Inequality

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Hieros Gamos
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Inequality

Post by Hieros Gamos » Thu Aug 28, 2014 3:37 pm

The difference between a system dominated by General Motors and Exxon and one based upon the individual landholding farmer and small businessperson of an earlier day in American history may very well be greater — in the real life experience of the average person — than the difference between a system based upon large private bureaucracies in the United States and public bureaucracies in socialist nations.
Gar Alperovitz

The richest 400 Americans now own more wealth than the bottom 180 million taken together.
What Then Can I Do? Ten Ways to Democratize the Economy, September 2013, Gar Alperovitz

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Re: Inequality

Post by DGA » Thu Aug 28, 2014 5:23 pm

Gar Alperovitz is a well-respected scholar. I've had the good fortune to hear him speak; he engages well with audience members who ask intelligent, even pointed, questions. I think he's doing important work.

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Re: Inequality

Post by Zhen Li » Thu Aug 28, 2014 6:11 pm

I think that's quite an accurate statement. However, materially, we are all better off than ever before. We have medicine and goods that would be unimaginable even under a century ago.

People are rich or poor according to their karma. While it may not be directly apparent, people who make the most money actually are helping us to live better than ever before - they're really doing a great amount of good for the world. So, from the perspective of karma, this makes a lot of sense. We can only be glad to live in such a great time.
Cūḷakammavibhanga Sutta wrote:3. “Master Gotama, what is the cause and condition why human beings are seen to be inferior and superior? For people are seen to be short-lived and long-lived, sickly and healthy, ugly and beautiful, uninfluential and influential, poor and wealthy, low-born and high-born, stupid and [203] wise. What is the cause and condition, Master Gotama, why human beings are seen to be inferior and superior?”
4. “Student, beings are owners of their actions, heirs of their actions; they originate from their actions, are bound to their actions, have their actions as their refuge. It is action that distinguishes beings as inferior and superior.” ...
11. “Here, student, some man or woman is envious, one who envies, resents, and begrudges the gains, honour, respect, reverence, salutations, and veneration received by others. Because of performing and undertaking such action … he reappears in a state of deprivation … But if instead he comes back to the human state, then wherever he is reborn he is uninfluential. This is the way, student, that leads to being uninfluential, namely, one is envious … towards the gains, honour, respect, reverence, salutations, and veneration received by others. [205]
12. “But here, student, some man or woman is not envious, one who does not envy, resent, and begrudge the gains, honour, respect, reverence, salutations, and veneration received by others. Because of performing and undertaking such action … he reappears in a happy destination … But if instead he comes back to the human state, then wherever he is reborn he is influential. This is the way, student, that leads to being influential, namely, one is not envious … towards the gains, honour, respect, reverence, salutations, and veneration received by others.
13. “Here, student, some man or woman does not give food, drink, clothing, carriages, garlands, scents, unguents, beds, dwelling, and lamps to recluses or brahmins. Because of performing and undertaking such action … he reappears in a state of deprivation … But if instead he comes back to the human state, then wherever he is reborn he is poor. This is the way, student, that leads to poverty, namely, one does not give food … and lamps to recluses or brahmins.
14. “But here, student, some man or woman gives food … and lamps to recluses or brahmins. Because of performing and undertaking such action … he reappears in a happy destination … But if instead he comes back to the human state, then wherever he is reborn he is wealthy. This is the way, student, that leads to wealth, namely, one gives food … and lamps to recluses or brahmins.

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Re: Inequality

Post by Grigoris » Thu Aug 28, 2014 6:13 pm

Zhen Li wrote:I think that's quite an accurate statement. However, materially, we are all better off than ever before. We have medicine and goods that would be unimaginable even under a century ago.

