Dr Itamar Bashan, co-founder of Bhavana House, a Dhamma sanctuary in Tel Aviv, Israel, has sent a link to a very thoughtful article called "Dependently Ceasing in the Middle East: A Personal Account" which he presented to the Buddhist World Peace Conference, at the Sagain International Buddhist Academy, in Myanmar, January 2016.
It resonates with my "fortress world" article in BODHI Times 49.
I have asked Itamar if there was any reflection on rising Buddhist extremism in Myanmar at the conference.
Itamar writes, in part
"For many years I could not understand how the citizens of Nazi Germany kept silence when Hitler came to power, declared war and conducted the Final Solution, the demonic plan for the mass murder of all Jews in the world, based on a racist ideology. I could not understand how ordinary people - teachers, merchants, artists, journalists, politicians, intellectuals, people of law and justice - most certainly honest, decent, educated people - could keep silent. How could they remain silent in view of the human monster that developed right before their eyes. That silence was incomprehensible to me, a crime that was second only to the atrocities of the Nazi regime.
As a karmic irony, the answer is given to me now on a daily basis. And that answer is painful. As an Israeli, I am a citizen of a country that lives by the sword. A country that was founded to address the needs and to protect the rights of Jewish war refugees to have a new and just life, but gradually became violent and oppressive towards a population that lived in this country for many generations, the Palestinians. Gradually, after its greatest military victory in the Six Day War in 1967, Israel has become an arrogant, depriving, occupying state, violating the international law and trampling basic human rights. Last year, following the strengthening of the extreme right wing forces in the Knesset (Israeli parliament) and in the government, this process gained momentum, and I see how ordinary people - teachers, merchants, artists, journalists, politicians, intellectuals, people of law and justice - most certainly honest, decent, educated people - keep silent. I see first hand the mechanisms of incitement, I see the threats and violence that are directed towards those protesting against the repressive actions, and I understand directly how this was possible in Nazi Germany, how it is possible today in Israel, how it is possible anywhere. We, human beings, have the potential to be either pure or evil. It is our responsibility to choose, we are the owners of our actions and we inherit the results."
My only long term solution to the problems humans face is to slow their growth and greed. But there are too many “demographic arms races” in progress. Europe slowed its demographic momentum a few decades after World War II but most Europeans forgot about too much of the rest of the world. Now, chaos outside Europe, not only in the Middle East, but also the Sahel and northern Africa threatens European security.
Neoliberalism (seeing humans as primarily rational actors in markets, so that unrestrained market forces will generate maximal prosperity for most) is part of the problem, but even the author of this piece, George Monbiot, is blind to the harm that unrestrained population growth does to development. He appears to not understand the "demographic dividend", the absence of which underpins many failed states. (See also Development, inequality and climate change [PDF] via this link for a recent paper discussing the demographic dividend).
Perhaps there is no solution. We do live in samsara. But, if we use that as reason for defeatism and indifference, then surely we create the karma to ourselves be treated with indifference or hostility.