Thursday, April 03, 2008

Dharma bums: Gore and McCain

Bhagavad Gita
David Seaton's News Links
I had a mail asking me to justify how I could be willing to vote for Dennis Kucinich, Al Gore and John McCain and not for either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.

First congressman Kucinich:
As I've often said, if the tooth fairy could give me three wishes Dennis Kucinich would be President of the United States and with a mandate large enough to enact his full program. I would love to live in a country that someone who thinks like Dennis Kucinich could be president. I do, in fact, live in such a country, but that is another story.

In the case of both Gore and McCain, I read them as men of dharma in the Hindu sense, a
apparently esoteric term which, if you pardon me copying and pasting myself, I will explain below.


"Dharma" is a very useful Sanskrit word, that Wikipedia defines as "the underlying order in nature and human life and behavior considered to be in accord with that order." Some would translate that as "right" as opposed to "wrong", or "duty" but those words might carry a little more "Judeo-Christian" freight of "sin" and "guilt" than dharma might feel comfortable carrying. "Appropriate", might be closer, but such a very powerful version of that word... so powerful that the word "dharma" in the original version would be more precise, so I'll try to explain dharma, as I understand it, through some examples.

Once a famous rishi, or Hindu holy man, was sitting in meditation next to a flowing river accompanied by his disciples. His reverie was interrupted by the sound of the death struggles of a scorpion that had fallen in the river. Filled with compassion the rishi reached out his hand and lifted the drowning creature out of the water, but no sooner did the scorpion feel himself safe, it stung the rishi's hand and the pain of the sting forced the rishi to drop it back into the water, where of course the scorpion began to drown again... and again the holy man reached down to pull the scorpion out and again he was stung for his pains, this was repeated several times till one of the disciples managed to get a leaf under the scorpion, lift it out of the water and set it on dry land, whereupon the scorpion stalked off into the grass without so much as a backward look.

The disciple approached the rishi, who was nursing his swollen hand, and touching his guru's feet in homage asked, "Master, why did you continue to attempt to save the drowning scorpion, when each time you did so, he stung you for your pains?

The guru replied, "It is the scorpion's dharma to sting and it is my dharma to save."

Perhaps that example might be a little confusing because of the rishi's saintliness. The following story might clarify it.

Once upon a time in India there lived a king who was both a patron of the arts and of religion and a young actor resolved on getting a job at the court theater.

Disguising himself as a mendicant holy man with matted hair and smeared with ashes, the actor appeared before the palace gates, where the guards, knowing the king's penchant for conversing with saints, promptly ushered him into the royal presence. The king and the rishi/actor had a long conversation about spiritual matters and the king received some valuable pointers on his meditation techniques. At the end of the interview the king clapped his hands and a servant brought in a tray with a hundred gold coins upon it, which the king humbly offered to the rishi/actor, who with saintly modesty refused it, only accepting a bowl of rice before blessing the king and going on his way.

The next day the actor appeared before the palace dressed as a dancing girl and accompanied by a group of musicians. The guards knowing the king's love of music ushered the troupe promptly into the royal presence.

To the rhythm of the tabla and the whining of the sitar the actor/dancing girl whirled and stamped his/her bangled feet, striking coy poses, combined with lascivious undulations that drew enthusiastic applause from the king and the entire court. At the end of the performance, the king clapped his hands and again, as before, the servant appeared with the tray covered in gold coins... but this time the actor/dancing girl shook his/her tresses, stamped his/her feet in indignation and pouted with offended displeasure and asked for more money in a rough, high pitched voice.

Now, the king was no dunce and something in the voice of the dancing girl rang a bell and he leaped from his throne and shouted, "I know you! You are the same person that came here yesterday posing as a rishi!" The actor whipped off his wig and threw himself at the king's feet saying, "Yes, your majesty, I was the rishi yesterday and I am the dancing girl today. In reality I am an actor who wants a job in the royal theater and this was the only way I could think of to show you my art."

"Well, said the king, "you are indeed a wonderful actor and not only am I going to give you a job in my theater, from today you are its director." The king paused and lifting the actor to his feet asked him, "But tell me one thing first: Why as rishi did you refuse a hundred gold coins and as a dancing girl protest that they were too few?"