People are rich or poor according to their karma. While it may not be directly apparent, people who make the most money actually are helping us to live better than ever before - they're really doing a great amount of good for the world. So, from the perspective of karma, this makes a lot of sense. We can only be glad to live in such a great time.
And damn the rest?
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE

"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
The Supreme Source - The Kunjed Gyalpo
The Fundamental Tantra of Dzogchen Semde

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Re: Inequality

Post by Zhen Li » Thu Aug 28, 2014 6:33 pm

Sherab Dorje wrote:And damn the rest??
It isn't a moral question, fundamentally. Since moral good from the Mahayana perspective is that which achieves the aim of Buddhahood, which isn't one of worldly benefit. Good or bad karma isn't a question of morality, but one of seed and fruit, cause and effect: it is not inaccurate to say fortunate and unfortunate, however, which isn't necessarily the same as moral good or bad.
:anjali:

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Re: Inequality

Post by Hieros Gamos » Thu Aug 28, 2014 6:43 pm

Zhen Li wrote:... materially, we are all better off than ever before. We have medicine and goods that would be unimaginable even under a century ago.
This is true for some of us. Even if that were true for everyone is that the result of unregulated capitalism?

Hierarchical institutions foster alienated and exploitative relationships among those who participate in them, disempowering people and distancing them from their own reality. Hierarchies make some people dependent on others, blame the dependent for their dependency, and then use that dependency as a justification for further exercise of authority... Those in positions of relative dominance tend to define the very characteristics of those subordinate to them ... Anarchists argue that to be always in a position of being acted upon and never to be allowed to act is to be doomed to a state of dependence and resignation. Those who are constantly ordered about and prevented from thinking for themselves soon come to doubt their own capacities ... [and have] difficulty acting on [their] sense of self in opposition to societal norms, standards and expectations.
Martha Ackelsberg

Also, we have many harmful things other than medicine and wholesome goods.
Zhen Li wrote:People are rich or poor according to their karma.
I'm not sure what the point is. People are also in samsara according to their karma. We still need to exercise compassion.
Zhen Li wrote:While it may not be directly apparent, people who make the most money actually are helping us to live better than ever before - they're really doing a great amount of good for the world.
So they are doing this because they care about us?

What "insurance" could you buy that would keep you safer than living in a world where people actually cared about each other?
Deoxy

No one should be entrusted with power, inasmuch as anyone invested with authority must ... became an oppressor and exploiter of society.
Bakunin

How many of their decisions do you participate in? How many of your decisions are made for you? Are such people recognized as authorities? Or do they just "have" authority?

When we reclaim the freedom of the masses, we hardly wish to abolish the effect of any individual’s or any group of individual’s natural influence upon the masses. What we wish is to abolish artificial, privileged, legal, and official influences.
Bakunin
Zhen Li wrote:So, from the perspective of karma, this makes a lot of sense. We can only be glad to live in such a great time.
It is not great to live in a society which forces me to sell that which is merely natural to my own real condition.

Labour is only another name for human activity which goes with life itself, which is in turn not produced for sale but for entirely different reasons, nor can that activity be detached from the rest of life itself, be stored or mobilised ... To allow the market mechanism to be sole director of the fate of human beings and their natural environment ... would result in the demolition of society. For the alleged commodity ‘labour power’ cannot be shoved about, used indiscriminately, or even left unused, without affecting also the human individual who happens to be the bearer of this peculiar commodity. In disposing of a man’s labour power the system would, incidentally, dispose of the physical, psychological, and moral entity ‘man’ attached to that tag.
Karl Polanyi

The proprietor, the robber, the hero, the sovereign — for all these titles are synonymous — imposes his will as law, and suffers neither contradiction nor control; that is, he pretends to be the legislative and the executive power at once ... [and so] property engenders despotism ... That is so clearly the essence of property that, to be convinced of it, one need but remember what it is, and observe what happens around him. Property is the right to use and abuse ... if goods are property, why should not the proprietors be kings, and despotic kings — kings in proportion to their facultes bonitaires? And if each proprietor is sovereign lord within the sphere of his property, absolute king throughout his own domain, how could a government of proprietors be any thing but chaos and confusion?
Proudhon

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Hieros Gamos
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Re: Inequality

Post by Hieros Gamos » Thu Aug 28, 2014 6:44 pm

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Re: Inequality

Post by Zhen Li » Thu Aug 28, 2014 6:44 pm

I never said anything about capitalism or not having compassion for certain people.

