Deepak Chopra and Intent

Deepak Chopra and Intent

When Illusions Refuse to Die (Part 1)

posted by dchopra

Societies don’t remain the same after a war but find that they have radically changed. Sometimes the change is catastrophic, sometimes not. But it can never be ignored. A major undercurrent in the 2008 presidential campaign centers on this fact, because the people who devised and promoted the Iraq war want to preserve the illusion that nothing in America has really changed, when in fact a host of illusions died on the battlefield. On the other side, the anti-war party (as the Democrats became de facto over the past five years) is struggling to invent new realities to replace these lost illusions. The public is caught in between, for there’s no doubt that comforting illusions have a way of springing back to life, if only history could be reversed.
Consider the major illusions that perished — or should have — in Iraq:
1. The illusion of a “free” war.
2. The illusion that American nationalism is good nationalism.
3. The illusion of America as the friendly superpower.
4. The illusion that alliances are expendable.
5. The illusion that America and the free market are synonymous.
Each one has a complex history and will continue to, but there’s no doubt that reality has shifted so dramatically as to undercut all these false beliefs.
1. The illusion of a “free” war. In the wake of the first Gulf war and the so-called Powell doctrine, it was supposed to be true that overwhelming force could reduce U.S. casualties to a bare minimum. Conflicts would essentially cost us close to nothing as long as victory was certain beforehand and technology could quickly overpower an under-equipped enemy. But this notion of a “free” war was dead before it began, as witness the quagmire of Vietnam and the Soviet experience in Afghanistan. A determined insurrection cannot be defeated quickly, easily, or by conventional means.
Iraq was supposedly free in other ways. The war was going to pay for itself through Iraq’s resurgent oil revenues — until the rebels started blowing up pipelines and terrorizing the contractors hired to rebuild the oil industry. Another free aspect was the social cost on both sides. The Iraqi population was going to suffer minimal damage compared to Saddam’s elite corps of soldiers in the shock and awe campaign. Instead, innocent citizens died by the tens of thousands, while the Iraqi army dispersed into the shadows and turned into bitter insurrectionists. As for minimal loss to American civilians, it’s true that only a small percentage have been wounded or killed, but the vast majority became lulled into allowing the war to continue years after it failed, thus promoting and extending its toxic effects.
2. The illusion that American nationalism is good nationalism. (One could easily say the only good nationalism so far as the right wing is concerned, since God approves of it wholeheartedly) Because of the humanitarian effect of the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe in the late forties, the U.S. firmly believes that it holds a patent on good nationalism, the kind that the whole world loves. We are shocked to find out that we might be hated elsewhere, and when that revelation dawns, our nationalism reverts to the bad kind, which invades, kills, and wreaks havoc. After five years of doing this in Iraq, and threatening more of the same in Iran, a realist would abandon good nationalism for something more palatable to the world at large.
Specifically, the U.S. possesses such strength that it can afford to put nationalism on the back burner and reinvent itself as the leader of a global interests vision. There are stirrings of this new role, and it may yet prevail. But a huge amount of old conditioning has to be overcome. We are conditioned to believe that the U.S. is the freest country on earth, which makes no sense given the equal freedom enjoyed in England, Australia, Canada, Scandinavia, and the rest of Western Europe. We conveniently forget the numerous countries, as many as 29 by some counts, that the U.S. has either invaded or tampered with internally since the Fifties. We overlook our greedy overconsumption of natural resources. Most of all, we use nationalism as a wall, protecting our insular view of the world — in large part the fiasco of the Iraq war was due to deep ignorance about that country and Islam in general. Finally, American nationalism is outdated, running on the fumes of victory in World War II and the notion of defeating nation-based enemies through a large standing army, when in reality the enemy is diverse, scattered, and free from national boundaries. The invasion of Iraq was a nationalist cause to begin with based on landing in Normandy on D-Day, again an illusion that should have died in Vietnam but refused to.
(to be cont.)
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Deepak Chopra: Are We an Accident?

posted by akornfeld

Do you believe that we are accidents? This morning I was thinking about the idea of atheism, which believes that we are accidents and purpose of our biological science is to prolong the accident indefinitely.