The actor replied, "Your majesty, it is against the dharma of a rishi to accept money for spiritual advice and it is against the dharma of a dancing girl to ever be satisfied no matter how much money she gets... and, of course, it is the dharma of an actor to behave in the dharma of others" So the actor stayed on at court and as the years passed became one of the king most trusted advisors.

Living in dharma can be quite complex, however. Take this example: A judge can also be a grandfather. At home, in his grandfather dharma, his little grandson rides him around the living room like a pony, spurring him in the ribs. In court, in his judge dharma, the accused tremble in his presence. Each role has its dharma.

Institutions and organizations also have their dharmas. Take General Motors for instance. Toyota Motors has just passed GM as the world's biggest car maker. The dharma of a car maker is to make good cars. Toyota makes good cars, GM makes lousy cars.

The opposite of dharma is "adharma". The problem that faces the United States today is that while it postures as "dharma swarupa" (the embodiment of dharma) it is now perceived as adharmic and this could cause a catastrophic collapse in America's positions in a host of situations to come.

In Hindu mythology,
Vishnu, the god of preservation and nurturing, incarnates from age to age to restore and to foster dharma. In a secular democracy, however, I'm afraid we'll just have to do it ourselves.


So what about Gore and McCain?

First the one I think would make the best president: Al Gore.

I confess that I was not really a fan of Al Gore's until he had the presidency stolen from him by Bush. I cannot think of any more bitter experience for anyone to face. I thought his reaction, his attitude, serene and institutional was completely "dharmic". I think he put the welfare of the country before his own ego, which is at the heart of presidential dharma. That his sacrifice was repaid by eight years of the worst, most adharmic, president in American history takes nothing away from the merit of Gore's abnegation. Dharma to be really dharma has to be Nishkam Karma, self-less or desireless action performed without any expectation of fruits or results.

On to McCain. Obviously at the center of McCain's dharma are the years he spent in a Vietnamese prison. What most exemplifies dharma in this case is that McCain could have been released years before he was, because his father was the Admiral commanding the Pacific Fleet and the Vietnamese were eager to exchange him. McCain refused to be exchanged before his comrades. I can't think of a better example of nishkam karma or Dharma than that.

Tom Engelhardt quite reasonably inquires what McCain was doing when he got shot down. Again, the son and grandson of admirals was fulfilling family dharma. The Gita will inform any who are interested in the dharma of a Kshatriya.

I prefer Gore to McCain because I think he will follow more progressive policies, but I could be wrong. Yesterday there was an interesting article on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, that I'll quote:
Of seven major industries that have been the most reliable Republican resources, Sen. McCain has beaten Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama in only one, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan organization. Even that one, transportation, is a close call. Among the seven combined, the expected Republican nominee raised $13.1 million through February, compared with $22.5 million for Sen. Obama and $27.1 million for Sen. Clinton.(...) Health-care and pharmaceutical firms have given three times as much to each of the two Democrats as to Sen. McCain. Defense firms put Sen. McCain ahead of Sen. Obama, but behind Sen. Clinton. Energy, construction and agribusiness firms have given more to both Democrats.
I don't know about you, but I smell a rat. These people know what they expect for their money and if there is anything people like this don't like and don't understand it is Nishkam Karma in any shape or form.

Summing up: The most important quality in any person of power, as Bush so well illustrates negatively, is dharma. I think that both Al Gore and John McCain are men of proven dharma and I know for sure, as do most Americans, that both the Clintons are adharmic in the extreme... and, as to Obama, to tell the truth, I have no idea what or who Barack Obama really is and I'm not sure even he does either, and that is simply not good enough for me. DS


Kshatrya my foot said...

Sorry but.. McCain was a bad puppy at the academy, very bad pilot who crashed several planes and finally got shot down while throwing napalm on women and children. Some warrior.

He then spent six years in a box and broke under torture, made a true confession, even denounced his comrades over the prison loudspeakers. He gave as an explanation that he "didn't want to get killed". Unbelievable according to the martial culture of the whole world, it seems the US has different standards.

So this is the exact opposite of the "martial culture" that you are conjuring up here... And of course "Kshatryia" is contemporarily used by Hindu fascists who are equally great at massacring civilians as McCain.

