Genuine polemics approach a book as lovingly as a cannibal spices a baby. —Walter Benjamin
Is there any such thing as x-buddhistic polemics? Or are x-buddhists too busy primming themselves with right speech, loving kindness, and equanimity to consider such nastiness? I can imagine my x-buddhist friends asking how I can even suggest that the perpetually-grinning paragons of compassion that are their beloved teachers would even want to engage in something as “un-buddhist” as polemics.
Come to think of it, I have to ask them a question right back: Is it conceivable that your myriad x-buddhist values (compassion, right speech, renunciation, loving-kindness, forbearance, right thought, etc., etc., etc.) are precisely a passive form of polemics? In “cultivating compassion,” for instance, are you, as x-buddhist, arming yourself for the fight?
Consider this. When asked why he does not engage in polemics, Michel Foucault answered as follows.
The polemicist . . . proceeds encased in privileges that he possesses in advance and will never agree to question…. [T]he person he confronts is not a partner in search for the truth but an adversary, an enemy who is wrong, who is armful, and whose very existence constitutes a threat. For him, then the game consists not of recognizing this person as a subject having the right to speak but of abolishing him as interlocutor, from any possible dialogue; and his final objective will be not to come as close as possible to a difficult truth but to bring about the triumph of the just cause he has been manifestly upholding from the beginning. The polemicist relies on a legitimacy that his adversary is by definition denied.
To my non-buddhist ears, this description of a polemicist astutely, if unintentionally, describes the contemporary western x-buddhist. This is because, from a non-buddhist perspective, an x-buddhist is nothing if not a person “encased in privileges that he possesses in advance and will never agree to question,” and someone who “relies on a legitimacy that his adversary is by definition denied.” This legitimacy, this privilege, is, of course, The Dharma. Continue reading “Come On, X-Buddhists, Pump Up The Polemos!”