How Would the Buddha Vote?

By Tom Pepper

This is election week in America.  What would the Buddha say to us about the presidential race? The initial reaction of the x-buddhist would, of course, be that he would not mention such things.  Buddhism, they tell us, is not political, it is concerned only with personal well-being and awakening.  Of course we know that this is absurd, that the protagonist of the Pali canon was a frequent advisor of political rulers of his day and had a lot to say about proper government, that everywhere Buddhism has existed for over two millennia it has been thoroughly involved in politics right up until 1959, when the Dalai Lama was the political ruler of Tibet.  The myth of apolitical Buddhism was invented in the West, especially America, only in the last half-century, when the supreme arrogance of the Baby Boomers led them to believe that the Buddha, if he had any wisdom at all, was surely teaching their dominant ideology: the postmodern insistence that politics are not to be taken seriously, that it is only personal comfort that really matters.

So, leaving aside the apolitical nonsense, how would a Buddhist vote?  Given Buddhism’s long history of political involvement, one would assume this has been discussed in sanghas around the country, right?  Buddhists certainly aren’t afraid of offending people with inconvenient things like political reality, are they?  And all that wisdom must offer some insight into the best choice to make for the future of America and our global empire…er, I mean allies in capitalism.

So, what do we think, Buddhists: how should we vote?

To be honest, my initial reaction, as a communist, is that we should vote for Romney.  If he were to win, and be able to accomplish what he hopes to (of course he wouldn’t be), the ensuing economic catastrophe would greatly speed the radicalization of the increasingly impoverished majority.  (I am one of those who still believe that if Hoover had won in 1932 America would have been communist before WWII ever got started).

However, it might be worth giving it a little more thought.  After all, what are we really voting for here?  One candidate who is sponsored by high finance and the industrial conglomerates, and another who is sponsored by the media outlets and the universities.  We can choose between the candidate of the owners of the economic means of production, and the candidate of the owners of the ideological state apparatuses.   Would they really be all that different?  The one thing we can learn here is that there is a struggle, in global capitalism, over whether it is the base or the superstructure that is determinant in the last instance—or at least a struggle over which function the political apparatus serves: to produce ideology or guarantee profits.

In The Meaning of Sarkozy, Badiou (yes, him again) points out the absurdity of the electoral process:

Rejecting Illusions always means reorientation…Voting in general, and in particular the vote proposed to us today, is a state mechanism that presents disorientation itself as a choice…disoriented minds are convinced of the great importance of voting.  So they go and vote for one or the other of the indistinguishable candidates…The government, which would not be very different if it were chosen by lottery, declared is has been mandated by the choice of the citizens and can act in the name of this choice.  Voting thus produces a singular illusion, which passes this disorientation through the fallacious filter of a choice.

What is the goal here?  It does not matter who wins, what matters is only that enough people vote for the government to pretend to have been chosen—and that enough of us participate in the delusion that it is really important who wins, kidding ourselves that it will really change something.  Thus, voting is not “political” in any real sense of the word, it is ideological, but the worst kind of ideology—the kind of ideology that requires delusion.

It is my position, then, that the proper Buddhist response is not to participate in perpetuating this delusion.  After all, isn’t the goal of Buddhism to reject illusions? We should refuse to vote not because Buddhism is apolitical, but because it is much more political than the American electoral process.

Non-buddhists and x-buddhists, how (why?) would you vote?

64 responses to “How Would the Buddha Vote?”

  1. mollylayton Avatar

    It makes a difference to me that Romney/Ryan would work to make abortion illegal. I was college-age in the early Sixties, and unless you had the money and resources to get over to Sweden, you could be stuck — bound, fixed, alone — with an accidental pregnancy. Women dropping out of college. A friend’s mother dying in an illegal abortion procedure. I don’t know about rejecting illusions here. Seems illusory to wish for a big revolution (there’s an imaginary event!) when we have choices right in front of us. Perhaps this is a women’s argument, to repair and restore the dignity in everyday life.

  2. Shabe Avatar

    Tom, thanks for another thought-provoker. I suspect, though, that many people will share Molly’s perspective. In our voting behavior, most of us tend to give a nod to the ‘big picture’ but often act in response a particular issue that is central to us. If I was a citizen of the US and either candidate was committed to abandoning the ‘war on drugs’, for instance, I would vote instrumentally, because of the issue being one I think causes immediate and widespread suffering. I regard the electoral process as a mockery, but nevertheless voted for the first time in my life last year for Canada’s only Green Party presence in our parliament, because I think that the collapsing environment is likely to cause widespread suffering in the coming years, and she is a single issue candidate who speaks to it. However, stepping back, I think you are right. A similar but non-Buddhist piece is by Norman Pollack in the 25 October issue of ‘Counterpunch’ and titled ‘The moral case for silence’. I think you will enjoy it.Here is an abstract:
    “From the liberals’ standpoint, what could possibly be worse?I submit, perhaps Barack Obama could be worse. It is not that he fails to transcend the Dark Ages of American capitalism and its rapacious behaviors, but rather, that he has, in ways that speak to a sophisticated corporatism which already has created societal foundations detrimental to America’s root democratic professions of freedom and human rights. Obama, more than his predecessors, is the quintessential spokesperson for a mature capitalism in which government, as custodian of the public interest, is under assault from the forces of privatization, now gathering as a tidal wave which he is blithely surfing. The leader of government presides over its transformation into an annex of Wall Street. Really, a transmogrification, both of government and society, knit together in callous disregard for both economic and ethical constraints on greed, extremes in the distribution of wealth, and the widespread privation created by a political economy of market idolatry and financial chicanery”.

  3. mollylayton Avatar

    Women’s rights are not 1) just women’s issues and 2) a mere “nod” to the big picture. They are in fact the big picture. There’s nothing more subversive then women having a vote, getting an education, controlling their own bodies. All these gains influence the cultural direction toward a less corporate and more communal project. That’s why fundamentalists cringe: they sense real change, it reads as “anarchy” and “indulgence,” and it gives them the willies. But others can be worse: they don’t even notice or value women’s rights, don’t see the centrality.

  4. intarsia Avatar

    So they go and vote for one or the other of the indistinguishable candidates…

    Yes, American political discourse pretends to encompass all options while in fact presenting very limited choices. But as a woman–a lesbian at that–whose income is in the bottom quintile, I cannot pretend that Obama and Romney are interchangeable. I agree that President Obama will extend the life of our current iteration of capitalism by making it more bearable than it would be under Romney, but I can’t say that saddens me. I use ‘iteration’ advisedly: the capitalism of 1848 is not the capitalism of 2012 because social change occurs through repeated discontinuity and adjustment as well as (and more often than) through contradiction and revolution.

  5. Glenn Wallis Avatar

    Tom. Your statement “the ensuing economic catastrophe would greatly speed the radicalization of the increasingly impoverished majority” brings to mind Nick Land’s idea of “accelerationism. Land says that accelerationism is that condition in which capital “attains its own ‘angular momentum,’ perpetuating a run-away whirlwind of dissolution, whose hub is the virtual zero of impersonal metropolitan accumulation. At the peak of its productive prowess the human animal is hurled into a new nakedness, as everything stable is progressively liquidated in the storm” (Thirst for Annihilation, p. 80).

    Benjamin Noys has another version of the doctrine, which he explains as: “an exotic variant of la politique du pire: if capitalism generates its own forces of dissolution then the necessity is to radicalise capitalism itself: the worse the better. We can call these positions accelerationist.” Noys gives these examples of accelerationist thought:

    Behaviourism is a psychology which begins with the needs of commodity production in order to develop methods with which to influence buyers, i.e., it is an active psychology, progressive and revolutionizing kathode (Kathoxen). In keeping with its capitalist function, it has its limits (the reflexes are biological; only in a few Chaplin films are they already social). Here, too, the path leads only over the dead body of capitalism, but here, too, this is a good path.

    Roland Barthes
    There is only one way left to escape the alienation of present-day society: to retreat ahead of it.
    Pleasure of the Text (1973)

    Galloway & Thacker
    One must push through to the other side rather than drag one’s heels.
    The Exploit: A Theory of Networks (2007)

    Ray Brassier gave a talk on Nick Land’s view. Here’s a transcript

    In this context, one of the consequences of the reactionary-buddhist doctrines of people like the Batchelor’s, the Buddhist Geeks and their roster of assorted x-buddhists and x-spiritualists, the Secular Buddhists and their roster of “friends,” the Three Glossies and their mishmash of kumbaya-buddhists, etc., etc., etc., is that they teach their followers to drag their heals. I think you got it exactly right: they are concerned with one thing only: their own comfort. Ignorance of the charged political consequences of certain classical Buddhist teachings is one thing. Right-speech induced gutlessness is quite another.

  6. Craig Avatar


    so, how do we push through rather than drag our heals? one way i deal with fear-based political ideals is to be totally sarcastic and take it to the extreme. ‘if you don’t practice right speech you will literally go straight to the hell realm.’ if you vote for obama again you will be interred and the government will come and take all of your stuff.

  7. Tom Pepper Avatar
    Tom Pepper

    How do we avoid dragging our heels?

    By constantly pointing out the error and delusion of the majority. Molly and Intarsia are convinced that they must vote, that it is vitally important to their rights as women that they do, and that it is “pretense” to say it makes no difference, it is “illusory” to think we could ever have real change. They cannot see that the goal of the electoral process is to alternately offer and threaten their rights as women, so that they will feel that the only important thing to do is vote. It would never occur to them that we should, or could, have a world in which one does not have to identify as a member of an oppressed group in order to demand one’s rights. So they vote, and perpetuate the system which continues to threaten their rights, they keep their rights under threat and allow their rights to be something we must endlessly vote for.

