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the me, too, culture: the peer pressure

buddhist economics
from the internet

“like a good shepherd i shall lead you towards the green field, “read a line from a book the priest had handed to an indian youth he had intended to include in his flock. the boy closed the book and gave it back to the priest. “why?”, asked the priest. “because, i am not a sheep,” said the boy. the priest said that “it was just a metaphor. the message was that jesus would lead us as does a shepherd does his flock.” the boy said, “the sheep in the wild knows where the meadows are and need no shepherd to herd them as man does the captive sheep.” -from “unamerican dreams and dissent

any person who sustains one’s living as a leader is motivated by the wish of the ‘me, too,’ people to herding them to lead them to his green field, his product, whether a thing or thought. and ultimately it is not for the sheep’s sake that the shepherd fattens them.

the expression: ‘me, too,’ contains an urge to be included in the crowd, for safety. to observe this firsthand, watch it working on you when next time in a crowd, whether in a stadium or a concert hall. the cue would come from the sound of clapping, or seeing the person sitting next to you standing up and clapping. then you see one by one others standing up and clapping. you had not seen the performance particularly outstanding, or the speech motivating, so you had not felt like giving a standing ovation. but then something else happens. among all the standing cheering people, seated you would stand out. and you are feeling uncomfortable seated. this whatever it is that draws attention to the me, passes away when one is becoming the part of the crowd. it works to find safety in the crowd, as it is happening now with the abused women who are speaking up. a single woman would feel more vulnerable in public and in the courthouse where the male lawyers defending the rapist clients would portray her as a provocateur who was signaling the man with her dress, etc. when more women together speak up, in a class action case, the wrongful acts are more likely to be seen as facts of the case.

but this ‘me, too,’ has another neglected aspect; it is the desire to achieve a larger piece of pie, the more of anything, for which one has to stand out, by whatever means. in the western way of life it therefore prescribes competition, whether it is for the leadership of the nation’s social, political or spiritual aspects, or a world championship in every sport, including the manly sport of the feasting on the virgin beauty for which the olympic floors are paved with carpet or ice, and are brightly lighted; the psychologists’ and movie directors’ couch is placed, and the female nude modeling for art is glorified to enable men in prominent positions to explore and tickle the desire of the woman to be uplifted. of course, in all likelihood, none of the women thus exploited had desired to be exploited and raped – and in case of gaugin’s ceylonese model girls to acquire syphilis -- as a price for winning the bigger piece of the capitalist pie in a desired field. it was simply a feminine natural desire to be noticed made subservient by a man of power.

there is an observation of the buddha concerning the right means of perception: ‘while seeing, use the eyes, in hearing, the ears; see not with ears, nor hear with eyes, believe not the authority, observe it yourself.’ for years during the vietnam war, and more recently wars in the middle east, the u.s. public was routinely not seeing things with their sense organ for seeing, but believing as their leaders were describing things, which were in plain view of other people outside of the u.s. a conventional modern professional man in position has only one sense organ of perception, just the eye sight, to perceive things that are not even visual - the nasal, tactile, audile and calculative. to enable his sense of hearing through eyes the professional singers perform on a stage glittering with lights. look at their costumes. if the singer is a female, her dress is also made to reveal her physical form, especially her breasts and slender legs. olympic girls are stripped to the tight fitting bathing suit barely covering their crotch. the ice skating girls reveal even more. and the judges and the audience, whether sitting in the arena or in front of the enlarging tv screen, savor the sensuous beauty in motion, judges by telling their preference by grading and the audience by cheering and clapping, indicating the success in being noticed. conversely in this aspect, the man in position does not want to see a stripped man competing for the mr. universe, measuring to be way superior in looks and sensuality more appealing to a female than any male authority figure judging woman’s sex appeal.

it all starts with the gentle pat on the back of the child in the kindergarten. a repeated pat enables the child to know what pleases the teacher. and the seeds of the profession are planted. from then on, the child strives to keep on being patted on the back more than most children in the classroom. along with the progression in efforts and forms of motions sustained by the rewarding pats on the back, the classroom becomes a lab in the commerce sector inventing the myriad products; the weapons of war are updated; the stages are filled with the ballerinas tiptoeing, and blues singers crying their hearts out, not with the imaginary hard times, but begging to be noticed, and the churches are filled with the believers who are told to await for the savior’s second coming. this is how people are trained to perform to be seen by the powerful leading man in every walk of the professional life, some by claiming to be the only son of god; some by impressing others by meekness and compassion, and some by leading the nation in the home affairs and also remotely in the battlefield, made possible for the leader to be safely away from the enemy firepower while leisurely playing golf.

one of the primary condition for being led to believe anything is to not to know what is offered, and how it would really offer the desired goal, not in the future or after death, but in the now. for in the now all one is asked is to give up the very sense of whatever little safety one has, whether be it material or mental kind. like the cherished christian story of an old woman of giving away the half of the only loaf of bread to someone who acquires much more than the poor woman, in want of more in future. “among the greedy, the cunning shall never starve with lack”, observes an old sanskrit saying. this feeding off the greedy is a practice older than the sanskrit language. but for greed there is no reason for the desire to stand out, whether as a nation superior, or mother superior; a most beautiful woman or a richest person. all other creatures exist on equal footing without this human folly interacting directly with nature, and not via the middleman, whether a teacher, preacher or politician or businessman who controls the means of existence, and then by creating a scarcity makes people compete for a living as defined by the ever changing promoted description of the way of life.

so the question is who is this ‘me’? is it an ecologically biological entity that lives, or a remote controlled robot that acts on cues? men employed in the commercial enterprise called the artificial intelligence are themselves unwittingly working, making their sense organs function artificially, very much like robots, acting upon the cues that are not coming from their own within. just as soldiers who fight wars and kill and get killed do so upon the cue coming from others, almost every person in the employ of another person is that artificial intelligent robot who shares no interest or understanding in whatever one is ordered to do. it is the reason why the american man, mohammed ali, who otherwise himself acted as a champion boxer robot, in rare moment of awakening refused to fight a war that was not his, saying that he had nothing against them vietcong.

almost every employee in the service of another person to earn a living hates it, and daydreams a way out. and often times unawares is exploited some more by people pretending to help while actually polishing the person’s make believe sense of oneself, the me.

and it is all too obvious, not just to the buddha and shakespeare who saw that the world is an illusion, a stage, where no one who acts is a real person. it is a world of the me generation. anyone who experiences the pangs of the duality of what one does and would like to do instead, sees it, too, but feels too alone without the safety in numbers.

lots of things have happened
to bother my little self.
and each one to remind me of my immortality
that i had asked of the unknown as a believer.
it was easy then to pass on to him all my problems and pains,
and as a believer that's how i lived
parroting and playing puppets for the unknown maker.
once again i am a mortal
and i cannot become a believer now.
it is so dark all around here in the theatre
and i cannot see who else is in the audience sitting next to me.
i very much like to see and meet.
we may agree that the play be stopped,
the stage be broken and parrots to fly away.
we may disagree, too, and may walk away in different directions.
everything is possible once seeing.
(from unamerican dreams and dissent 1967.)


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