Change is on the Way

Last Saturday I went to Central, the Financial District in Hong Kong, to see if the rumored ‘Occupy Hong Kong’ event was going to happen. The Podium outside the HK Exchange was crowded with people and banners of all kinds. It was a surprising turn-out. Here is the video I made, with one of my student’s interviewing skills:

The main point addressed by those we talked to was the huge imbalance in resources and power. The rich 1% of the population make the rules with the expectation that the 99% will obey and serve them. This is the system of democracy promoted by the US that is no longer acceptable.

Hong Kong is the global center of banking and finance. Wall Street is the symbol, but its all happening here in Hong Kong. As my former student Michael Suen says, “Hong Kong both reaps the rewards and suffers the consequences of the free market mechanism the most. Remember that it has the greatest income gap among all developed economies. That’s the 99% vs. 1% disparity at its most evident (or you might even say absurd). Most importantly, at least for me, is to acknowledge how deeply systemic and complex the crisis is, and to recognize the limits of our understanding. It’s my generation’s responsibility to disentangle the problems, bit by bit. Because, after all, it’s our future.”

From the perspective of developmental stages, this “occupy everywhere” movement represents a dis-enthrallment with Modernism and a global shift into Post-Modern values. Human rights, justice, equality, recognition that everyone deserves a living wage, and other social causes are gaining acceptance. Corporate greed, mismanagement of investments, politics and law-making by-the-rich and for-the-rich must end.

If you know your world history, this should be a deja vu! Isn’t this exactly what the American Revolution was all about? And the French Revolution? Wasn’t the issue taking power from despotic monarchs who owned everything and made all the rules? Wasn’t democracy supposed to be for-the-people, by-the-people? What happened? When did we give our rights away? When did they steal us blind? When did we fall asleep?

Two hundred plus years ago the revolution, the shift in power, was between the Traditional world and the Modern world. Now the Modern worldview is on the way out. It needs to go because the few at the top have managed to funnel all the wealth and power away from the people. The world is owned by the wealthy few and manipulated by the politicians the wealthy put into office with their stolen money.

I’m not convinced this move from Modern to Post-Modern is going to solve our problems. Rather, I see it as a necessary intermediate step. The changes we all really want to see can only come about when we make the global shift from Post-Modern to Integral. There are not enough people who see things from the Integral perspective yet, but that’s the stage we need to get to for the world to finally find a better balance.

The Post-Modern stage is still externally oriented; it is still ego-driven. Its primary concern is ‘choice freedom.’ This kind of freedom, as Thomas Merton points out, is all about having the means to do what I want, go where I want, say what I want, buy what I want – all dictated by cultural conditioning and hidden agendas of the lower self (Bourgeault, Wisdom Way of Knowing). From the stand point of spiritual teachings, only the fruits of transformation bring real happiness, freedom, justice, and free will.

The Integral stage, by openly promoting spiritual transformation,  looks like it is a few decades away. In the meantime we will have to suffer through the transition from Modern to Post-Modern. When people begin to see through the issues of Post-Modernism and become dis-enthralled with it, they will be ready for the spiritual transformation to the Integral stage. This stage is a recognition that we are evolving into kosmo-centric persons; persons with the creativity and insights necessary for saving civilization from self-destruction. Let’s hope for all of our sakes that we can bring about the Integral change more quickly.

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“Old Tibet no Shangri-La”

An article appeared in The Atlanta Journal Constitution written by a Taiwanese student, Chi-Wen Yao, at University of Georgia. It is called “Old Tibet no Shangri-La” and points out, rightly, that old Tibet was a theocratic feudal system that abused human rights. The monasteries were the owners of huge tracts of land and owned the peasants more or less as slaves.

He’s right. There were terrible abuses and no one wants to return to a system like that. But he is misguided if he believes that returning to rule under the Dalai Lama means a return to that old system. As a young man the Dalai Lama already saw how terrible the system had become. He wanted to reform it, and, given the chance, I’m sure he would have moved Tibet toward democracy. He even considered some communist ideals as an option for a positive impact on Tibetan society and hoped that Mao would help him make those reforms. But that’s when he was a teenager! When the People’s Liberation Army came to Kham and Amdo to liberate the people from that oppressive system, they came with a complete disregard for ALL cultural and religious values, brushing aside the good with the bad. The only saw one way, the Han Chinese communist way.

Chi-Wen is right about supporting a new, democratic Tibet but he’s wrong in his assumptions that a return to lamaism will return Tibet to the dark ages. What the Dalai Lama has proven to the world, through his years of activism for his people and his repeated call for non-violence and discussion between Tibetans and Chinese, is that an autonomous Tibet will be different. The Tibetan community in exile have also seen the world and are used to free, democratic societies. If they are allowed to return to their homes in Tibet they would not want to live in the dark ages again for sure! In fact, the Tibetans living under Chinese rule now are much more aware of democratic freedoms and would not want to return to the dark ages either! Where does Chi-Wen get this notion anyway?