Refining the view of individual vs. social behavior
Recently, an evangelical named John Allen Chau, decided to attempt to visit a tribe of un-contacted status on North Sentinel Island in the Bay of Bengal in order to convert them to Christianity. The protocols and restrictions for visiting this place were known to him, but due to what the red tape would have required of him, he decided that his mission from God afforded him the right to circumvent the protocols and visit them directly. His enthusiasm was met with a barrage of arrows ending his crusade before it had even begun. In short, he met his maker before he had a chance to complete his task.
There were two main fronts of backlash to this event. One was from those sympathetic to the tribe who could be wiped out by any given strain of the common cold. The second front were those who felt that the Christian right to proselytize Christianity was being infringed upon. Some evangelicals even called for the capital punishment for the “murderers” of the missionary.
How do I see History?
As a person deeply engaged with things Buddhist, many categorize me as a religious person. Buddhism has been an incredibly value part of my life since early on and I prize it as a great enhancement of my life. As a Buddhist, I am aware that change occurs from within an individual and on an evolutionary basis. I have never succeeded when pushing “my view” and the influence I exert is firstly onto my own continuum and secondly by my simple presence in this world.
As an American, I have grew up believing that freedom of thought is probably our country’s most touted virtue if not freedom to act, provided we recognize that our freedoms should not infringe upon the freedoms of others. It is common sense that the wish to maintain our own freedom to worship is inextricably woven into a tapestry where Church and State are separated. However, today we see a new wind of sentiment towards the opposite. It is amazing how fast our young country has been able to forget history and problems with the divine right of Kings.
As we evolve we learn more about how we are inextricably linked to the health of our environment, each other and nature. Many now recognize that an attack on any part of a healthy system is an attack of sorts, on the individual contained within it.
This understanding of interdependence is not new and is even illustrated by George Washington’s famous warning:
“However (political parties) may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion”
Regardless of your religious beliefs, the process of recognition of the functioning of interdependence can lead to enhancement of proper methods yielding desirable outcomes which again benefit the whole rather than plaguing us with toxic and unintended consequences.
Many have evolved to a stage where they are able to recognize our interdependence and wish to act more closely in accord with this understanding. People are beginning to understand that altruism is not a mind set antithetical to benefits for individuals. However, as our world gets more crowded and people are thrust up against each other, the chances where we can and must deal with the reflection and consequences of our views and actions are ever increasing in frequency and intensity.
Monsanto and other misogynistic inseminators:
Unfortunately, as the wave of a deeper understanding of interdependence grows, the entrenchment of our earlier ignorance seems to intensify. Protections afforded to inventors via patents were designed to provide incentives to invent and invest in new technologies that would make our lives easier and more efficient. But this same notion of patent ownership can be and is abused to such an extent that it threatens the very existence of other humans.
Left to the dark corners of their laboratory petri dishes, Monsanto has been able to key in unique DNA sequences into the fabric of intellectual property. This, by itself, is not intrinsically negative. Unfortunately, this is not the only way this facility has been used. Monsanto has genetically modified the soybean to give it characteristics the company itself deems beneficial to its own bottom line. For example, whereas Glyphosate is a chemical used to destroy foliage of almost any natural plant, their GMO soybeans are immune to its defoliating effects. The pairing of the chemical with the use of their seeds is by corporate standards, genius. But the need for commercial, economic and legal control did not stop there. As the wind blows, so does pollen. And as Monsanto’s GMO soy pollen blew into the wind, so did their GMO DNA signatures, inseminating the non GMO soy of neighboring farmers. It is hard to stop the wind from blowing and for Monsanto, this is all part of the genius of product exclusivity and market control. When the farmers of non GMO soy continued as usual to sell their seeds, Monsanto brought them to court showing that their proprietary DNA markers were in the soy these farmers were selling, thereby infringing upon the property rights of Monsanto. The Ag giant has been consistently able to crush the small farmers in court, effectively forcing them to buy high cost soy seeds and glyphosate from them at whatever prices they wish to dictate.
Sound familiar? This is something akin to rewarding a rapist with custody of a child.
On a day when logic could rule, one would say that Monsanto would have to keep its seed in its own pants or lose the right to make claims on others. But small farmers cannot afford huge legal teams and prolonged legal battles and so money rules, not common sense justice.
Both of these examples of evangelical tourism and corporate rape of the little guy, have one thread in common and that is that no must mean no. If we really wish to worship freely, we must do two things. We must keep Church and state separated and we must be careful not to try to force religious or economic domination upon others. It does not take much imagination to see the striking resemblances between Sharia law and the laws that evangelicals would love to impose on all Americans.
One only need read some of the many passages in Leviticus to understand the many reasons we are free to stone our neighbors including the way they sport their beards or weave their fabrics.
All this leads us to one simple and critical need to understand that the only way to survive together is by all of us developing a better understanding, recognition and appreciation of the interdependence of all things. Call it love thy neighbor, do unto others, or whatever label you prefer, but saving the pollen in your pocket for those who offer consent is a most meritorious start. In the end, it is better to see God first within oneself without being too desperate to impose him (or her) on others, and of course, without getting ourselves killed in the process.