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Re: Inequality

Post by Grigoris » Thu Aug 28, 2014 7:37 pm

Thing about karma is, that if you are born into wealthy conditions but do not engage in generosity... ;) and generosity is definitely a moral issue.
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE

"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
The Supreme Source - The Kunjed Gyalpo
The Fundamental Tantra of Dzogchen Semde

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Re: Inequality

Post by Zhen Li » Thu Aug 28, 2014 7:45 pm

I definitely agree with that.

Lots of people have preconceptions and assumptions that makes it hard for them to accept karma, perhaps karma is a hard truth. But in accepting that bad circumstances come from bad causes, one is simply saying that, all the other assumptions and ideas one brings to that claim are one's own baggage - it's karma too.

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Re: Inequality

Post by Hieros Gamos » Thu Aug 28, 2014 8:12 pm

Good reminder from SD - my teachers state that generosity is one of the far-reaching attitudes to ripen the mind. It is defined as giving material aid, giving protection from fear and giving the dharma. At least equally importantly it is one of the factors that ripens the mind of others. To ripen my own and others' minds is to accomplish the conduct of bodhisattvas.

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Re: Inequality

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Thu Aug 28, 2014 8:44 pm

Actually, many wealthy people seem to presently be exhausting their merit (rather than "helping" anyone) by hoarding their wealth.

Slavery was a result of Karma also, but one wouldn't (well i'm sure some would) make an argument that the abolitionist movement was somehow morally in the wrong due to this. I have heard Buddhist teachers (fairly 'traditional' ones as that goes), make the argument that working with one's Karma for positive outcomes for oneself and others (again the example of things like the abolitionist movement was used) is merit-making.
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Re: Inequality

Post by Zhen Li » Thu Aug 28, 2014 10:11 pm

It's not about getting something or not getting something. It's not about getting good or bad karma. Though relatively, getting good karma is apotropaically fortunate.

It's about getting emptiness.

If we're making an argument for something, we've missed it. If we're making an argument against something, we've missed it.

This post right here is a huge mistake. :reading:

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Re: Inequality

Post by Hieros Gamos » Thu Aug 28, 2014 10:50 pm

Zhen Li wrote:It's about getting emptiness.
Samsara is the vehicle for emptiness. If we don't get samsara right first we will not get emptiness.

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Re: Inequality

Post by Zhen Li » Thu Aug 28, 2014 11:04 pm

Emptiness is the vehicle for samsara.

It's not a horse before the cart issue when there's no cart and no horse.

Do you really think inequality stopped untouchables from attaining arhatship in the time of the Buddha?

This is one thing which I agree with in Ken Wilber's model - at every 'level' of human development, you find realised beings, e.g. you can find realised beings in archaic, magical, mythic societies, just as you can find them in pluralistic and modern societies. The level of human development doesn't correspond to capacity for realisation. Big mistake.

Generosity isn't to stop the effects of karma. It isn't to make the world a utopia. It is to give to release greed and attachment, to reduce ego-mind. One must give without thought for self or other. If the point was to stop the effects of karma, to create a utopia where every coffer is full, then there would be a point at which no one needs to give any more - that's not the point of daana.

Similarly, one ultimately doesn't bow to a teacher or to the Buddha because there are some people who are deserving of and need bows and respect - the Buddha doesn't need anything from us. One bows to reduce self-attachment. Without prostration and veneration of images in Buddhism, the meditator may become stuffed up with self-pride, but so long as there is a further image of perfection, and a further and higher thing to be respected, so long one doesn't attach to one's present attainments.

