As I was reading the Washington Post’s article about how the Asian and Pacific coconut oil industry has callously skinned alive Borneo’s ecosystem to reap financial profits, the Buddha’s teaching about the interdependence of everything in this existence, better known as Dependent Origination, kept flashing in my mind.
Is it possible for humans to engage in commerce without destroying the ecosystem? Was the Borneo environmental atrocity avoidable (humans, plants and animals all suffered the consequences)? Asian and Pacific nations, many of them poor, have discovered that there is a sudden demand for coconut oil in the West, and so they ran to their beautiful ocean lands and simply squeezed the juice out of the earth, not only of the coconuts, to make a buck, so to speak. Some people needed the jobs, though. So, what to do?
Given that everything is interconnected, some answers to those questions may be tied to the other article in the WaPo: Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan to give away 99 percent of their Facebook stock, worth $45 billion. These tech giants (the WaPo uses the term, it’s already accepted as collective name for them) claim they want to ‘educate’ our children, which seems a noble gesture. But is it a disinterested gesture, and does it matter? And how is their decision to put their money on education related to the environmental atrocity in Borneo?
The Buddha taught the to understand things as they are we must ask questions and scrutinize the things and our believes about them. Their way of thinking matters to us. They have the $$ and the power to impose that philosophy on the rest of society. Their view of life, morals and priorities, in education and everything else, is the one we are adopting by means of their ‘philanthropy’. They are called ‘movers and shakers’ for something, aren’t they? They shake our beliefs and our social priorities on account of the over-importance and privilege we give them based on their technological contributions.
The attitudes of the Asian and Pacific Coconut industry is the same as the tech giants’ and ours here: the search for profit at any cost, which is the philosophical base of our current form of human organization. That philosophy is so discredited that mentioning its name causes angry reactions: capitalism. Defenders of this system don’t tolerate expressions of concerns about how out of control the pursue of profit is, while the horrific consequences continue to pile up in front of our eyes.
But that’s the kind of philosophy the Zuckerbergs and the tech giants are going to teach our children, the attitude that sustains the continued exploitation of this planet for profit at any cost. Don’t expect the elite to teach moral values contrary to theirs; they are the type of people who refuse to comply with water rationing in California because, as they say, they are not us, they have too much money to be subjected to the same rules as the lower castes.
To avoid more Borneos, we need to consciously adopt an attitude of wanting to live collectively in balance, which means we most FIRST change our attitude towards money and profit as the main goal of humanity. If the main reason for wanting to change things is to stop destroying humans and the environment, then that reason is based on compassion and self-preservation, the two moral values most despised by capitalists and Russian and Chinese style socialists.
We will destroy this humanity unless we do a radical change in our attitudes.
I repeat this a lot: contrary to the Marxists and the ‘capitalist elite’, the Buddha didn’t blame the wealthy nor the poor for our self-inflicted suffering; he blamed it on our undeveloped mental power, on our ignorance of how our mind works that ends up leading us to focus on self-gratification at the expense of others. These tech giants are morally corrupt, but it’s because they are ignorant in that way (I’m not defending them). They are not the only ones with that problem, we all share the same problem of ignorance in more or less amount. It’s not about IQ intelligence.
How can we learn to develop our mind power while we are being constantly distracted by the culture of consumerism, hate and wars? Our social priorities are a reflection of the immensity our ignorance; they are the product of our mental tendency to self-gratification, of unrestrained greed and conceit.
And now, we are letting the hungry wolves tell us how to make the calves fatter.