    And we need to somehow overcome the idea that living in this delusion is “facing reality” while any attempt to change it is somehow a childish and idealistic “illusion.” Or the absolutely ludicrous idea that “social change occurs through adjustment” instead of violent upheaval. Capitalism today has exactly the same structure as it did in 1848—it has merely “adjusted” without changing: today, the “people of the abyss” (to use Jack London’s name for them) live in the southern hemisphere, instead of on the other side of town. Today, capitalism is one big global system with no more new lands to conquer. But its structure is the same—adjustment is not change. All real change requires violent upheaval—look at the centuries of war and millions of deaths it took for capitalism to become a world-wide universal system. Of course, from within the capitalist ideology, these were necessary wars to civilize savages or stop evil—if only everyone had accepted capitalism immediately when it was offered to them, there would have been no need to massacre the population so India and Africa, to decimate the population of Europe in two World Wars, to invade Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf, etc. Capitalism did not come about, or grow to its present state, by peaceful and rational “adjustment”, but always and everywhere through violent military action.

    How do we stop dragging our feet? We try to get people to let go of these powerfully seductive illusions. I would suggest that this is why Buddhism is so difficult—not because we cannot reach some mystical jhana, but because our illusions are so strong, and we love them and the suffering they bring us. Buddhist thought asks us to let go of these attachments to our illusions, and handle the truth.

  8. Tomek Avatar

    All real change requires violent upheaval—look at the centuries of war and millions of deaths it took for capitalism to become a world-wide universal system.

    Tom – and I’m saying this to provide some balance to your narrative – you better return, for example, to Isaak Babel 1920 Diary, to recall yourself how a “violent upheaval” might look like, before you start to brag about your neo-Czeka phantasies. I’ve got here, in the nearby woods a somber relic of those times in the shape of mass grave … Come here and I’ll show you more such relics left by those that played here, on these bloodlands, with communist ideals and razed the country of my parents to the ground.

  9. Tom Pepper Avatar
    Tom Pepper

    Tomek, Once again, I cannot make sense of your comment. I don’t know what you take me to be “bragging” about–am I bragging about the hundreds of millions of deaths required to make capitalism a global economic system? Do you take me to be somehow “proud” of this violent upheaval? It clearly occurred–my point is that the change was not a matter of gradual and reasonable amelioration. I don’t know what the “country of your parents” is, but if you mistake Stalinism for the only alternative to capitalism, you are just another capitalist reactionary ideologue. Don’t be such a fool–the idea that we can choose only between universal capitalism and Stalinism is the great capitalist myth of the 20th century–one that most college students today fortunately were never taught (they mostly don’t know who Stalin was, or even what the “cold war” was). We make the horrors of the cold war into relics to reinforce this great capitalist myth, but the remains of those massacred by the capitalist wars are forgotten.

    Real change will require dramatic upheaval in our culture, not gradual and painless amelioration. But real change can always be prevented by the slow deterioration of the standard of living of the majority. Right now, most of my students have never known a good economy, and believe there has never been a social system in which one could expect things like health care, jobs, a decent house. They cannot even imagine that one could earn a decent living by working at a job, so it is not surprising they are apathetic about their education.

    I think that realistically, if Romney could do what he wants to do, it would be a wonderful disaster. However, his government will be run by Goldman Sachs, just like Bush’s was, and they won’t let him do what he says he wants to do–they will make sure the impoverishment of the 98% is slow enough that they accept it, that their education deteriorates enough that they can’t think of an alternative. As sudden shock like 1929 is too dangerous.

    This is why the alternative is to wake people up to reality, and help them see their delusions. It is also painful–clearly, Tomek, you are as terrified of and resistant to truth as Molly or Intarsia or so many Americans. This is what I would like Buddhism to do–not comfort people with more illusions, but force the truth into appearance.

  10. Noel Avatar

    Thanks Tom.
    Most buddhists will probably argue that we have to vote for the least harm, from which point of view your vote for Romney/ acceleration is right out, but as I hear your point, participation in the grand illusion is a contribution to the greatest harm of all. But even if you wholeheartedly believe in voting, it’s clear that it’s just a gesture. Non-voting is just a gesture as well. If we look into our refrigerator we see all sorts of reflections of our participation in the political system. We’re embedded in it. So how do you suggest we live this rejection of illusion?

  11. mollylayton Avatar

    I am always alert and interested when anyone talks about “real” change. They are already shaving their analysis. In this case, what on earth must they mean, if the “illusory” change is a vote that results, say, in a culture in which women cannot control whether they become pregnant. Hmmm, got to weigh it: this outrageous life-hijacking pregnancy vs. some far-off, highly-unlikely violent revolution that depends on the most violent, “successful” people (read: men), the “winners,” keeping their heads long enough also enact empathic, communal, decent, respectful social organizations. I dunno. There’s not much to convince me here. But I would be interested if anyone has in mind countries that have in their foundations violent revolutions leading to a just, life-affirming non-capitalistic organization. I’d pay attention to that.
    It’s also interesting to be told what I “cannot see,” and even told what would “never occur to [me].” Maybe that rhetoric is projective, maybe it’s mind-reading (good luck), maybe it’s paternalistic. What it is not, is helpful.

  12. Tomek Avatar

    Tom (# 9), you first call yourself a communist and then you negate this “absolutely ludicrous idea that ‘social change occurs through adjustment’”. Next, you say that “violent upheaval” (which you now rename to merely “dramatic”) is required for a real change – real, as in the case of “millions of deaths it took for capitalism to become a world-wide universal system.” But saying so, you cunningly do not mention how the “real change” can look like when a communists dictatorship get a grip on the history and spread its version of the “violent upheaval”, hence my reference to Isaac Babel Diary – by the way have you read it? If you have, you may know what the “country of my parents” might be and you may also know that it was Lenin, not Stalin who was the red tsar at that time, what the Comintern was and what bold targets it had …, those thousands of slaughtered peasants and petit bourgeois Jews to spread the revolution abroad… So don’t tell me that I “mistake Stalinism for the only alternative to capitalism.” And please do not fuck about saying that “We make the horrors of the cold war into relics to reinforce this great capitalist myth, but the remains of those massacred by the capitalist wars are forgotten.” Who are those “we”? It’s rather you who tend to forgot what the idea of communism can be turn into. You probably don’t have the slightest idea what it means for the masses to actually live in a gradually and relatively painlessly transforming culture, that for decades were terrorized by utopian ideas.

    Your raves about slogans such as “violent upheavals” and “wonderful disasters” sounds pathetic to me who was actually born, lived, and eventually witnessed the disaster of one of those ‘wonderful’ eastern European communist utopias, called then, democratic peoples republics. I bet that if the real tanks park in front of you house, you’d quickly miss the coddling embrace of the old familiar capitalism and it’s stuttering shock doctrine. But why talk about tanks right away. You’d probably miss it just after couple of weeks of wiping your pseudo-communist ass with nothing else but old, nasty newspapers, if you only had any…

  13. Tom Pepper Avatar
    Tom Pepper

    I certainly don’ forget what has been mistakenly labeled communism, any more than I forget the horrors committed by capitalism.

    And Molly, you demonstrate again that you cannot see exactly what I said you would not be able to.

    The same tired right-wing rhetoric: There is no real change except the personal, those who hope for substantial change are immature and cannot deal with reality. Communism caused a death that I experienced personally, so it is evil and we must always remain capitalist. And of course, there has never been a communist state, so there can never be one. It’s always the same old tea-kettle joke: First of all, there have been communist states and they were evil, so we don’t want one; second, there has never been a communist state so it is childish to dream of one; and third, the only thing that matters is the personal, so who cares about communist states anyway?

    Noel, you ask how we live the rejection of the illusion, but here we have evidence that the very suggestion that this is an illusion provokes unreasoned anger, stupid arguments, and the same tired appeals to personal suffering that any change will surely cause. We can’t live the rejection of the illusion until we can get a few people to actually reject it–so first try to undermine the power of these delusions! The point is that voting isn’t “just a gesture”; many people are intensely invested in it–as they are in the idea that capitalism is natural and any attempt to deviate from it is evil. I pointed out Molly’s error, and look at the response: she cannot even address the argument, but simply resorts to the woman’s right to abortion, as if the election might somehow impregnate every woman in the country against her will–she will not address the function of elections to threaten our bodily rights exactly to keep us afraid of significant structural change. Tomek goes into a fury at any questioning of the glories of capitalist “freedom,” and always has “personal experience” as his only argument–he has, of course, never mentioned the enormous suffering occurring throughout the world right now to support capitalism, that is invisible, the dead in his country are a “relic” to worship. How can you think, then, that voting is “just a gesture” for these people? Are the military actions carried out by the government because it has the mandate of the voters also “just gestures”? What if it didn’t have any mandate at all?

    Don’t rush to “live the rejection.” Almost everyone in the United States still lives the illusion. Breaking these illusions, at the cost of infuriating the reactionaries, is the most important thing to do now.

  14. Craig Avatar


    I think we need to just walk past the dragon, not fight it. we don’t have to. maybe it’s not even there. my arguments are simple and people have nothing to do but react to them….everyone has whole food to eat, everyone has safe comfortable housing, everyone has medical care and war is no longer an option.

    i think i’m getting what you are saying though, tom. i feel the pull to ‘get into it’ when it comes to politics etc. abortion, taxes, gay rights. but when i stick to the basic points above, everything else seems ridiculous. not sure if i’m free of the illusion at all. i can’t even make comments about it in my own house with out someone telling me to settle down. i am very curious about what ‘living the rejection’ might look like though. i feel stuck. however, that’s probably the illusion talking.

