Communities Change Fierce Civility
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Joe Weston

I get it!


I was quite discouraged by the recent Supreme Court debates on the Health Care Law. It seems that many people in this country have trouble with the “individual mandate” which claims that everyone is required to buy insurance.

I don’t fully understand the problem. When I applied for my work permit in the Netherlands I was required to get health insurance. Insurance in the Netherlands is currently around $200 a month. This is for full coverage with an annual deductible of about $200. I can see any doctor I choose to see and when I need services I don’t have to wait long. It seems to work well.

My rights haven’t been taken away and I have the comfort that I am well taken care of. (In international polls, the Dutch always rank in the top 3 – 5 as the happiest and healthiest people in the world and the US usually one of the lowest for a “developed” nation.)

In my research of trying to understand those who are against this mandate (mostly Republicans, Conservatives and Tea Partiers), I was always confused by their message. Then I started getting some clarity. When I was a volunteer teacher at a California state Prison, I had a long talk with a Republican-identified guard who helped me to see that the primary driving force of these people is the need for freedom. Freedom from government, from establishment, from anything that threatens personal rights.

However, I was confused. How could these people fight for freedom when they had little trouble allowing the government to take away their privacy with the Patriot Act? They didn’t seem to have a problem with government telling them where they can smoke, or who we went to war with, and they have spent an enormous of amount of time and money to get the government to put more restrictions on women’s health. Where’s the freedom in this?

But these debates on the individual mandate helps me see the core of the issue. The real freedom that is truly valued by these parties is the freedom to BUY and SELL as they please! These parties don’t necessarily stand for the basic rights of the individual; these parties are only interested in protecting the right to consume. This made so much sense – most citizens of this country are not concerned with Democracy and human rights, most are committed to upholding the ideology of Consumerism!

The US thinks it’s the “champion of Democracy” around the world; however, the US is really the leaders of Consumerist Movement. Since the 1950’s, the American Dream has turned into the belief that all Americans have the right to be happy, not the right to “pursue” happiness (what you will find in the Declaration of Independence). And, according to this Consumerist Movement, happiness is determined by how much you can buy and consume.

This helps me better understand members of these parties, many of whom would like to restore this nation to the policies of the original constitution. When you think of it, most of the members of the first federal government were motivated to protect the rights of wealthy men to buy and sell as they please. If you look at our current congress, you could say that not much has changed.

I recently met an amazing woman, Pamela Ayo Yetunde, who worked as a financial advisor before becoming a chaplain, pastoral counselor and, as she puts it, a “Buddhologist.” In her book, “Vigil: Spiritual reflections on your money and sanity”, she compares large corporations and the system that has supported them with “hungry ghosts” – an entity that constantly needs to be fed, is never satisfied and sucks off of anything it can get it’s hands on

A solution she offers to our current problems is that one way to weaken the hungry ghost of large corporations is to address the patterns within us that feed this system. When we overcome our own discontent, confusion, neurotic cravings and lack of generosity, we weaken and starve the hungry ghost of big business and soften its current power.

Yetunde offers three clear practices to help us lessen the grip of corporate greed and economic imbalance: notice the influence the media has on us and make changes; acknowledge how much corporate dollars affects government and be mindful of where you put your money; and sincerely face your own suffering and the suffering of others and take actions to ask for help and support others

I’m so grateful to know that there are great teachers out there like Yetunde who offer us the simple message that happiness is not determined by the size of your house or how much power you have, but more about walking through the world with integrity and right relationship with yourself, with others and with the environment. Many blessings on your journey towards empowered contentment.


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Communities Change Fierce Civility

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