There is a reason that the Buddha teaches giving to the Sangha as something higher than giving to anyone else: because it brings people to the Dharma. Thus, not only does the Sangha make themselves available to others to give, and motivate them with the upaya of merit making, but they also give to the poor themselves to bring them to the Dharma. They can also host events and allow them to come and use their facilities. In India, the Sanghas allowed people to store goods in the monasteries for very cheap, not only serving to facilitate commerce in Bengal and the western coast, but essentially creating a situation where the entire merchant caste was Buddhist (or Jain, since Jains did the same). So, there are lots of nuances to daana, but ideology and utopianism isn't one.
Last edited by Zhen Li on Thu Aug 28, 2014 11:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Inequality

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Thu Aug 28, 2014 11:37 pm

Zhen Li wrote:Emptiness is the vehicle for samsara.

It's not a horse before the cart issue when there's no cart and no horse.

Do you really think inequality stopped untouchables from attaining arhatship in the time of the Buddha?

This is one thing which I agree with in Ken Wilber's model - at every 'level' of human development, you find realised beings, e.g. you can find realised beings in archaic, magical, mythic societies, just as you can find them in pluralistic and modern societies. The level of human development doesn't correspond to capacity for realisation. Big mistake.

No, of course some exceptional people can transform whatever circumstances..but i've heard some teachings on this sort of thing:

By way of analogy, the six realms are usually used...The extremely rich and powerful are often incapable of spiritual realization in the main because they are absorbed in sensual pleasures, and preoccupied with protecting and expanding material wealth or power. Those at the bottom of things can be so involved in a coarse level of suffering and attention to day to day survival that spiritual practice for most of them is difficult or impossible. It's a controversial teaching in American audience it seems like, but i've heard it and I personally think there is something to it.

At any rate, someone who is wealthy and not generous is, in a basic sense exhausting their merit...I would think that notion transcends schools of Buddhism. That doesn't say anything about spiritual practice specifically..except that exhausting ones merit creates obstacles and obstructions to practice, according to some explanations.
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Re: Inequality

Post by Zhen Li » Thu Aug 28, 2014 11:45 pm

Good karma creates good results, this is fortunate, this is fine. This is the result of past generosity, not necessarily present generosity.

What one THEN does, is an entirely different issue.

As you say, Johnny, the most common response is to stuff up with pride in one's attainments, and in one's possessions, and therefore exhaust the merit without setting further seeds.

I think, at every point in the six realms, one needs generosity if one is practising Dharma, but at a higher level, one does need to give more.

I don't think that thinking requires any utopianism or ideology, no Bakunin, no Proudhon. It doesn't mean inequalities will disappear, or that this is the aim of Buddhists (this is a distraction from daana and comes along with views of resentment and envy). But it means, no self.

Fundamentally, if the point is to get rid of inequalities, we have missed Buddha Nature. In Christianity they say, "Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill made low, the crooked straight, and the rough places plain." But in Buddhism, they already are. That's your Buddha nature, that's my Buddha nature, no different. If it's a hill, it's already a low place. If it is crooked, it is already straight, but vice versa too. *hit with stick* :jedi:

Are you unequal to me? If yes *hit with stick.* :jedi: How about now?

If Bill Gates says, "I am rich." Is that any different from you? :sage:

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Re: Inequality

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Fri Aug 29, 2014 12:30 am

Severe and increasing material inequality (of some sort) is a big factor IMO in human misery and instability these days, three poisons and all that. In the case of greed - which is really what we are talking about with "inequality"..I would say that it's just fine to encourage changes in policy, political movements, or whatever that encourage people to be less greedy, or want a more equitable system.

Of course the fight there will end up being a political one, i.e. what constitutes something truly harmful in order to "obtain equality", an admittedly moving target.

One thing for sure, I don't think (especially again, at the level that material inequality exists today vs. the material abundance that's now available in a technical sense) there is anything remotely wrong with Buddhists questioning the direction of things when the world essentially seems to often amount to a big casino for the already wealthy and powerful. I don't pretend to know the solution by any means, but I have no issue whatsoever with people pointing to it as a problem.
If Bill Gates says, "I am rich." Is that any different from you? :sage:
I am not desirous of Bill Gates wealth or power in the least personally, though i'm not sure how I feel about the system that allows people like Bill Gates or the rest of the super wealthy an inordinate say in the direction of our society, allows them to continue to increase their wealth at the expense of the public through subsidization of the risk of their projects, etc. - something which is practically enshrined in our financial culture now it seems.