In short, McCain is even more a-dharmic than Bush. He would seal the fate of the US.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

Everybody breaks under torture, that is why torture is useless for obtaining valid information. If he spent all that time in a box it was because he refused to be given special treatment as an admiral's son. That is dharma.

Nicolas said...

Amazing post. Too bad such a high level of "spiritual" analysis (very few people even try to think at this level) should be read at the very bottom of the "political" level ; and broken down into so small bred crumbs. There's so much to think about, discuss and learn at this very high level of thoughts. Thanks David. Great blog ! What you said is exactly what PoliSci should be ! Not just a puny battle about names but a wide interrogation about what moves the world underneath our lack of comprehension.

Kshatrya my foot said...

He "refused" because that was his only chance to save his face despite the betrayals he had already committed.

If he had been released in an exchange the only thing left for him would have been the suicide that he hadn't been man enough for even in a torture prison.

Anonymous said...

I usually agree with your opinion, but you seem to damn McCain with faint praise. As, he's an asshole, but a good asshole.
This I can't buy. He's just an asshole.

Anonymous said...

A personal question.. I am looking for a country. Would you recommend Spain? Why? If yes, any particular are or place.

By the way, I feel that way you do about Gore and Hillary.. Reality being what it is or not.

I don't care about McCain's war experience.. in fact for me he is too predisposed to war. (I get tortured every day by the reality of the USA but no one wants to elect me.. maybe it is my Dharma.) Combine that with the fact that in all these years, McCain has not learned anything about economics (his confession). How could that be?

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

As to McCain and economics, nobody understands economics.

As to countries, Spain is a great country to live in but, like every place else, the food doesn't fall from heaven. Barcelona is the best for visitors.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I think your opinion of McCain is pure fantasy, probably the reason why you continually post hundreds of words about everything except McCain himself to explain your unique opinion of him. Please list pros and cons from his actual record in office, not just impressions from your dreams. Do you think all those votes and speeches for more and more wars and fewer and fewer public services and more restrictions on our private lives were just jokes or something?

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

If you read the snippet I've included about financing from the WSJ, you'll see that it is impossible to take seriously anything any of the three "possible" candidates say.

It is however possible to gauge what the big money thinks of their integrity.

In the end, all you are left with is their character. As we saw with Bush, in the end, it was his character that defined his presidency.

Hillary is a sleaze and Obama is literally a Rorschach blot that people project their feelings on. He has no past except what he tells in his book and no record of any note as a politician... he gives good speeches. Neither the one or the other are adequate for the post.

John McClain, with all his many faults, is a mensch. Of the three he is the only one that has some record of integrity, sometimes.

I hope they finally give it to Al Gore. I think he has a solid character and some vision of the issues.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

"you seem to damn McCain with faint praise. As, he's an asshole, but a good asshole. This I can't buy. He's just an asshole."

That's about it. I am not a McCain enthusiast. Within what the American system offers (not very much) I think that Al Gore would be an appropriate president at this time.

But, if the choice is down to McCain or Obama or Hillary. I would have to either go fishing or vote for McCain, because he is the only one of the three who seems real to me. The others strike me as three-dollar bills.

Anonymous said...

McCain is the American Netanyahu. Their donors, supporters, and friends are all the same people. Their policies are identical as well. But McCain does have the better sense of humor.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

"McCain is the American Netanyahu."
I'm not at all sure that is so.
If you see who is getting money from the big industrial lobbies, McCain is getting less than either Hillary or Obama. If he had the Jewish lobby against him he would be dead. He is a professional military man and Navy to boot and these people are not exactly fervent Zionists in my experience. But I don't think anybody with any chance at the White House is ever going to confront the Israelis. Although McCain just might be mean enough to do that if they pissed him off enough... and he is very easy to piss off and the Israelis specialty is pissing people off.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. I don't find Hillary a sleaze at all ... in fact I find her to be informed and intelligent and respectful... I think the treatment of her by the media has been and will be legend... and I am amused at how many feel righteous in embracing this brain washing.

I just saw an interesting video about her that I passing along. I am hopeful that someday this nation will be evolved enough to be as afraid of treating women this way as they are blacks... I live for the day. In the meantime, take a look at the dharma in this: