetan government in exile. Quite incredible. Who else had he met?

People must not look at the hypocrisy of their media personalities, spiritual guides, political representatives or whomever else can be found to carry the can. They must look at themselves, for as individuals we keep these systems in place, these people in power. We keep it going because we continue to buy into the comfort and the modernity and the idealism of the illusion.

Look inward before looking outward and See with the heart and not with the eyes.


Steven Douglas Keith is a Scotsman living for twenty years in India, an essayist, artist and a poet. His work seeks to find the commonalities between cultures and specifically the religious traditions of the orient and occident. He can be found @K_el_ph.

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