The mistake many make (hopefully not Buddhist) is the belief that somehow the rich and powerful are now happy or content due to their wealth and power, they aren't and increasing concentration of wealth is bad for them and us, it's clearly a source of misery, and while I don't claim any answer - again I can't help but see it as a problem. In the end their wealth will be dispersed, just like anything that gets collected. We can hope though, and work towards sewing the seeds of a culture, or a system, or something where it gets dispersed in way that doesn't create more misery I suppose. No idea how to do any of that though, and i'm increasingly suspicious of those who claim to have solutions beyond very simple, day to day things - such as overturning citizen's united or similar.
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Re: Inequality

Post by Zhen Li » Fri Aug 29, 2014 12:43 am

If you are desiring the dispersal of the fruits of someone else's action, that is missing the point of daana.

Having wealth in the world and inequality isn't the result of more people being greedy. The lower level of this present scale of inequality, actually, as I said before, is quite comfortable, and people are working harder than ever these days, and this is the result.

But the point, in the end, is, what is daana? Is it desiring no inequality? Or is it already seeing the fact that there is no such thing is inequality, and giving anyway?

The question of whether you are Bill Gates or not is not a question of whether you want a certain number in your bank account, but a question of whether you realise that even if you're a poor man, you have a billion dollars already, you just don't know how to use it yet. You can't use a Buddha to worship a Buddha, you can't use a god to worship a god.

I think that's the most that can be said on this, since ultimately it is beyond words. If you can only focus on the dualistic side of daana, then there's nothing further I can say.
:anjali:

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Re: Inequality

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Fri Aug 29, 2014 12:57 am

Zhen Li wrote:If you are desiring the dispersal of the fruits of someone else's action, that is missing the point of daana.
Desiring it? No, anything that is collected will one day dispersed, it's not a question of my desires, that's just impermanence. The present concentrating of wealth will one day end in it's dispersion, and eventual re-accumulation personally I hope (especially if I continue to be human) to have a world with a different approach to wealth than our present age..because I think it would be for the benefit of all to have a system less based on rewarding greed than the present one. Though I by no means think I have any magic solution for it, and i'm distrustful of many who say they have one.
Having wealth in the world and inequality isn't the result of more people being greedy. The lower level of this present scale of inequality, actually, as I said before, is quite comfortable, and people are working harder than ever these days, and this is the result.
No, people being born rich clearly isn't the result of it, but the present continuing concentration of wealth in our time IS a result of greed IMO, and seemingly, not one with particularly great consequences so far - including for the rich.

I think all human relations show the workings of the three poisons - sometimes in greater severity than others. It's true that in a relative sense some people who were more destitute have more stuff, though we could just as easily point out how greed and concentration of wealth has led to wars and other forms of nastiness on a sizable scale, it is not an entirely positive, nor entirely negative situation. Obviously, it can't be broken down in binary terms that way.

But the point, in the end, is, what is daana? Is it desiring no inequality? Or is it already seeing the fact that there is no such thing is inequality, and giving anyway?

Equality is a moving target, it seems like usually when people use the term what they are wanting is a system or way of doing things that takes into account a more egalitarian idea of how wealth benefits communities, nations, whatever, as opposed to wealth and power being severely concentrated to a degree that the effect is a clearly destructive one. Doesn't seem weird to me.
I think that's the most that can be said on this, since ultimately it is beyond words. If you can only focus on the dualistic side of daana, then there's nothing further I can say.
:anjali:

Dualistic side of dana? No, though obviously dana and merit - making can happen in the conventional world, and what we are speaking of here is conventional reality at the moment, recourse to emptiness as a reason to not even consider a difficult question doesn't jive with me. Generosity involves not doing certain things, and doing others, for ourselves as well as others. It isn't just something you can "be", it requires some amount of "do". Far as politics goes, there may be many versions of how to make this happen, but it certainly isn't at all unreasonable IMO for Buddhists to want policy changes and similar that encourage generosity, or discourage a lack of it.
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