Capitalism, imperialism, and the lies of Western culture

There are many things about our Western culture and history that perpetuate capitalism, imperialism, consumerism, and racism.

During the first three centuries of the Common Era, Christians were nonviolent as taught by Jesus. When Christianity became institutionalized with the conquest of Constantine, the Church started thinking that some wars are just, and the Just War theory became widely accepted. David Swanson has recently written books like War is a Lie and War is Never Just to counter the predominate mindset. Materialistic greed can lead to war making and imperialism.

Author and progressive foreign policy expert William Blum wrote an article in 2013, entitled “Overthrowing Other People’s Governments: The Master List,” in which he lists over 50 instances of the United States overthrowing, or attempting to overthrow, a foreign government since the Second World War. Wayne Madsen recently wrote on the same subject an article for Infowars.com (the website of Alex Jones) called “Share This Chart: Countries Destroyed by Hillary [Clinton].” The article was even posted at Russia-Insider.com.

Andre Vltchek, whose latest 800-page book entitled Exposing Lies of the Empire, is an important writer whom few Americans have yet heard of. Articles by insightful Paul Craig Roberts are rarely read by average Americans. And few average Americans have ever gone to YouTube and watched the excellent interviews and speeches of Michael Parenti and Noam Chomsky.

Andre Vltchek has written, “The majority of European and North Americans appear to be thoroughly apathetic towards the state of the world . . . The difference between what US citizens think their rulers are doing in the world and what their rulers are actually doing is one of the greatest propaganda feats in modern history . . . While the American Empire constantly brags about “democracy,” it is running the most totalitarian regime ever known to mankind.” Like Andre Vltchek, we all should consider ourselves Internationalists; we should not just promote our own country; we should belong to the entire world.

Consumerism and capitalism have debased our culture and the planet. Imperialism (past and present) has created much havoc in the world with its colonialism and neo-colonialism, and now half the world lives on less than $2.50 a day.

As a long time meditator, I have admired excellent meditation teachers such as the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, Ram Dass, and Steve Hagen. The Dalai Lama, I read recently, stated that he is half Buddhist and half Marxist. Thich Nhat Hanh is a leader in the “Engaged Buddhism” movement (he coined the term), promoting the individual’s active role in creating change. The Buddhist Peace Fellowship, influenced by Hanh, participates in various forms of nonviolent social activism and promotes environmentalism and nuclear disarmament. Jon Kabat-Zinn is a popular mindfulness meditation instructor, and he is the brother of Howard Zinn, the famous author of A People’s History of the United States.

I appreciate the above individuals. My deep concern, however, is that many adherents of Eastern philosophy and meditation, alternative health therapies, and yoga are not any different from most Americans: They are too preoccupied with football, movies, food, electronic gadgets, relationship issues, and job stress to know what the US military and CIA have been doing around the world. To know that, one cannot just listen to the mainstream corporate media.

The influence of mindfulness meditation is now reaching the corporate world—no doubt, to increase profits. But when I share at meditation groups my conviction that we each should focus on political transformation as much as we do our own inner transformation, I find that group members sometimes get a little defensive.

Often people will say, “We all have different gifts. Some people don’t have the time or interest to be politically minded, or they don’t have the inclination to be political activists.” They sometimes tell me that we need to find inner peace before we can create outer peace. But I think if the house is starting to burn down, everyone has to help put out the fire. Thus, it is the duty of every citizen to take civics and citizenship very seriously. If our two-party system is a corrupt sham, a big joke, we each have to feel responsible for changing the system. If there is a nuclear holocaust causing World War III, we won’t be able to sit around meditating on our navels.

Current religions, unfortunately, do not advocate the eradication of capitalism and imperialism in their official belief statements; however, a few Quakers and Unitarian-Universalists in general support liberal or progressive political agendas. Secular humanism, Marxism, communism, and socialism are worldviews. They are sometimes called religions when adherents rigidly follow a party line lockstep without doing their own independent thinking.

