December 06, 2005

Today's Quote

"Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities."


Posted by mandragore at December 6, 2005 12:30 PM

At the risk of filling the blog with something that may not seem immediately relevant, here's an excerpt from playwright Harold Pinter's recent acceptance speech for the Nobel prize in literature:

"The United States supported and in many cases engendered every right wing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the Second World War. I refer to Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, and, of course, Chile. The horror the United States inflicted upon Chile in 1973 can never be purged and can never be forgiven.

"Hundreds of thousands of deaths took place throughout these countries. Did they take place? And are they in all cases attributable to US foreign policy? The answer is yes they did take place and they are attributable to American foreign policy. But you wouldn't know it.

"It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn't happening. It didn't matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It's a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.

"I put to you that the United States is without doubt the greatest show on the road. Brutal, indifferent, scornful and ruthless it may be but it is also very clever. As a salesman it is out on its own and its most saleable commodity is self love. It's a winner. Listen to all American presidents on television say the words, 'the American people', as in the sentence, 'I say to the American people it is time to pray and to defend the rights of the American people and I ask the American people to trust their president in the action he is about to take on behalf of the American people.'

It's a scintillating stratagem. Language is actually employed to keep thought at bay..."

(Read the full text of Pinter's speech is at )

So what's Shintaido got to do with it?

I'd suggest: one of the effects of Shintaido should be to make our bullshit detectors function better. And if this is true, it has political implications. I hope we in the Shintaido community have the courage to ask ourselves, as people in some political movements with spiritual orientations do, questions like these:

What meaning does it have if we cultivate feelings of peacefulness in keiko, but pay taxes to support a military dictatorship every April?

What meaning does it have if we feel oneness with nature in keiko, but get back in our gas-guzzlers to drive home afterwards?

I don't want to sound holier-than-thou. I'm asking myself, too.

But I will say something a little pointed, which relates to the SOA marketing effort: if I were a young person these days (ie., 17-15), looking for some activity, some community, some movement that looked like it was even trying to address the burning questions and longings that I felt most important to inner self and the larger society -- I doubt I'd waste my time with Shintaido. I'd possibly think it was irrelevant.

I struggle with this almost every day. I don't mean that we should try to be "topically relevant." To be honest, the Taimyo Network is not my cup of tea. But it might be that we are not attracting many new members because we ourselves are not living our lives in a way demonstrably committed to the ideals we ourselves aspire to.

Posted by: David Franklin at December 13, 2005 12:32 PM

Here's a response from a source who wishes to remain anonymous:

... I guess arguing about whether Shintaido as a movement is trying hard enough to fix the world is, I think, to miss the point of Shintaido.

Posted by: mt at December 14, 2005 08:22 PM

Hi David,

I struggle with that too: no later than last week my 14 years old son was summoned to decide upon his future profession so that his orientation at school could be decided.

I don't agree with this approach, but I tried to make him see that, even though he does probably not feel that way, at his age he is in the fantastic position of having all options opened, of really being able to become *whatever he wants* provided he just sets his mind to it. I exposed him to the following choices:

1. keep all options opened as long as possible - there is a clear path for that in the school curriculum (CH).

2. feel the wind of our modern society and embark on a curriculum that will maximize his future comfort and revenue (as a matter of fact, in terms of school this is almost the same choice as #1, but in addition that would require him to be more curious about what actually happens in various areas of the enterprise world)

3. feel the state of the world and decide where he could have the best chance to help - could be as humanitarian contributor (then medical field seems appropriate) or environment, or...

To my surprise and shock my son said: "I don't care about the world. I think it is rotten, everybody only wants money" - this with so brooding eyes that my heart winced.

I asked him how many of the people he knew actually "only cared for money". He admitted that none of them were like that. That side-tracked me a little bit in the direction of the effing medias and how easy it is to convince teenagers that this world is rotten, that there is nothing to do - or too much - except to hunt the girl with the biggest tits and buy the most performant car and whatever fantasies make these pop-stars earn your living. But you know all that. We've all been there.

Now I know he does care. Actually I know that he cares so much that it is better for him to not even consider taking a small part of responsibilities wrt the state of affairs in the world.

All this to say that I fully understand when you write : how can we convince others if "we ourselves are not living our lives in a way demonstrably committed to the ideals we ourselves aspire to"? I wish my son could just look at me and see The Way !

Let's let that pass... - and finally reach my point:

When you look at a tree, don't you feel that it is living in a way that is demonstrably committed to the ideals we all aspire to?

Posted by: Patrick Bouchaud at December 15, 2005 07:40 AM

I'd suggest spending some time without cultivating feelings of peacefulness or oneness -- or perhaps with people who don't.
And it may be true that young people, 15-17, would find Shintaido irrelevant. My experience with young people of that age is that they find little relevant anway.

Posted by: Bill Burtis at December 16, 2005 11:57 AM

If we remove the tautology from Voltaire's quote we get: those who can make you believe can make you commit atrocities. This teaches us that :

1. in our capability to believe lays our capability to commit atrocities

2. in our capability to make others believe we have the potential to make them commit atrocities

This raises the question of responsibility towards ourselves and towards our Shintaido students as, true, a good number of them will not come back unless we accept (at least temporarily) to play the role of a guru.

Posted by: Patrick Bouchaud at December 18, 2005 02:16 AM