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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

An historiography of Buddhism

Buddhism strikes me as being one of the relative "golden children" of world religions in white/Western Australian awareness. Unlike Catholicism, which has to contend with its all too famous examples of the mistakes and abuses of institutional power, Buddhism does not have a centralised institutional authority for all Buddhists around the world.

Unlike Islam, which has to defend and differentiate away from ongoing violence committed in its name, Buddhism is typically associated with pacifism or non-violence, apoliticism or quietism.

Unlike, also, Judaism, Jewish-ness, and Zionism, which are poorly differentiated in many people's minds, Buddhism, as a religion, has not been quite as tormented by the loss of homeland, nor people, in diaspora, not as much rooted by a (historically understandable) will to statehood.

Buddhism is conflated more with meditation, its doctrines hinting at being a "psychology" or a "science of the mind". Buddhism talks about actions and consequences, outside of the machinations or whims of an intervening Divinity outside of one's own intentions, motivations, and habits. There are wholesome and unwholesome actions, loving and non-loving actions. The teachings of Buddhism are referred to, in Sanskrit, as the Dharma.

"Buddhism" itself is an invention of post-European contact with a plethora of cultural, spiritual, philosophical, ritualistic and political expressions, which have enough family resemblances with one another to be described under a unifying, and historically quite racialised, category of "Buddhism". Buddhism has been racialised, in that the category "Buddhism" was historically constructed as an amalgamation of many expressions of non-European "Otherness" (in all their beauty/exoticism, as well as their frightening and unfamiliar dangers) and, in descriptions, conflated the expressions of Buddhism with "Orientals" and "Asians".

Part of the evolution of a religion like Buddhism, then, is that the religion itself, the term "Buddhism", itself already indicates its precipitated encounter with a historically more "White" or "Western" or "European" sensibility, and forms of categorisation of religions or religious difference. Just as historically "white/European-dominant" cultures become more intentionally multicultural (however effectively) in their makeup, so Buddhism itself begins to write its own history anew.

Asia goes Christian
and white Australia goes Buddhist.

Who is writing whose history?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Religious authorities, get out of the way of describing physical reality

Physicists, listen to the metaphysics of religious authorities, which have historically incorporated the exploration of subjectivity as well as objectifiable, observable exteriorised, material reality.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Developmental Diversity

Workshopping an idea: Developmental Diversity.

I have been interested in a number of adult developmental frameworks in the past few years. By adult development, I mean here across a range of different indicators: The capacity to hold complexity and paradox, capacity to hold different perspectives, capacity to prioritise perspectives depending on criteria also largely of one's own choosing (or consent).

Part of the treasures of any society, then, is its ability to also hold and nurture and support developmental diversity. I mean this as an alternative to "disability". At the same time, I acknowledge that the term "disability" invites a conversation into the ways that some manifestations of the diverse expressions of human development are experienced by self and others as "disabling" from fullest enjoyment and participation in culture according to one's ability or potential.

In other words, I propose the idea of developmental diversity to both support existing disability rights/justice frameworks, while at the same time to precipitate an additional conversation about developmental possibility.

Developmental diversity spans a spectrum of human potentialities. It does not pretend mere relativism, in which developmental differences are seen as all "equal" in capacity or potential. It understands difference and hierarchy simultaneously: That there are some developmental stages for certain people who are more able to hold complexity and paradox than others, to hold more diverse/different/divergent perspectives with less angst than others, that are simultaneously more able to prioritise these perspectives depending on criteria of their own choice than others, after sincere self-interrogation and study, while they are also more able to cultivate an ability to articulate the reasoning behind this choice in a way that could be comprehensible to as many people from a range of developmental abilities as possible.

Developmental diversity, then, is not even exactly a theory or a principle, either. It is a lived experience of the fullest of one's own potential: That we can be so attuned to the diversity of our own developmental capacities (e.g. I can do some things well, I need more support for some other things), that we naturally and simply experience instantaneous compassion and empathy for other people, including people who may be "so different" from ourselves... Others' supposed differences become seen partially also as representations of part of who we are in ourselves, that we may keep more hidden or that we are hindered from knowing of ourselves.

Developmental diversity is a statement of fact. We live in a world in which different individuals and peoples have different developmental abilities, also developmental contexts which both liberate and constrain the abilities that we begin to, or that we can adopt. While developmental diversity is an observable fact of all cultural contexts, it is also a prescriptive way of living, in which the plain recognition of this fact itself can be existentially reorienting for some people.

