The engine of survival

That members of the Secret Service and U.S. Army shamelessly availed themselves of the services of Columbian prostitutes in advance of the arrival of President Obama is no surprise to me. For thousands of years, powerful men have blended their official power with their sexual urges. Such men often like to carry big, powerful guns; would Freud be surprised?

We witnessed this syndrome during the 2004 Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq, where armed men in positions of power ran amuck in a sordid frenzy of sexual humiliation and torture, even enlisting women soldiers to participate. Unrestrained ego and official sanction were combined; force and power were used ruthlessly and without restraint. Time and again, we see how readily aggression leads to misfortune, yet society’s belief in the value of aggression remains a cornerstone of civil and military policy.

“Stand your ground” laws are proliferating within the U.S., becoming legal justification for armed vigilantism. Opposition to gun ownership is overwhelmed in congress by the pro-gun lobby, and efforts to allow the carrying of concealed weapons on college campuses and the like are accelerating. Shambhala’s Sakyong Mipham, in recent remarks sent to a recent U.N. Conference on Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness project, calls this the “dark” age, in his words, “an epoch of fear, dominated by extreme greed….a dreadful, yet passing, phase in our history.”

The use of aggression to solve problems seems expedient, and some even argue, successful. “It’s taken us this far,” many say, “somebody needs to stand up to the bad guys.” Of course, one person’s “bad guy” might be another’s “hero” and that happens often. Thus Syria’s Assad labels his opposition “terrorists” while we Americans label them “fighters for democracy.” Such worldly argument masks the underlying foolishness of aggression from both sides, which escalates with each and every act, producing a cascade of violence and revenge that often spans centuries. Bin Laden railed against the overthrow of the Ottoman Empire established in 1299.

We employ violence to purportedly control and protect; control crime and the aggression of others and protect ourselves, our fellow citizens and our property from harm. As Doctor Phil would say, “How’s that workin’ for ya?” From most perspectives, the answer’s pretty dreary.

This begs the question, is there an alternative? According to Sakyong Mipham, the answer is yes. “There is a natural source of radiance and brilliance in the world, which is the innate Wakefulness of human beings. This is our birthright. The darkness we are passing through serves ultimately to remind us of who we are, and to re-awaken the wisdom that slumbers within us…I urge you not to lose heart.”

His statement goes on: “All such visions evoke our common longing to live in a vibrant, warmhearted, humane culture. To raise our families in a just and compassionate society. To work and prosper within an economic order that has the best interests of all citizens at heart. To share with each other a profound respect for human dignity. This deep-seated desire is born of a noble attitude that brings out the very best in people. It fosters harmony, transcending our differences. Ultimately it blossoms into sacred empathy with each other and the natural world around us.”

To quote poet/songwriter Leonard Cohen: “Love’s the only engine of survival.”

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