Loving the World as it Is, Part 2: Collusion
“What a century this week has been.” September, 2018. Seung Min Kim, Reporter for the Washington Post*
Following the news is an important part of my life as priest. True confession, I am a sociologist so studying the world is my profession. Turns out, priesthood and sociology go hand in glove for me. They are simply different modes of entry into the world as it is, this dusty realm of individual woes and public problems. In Buddhism, as in Sociology, the life world of a person is part of the life world of the collective.
Back to the news. Do you follow or do you avoid? Like many people, I am following various streams of news about the President and those around him with regard to money laundering, racketeering, bank fraud and child trafficking.** I am learning a lot about the economy, the details of LLCs, tax stuff, and money. Oh, and greed too (but greed is not the main storyline here). Do I have opinions about Trump, Russian interference in the 2016 election, and the collusion charges? Yep. Sure, but any opinions are secondary to seeing the world as it is.
For today, I mention one observation about the world as it is: Disinformation and active measures are associated with Russian interference in the 2016 election. Russian or not, disinformation, active measures (and other tactics designed to activate a sense of chaos) are now a permanent part of our daily news cycle and our online lives. This is the state of the global world as it is. This calls for an appropriate response. Can you discern disinformation from news? Do you find yourself responding in an emotional way to events you know nothing about? Cultivating our ability to parse information from disinformation will help us be reasonable consumers, reasonably informed zen practitioners, and most important, muster an appropriate response to our current causes and conditions (or, the world as it is).
This is the end of this post—but if you want to read an example, please continue below.
Are you familiar with the Rohingya?
Many of us did well being ceremonies in 2016 for the Rohingya who fled Myanmar and entered Bangladesh. We did so because we learned that Buddhist monks were killing muslims. At the time, many of us understood this to be some misguided Buddhists rather than nationalist politics fueled by military disinformation in Myanmar. We learned the news on Facebook (but also later, the MSM picked it up). It is helpful to chant the En Mei Juku Kannon Gyo in the face of suffering. But most of us also missed an opportunity to understand the suffering we were chanting for. We did not understand how disinformation works, the role of Facebook (and other platforms) in spreading disinformation, and we failed to look seek a deeper understanding of the causes and conditions of Buddhism in Myanmar. Genocide is committed not just by strong arm dictators and their military squadrons, but by others (including buddhist monks) who—knowingly or not—serve their interests. This is the world as it is, in the age of information/disinformation. The causes and conditions of this historical moment, what Professor Rhonda McGee*** calls “the long now.”
Oh, and hey, hint to the wise. Do you absolve yourself by #deletefacebook? A quarantine helps but may not the answer. Disinformation is larger than FB.
Two days after 9/11, in front of a packed zendo at the Santa Cruz Zen Center, Katherine Thanas talked about the causes and conditions of U.S./Middle east policies, and asked that we mourn for all lost life, including those who led the attack. There was no resolution, no salving the shock, loss, and fear. She was teaching on suffering, dependent co-arising, and the then-state of the world as it is.
* follow her on twitter at : https://twitter.com/seungminkim*
** As far as I know, the first news of sealed indictments of Trump was May 2016. This is now, just barely leaking into MSM.
*** For more information about Professor McGee, see: https://www.usfca.edu/law/faculty/rhonda-magee