  15. Leum Avatar

    While I agree with you that the political system effectively treats everything but economic liberty as a carrot (Dems: vote for us and we’ll give you marriage equality* Reps: vote for us and we’ll repeal Roe v Wade) and stick (Dems: vote for us or you’ll lose your right to contraception Reps: vote for us or you’ll pay an income tax rate of 150%), I also don’t think voting is entirely meaningless or pointless. Yes, ideally we’d have a massive recognition of the horrors of the capitalist system and a revolution (I think this might be accomplished bloodlessly, you don’t), but in the meantime the carrot and the stick aren’t irrelevant. Which party controls the government does have an impact on our lives. It affects how likely we are to go to war, the amount of attention paid to climate change, whether the safety net will remain at its present (already pitiful) state or be weakened as far as it can be**, the rights of minority groups, and so on.

    Harm reduction is not a bad thing. I don’t think the possibility of a wake-up call where people demand change is worth the damage that will be done by the GOP should they seize the country. And largely for the reason you give that a Romney victory wouldn’t be such a wake-up call: the system is designed to prevent things from getting that bad. That doesn’t mean that they can’t be made worse, that oppression can’t be increased. Voting is a way of pushing back against the oncoming tide. It won’t effect huge long-term change, but we can work for that long-term change without risking plunging the country into right-wing control

    *The focus of the LGBT rights movement on marriage equality and DADT over ENDA and assisting people affected by discrimination is itself a sign of the influence of capitalism

    **The safety net’s existence is important to the Powers That Be because it prevents hunger riots, and while it will never be made strong enough to give people security from unemployment, the Republicans will weaken it for certain.

  16. mollylayton Avatar

    Whoa. It’s never-never land here. Reminds me of the classic psychoanalytic response to a client who says to the therapist, But that’s not true for me. And the therapist says, There you go, denying my [superior] grasp of your so-called reality.
    So I’m an oppressed person who in my blindness doesn’t see that I’m perpetuating the system that makes me beg for my rights? How about being an oppressed/not so oppressed person who has no trust whatsoever in Plan B, grand, heroic plans to wipe out the old, bring in the new? Show me, I say, show me a society that has progressed via violent revolution into a decent, pragmatic, empiricistic (word?) culture of respect for all. I’d be interested.
    I’m thinking of the Kalama Sutta here, how thrilled I was first reading the assertion of the right of free inquiry, its radical empiricism.

  17. mollylayton Avatar

    Also, on more reflection — and Tom is good at stimulating thinking — I see that I am saying that Tom has a belief in the efficacy of violent revolution whereas I have a belief that violent revolution leads to its own kind of horror. Me, I’m interested in the data.

  18. Tom Pepper Avatar
    Tom Pepper

    Mollylayton: I’m not saying you are an oppressed person, or that your particular rights are in danger–my guess is that neither is the case, or you wouldn’t be so attached to preserving the capitalist system. Since every single society known to man began with violent revolution, I don’t know how to answer your question–violence is necessary, even if the revolutionaries don’t commit it, those in power will kill as many as possible before they give up. America was founded on violence and oppression, and the wealthy won’t give up their control without first trying violence. Your logic is just idiotic–since violence begins every society, and there is not yet an ideal society, we are therefore best off accepting our oppression? How sad.

    My response is to your asinine capitalist rhetoric–I have no doubt you live a comfortable life of privilege, which is the reason for your parroting this nonsense and refusing to think, for your terror of truth, and the tired old crap about women being mature and dealign with reality while men won’t grow up and deal in abstractions and violence–the same sexist ideology that keeps women from being able to change the world, that keeps them constantly in danger of losing their rights and at the mercy of male politicians. You offer sexist capitalist ideology, and then feel offended because I suggest you might be unaware how oppressive your ideological position is–okay, you’re fully aware, you’re a sexist capitalist ideologue on purpose, have it your way.

    Leum: this is the typical response of the deluded. You need to believe it really makes a difference who you vote for, because you would hate to be put in a position to have to make some real change. Then you can claim to be working toward gradual change that will never happen. There won’t be a “bloodless” transformation, because there is already blood being shed every day right now to keep things the way they are–don’t be such a fool. It just isn’t being shed in the suburbs of America. And violent upheaval is absolutely necessary–it will be very unpleasant, at first, to make real change, to give up things like private property and two cars in every driveway and the monetary system, and those who have the money will go down fighting. I would like it to be otherwise, but those with the most invested in the system are the ones who are most attached to their delusions and the first ones to reach for a gun.

    Craig: what is living the rejection of illusions? Right now, it is simply being willing to find out the truth and to continue to challenge people with it. They will relentlessly give you the “moderate” line, that a little delusion is good for the ignorant; or the postmodern line that you are a fool to believe there is such a thing as truth, that it is a matter of opinion what caused the financial collapse and there is not “truth” to be found–they will conflate ideology with reality and then deny the very existence of reality. Speaking the truth relentlessly in the face of this enormous resistance of the reactionary subject is the only way to live without illusions.

  19. Tom Pepper Avatar
    Tom Pepper

    RE 17: I wouldn’t say efficacy, but inevitability. And yes, again, violent revolution gave us America–the decimation of the native people, slavery, manifest destiny, war with England, France, Spain, Mexico–so clearly it produces its own horror, and we are living in it.

  20. mollylayton Avatar

    Oops, our postings crossed in the mail.
    I stopped reading at “asinine,” and “comfortable life of privilege,” which despite Tom’s coming to a party at my home, he has no idea what my life is like, nor what goes into my thinking. He could ask, but that would get him into curiosity and investigation.

  21. Tomek Avatar

    (# 13) “Personal experience”, this is precisely that what you lack Tom. If you had some of that ‘violent’ experience, you would quickly see – and here let me use what you said to mollylayton above – that “you live a comfortable life of privilege, which is the [very] reason for your parroting this nonsense…” about your caviar communism. I wish that you could be part of that “substantial change” that you yearn for so much in your naïve phantasies and joined the masses that used to be forced to ‘adjust’ in order to accelerate the historical necessity.

  22. Tom Pepper Avatar
    Tom Pepper

    Re #20: Molly, try reading at least to the end of the paragraph before you respond to it. I am responding to your capitalist rhetoric, which is wrong regardless of you personal experience. Your own life experience, and what “goes into your thinking,” may explain why you are attached to these illogical, sexist, and reactionary ideas, but no personal experience in the world could make them correct. Your want “data” to prove that there has been a successful and permanent communist state arising without violence in the wake of the collapse of global capitalism–and if there is not hard data to show this has already been done, you insist it is mere illusion. Can you honestly not see how stupid that is? I don’t believe you are that stupid, that you really cannot grasp, for instance, how somebody could be deluded exactly about their own personal experience, or how something might be possible which has not yet occurred (what, you want to cure polio? Show me where it has been done before–otherwise you are just another infantile man living in a never-land illusion–I’ll deal with the reality of the disease!). You are reacting stupidly out of fear.

    Re 21: Tomek, I have all my life been a part of the “masses that ARE forced to ‘adjust’ in order to accelerate the historical necessity.” That is how capitalism works, and I have enough experience watching people starve in the streets in the richest country in the world to prefer my “naive phantasy” of trying to change things to your insistence that we must let people suffer because there is no alternative. I am still a Buddhist, after all, and I really do believe that removing suffering is the most important thing in life.

  23. Tomek Avatar

    Tom, I take it for granted. You certainly might encountered a lot o shit living as cog in the capitalistic society, but man, don’t make fool of yourself invoking those old Leninist slogans such as “violent upheavals”, etc, because whatever you experienced on your “individual” level living in this richest country in the world, you’re still far from imagining what it has been to live as a cog in the terrorized social structures created by Marxists ideologues of the past.

  24. Tom Pepper Avatar
    Tom Pepper

    Again, and for the last time, Tomek, what happened in some fascist state in the past is not a convincing argument not to change the world now. I’m sure you are a survivor of the Stalinist horror, as you claim, and mistake, as so many did, Stalinism for communism; as so many also did, you mistake capitalisms ability to isolate the horrors it causes in another country not covered by the media for evidence that it doesn’t cause any such horrors. You have the typically naive belief that capitalism is “natural” and equivalent to “freedom,” and repeat the same moronic unthinking rhetoric every time this naive belief is questioned, closing your eyes to any evidence, hoping for your shot at the American millions. “Imagining” a life worse than the one we live know is a useful tool to produce fear of change, but it is not evidence that we live in the best of all possible worlds.

    Please keep in mind that in the old USSR, because of the need to participate in the world economy and so in the world monetary system, the economy was not communist, but state-run capitalism, which is the definition of fascism. We should learn from Lenin’s error in allowing what he thought would be “limited’ capitalist business in the Soviets, and try not to repeat it. Instead, you want to use this as evidence that doing exactly what the USSR did, having state run capitalism in America (which we are moving toward), would somehow work out better this time. Don’t be a fool–you need to analyze the causes of the problem, and not stop at the level of cheap emotional rhetoric.

  25. Noel Avatar

    In a world of gridlocked ideologies and rancorous dialogue it’s difficult to imagine that the unique Buddhist contribution would be “speaking the truth relentlessly in the face of this enormous resistance of the reactionary subject.” What good is it to be “right” and point out the flaws of the world without a means to embody and demonstrate an alternative?

    Anyone can recognize aggression when they see/hear/read it, and aggression is what arises whenever one enters into the polarities of the political realm, which is clearly why Buddhists shy away. I’m very excited by your call to lean into this real world with a Buddhist perspective. How we do so is the question. I don’t think we should be afraid of aggression. But just adding our own brand and labeling it “truth” is self-immolating.

  26. Tom Pepper Avatar
    Tom Pepper

    Noel: Embodying an alternative is fine, if you have a few people who are no longer powerfully entrenched in the delusion that capitalist ideology is a universal truth. Otherwise, who would do the “embodying”? Do you know a group of such people? If so, then go for it! I, however, don’t know such people. At most, I can think of half a dozen that I know personally.