Traditional Christians, Jews, and Moslems believe that there is a God separate and distinct from the universe He created. They pray to this personal and whimsical God, asking that He will have mercy and answer their prayers. Instead of striving to have psychological understanding of themselves and others, many religious people just believe that if they pray fervently enough their prayers will be answered.

Hindus, Buddhists, and yogis, on the other hand, believe that God, or an impersonal Source, is not separate from the universe; it is always within everything and every person. They often believe that if they just meditate, they will solve all psychological problems and find meaning in their life, as they discover the boundless joy of the Self or Void through detached observation of the mind/body or through what Krishnamurti called “choiceless awareness.”

Half of the American population believes that the Rapture or Second Coming is imminent, and that you have to take Jesus as your lord and savior in order to be “saved.” Instead of dismissing such people as hopelessly brain dead, we need to kindly and respectfully engage them in conversation and seek to hear their best arguments as to why they believe the way they do.

Evangelical Christians can be encouraged to listen to podcasts by Ernie Bringas, for example. Bringas, a former United Methodist pastor who now teaches theology, is the author of JesusGate: A History of Concealment Unraveled. He provides the latest Bible scholarship in a way that lay people can understand. Bringas contends that if pastors shared what they learned at liberal seminaries about the virgin birth, resurrection, and the trinity, many parishioners would leave the church, and such pastors would be without a congregation or livelihood.

John Shelby Spong, author of Why Christianity Must Change or Die and also Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, has actually debated conservative Bible scholar William Lane Craig in an excellent YouTube video called “The Great Resurrection Debate.” With adequate knowledge and information at our disposal, we can be more convincing as we challenge the many false assumptions that people make about the most important issues in life.

Neo-conservative or neo-liberal foreign policy “experts,” bent on conquering the world through the American Empire, just love it, I’m sure, when Christian fundamentalists think Israel can do no wrong because its preservation ties into their Battle of Armageddon beliefs about the End Times. No doubt the same “experts” just love it when average Americans are too self-preoccupied with meditation, football, electronic gadgets, food, relationship issues, and job stress to question the mainstream corporate media.

But in addition to the study of religion and the practice of spiritual disciplines, the study of psychology is also important. The study of psychology can also help people grow up and become emotionally mature. If more people had self understanding, our social problems would be less.

It is unfortunate that many children, parents, and other adults have not learned how to deal with their feelings and emotions; they don’t know how the self concept is formed or about everyday ego-defense mechanisms that we use to protect our illusory egos. They have not learned about humanistic psychology, Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and concept of Self-Actualization, and Carl Rogers’s person-centered therapy, and about transpersonal (or trans-ego) psychology.

There is much that both children and adults can learn from books and workshops about nonviolent communication (sometimes it is called compassionate communication) to deal with our everyday interpersonal relationships. Psychologist Marshall B. Rosenberg is my favorite expert on the subject. Rosenberg said we need to focus on sharing observed facts, feelings, and personal needs rather than moral judgments of others. He also said, “When two people play the game, ‘I’m right, you’re wrong,’ they both lose.”

Our current schools—public, private, and parochial—also perpetuate capitalism and imperialism. They are either extensions of the government or give the worldview of a particular religious denomination. Moreover, I don’t know of any private schools (including Montessori schools) that teach any radical, counter culture ideas that are anti-Establishment.

As a retired school teacher, I have advocated neighborhood control of neighborhood schools for the last 40 years to remove the hierarchy and chain of command, top-down domination in the school system. The neighborhood surrounding each elementary public school could ideally become an intentional community. Neighborhood control of neighborhood schools would also restore the sense of neighborhood togetherness, an idea that has long been forgotten in a society that promotes rugged individualism. With neighborhood control of schools, would there be some elementary schools that teach ideas that you and I disagree with? Yes, of course. But it would encourage parents and neighbors to think deeply about educational philosophy and curriculum. In the age of the Internet, a modern version of tribalism could potentially develop that would promote local diversity and local self-determination.

