Saturday, January 28, 2012

A couple of confluent responses from me to responses from others...

  • You can read the back and forth with Rev. Fisher and in comments on the Rev. Fisher's blog.  I think I overstated it by at least implying that Amnesty International's works are symbolic only. But not by much. The response I got was interesting to me; I'd think it'd be easy for Buddhists to get the gist of Christopher Hitchens' polemics against Mother Theresa and the Dalai Lama, even if some of Hitchens' other words and behavior were contemptible.  Or at least  some Buddhists would have read Nietzche.  That is they'd read that there's often unskillful selfish motives behind what we like to call charity.  In the case of the death penalty, far more mileage has gone to ending it in the US by lawyers and legislators cleverly chipping away at the way in which it's enacted than by people with stickers.  And I completely stand by what I wrote about Amnesty International and Stalin.  To be caught up with the case of the single individual as a series of "victories" without support of a strategy to extinguish the death penalty is not too far, metaphorically speaking, from sctraching one's foot through one's shoe.  In short, I'd cut a check to the ACLU before I'd cut one to Amnesty, but I could see people of good will doing both.  Just don't confuse one with the other and consider both "effective" at ending the death penalty.  One, remember, is demonized by the right wing in this country for a reason.  The other is not, also for a reason.
  • I don't get certain things in the new improved "Western" Buddhist world.  The generally friendly Twitter exchange with Hokai Sobol (here, here here, and  here)  still reverberates in my head. I'm sorry Hokai; the Asian forms are like musical instruments or musical arrangements. Moreover, "Asian" and "Western," as I noted as well (and the link that  Hokai re-propagated), are not separate categories.  Geez, "Thank" and "Zen" share the same proto-Indo-European root as far as I know based on at least some relatively recent linguistic work somebody's done.  Now naturally styles of forms evolve and adapt culturally and regionally.  Nobody would say that Cajun cuisine is a maladaption of (a) French cuisine, though.  And I didn't even begin to get into the points of: what about Asian immigrants to the West? Their children? The mixed children of Asians and Westerners?  Admittedly Sobol's coming from the Shingon tradition, one in which I know less about than Zen.  But I do know this: with the exceptions of the Pure Land - derived (and to a lesser extent Nichiren and Zen) schools, most Japanese Buddhists know very little about these other sects of Buddhism. The temples in Nara are all related to sects that have very little presence in Japan today.  The idea that  forms and concepts of these older schools are "Asian" today doesn't even work in Asia.

Some wise guy or gal once wrote or said "Things are not as they seem. And just the opposite is true."  I admit I'm in a somewhat strange situation in that my contact with "Asia" - whatever that means - is far greater than most Westerners.  All of us are improvising as we go along.  Cultural categories are fluid. If one doesn't get it, one may become unintentionally funny, especially in regards to Buddhism.

3 comments:

Petteri Sulonen said...

I'm a long-time supporter of Amnesty International.

Why? Because they make a credible shot at being the world's conscience. It's tru that they don't have a political program (even if they do have political objectives). That, IMO, is one of their strengths. What they do is monitor, observe, and report, and they do that with a global perspective and an honest attempt at impartiality. They bring stuff to light that other groups can then act on.

IMO your reproach that they're not the ACLU betrays an unusually parochial view of what they actually are and do. For one thing, the A in ACLU stands for "American", whereas the second part of Amnesty is "International."

Mumon said...

True enough. I don't think an International Civil Liberties Union would be treated much differently than the way the French have treated Greenpeace...

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