    I wish it were the case that “anyone can recognize aggression.” Even this is giving a lot of credit. Most x-buddhists are enormously hostile, quite willing to see the majority of humanity suffer for their personal comfort, and they call this “metta.”

    Your post even portrays the same postmodern ideology that I am arguing against. There are not “brands of truth.” You mistake ideology for reality, and truth for just another opinion. There are many ideologies, and most people do mistake their ideologies for “truth,” but the first step is to get out of this ridiculous relativism, in which we all have our own “truth,” and there’s no point arguing about it. We have to demonstrate that ideologies are in fact humanly constructed, not universal truths, and so can be changed, but that there is truth separate from a particular ideology/World in which it appears. Labeling our “own” ideology “truth” would, in fact, be the greatest mistake. But pointing out the unalterable truth that we all have ideologies and can change them is not just adding one more option to the postmodern soup of relativism–it is adding truth. The goal isn’t to point out “flaws” in a world, but to point out how certain ideologies, which are ideologies and not “human nature” or “natural law”, cause a great deal of suffering, and can be changed. If you know enough people (a dozen? a hundred? how many would it take?) who understand that money is an ideological state apparatus, that individualism is a illusion, that we are completely an effect of social structures not an atomistic mind/brain that can “freely choose” to interact socially, that freedom itself is just a term for the absence of real choice–if you know enough people free of these delusions, then by all means, start “embodying and alternative,” and let me know where you are, I’ll join you.

    First, work on getting over the illusions of postmodernism: the belief in absolute relativism, that there is no “truth”, and that it does no good to be “right”; and the belief that we are in a post-ideological age, where everyone is already free of their illusions. (And, perhaps, the belief in “voluntarism” as well?)

    Buddhists don’ “shy away” from hostility–I know plenty of Buddhists, and most of them are far nastier than I have ever been on this blog, when you suggest that Buddhism shouldn’t be a way to blind oneself to the suffering of the world. They “shy away” because that is exactly what they want Buddhism to be, a way to produce private bliss while avoiding thinking about the suffering their lifestyle entails.

  27. matthewmgioia Avatar

    Hi Tom. I voted for Jill Stein, because that is a more direct (if admittedly flaccid and sloppy) demand for fundamental change than not voting. Does boycotting place you in opposition to the system? Will you not merely be counted as one of the 90 million people who didn’t vote? How are those 90 million interpreted? As communists who didn’t vote because they recognize the brutality of capitalism? Is that what they are? Is it not possible to agitate for fundamental change (by ruthlessly and constantly lifting up delusion) while voting (for candidates who advocate fundamental change)?

    I’ll be totally open here: I have limited resources of knowledge and I’m certainly naive politically – I’m sure I don’t understand what you even mean by “communism” (and the small sampling of Marx I have read was very difficult for me), but I do feel (rather than understand) the effects of alienation, I’m just not so sure that the alienation is related entirely to something called “capitalism.” You say that some of the commenters here equate “communism” with “Stalinism,” which you say was “fascism.” Could the case not be similar for “capitalism?” In other words, can you imagine a capitalism that is implemented in such a way that the oppression of massive segments of the population is not required?

    thanks as always


  28. Tom Pepper Avatar
    Tom Pepper

    [C]an you imagine a capitalism that is implemented in such a way that the oppression of massive segments of the population is not required?


    The oppression of the majority is a necessity of capitalism. In fact, one might say that it is possible for capitalism to oppress absolutely everyone, since it is the nature of the capitalist mode of production to reify social relations so that people work to keep the economy alive instead of the other way around. If Marx is difficult, read Ernest Mandel’s Introduction to Marxist Economics. You can find that easily enough online, and it is a classic work. Or read Paul Mattick Business as Usual.

    How are the non-voters perceived? By whom? I’m not sure I care. The point is, I am not participating in keeping delusion alive. You are attached to promoting an illusion, knowing full well it is an illusion, because of fear of what might happen if we stopped believing that it made a difference–that is the kind of attachment to ideology that Buddhist thought can help us break. It is not possible to ruthlessly and constantly expose delusion while participating in an organized delusion. Americans are so convinced that they have to vote Romney because universal healthcare is evil and will take away their “rights” or they have to vote Obama because otherwise they will lose their civil rights, that they cannot conceive of not playing the game, of not desperately struggling to hold onto some minimal human rights that are just basic assumptions in other parts of the world. And as long as they play that game, they will never even recognize what real change is. Like you, Matthew, they will simply say that they are politically naive and don’t understand economics (it isn’t that hard–anyone can understand it; you can’t understand it because those who do mostly don’t want you to!); and, then, in the next breath will say how naive I am to not use my “right to vote,” how little I understand if knowing about politics and economics simply convinces me their ideological illusions are not worth participating in.

  29. Matthias Steingass Avatar

    Looking through the exchange Tom-Molly-Tomek I too must say at a certain point I stop reading. I don’t know where your invectives Tom should lead? This kind of ‘discussion’ is going the wrong way.

  30. Tom Pepper Avatar
    Tom Pepper

    Matthias: I often wonder this myself. Is this the best way to keep the reactionaries from overwhelming us with their sophistry, or would it be better to ignore them? There is not persuading them–they cannot be convinced by things as naive and immature as argument and evidence. Most Americans simply read their cliched rhetoric and nod in agreement, unable or unwilling to think further; so, I try to rouse them to a sputtering idiotic defense of their position, to keep the point from dissolving into the soft and comfortable “everyone has their opinion, and every opinion has its merits” we are all so fond of in our postmodern, post-ideological world, in which capitalism is the one inexorable truth and the rest is just bodies and languages, to be adjusted for maximum pleasure.

    If you have another approach, try it! What direction should the discussion be going? What do you think would work?

  31. Lee Avatar

    Matthias – you are a breath of fresh air on this blog, which is now clearly revealing itself as a recruiting ground for the revolutionary communist progressive labor party (or some entity not far removed). All discussions go exactly the same way: Tom has consciously chosen his ideology, the rest of us have false consciousness inculcated in us through ideological state apparatus. Tom is pushing us out of our ideological prisons, into the bright light of revolutionary communist doctrine. His opinions are ‘understandings’, which are not up for genuine debate. Anyone who crosses him ends up branded a ‘reactionary capitalist ideologue’. Save yourself some time and go to the wikipedia page, read up on what they think and make up your mind whether you agree or not, or it’s worth following up on further.

    My 10 cents worth? Climate change will soon (in societal and planetary terms) force radical societal changes or systemic collapse; unfettered free-market capitalism is incompatible with various planetary ecological boundaries, many of which we have already transgressed and continue to at an alarming rate. Can this be averted? Who knows – possibly, if we can get people to agree on what to do and how, which seems to me to be an impossibility in the current network of causes and conditions. If not, could this be the stimulus for the revolutionary conflict that Tom hopes for (or sees as a necessity) and resulting stateless world communist utopia? Again, I don’t know, but I’m sceptical. How does society work without some mechanism for exchange? What happens if / when people disagree (which they inevitably will) – will you suppress this with force? Doesn’t that take you back to square one? I’d be much more up for some discussion about what a different kind of society might look like and how it might work than all this tedious name calling.

  32. Tom Pepper Avatar
    Tom Pepper

    Lee, you’re so funny. You always start out with the same name calling, the same refusal to even listen to arguments, then complain that you are so tired of the name calling you are doing, and wish someone would give some arguments you could ignore. Go read wikipedia, if you want that crap. You post here only to repeat again and again that you won’t read anything I write, and will listen to no argument, and assert that your proof I am wrong is that you won’t even listen to any argument, will refuse to understand what is being said. You are so angry that your ideology is being pointed out that you can’t even think straight. Why is it so frightening to see what you ideology is? What would happen if you knew it was an ideology? I know my ideology is one, and I haven’t evaporated! You want to label anything that scares you as an “opinion” that can be ignored, in the hopes that refusing the distinction between truth and opinion can keep you safely blind (this, at least, is the function of your rhetoric–please don’t give me the tired asinine “oh, now you’re reading my mind” bullshit; for all I know, you really are an intentionally evil asshole and not just a dupe, I’m responding only to the function of your rhetoric).

    And now, the election over, Buddhists across American can return to chopping carrots and contemplating flowers, content in the knowledge that they have done all they possibly can to effect social change. The majority can complain that things don’t change because of the republican congress, and the rest, the surprisingly large proportion of gun-toting, anti-immigration, libertarian Buddhists, can just assert that Obama doesn’t represent them, they didn’t vote for him, and all are troubles are his fault alone. Now, we can safely ignore social issues for another four years, and seek bodily bliss.

  33. Lee Avatar

    Why don’t you tell me what you think my ideology is Tom. Let’s try some specifics for once.

  34. Lee Avatar

    Here’s yours, by the way…

    Progressive Labor Party (PLP) fights to destroy
    capitalism and the dictatorship of the capitalist
    class. We organize workers, soldiers and youth into
    a revolutionary movement for communism.
    LOnly the dictatorship of the working class —
    communism — can provide a lasting solution to the
    disaster that is today’s world for billions of people.
    This cannot be done through electoral politics, but
    requires a revolutionary movement and a mass Red
    Army led by PLP.

    Worldwide capitalism, in its relentless drive for
    profit, inevitably leads to war, fascism, poverty,
    disease, starvation and environmental destruction.
    The capitalist class, through its state power —
    governments, armies, police, schools and culture
    — maintains a dictatorship over the world’s
    workers. The capitalist dictatorship supports, and
    is supported by, the anti-working-class ideologies
    of racism, sexism, nationalism, individualism and

    While the bosses and their mouthpieces claim
    “communism is dead,” capitalism is the real failure
    for billions worldwide. Capitalism returned to
    Russia and China because socialism retained
    many aspects of the profit system, like wages and
    privileges. Russia and China did not establish

    Communism means working collectively to build
    a worker-run society. We will abolish work for
    wages, money and profits. Everyone will share in
    society’s benefits and burdens.