Excuse Me, How Does It Feel to Be Poor?

posted by dchopra

An article in the Washington Post On Faith section in response to their question:
What’s your response to this question from a Post national poll of low-wage workers? “What role does God or your faith play in helping you get through tough financial times?”
The new poll on poverty has a certain brazen quality about it, or is it rubbing salt in the wound accidentally? The poorest people in any society are the most vulnerable to economic anxiety. They are the least able to afford downturns and have almost no power to improve their lot through political leverage. The poll revealed that the poor are aware of their teetering situation. Did anyone expect that they would discover anything other than pessimism?
To the degree that the poor still believe in the American dream, a Marxist would say that they have been duped. There are more opiates of the masses than just religion. However, there are no unbesmirched Marxists left, it seems, so the social wheel must turn in a new direction. Having abandoned the welfare state in its most liberal and generous aspects, America ignores the poor as never before — the idealism of the “respectable poor,” the compassion shown to victims of the Great Depression, and the social crusades of the sixties are gone. Is there a new idea that can bridge the immense gap between rich and poor in income, education, health, and opportunities?
Religion certainly isn’t that new idea. Asking the poor if they turn to God in hard times — and discovering that the vast majority do — revives the specter of Barack Obama’s “clinging” episode. It also validates, if validation was needed, that clinging to religion is a very real phenomenon, one that has its own dignity and worth. Few people in any income bracket fail to pray in a dire crisis or to hope that a higher power sees their plight. There may be no atheists in the foxholes, as the wartime slogan went, but there are few on a sinking ship, either. The pessimism revealed in the poll is simple realism as seen from the lowest deck.
Forty years after Michael Harrington’s groundbreaking book, “Poverty in America,” which launched the War on Poverty with high ideals that never materialized, our knowledge about poverty is enormous, but our will to attack the problem is slim. One reason is obvious. As many economists point out, the poor subsidize America’s enviable lifestyle. Every underpaid hotel maid, McDonald’s cook, migrant farm worker, and school janitor living below the poverty line is contributing money to the rest of us. Without the poor there would be no American dream, and yet they are the least likely to benefit from it. If I am being asked what sustains me in economic hard times, my answer isn’t conventional religious piety but a new vision of possibilities. Such a vision must be spiritual at its core. Begin with the notion that all souls are equal, and that each person can evolve in consciousness. Give the poorest people — and everyone else — the tools to expand their own awareness, and heartless questions about how it feels to be poor won’t be necessary anymore.
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New Life in a New World

posted by dchopra

People need a way to deal with the global changes suddenly surrounding us. As often happens, second-hand opinions are gaining the most power. The vocabulary on the left speaks of positive change, a new order, rising prosperity in what used to be the third world, and creative possibilities. The right employs a darker, more pessimistic vocabulary of turmoil in the credit markets, military threat from China, the need to seize on traditional values and exclude immigrants. The basic difference comes down to embracing the emerging global community or holding tight to isolated nationalism backed up with military threats.
Yet both attitudes are second-hand, and as people take sides, passing around the same few slogans and attitudes, something important is being missed. To deal successfully with turbulent change, you have to envision a new life for yourself. Despite the instinct to contract and defend, the real need is to expand and create. Unless each of us can see a new life for ourselves personally, there can’t be a new world — or if one arises, we will be left behind. The basics of existence are up for renewal at this moment, and people are asking themselves some very basic questions:
–Can I find a new way to be happy? Americans have long been addicted to over-consumption and wastefulness — with only 6% of the world’s population, we use 30% of its resources — and yet we consider waste to be a negligible byproduct of pursuing happiness. Is there a better way that doesn’t lead to ecological contamination? Can we prosper without earning the resentment of the whole world?
–Can I find a new way to be healthy? This society leads the world in developing new drugs and surgery because we don’t want to sacrifice the fantasy that a magic pill equals health. Is there a way to nurture well-being that avoids the medical system almost entirely?
–Can I live as long as possible with real quality of life? The outworn concept of old age as a time of decrepitude and inactivity gave way to “the new old age” twenty years ago, and now aging is gradually being absorbed into the human life cycle as a positive contribution, not a depressing decline. What will my place be in this new vision?
–Can I find a new way to grow spiritually? The rear-guard action in defense of organized religion mounted by fundamentalists, although loudly voiced by the right wing, is at odds with reality — organized religion has been fading for decades in the developed world. Yet instead of seeing this as a loss, new avenues of faith have opened. How will you fulfill your spiritual yearning ten or twenty years from now?
In all these cases, the individual is far ahead of society as a whole. Every society is essentially a conservative institution. It forms a framework for personal freedom, but it cannot be expected to dictate how that freedom is best used. The new world that is being born contains as much strife and uncertainty as the old, its great advantage being newness, ferment, and clearing the stage of outmoded behavior and beliefs. In this clearing process lies enormous possibilities, but these will be defeated if you cling instead to the fixed attitudes of any faction, right or left. You are the great possibility, something worth remembering every day.
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