By David R. Loy
A Buddhist interpretation of Western historical past that exhibits civilization formed via the self's wish for groundedness
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Extra resources for A Buddhist history of the West : studies in lack
Some recent historical studies have emphasized that the value placed on freedom was generated out of its opposite, the “social death” of slavery. 2 The basic problem is that among nonslaves the presence of slaves reinforced their own sense of group solidarity and participation; and what the slave desired was never freedom in our evolved Western sense (which would have been fatal, since there was no place for a “free” person in such societies) but reduced marginality and partial resocialization into the master’s community.
This situation cannot be understood in terms of, or solved by, our need for greater freedom. On the contrary, freedom in this case is itself the problem, as the human species has attempted to enlarge the sphere of its own collective sovereignal 40 A Buddhist History of the West freedom by commodifying the whole earth in its quest for ever-greater power. If totalitarianism is a form of government in which centralized authority exercises absolute control over all aspects of life, our humanistic domination of nature seems to describe a totalitarian relationship with the natural world and suggests what is wrong with it.
To express it in terms of sense of lack, today one of our main ways to objectify our lack is by feeling that we are not yet as free as we deserve to be. , the attraction of victimhood. Victimhood is learning how to address the problem of one’s life by discovering how one is being exploited or has been abused; then one’s anger and self-pity become justified, socially acceptable, and sometimes lucrative. From a Buddhist point of view, however, this is dangerous, since rather than pointing the way to overcome one’s sense of lack it reinforces one’s delusive sense of self as that which has been abused.
A Buddhist history of the West : studies in lack by David R. Loy