    Communism means abolishing racism and
    the concept of “race.” Capitalism uses racism to
    super-exploit black, Latino, Asian and indigenous
    workers, and to divide the entire working class.

    Communism means abolishing the special
    oppression of women — sexism — and divisive
    gender roles created by the class society.
    Communism means abolishing nations and
    nationalism. One international working class, one
    world, one Party.

    Communism means that the minds of millions
    of workers must become free from religion’s false
    promises, unscientific thinking and poisonous
    ideology. Communism will triumph when the
    masses of workers can use the science of dialectical
    materialism to understand, analyze and change the
    world to meet their needs and aspirations.
    LCommunism means the Party leads every aspect
    of society. For this to work, millions of workers —
    eventually everyone — must become communist
    organizers. Join Us!


  35. Tom Pepper Avatar
    Tom Pepper

    Lee, I will, if you are seriously interested and will not simply call me a prick and say you won’t read anything I post anymore. Let’s just grant that I am a jerk/asshole/obnoxious arrogant prick, and (just for now) leave it aside. Are you interested?

    Here is one: the postmodern ideology that conflates ideology with analytic knowledge, refusing to accept that one can have a correct understanding of an ideology–hence, my explanations of how an ideology functions in society is just an “opinion” to be accepted or rejected without argument, on the same status as the ideology itself. It is my ideology that we should not economically oppress others, that all should have an equal share of the productive power of humanity–this is an ideology, and cannot be argued for on any “scientific” grounds. There are no intransitive, mind-independent reasons for accepting this, only humanly created ideological reasons. On the other hand, an explanation of why capitalism necessarily prevents us from doing this is not an “opinion,” it is a truth that can be demonstrated whether or not we know or believe it.

    Here is another: the belief that we must have a monetary “medium for exchange,” that money is universal and natural and inevitable–this is the most widely shared ideology of all. Of course, through most of human history the vast majority of people never used money at all–even in cultures which had money, it was generally used by only some people, and for limited purposes. Now, it is such a powerful ideology most people cannot imagine it is even a human creation, it almost seems it must have created us.

    One more: you assume that the only way to settle disagreement is violent oppression, since that is how it is done today under capitalism. There are other ways to allow for real disagreement, but within capitalist ideology they are unimaginable.

    And last point, once again: I certainly don’t “hope” for bloodshed. This is the incessant accusation against anyone who wants change. But the revolutionaries need not instigate violence; those in power will be sure to do that, to try their best to kill off the opposition. Even peaceful resistance requires the radical to accept that many of them will likely be killed just for existing.

    Oh, I can see by the your post #34 you just want to have a tantrum. Sorry for trying to reason with you. However, I see nothing objectionable in the plp position.

  36. Lee Avatar

    Tom, don’t go off on one too early – not a tantrum – I posted the latter because I thought it was probably an accurate (or close) summary of what your views are, which makes them easier to discuss and debate. I’ve already said that I found your distinction between epistemology and ideology useful, i.e. ideology cannot be falsified; previously I have tended to think of personal epistemology as including beliefs and values, but I see the utility in making a distinction between the two. Furthermore I accept that you cannot not have an ideology, and that it is very likely to be largely opaque to you.

    I qualified my use of the word ‘hope’ around the necessity for bloodshed, and I agree that any serious challenges to the status quo are likely to be met with force from the state – see the Occupy movement for example. I brought up the point about money because I’m genuinely interested in any serious thinking and ideas about how this might work in practice because I’ve never come across any. But perhaps all of this is off topic for this blog?

  37. Tom Pepper Avatar
    Tom Pepper

    RE #34: I don’t object to most of the plp goals, but there are some ideological positions I don’t share. I don’t share the idea that the “party” should lead in everything. I don’t share the idea that we should be “free” of ideology–which I take to be impossible–so the one party idea is a suggestion that we must have one world-wide ideology. My ideological position would be that multiple ideologies are preferable, so long as we remember that they are ideologies and allow for critique of their possible negative effects. Attempts at single ideologies would cause stagnation, and one of my ideologies is that progress and change is preferable to tradition and stability (again, this is an ideology, there is not “scientific” argument for preferring change, I just think it is more fun most of the time). I don’t believe in a “dictatorship of the working class,” because if there were no money or wage labor there would be no working class. So, this isn’t exactly a summary of my ideology, although I am sympathetic to these goals.

    Why would this be off the topic for this blog? Why would removing delusions be out of bounds for Buddhism? It does seem that it generally is, right? I mean, American Buddhists want tips for achieving states of bliss, and they want their illusions left alone. One of the most powerful ideologies of capitalism is that politics should be left to public opinion (truth should be kept out of it at all costs), and the really important thing is dealing with “concrete” reality, the immediate, the personal pain, because the social structure cannot be changed. And it need not be changed, because it really has no effect on the deep “authentic self” of the soul.

    The goal of non-buddhism is to expose the function of the decisional structure of x-buddhism. The decision to maintain this personal-political binary is not off topic, then, it is one of the most powerfully effective of the x-buddhist decisions. If we are in fact dependently arisen, an effect of the social structure in which we exist, why is it outside the field of x-buddhism to analyze this structure? Why are the causes and conditions of our arising always limited to immediate sensory input and the individual’s immediate thought content and emotions? Why not analyze the ideology that determines what emotions we can feel, or what kinds of things are thinkable?

  38. Lee Avatar

    I suppose because what I was proposing to discuss isn’t really related to Buddhism for me, as I’m not a Buddhist – X or otherwise. But, if it’s OK to do so here then, if we were to take the ideological belief ‘money is necessary as means of exchange’ as the object of enquiry, I would probably start with a series of questions about the belief itself to gain some alternative perspectives: for example:

    – How do I / you / we know that it is necessary? (personal epistemology)
    – How did you to come to believe that this is the case? (personal historical formation)
    – Who benefits from people holding this belief? (game theory)
    – What does holding this belief lead to / make possible? (exploring cause / effect structure)
    – What does holding this belief limit you from thinking perceiving? ( exploring limiting effects)
    – What other ways could the same effects be achieved? (alternative means)
    – How could exchange of necessary services be achieved without money (future vision)
    – What alternative beliefs could it be possible to hold that would functionally enrich the way in which you think about this (alternative ideological beliefs)
    – What examples are there of individuals / groups who have / do successfully live without money as a means of exchange? (identifying models)

    This wouldn’t be analysing ideology on a grand or theoretical scale, but it would be about enriching what is currently thinkable for an individual on a small scale.

  39. Craig Avatar


    it’s discussions like this that show where the rubber meets the road. to comments on you recent posts tom. one is that i think ‘personal pain’ is preciscely why people don’t work to change the system. it’s genious. the system has essentially forced us all into this cycle of exhaustion and hopelessness that to even think of trying to change anything seems ludacris. might as well work within the the system…as alluded to above. or, why even try to change anything, people are scared, tired, hopeless so they continue to aquiess to the status quo and ‘vote’ to make things a little bit worse. that’s the cycle. seeing the cycle brings on just another layer of drudgery, at least for me personally. everytime i open my eyes, open my mouth, think…it’s all fucked up by this capitalist system. it’s a nightmare that the most imaginative horror writers couldn’t dream of.

    not sure where i’m going with this. i feel so stuck, as i think most folks do.

    the other point i found interesting is your notion of truth being that there are ‘things’ that are obstacles to your communist ideology. that’s true. am i getting that? also, is fun the foundation of your ideology? i have no scientific foundation for my ideology. i just think life would be a hell of a lot easier if everyone had enough good food to eat, a comfortable/safe house to live in and adequete (non-violent) health care.

    anyway, just some jumbled observations.

  40. Tom Pepper Avatar
    Tom Pepper

    Craig: I’m not sure what you mean by “there are ‘things’ that are obstacles to your communist ideology.” But yes, I would say fun, happiness, enjoyment, are crucial to any ideology that rejects a soul and an afterlife. There’s not value to suffering you whole life if there’s no reward afterwards, right? I like to think of Spinoza’s idea of “joy.” If there is not joy in life, there’s no point, and any ideology that prevents joy should be rejected. For Spinoza, of course, Joy was defined as increasing our knowledge of and interaction with the world; “increasing” is the key term, and stagnation is always the opposite of joy.

  41. Matthias Steingass Avatar

    Tom. #30

    My approach? You talk about “them”, you generalize, I talk about real people with names and identities.

    I also don’t understand how real people with names and identities can be put in Badiou’s categories which are meant for subjects and not individuals?

    I also don’t belief in arousing ‘them’ to sputtering idiotic defenses of ‘their’ positions. I prefer questions like Lee’s in #38.

    My approach is based on what I learned about how group processes work. But I come to the point where I begin to doubt very much if anything else than a face to face process can bring real change in people. Learning is very important, exchange (via internet, blogs, books, letters etc.) is very important, but people only learn efective, transformative, non-violent, respectful but non the less forceful, creative and truth-generating interaction in settings where they face each other.

    My opinion about word blood is that the best argument is a specific argument.


    Lee, #31

    I don’t see climate change as a major problem in the sense that it just will be a question how different economies will adapte to it. I know in the case of Germany that institutions are working out already how to adapt, what problems will emerge, how to tackle them etc. I am pretty sure the same goes for the U.S., China, Russia under Putin etc.

    In my opinion the major problems will be about ressources – energie and raw materials. The Iran question is about energie and only to a lesser extent about nuclear weapons. If the strait of hormuz is closed or interrupted by Iran and/or some conflict there roughly 20% of the world oil production is cut off. That shows how important such a narrow spot is.

