08 November 2016

Oh dear, oh dear

Tenzin Gyatso is at it again.

This time, he’s penned a joint op-ed in the New York Times together with (wait for it) Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute, which seeks to address and assuage the ‘angry’ (presumably elderly, presumably laid-off) Trump voter in the American election.

Gyatso and Brooks manage to take a very valid anthropological observation (people need to be needed and they need to be engaged in useful and meaningful labour), and proceed from there to draw some rather frightful conclusions. This op-ed piece of theirs manages to take the white lifestyle-liberal obsession with ‘mindfulness’ and desiccated, domesticated and atomised ‘Eastern’ ‘spirituality’ which Gyatso has proven himself so expert at bilking for moral capital (and which, not coincidentally, capitalist praxis has found an enormous amount of use as a tool for managing expectations downward and coping with the feelings of powerlessness that pervade a proletarianised workforce), and wedded it to a social vision which is – you guessed it, gentle reader – overwhelmingly managerial and technocratic.

In a grim way, it’s really a rather impressive feat. Between them, Gyatso and Brooks manage to trot their way through practically the entire lexicon of lifestyle-liberal buzzwords which presumably make New York Times readers feel all tingly, fuzzy and warm (‘inclusive’, ‘compassionate’, ‘conscious’, ‘tolerant’, ‘mindful’, ‘inner peace’, ‘collaboration’, ‘dialogue’), in the service of a vision of society which is nakedly pro-corporate. They believe it’s important to ‘make sure global brotherhood and oneness’ are ‘not just abstract ideas… but personal commitments that we mindfully put into practice’, but don’t give any practical advice on how that is to be done. Nothing about community, nothing about rootedness, nothing about particularity or propinquity, nothing about extending the love we learn in the family out toward those we meet in our daily lives being necessary to the meaning of labour or of any other social activity. And then they move onto a model for the ‘compassionate society’ which looks suspiciously like the one which left many of these angry and frustrated voters behind in the first place. A ‘compassionate society’, in their view, is one which can ‘create a wealth of opportunities’, which can ‘provide children with education and training… and with practical skills’, but which ‘do[es] not trap people in misery and dependence’ with nasty policies like a safety net, and which can only be built with ‘innovative solutions’. For those of my gentle readers playing along at home, that’s code for ‘private sector’ – because in Brooks’ view especially, only privately-owned companies and individuals can ‘innovate’.

Watching the Dalai show is generally entertaining for a time, for precisely the reasons mentioned above, but it does have a tendency to disturb my own inner peace. The remedy for which, of course, is to simply turn it off.


  1. We're well on our way to Brave New World! It's about the practical, treating our bodies and souls like machines and software. It's pathetic and horrifying simultaneously. We as Americans are, by and large, those whose god is their belly. Such is the world of identity politics, commercial totatarization, and propaganda.

    Marx would be rolling in his grave. If religion is opium, commercial-consumption is meth.

  2. Yup.

    This is one of the great spiritual dangers of our age; and it is sadly one to which many of our postmodern self-styled 'conservatives' and even 'reactionaries' seem blind. And it is one to which yours truly is all-too-sadly prone.

    Lord, have mercy on us sinners!