Here is another example of how just about everything we learn in our culture is wrong, and it shows the pernicious effects of production for profit. Recently my fiancee’s granddaughter—who was a straight A student and winner of a piano-playing competition at the state level—had a psychotic break. In a 4-month period she was in and out of about 5 or 6 psychiatric facilities. She was given major anti-psychotic drugs such as Haldol and was told by all the “experts” that she had a chemical imbalance and would have to take anti-psychotic drugs for the rest of her life. She was more psychotic and disturbed at the end of that 4-month period than she was initially! I informed my fiancee’s daughter about the classic book Toxic Psychiatry: Why Therapy, Empathy and Love Must Replace the Drugs, Electroshock, and Biochemical Theories of the “New Psychiatry” by Peter R. Breggin, M.D.

The daughter and granddaughter left their stress-inducing environment and came to visit my fiancé and me for about a month. We provided a stress-free, very calm and accepting therapeutic environment, as the granddaughter was gradually weaned from all anti-psychotic drugs. Currently she is not displaying any psychotic speech; she is back in school, and it appears that she made a complete recovery.

It would not be fair for me to generalize about the psychiatric establishment based on this one-case scenario, but there is a growing, organized movement of psychiatric survivors who are exposing the close link between psychiatrists and the drug companies. It is all about profit.

Last week I learned that I’m going to be a grandfather for the first time at the age of 66. If I were going to raise a child today, I would not send her or him to a public school or even to a private school if all the issues discussed in this article were not part of the curriculum, which means that home schooling would be the choice, unless I could find some like-minded parents who could help start a free, parent-run private school.

With impending climate change and a new Cold War starting up again, fomented by US foreign policy and the corporate media—we each have to work until our dying day to save the world now.

Last month I cancelled cable TV. With its 2,000 channels, there was nothing worth watching, and I have no toleration for TV commercials every 10 minutes. With a digital antenna, I can still get about 10 channels on my small-screen TV. Watching YouTube documentaries and searching the Internet is a lot more entertaining and educational to me than watching a lot of violent or silly programs that don’t teach me anything.

Any country that has the audacity to refuse to be a client state of the United States is targeted for regime change, and then it is demonized by the mouthpiece of the government, the corporate media. The plan to control the world had been orchestrated by Zbigniew Brzezinski years ago.

Growing up and living in the United States, we have all been brainwashed in so many ways. Here is another example of how we have been lied to. The most versatile plant on the planet for industrial, medical, agricultural, and recreational purposes is the marijuana-cannabis-hemp plant. It was made illegal in 1937 through a corporate smear campaign all because the corporations involved would lose money from its legality. Under capitalism you have to sell the best product at a lower price and eliminate your competitors, sometimes by hook or by crook. After you capture the market, then you can raise your prices.

The corporations have lied to us about food. When I was growing up, the meat and dairy industries made sure there were separate categories for meat and dairy on the food pyramid we studied in school. Now we know that a vegetarian, and ideally a vegan diet, would be better for ecological, health, and ethical reasons.

Corporations promoted the auto industry instead of the widespread use of trains and buses. Now every city has undesirable traffic congestion and pollution problems.

Every citizen should write their own version of a new US constitution as I have done; it will help people clarify their values. I contend we should equally empower and give a voice to every national political party that captures at least one percent of registered voters. In other writings I have shown how this can be done. Proportional representation with a unicameral national legislature is also recommended. Thomas Jefferson said we need a new constitution with every new generation, and I agree.

Paul Tillich, a Christian theologian, thought of God as the “Ground of Being,” which is a more Eastern concept. In an article in 2006, called “The Dharma of Social Transformation,” Charles Johnson made a reference to Tillich’s book written in 1963 called Christianity and the Encounter of World Religions. Tillich said that New Testament scriptures about agape—an unconditional love for others—translate into an energetic form of the social gospel that emphasizes the will to transform individuals as well as social structures. But in Buddhism there is no kingdom of God; there is no transformation of reality, only a salvation from reality.

Charles Johnson said that Tillich’s assessment of the social and political shortcomings of Buddhism leaves a good deal to be desired. It does not account for the “engaged Buddhism” that emerged in the 1960s. Moreover, Johnson points out that we can look at the remarkable life and work of Ashoka, ruler of the Maurya kingdom from 272–236 BCE. After conquering the Kalingas in which more than 100,000 died and 150,000 were deported, Ashoka was appalled by the carnage and cruelty of war. He “embraced the dharma [Buddhist lifestyle and teachings] and for 28 years created hospitals, charities, public gardens, education for women, the protection of animals, and caring for everyone in his kingdom. He exercised compassion towards lawbreakers and prisoners.”

Johnson also points out that the first sentence in the Dhammapada says that “all that we are is the result of what we have thought.” Johnson then said that “the transformation of sociological and psychological structures must take place initially in our minds—and the minds of others—if we truly hope to address the root cause of social suffering.”

I once read about an American Buddhist monk who encountered a forest renunciate, possibly in some place like Thailand, who was spiritually enlightened but totally illiterate and didn’t even know that the world was round! That should remind us that being kind and good (whether one is an atheist, theist, or whatever) will always be better than being highly educated with devious and sinister intentions. What is needed of course is to have a good mind and a good heart.

If every national political party that captures at least one percent of all registered voters is equally empowered and given a voice, not all Americans will agree that capitalism should be replaced with some type of democratic communism. But if our citizenry can ever be fully informed, it will be a new day.

In conclusion, we need a spiritual and a political revolution to totally remake our society. We have to work on both at the same time. If that becomes a priority to enough people, there can be unity among all the diversity.

One way to increase the sense of neighborhood togetherness is to promote town hall direct democracy. Having an autonomous school board—that determines the educational philosophy, curriculum, work positions, salaries, and job requirements—for every public elementary school district that votes for it is an idea that nobody has tried yet.

With an educated citizenry, we can create a fully participatory, democratic society from the bottom-up, and not from the top-down, as it always has been. Amazing things are happening with the growing alternative media and the new websites that are emerging. People are waking up. We can still win this battle for our survival.

Roger Copple is 66 years old. He retired in 2010 from teaching general elementary, mostly 3rd grade, and also middle and high school special education in Indianapolis. He recently moved from Bradenton, Florida, back to Indianapolis to support and help his mom and stepdad. He is especially interested in political theory, European history, and U.S. foreign policy. After being preoccupied with Christianity, the Bhagavad Gita, Yoga, and Buddhist meditation almost all of his life—Roger now believes that stopping U S. imperialism is the most spiritual and ethical thing he can do. He still does mindfulness meditation in the morning and at night. About 4 months ago, he became a vegan. Roger grew up in the subculture of the United Pentecostal Church and remembers going to church four times a week and fearing that he might go to Hell because the Rapture of the Church was imminent, and he was not “saved” with the necessary evidence of “speaking in tongues.” His parents have always voted Republican. His biological father passed away in 1986, and Roger remembers how his father believed that if JFK became President, he would make everyone become a Roman Catholic. Roger’s website: www.NowSaveTheWorld.com.

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2 Responses to Capitalism, imperialism, and the lies of Western culture

  1. I have some additional thoughts to integrate and summarize the ideas shared above in this article:

    The West may perceive advocates of Eastern philosophy as nihilists wanting to escape reality. But with mindfulness, Eastern practioners are very much aware of each here-and-now moment—they just don’t identify, attach, or cling to any idea or thing. The West has focused outward to develop science and technology; the East has turned inward to penetrate the vastness of the mind. The West and the East have something to offer each other.

    Progressive Christianity (as suggested by John Shelby Spong) and meditation as practiced by many Buddhists, yogis, and others in the perennial (or mystical) philosophical framework have definite, innovative, and positive merits. However, to make political changes in our society, more people need to start thinking about and studying political ideas. Engaging in spiritual practices alone will not transform our government, our laws, and our constitution.

  2. Mike Harkness

    The idea of love if practiced ideally is sufficiently revolutionary and spiritual to bring about a revolution all by itself. To genuinely empathize with all fellow living creatures would prevent us from exploiting or harming animals or people. No soul destroying repetitive jobs. The point of every act is to value life including all living things. No special groups, but loving all equally. It is impossible of course. And yet it is what is needed and would be quite an easy preach. Imagine Valentines Day. A billion Roses passed six times from one person to another. With the message: Spread the love.