    That leads to another major vulnerability I see: optimization. Highly developed economies today are highly optimized with very narrow margins for error. The financial crisis in 2008 shows this. Economies today are not optimized for events which are highly unlikely but none the less occurring. That doesn’t mean economic problems only, that is also about natural disasters. How about Manhattan in the dark for some weeks and not only partly without electricity for some days. We would see civilization unravel rather quickly.

    I agree “unfettered free-market capitalism is incompatible with various planetary ecological boundaries many of which we have already transgressed.” But I don’t see any political force which has developed any idea how to work around this problem.

  42. Lee Avatar


    I see your three points as being interlinked. As yet it’s very difficult to predict what the systemic effects of climate change will be, but, as you point out, the very likely short to mid term effects will be shortages of key resources – particularly food and water. This is happening already, and will undoubtedly lead to various types of further suffering for many – resource wars, famine, drought, population migration etc. I completely agree with your point about specialisation of modern economies, which makes them highly vulnerable to ‘black swan’ type events. Where I may differ is in the degree of faith that I have in the ability of nation states to adequately foresee likely changes, and plan accordingly. There are various potential second order effects that we are aware of, which may substantially alter the rate of change, and it’s highly likely that there are many more that we aren’t aware of. I do see the very real possibility of significant social unrest on a large scale in the not-too-distant future, which could be the catalyst for change.

    Here in the UK, a whole range of grass roots movements across a range of social and environmental issues do seem to be gaining momentum as more and more people realise that they cannot rely on the government to effect meaningful social change. There’s no significant coherent political force as yet, but plenty of bottom up activity. Your point about optimisation is particularly salient if there were to be major climatic changes, and a lot of the energy here in the UK is focused on re-forging social bonds in communities, supporting small scale local economies, and encouraging a participatory approach to solving community issues, all of which serve to make communities more resilient. Clearly; however, there is still a very long way to go.

  43. Tom Pepper Avatar
    Tom Pepper

    Here’s a perfect example of how any attempt at truth is quickly squashed by the reactionary response. Matthias wants to deal with “real people,” concrete individuals who, apparently, exist outside of any vague (unspecific) abstractions about the subject. Then he wants to change the discussion from the delusions of politics to the delusions of the discourse of economics, with absurdly naïve ideas of “optimization.” And, of course, the environment, and green politics.

    So, instead of a radical response to a failed system, we return to real, atomistic, autonomous, bourgeois humanist subjects working within the system to gradually improve things. Of course the system isn’t “optimized” at all—that’s why the state has to bail it out repeatedly, taxing the poor to hand over some cash to the owners of the means of production whenever the public won’t (or can’t) buy their crap. No disaster will ever be a real problem—if enough people can’t or won’t participate in their own oppression willingly, they will be forced to do so through state power and taxation. And green is, of course, the color of money: it works both to persuade the public to accept a gradually decreasing standard of living, and to persuade them to avoid any real environmental action—instead of changing to public transformation, we’ll now pay an extra ten grand for “hybrid” cars and keep on driving (and don’t think about what will happen to the toxic waste from all those batteries when they reach the end of their lifespan, that will kill our grandchildren, not us).

    And of course it is inconceivable that the reason there is no “coherent political force” for change is that any real force of change will be a truth, foreclosed from the official discourses of the capitalist “World.”

    And as easy as that, we can once again set aside any real insight from Buddhist thought when it becomes too frightening, and return to the same old universal capitalism and atomistic autonomous subject. Non-self is fine on the cushion, but in political debates we have to get back to “real people” who are of course selves, and all that abstract theorizing is dismissed in favor of the “concrete reality.”

  44. Lee Avatar


  45. Lee Avatar

    The only think frightening about your responses is how predictable they are; and how devoid of any actual ideas about how your revolutionary change might be accomplished. Why is that Tom? You deride ideological commitment to money as a means of exchange. Fair enough – I’m not particularly attached to the idea, and I’m willing to examine it. It would be far easier to replace if I had a clearer view of how society might work without it, and also the pathway by which it may be achieved. But that kind of discussion is not what you’re interested in, is it? I genuinely wonder why that is? I also wonder what you get out of deriding people in your posts the way you do? And is it effective, or do people less thick skinned and tolerant (ahem) than I just switch off?

  46. Tom Pepper Avatar
    Tom Pepper


  47. Craig Avatar


    I’ve been reading those recommendations you made on Marxism. Great stuff. Thanks. It definitely gives more context to the discussions here as well as speaks directly to the neocapitalism of today. It’s validating, liberating and sickening. thanks for the those recs.

  48. Matthias Steingass Avatar

    Tom, re #43

    Just two points. I am aware of what Badiou means with “subject” and “truth”. What I say about generalisations vs. “real people” has to to do with how we engage with each other when we talk (or write on a blog). This dimension of interaction can be framed in certain ways which are more or less productive. Through my experience on my blog the last year over and here I come to the point were I have to rethink what kind of interaction via the fast hither and tither on the net is best? I don’t talk about “real people” who life outside any ideology or subject. I think about productive rules of engagement here.

    “Optimization” is meant in a quantitative way. It is about the fact that the economic system is badly guarded against the ‘black swan’ events Lee mentions – the ‘fat tails’ on the price distribution. This “optimization” is an expression of a kind of over-adaption and in this it is in fact an expression of the bad adaption of the system in question because this kind of adaption leaves no room for error. It is like flying a highly sophisticated and vulnerable plain without any redundancy systems. With this I don’t make any qualitative statement about the system.

  49. Lee Avatar

    I admire your persistance Matthias, but I only ever see the same pattern from Tom, which is a shame because despite the arguments I do actually listen to what he says, try to take it on board and evaluate it; and he has influenced my thinking and the range of sources that I draw on. For that, I do genuinely thank him. The pattern that I’m referring to is a tendency to assume that what he means by a particular word is the same as what you mean, ergo the rant about optimisation. I did know what you meant by the term, because it was a source of much scientific debate and discussion after the 2008 financial crash. It’s the same about environmentalism – who here is mentioned buying hybrid cars, or indulging in any of those kinds of corporate greenwashing? If I’ve taken anything away from this blog, it’s the need to take action to improve society, the world and the lot of others instead of wasting time seeking transcendent bliss for your imaginary self. But I already knew that anyway – it’s just that you can’t be reminded enough I think. I also would probably agree with Tom that ongoing scrutinisation of the causes of the problems that we face is also necessary in order to guide action, but he seems to think that we have to wait for some kind of Pepper sanctioned enlightenment experience before doing anything. Agenda driven, attached to the idea of ‘struggle’, out of touch with the pragmatics of ‘real’ world social changes. Population of the US today – 312 million, revolutionary communists, couple of thousand best; chances of the kind of change he’s looking for in the next 50 years, close to zero I would say. What are we supposed to do in the meantime?

  50. Matthias Steingass Avatar

    Communication is material praxis. It happens between humans in flesh and blood (full of shit and bored). There is nobody else. “A truth is something that exists in its active process…. Truths are not prior to political processes … Truths are reality itself, as a process of production of political novelties, political sequences, political revolutions and so forth.” (Badiou, The Rebirth of History, 87)

    Where does this process happen? There is nothing but human interaction. Is there an individual? Of course. It is the locus of experience (and desire).

    The question is, how is communication organized? Around what rules materializes communication? Are there rules anyway? Who sets the rules? What is the goal? In as much are rules counterproductive to creativity? What happens with the individual when certain rules are set?

    The last question, is it important? It is the question how far an individual is ready to go to become an agent of creativity which has the potential to take part in the production of the unforeseeable?

  51. intarsia Avatar

    Coming back to this discussion late (I was phone banking and knocking on doors, quelle horreur), but hopefully some of you are still around.

    Let me lay my ideological cards on the table: I find Pierre Bourdieu’s work to be the best general theory of social reproduction, and I think he improves on Marxism and various reworkings thereof. So, yes, I do think that most social change proceeds incrementally, even the change from capitalism to other ways of organizing economies. Does that guarantee that change will be painless or nonviolent? No. But it will not happen in one fell swoop.

    I respect people who are willing to suffer for their principles. If you rely on the social safety net (or want to retain autonomy over your body, or want want legal protection from being fired for who you fuck, etc.), but you abstained from voting or even voted for Romney in order to hasten the crisis that you believe will destroy this system–I still disagree with you, but you have my respect. But if your life would keep rolling along under a Romney administration…well. Risking your well being for a principle is very different than sacrificing somebody else’s.

  52. intarsia Avatar

    Rather than add to this blog’s propensity toward “I know more critical theory than you,” allow me to briefly recap Bourdieu’s perspective. Bourdieu devoted his life to exploring how social inequalities persist intergenerationally without public resistance. He and Marx share an interest in how power relations go unrecognized (i.e., false consciousness), but Bourdieu rejects the conceptual distinction between infrastructure and superstructure. He also expands the concept of class beyond one’s position in the relations of production by incorporating general conditions of existence such as race, sex, gender, education, etc. Bourdieu sees in Marxism the tendency to read the properties of formal models onto social reality; the class that we theorize is not necessarily the class that exists in the world, and we must take care not to conflate the two. Further, he charges that Marxists conceptualize the embrace of class politics as being either deterministic (dialectical materialism) or voluntaristic (wake up, sheeple!), whereas he seeks to conceptualize social class in a way that relates class consciousness and action to underlying conditions of existence without falling into determinism or voluntarism.

  53. Matthias Steingass Avatar

    Some decorations.

    Tone and critique: Glenn has repeatedly said that he wants “word blood”. So here the discussion is often heated. For me that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t put into question the form of discussion. Especially there is a difference between heated and specific discussion on one side and apodictic ad hominem on the other. I don’t want to say that an ad hominem hasn’t its place, what I say is: critique must be possible – regardless who it regards. Nobody can be exempted. This is my position and it must be possible to express this.

    Pre-eventual: It is very interesting what Alain Badiou has to say about the pre-eventual, the phase when a truth is not yet established, when it is simply not known. The phase before a “historical riot” ensues (if at all). There is no truth yet only instant riot or the sleep of the consumer. I think therefor it is absolutely necessary to develop a culture of discussion which is able to integrate heterogeneous arguments from all strands of life. Only later comes the point when a “statement” needs to be formulated and when the question arises how far the multitude of opinions, voices and arguments must be silenced to create room for the emerging new truth.

    Policies: Lee says it: we have to be aware of the possibility that riots can break out at any time. We have seen this in France and only recently in Great Britain. What to do apart from the fact that one can engage in a lot of critical activities (without engaging in traditional stale democratic parties – that’s what I meant saying I see no political force which moves anything)? One can prepare for the riot (which is not in any case violent). One preparation is to know how to help structure communication. We can learn here already from the Egypt Spanish and Greek events (in the broader sense of the word). This will be absolutely essential.

    Buddhism: What has this to do with Buddhism. For me, nothing. I am pretty sure that anything named Buddhism will simply disappear if it comes to real critical action. Words and their meanings are not endlessly malleable and some words are signatures for rotten corpses: it stinks. I think the word “Buddhism” itself is, in the sense of Badiou, a signature of the obscure and reactionary. I think we are intelligent enough to find new expressions which stand for new meanings and which attract people we possibly want to attract.

    Intarsia: Thanks for the Bourdieu-intro. What would you recommend to read for a Bourdieu-beginner?

  54. Tom Pepper Avatar
    Tom Pepper


    I’ve been giving this some thought, and I think my response for now will be to simply stop responding at all to the reactionary comments; I can see no way to respond to them usefully without hostile rhetoric, so I will have to simply ignore them.

    There is quite a difference between saying multiple positions should be allowed, and the reactionary positions which simply assert either the non-existence of truth or the universal truth of a particular ideology. This is not promoting discussion of ideas, but trying to prevent it with postmodern sophistry.

    My position begins from the premise that there is no atomistic, autonomous subject, that we are always working within an ideology because there is no option, and that there is also such a thing as truth, separate from ideology (which is not necessarily falsifiable). I begin from these premises, and try to explore the limits to which we can change our ideologies, the mechanisms of such change, what makes ideological change/awareness so difficult, and what kinds of ideology we should try to produce.

    I will, then, ignore those posts which assert that there is an atomistic, autonomous subject (as, for instance, Metzinger or Bourdiou do) or who want to insist that their ideologies are universal truths (eg that capitalism is human nature, that Freud is wrong and CBT is right, etc) or argue for postmodern relativism. Those commenters can debate among themselves, and I will respond only to those who are interested in beginning from the same premises as I do. This way, there is not “censorship,” and the reactionary right can continue to produce their ideology of the Bourgeois Humanist Subject and the gradual amelioration of capitalism; those who want to discuss the possibilities of distantiating, transforming, and producing ideology can also disagree over how this can take place and what ideology is best—but I will simply ignore anyone who insists they have no ideology or that it is pointless to try to change ideology or that any ideology is equally true and good.

    Hopefully, this will reduce some of the rancor on the discussion boards, and save me an enormous amount of time.

  55. intarsia Avatar

    Matthias: Thank you for your interest! I recommend Culture & Power: The Sociology of Pierre Bourdieu by David Swartz. Bourdieu was terribly prolific, so a synthesis is helpful (and while Swartz obviously respects Bourdieu, he is not afraid to criticize his work). From there, you can choose what publications interest you. To get it straight from the horse’s mouth, try An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology by Bourdieu and Loic Wacquant, which is in Q&A format. I also recommend The Craft of Sociology: Epistemological Preliminaries, co-written with Jean-Claude Chamboredon and Jean-Claude Passeron, which offers a normative vision of knowledge production. I’ve found it immensely useful in evaluating social theory, including my own. After all, we are all amateur social theorists!

    That, to me, answers what this has to do with Buddhism. For me, Buddhism has been a source of techniques for critically examining how I experience the world (and, in the process, problematizing that distinction); however, Buddhism can get stuck in a Stoic-esque, “your discomfort comes from attaching value judgments to what is actually neutral.” What we make of our experience depends on our amateur social theorizing (Tom and I agree on this point, I think); that’s why Bourdieu’s work is focused on how social inequalities and power relations are misrecognized as being legitimate and natural. Bourdieu’s corrective to this is not a voluntaristic realization, but rather, as I said above, a series of discontinuities and adjustments. (Swartz gives an excellent account of how Bourdieu links social structure to subjective experience to social action to social structure without ever engaging in methodological individualism.)

    Bourdieu is concerned with why social life is patterned the way it is, and thus is of limited use for “black swan” events. For that, I recommend The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran by Charles Kurzman. He does not state this outright, but I interpret his argument to indicate that a revolution’s cause is not ontologically separate from the revolution itself, and hence it is unpredicatable — in that sense, “riots can break out at any time.”

    Tom, you might want to check out those books I recommended to Matthias, as Bourdieu absolutely does not “assert that there is an atomistic, autonomous subject”; his work is profoundly relational, such that one’s position in a field cannot be determined without reference to all other positions. In that sense, there may be individual bodies, but there are no individuals.

  56. Matthias Steingass Avatar

    Intarsia, #55.

    Thanks a lot..

    Regarding “Buddhism”. In #53 I do not want to denounce buddhist ideas and philosophies generally. I mean “Buddhism” as a brand name – a brand name which functions as a marker for a certain range of products. In a supermarket “Coca Cola” functions not only as a brand name for this specific product but as a marker for the whole range of non-alcoholic beverages. It is visibly positioned in a way which leads me automatically to the beverages. If I see the coca cola-sign I know where I have to go to get Seven-Up, orange juice and whatever. The term “Buddhism” functions the same way and what I mean is that this brand name does not lead anywhere I want to go. This does not mean that there aren’t any useful philosophical practices from ‘Buddhist’ cultures.

    The question is: do we want to take back the term “Buddhism” from consumer-capitalism to load it with radical new meaning as Tom wants to do it or do we say, “well Shantideva, Longchenpa or Dōgen never would have called themselves a Buddhist in the way the word is used today, why should I?”


    Tom, #54

    As I understand it, you basically say, everybody not following your premises is a reactionary right. Please correct me if I am wrong.

    Apart from this, I would suggest, as a means to establish a meaningful conversation, that it is not sufficient to put forward the assertion that Bourdieu, for example, is propagating a “an atomistic, autonomous subject”, but that it is necessary to point out how this assertion is established via argument. This would help other readers to establish a well based opinion.

    Furthermore I see you operating argumentatively in a way that could itself be easily confused with sophistry – in the sense that any rhetorics are only used to slander opponents. You are arguing about “those commenters [who] can debate among themselves” now, and you qualify them as those who argue in favor of “an atomistic, autonomous subject”, “that capitalism is human nature, that Freud is wrong and CBT is right” etc. – but who are those?

    Everybody who followed the discussion knows who you mean and therefore you denounce them/us as “reactionary right”.

    Again, to make myself perfectly clear: I don’t want to go in another round of flaming. I want to make it clear that it would underpin your position very well if you would point out argumentatively, and not by simple assertion, where the flaws in the thinking of all those you dismiss lie. As quite some people have pointed out you have something to say and you are an influential individual, so be clear about what you find fucked up instead being so apodictic.


    Re “capitalism as human nature”

    I don’t want to go into this in detail because this is very technical stuff and I am not a statistician who could explain this in a sufficient way. Let me only remark that the “fat tails” itself point against any hypothesis that “capitalism is human nature.”

    The Gaussian standard distribution is depicting a lot of natural processes like the growth of bacteria in a nutrient solution or the distribution of lucky hits in gambling. In the midst of the last century the “efficient market hypothesis” was developed. Basically it says that the distribution of returns in financial assets is a “random walk” – that they are distributed like in the Gaussian standard distribution. That, in a nutshell, is the hypothesis that capitalism is something natural like weather patterns or atomic disintegration. The “efficient market hypothesis” was always opposed but only in the nineties enough computer power emerged to test the assertion that returns are distributed in a standard curve. What became clear then was that the distribution of returns had certain kinds of “kurtosis” which differentiated them significantly from a standard distribution. It was clear by empirical observation in the mid nineties that market returns are not natural (i.e. not distributed in a standard bell curve). Market practitioners always knew this. For example early option trading in the seventies (option pricing is based on the assumption that returns behave like in a standard distribution) was an Eldorado for market makers who where able to exploit the gap of inefficiency between theoretical and ‘real’ prices.

    What I want to say is this. Nobody except some theoreticians, who nonetheless influenced two or three generations of market participants, ever thought about the market as natural (I speak about the twentieths century, not about Adam Smith or the like). In fact I bet that every CFO who is worth his money is looking all the time to exploit the inefficiencies of the markets – what in fact equals to exploit human nature in the sense that the latter is deeply influenced by random framings and biographical accidents, that it is, most of the time, not aware of this and that it is therefore attracted by whatever bait is laid out. Take Apple as an example: their product strategy is nothing but an exploitation of desire. Desire is transformed by Apple into return. The return is managed in one of the biggest hedge-funds in the world (with something like a quarter billion trillion dollars under management but nonetheless nearly unknown to the public or even the hedge-fund industry) and the operators of this hedge-fund will be doing nothing but looking for market inefficiencies – what in fact is the only means to get a superior return from the market – what is only possible if the market is not natural, if it is not behaving like in a standard distribution.