Myself included.

I can spot the reality of developmental diversity in my society (e.g. some people are more mathematical, some more emotive, some people can see racism more easily and truthfully than others, some people can identify with "Europeanism" with more ease than others, some people can understand sexism in ways that I can never understand because of, for example, lived experience of being women which would shape their own development in a way that it is more privvy to some other forms of sexed/gendered phenomena than I could be). By recognising that there is a diverse range of lived experiences, genetics, cultural contexts, and "languaging" that people experience in the world, and that this affects how people "develop" (that is, qualities which signal their unique expressions of adaptivity) in their cognitive/perspectival abilities, I am immediately more empathic to how I can relate to different people, if at least by simply remaining agnostic and curious.

Even when people engage in behaviours that are pathologically offensive and horrid, murderous and unjust, I immediately see that they are representations of some part of myself that I have kept tamed, hidden, or transmuted. For example, the violence of young men drawn to fundamentalist expressions of religion, are related to my own early worldviews, shaped by ethnocentrism and listless testosterone. I know that feeling, and I know the injustice of not having alternative role models who could teach me kindness, courage, resilience, forgiveness and critical engagement.

I see the work to be done around this, then, does not only entail "going overseas" or leaving my own context in order to shape global outcomes... It is also in fostering a relationship to that sort of energy here in my own contexts.

For example: How do I relate to lost boys here? How am I complicit in a personal or professional world in creating a world with lost boys? What is the call from lost boys? What spiritual leadership is being called for?

And this is just one example.

Developmental diversity is, by its nature, also somewhat synonymous with "spiritual diversity" (insofar as "Spirit" can be seen, in one definition, as but the principle of growth and development), with an added connotation of materiality around it.

Just some thoughts for now...

Thursday, August 21, 2014


Several experimental thoughts on intervening in public displays of racist aggression. Lessons learned from recent Darlinghurst cafe situ (Google if u don't know what I'm referring to), to be applied to public transport.

Simply encouraging the calling out or telling off the perpetrator may not be a battle we could win. They generally will have made it clear that they are not willing to be educated. It may help to role model heroism, but will likely just lead to an escalating yelling match.

A Proposal for building an Alternative Intervention:
I admit it - in this cultural climate of generally avoidant politeness and averted gazes, I find myself cowardly, hard to imagine myself able to step up so publicly to intervene, for fear of breaching the norms of quiet, multiculturalist propriety, fear of direct violence in just a sea of silent, terrified witnesses.

I would, however, like to experiment with turning to the person sitting next to me, to solicit verbal agreement around the horror of the situation.

"Oh my God, don't you think this is fucked up and racist?" I could say. They might nod, "Yes."

Then turn to the person sitting in the other side of me, "hey, what do u think? Isn't this awful?"

"Yes," they might, hopefully, respond.

Gathering, gathering consent, "buy-in" for more public intervention.

Keep bringing other passengers to account for their own feelings. Invite them to identify with their better selves. Appeal directly, personally, to their sense of justice. We will all witness this happening. Attention has been brought away from the fear of racist monopoly, into our confidence in collective righteousness.

"don't u think this is fucked up?" 
more witnesses, to a cabin, a carriage, a tram full of "Yes".

Heroism, here, becomes much more likely, a choir has been built, a visible groundswell of support, the perfect place to precipitate more public preaching.

Someone, here will more likely publicly intervene.

Maybe you?
Maybe me.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


As I become more "professionalised" within particular political and public spheres, I sense in myself a swelling of sadness; The so-called "real world", in its current Australian form in the unfinished business of racist settler colonialism, and the myopic pathologies of either modernist materialism or religious fundamentalism, all burdened by the whims of global capital, can bludgeon the warrior in me, can tie a knot in my heart, can stifle the will to truth-telling.

Security, of course, is not itself the problem: It is more in that any will to security begets a concurrent arising and creation of the Other, from whom I must keep myself and all my material comforts protected, "secure". The Other, of course, the embarrassing Other, will constantly change their guise, in tandem with my changing Selfhood, the "Me" whom I keep aloof, detached, arrogantly removed, and "gated" from an Other, in order to preserve the status quo of any of my assimilationist dreams.

In all of this, an addiction to the pursuit of security will put a lid on the effervescence still in me, who chooses art and dreams transformative justice.

I know I might become too comfortable...
That I, like too many others, will become habitually afraid.
This is what terrorism is.