    So, my point is, in contrast to Tom’s argument, market-participants are well aware that capitalism is not a natural event and that they exploit this knowledge to keep up there returns. That is about big multinational corporations and I mean with “well aware” not that the single CFO is consciously saying, “well, Kahneman proofed it, and those fat-tail boys like Nassim Taleb with his Black Swan said it all the way, the market isn’t well behaved,” – the market place itself as an ideology has long priced in that it is not natural. Capitalism is not human nature, it is a massive amoral exploitation of human nature – whereby we have to take into account that this nature itself is not a fiat lux but has a history, is structured by certain discurses, is a an ideology, a material praxis structured by consumer-capitalistic strategies breeding the consumer it needs to get its return.

    If it were natural like the wind in the trees, there would be a sign “Beverages Here” instead of “Coca Cola”.

  57. Tom Pepper Avatar
    Tom Pepper

    Re 56: Matthias, I won’t do this for the reason I have already given. I have gone through this with Metzinger, and others, and the response is the same–those who are attached to this particular ideology refuse to understand, call me an ass and bombard the board with incoherent shouting, and then come back to the same question as if I never answered it, and the cycle begins again. To me, it has begun to seem that explaining why Bourdieu is a reactionary is sort of like explaining why Rush Limbaugh is. For those who would listen, it is already obvious, and for those who want to defend him as a prophet of universal truth, neither argument nor evidence would be persuasive, and the response is the same: Tom Pepper is an asshole, so that proves without a doubt that Bourdieu, Metzinger, Limbaugh, whoever, is revealing a universal truth. I’m tired of that, and want to move on.

  58. Matthias Steingass Avatar


    I wasn’t aware of a human named Rush Limbaugh until a few seconds I ago when I consulted the wikipedia about him. I must say, your comparison of Rush and Pierre reveals again, what I often forget, your refreshing sense of humor.


  59. Tom Pepper Avatar
    Tom Pepper

    Matthias: I cannot tell you how much it cheered me up today to find that Rush Limbaugh is not famous as the quintessential American in the rest of the world! I live in in a town that has been called in the press the “tea-party capital of America.” Here in Connecticut, where even Democrats are Republicans (eg Lieberman, Murphy), and the Republicans are so far to the right even the tea party is scared to vote for them, I sometimes forget that the whole world might not be aware of Limbaugh’s enormously popular racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic talk show.

  60. Tomek Avatar

    Whether out of fear or contempt, x-buddhism arms itself—in the name of flesh and blood potentialities—with a self-serving hermeneutics of exemplification, called “The Dharma.” This supra-signifier constitutes a battery of abstract, obscure principles disguised as concrete, human ones.The Fear or Contempt Sutra

    Regarding “Buddhism”. In #53 I do not want to denounce buddhist ideas and philosophies generally.

    Matthias (# 56), do you believe that there are any, what you call, “buddhist ideas and philosophies” that function outside of that, what Glenn means by “self-serving hermeneutics of exemplification, called >>The Dharma<<.” If there are any such examples, would you be able to say which of them do you exactly mean?

  61. Matthias Steingass Avatar

    Hi Tomek,

    Preamble: The Fear and Contempt Sutra of our Enlightened Prophet His Holiness Glenn the First and Foremost, of which I am only a feeble servant with zero insight (apart about His superior kindness of bringing His noblest of all Truths to my little stupid mind) proclaims that those “self-serving hermeneutics” about which, oh my brother in search for the truth, you are intending to interrogate me, is of that of the “x-buddhists” (may they be cursed for aeons), meaning that only them are self-serving, not we. From which follows that the “buddhist ideas and philosophies” about which I speak are real – although the only True Non, the truly knowing knowers know them (of which, of course, I am only the least and the last, but nonetheless one). If this sounds hyperbolic, let me assure you it is not. The truth always seems unbelievable at first sight (ask Drill Instructor Pepper).

    Statement: No, “buddhist ideas and philosophies”, by definition, cannot be expressed in “x-buddhist self-serving hermeneutics”. There are myriads of texts, pictures, architecture, customs, costumes and cosmetics, in one word: dispositifs from varying cultures, from which I can cut whatever I want and past it into whatever I like. There are philologists, historiographers, archeologists, etymologists, all kinds of scientist of the natural and the human which provide details of context in which fragments of dispositifs acquire more meaning. But no, I don’t believe that a transplantation of a fragment form one dispositif into another can ever reproduce the original meaning – if you mean something like that. The original meaning (sometimes called “The Mantra OM”) is nothing but a great curse.

    With the term “buddhist ideas and philosophies” I wanted to set apart the fragments of Buddhist cultures from the Coca-Cola function of Buddhism. But, as the Prophet stated somewhere, taking the fragments and putting it into the mill of Non may lead to hitherto unexpressed notions. But I must admit that the fragments of Buddhist cultures are to an overwhelmingly extend intoxicated, biased and convulsively distorted by the Coca-Cola function of Buddhism. The paradox is, if one grinds a fragment in the mill of Non, it can turn out to be of value but if then one denotes it again using a term from Coca-Cola Buddhism it at once turns back into bullshit – on the other side, if one does not use a term form Coca-Buddhism nobody notices.

    Take for example the terms “auto-attention” and “auto-state”. The first would be simple concentration on ones own consciousness and the second would be the ability to detect and differentiate ones own states of emotion, corporal feelings, motivations, intentions, semantic thoughts etc. in that frame of concentration. These are functions of mind which are distinguishable and which are trainable – one after the other. Now, I guess, every psychologist who is worth the money s/he is payed, is aware of the fact that these are necessary (though not sufficient) features to interact with a client in a satisfactory way. Of course nobody is interested. But if I frame it in terms of Buddhist praxis, everybody instantly runs for the Coca-Cola section. That is the curse of our dispositif.

    Conclusion: I think Richard Gombrich has had one really good idea: the protagonist often was joking, played with words and their meanings and was overall a much more funny guy then Coca-Cola Buddhism would have it. I therefore plea for a reframing of the protagonist and his/her entourage in the colors of the Commedia dell’arte. I suggest putting x-buddhists in the role of the Vecchi. The Brighella is of course the krypto-buddhist. The Zanni are working-class heros, the true Buddhists nobody knows because the do not name themselves Buddhists; if they are in a bad mood the sing: “Die Partei, die Partei, die hat immer Recht” – (but only if Brighella isn’t watching). And of course the protagonist can be nobody else than Arlecchino.

    Remark: If this seems utterly stupid, incomprehensible or otherwise outlandish I am very sorry. Sometimes I suffer from severe multiple non-seriousnesses.

  62. Tomek Avatar

    With the term “buddhist ideas and philosophies” I wanted to set apart the fragments of Buddhist cultures from the Coca-Cola function of Buddhism. (…) But I must admit that the fragments of Buddhist cultures are to an overwhelmingly extend intoxicated, biased and convulsively distorted by the Coca-Cola function of Buddhism.

    Matthias (# 61), how about the supra-signifier, The Dharma, which you do not mention at all in your comment. Don’t you think that despite the obvious differences between the “fragments of Buddhist cultures” and the current Coca-Cola Buddhism, there is the toxic Dharma, the transcendental Law, that unifies them and makes them virtually indistinguishable local forms of x-buddhistic hallucination of reality?

    Let me come back to the heuristics:

    Dharma, The. The specular omen pontificator of samsaric contingency. Like God, Justice, Logos, Rta, The Dao, and so on, The Dharma (English: The Norm as buddhistic trinity of dispensation, truth, and cosmic structure) is the architect of the cosmic vault and the keeper of its inventory. As such, The Dharma is the buddhistic hallucination of reality. In its decisional function, The Dharma is the transcendent-immanent operator that synthesizes the purely immanent dyad of spatiotemporal vicissitude (samsara) and contingency (paticcasamuppada). The hallucinatory quality results from the fact that The Dharma is a function of a purely idealized (transcendent) grammar that produces oracular statements infinitum about the finite world (immanence). The Dharma is the buddhistic gathering together (under the authority of The Dharma) of reality’s posited (by The Dharma) splintered whole, which splintering is exhibited by the (dharmically indexed) world condition articulated (by The Dharma) as spatiotemporal vicissitude-contingency.

  63. Matthias Steingass Avatar

    Yes there is toxic Dharma. If one believes in it, takes refuge in it, declares it one’s creed, then it glues together immanent reality with fragments of Buddhist culture, charges them up and lets the world shine forth as samsara/nirvana. Of course, if somebody is a true believer “fragments of Buddhist cultures” always will lead nowhere. But don’t we have the freedom to decide for a certain decision and play along a certain axiom? The point is to decide consciously, isn’t it?

    I think the problem too is, what we have seen here more then once, that toxic dharma penetrates our discurse to such an extent that a lot of simple everyday activities become super-holy and seemingly dharmic => it is impossible to talk about relaxation without invoking a connotation which has to do with Buddhism, meditation etc.

  64. Tomek Avatar

    Matthias, we certainly do have the freedom to play along that axiom, but if we consciously decide to go for it we also have to be prepared that we’re inevitably inviting that dharmic toxin to penetrate our discourse and a lot of our seemingly simple everyday activities. The Dharma toxin has an infinite resources to reproduce itself, because its breeding pool is human hope for escape from this world. So whatever “fragments” you play with, you’ll always be creating a space for hallucination to occur and then as a result suffer a hangover. So I don’t see any other method to stop that reproduction than a complete abstinence from intoxicating ourselves with the dharmic syntax and all the other ways of x-buddhistic self-display. Easy to say but how bad it may feel for many of us to invent a new ways to play along the empty reality or to relax in it, without all that old and soothing dharmic toys and pleasurable truth-toxins.

    In any case, you said that earlier (# 53):

    I am pretty sure that anything named Buddhism will simply disappear if it comes to real critical action. Words and their meanings are not endlessly malleable and some words are signatures for rotten corpses: it stinks. I think the word “Buddhism” itself is, in the sense of Badiou, a signature of the obscure and reactionary. I think we are intelligent enough to find new expressions which stand for new meanings and which attract people we possibly want to attract.

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