If Only Puny Voices Also Mattered...

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"The coming war in Iraq is not just about pitting a mighty power with a small country. It is a war that says how much we as a life force have diverged from our natural state. We have defined progress purely on technological and economical terms. We have forgotten how far we have left behind the natural realm that have nurtured our existence."

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia -- At 9.6 mil sq km, the greatest country on Earth represents approximately 7.35% of the world’s land mass. It’s GDP usurps almost 35% of the world’s wealth. The paper value of that country’s largest private conglomerate equals the combined GDP amount of 176 countries counting from bottom up. The top 250 richest individuals from that country easily sit in equivalent to the combined wealth of 130 countries – again counting from bottom up.

Before Columbus discovered the new world, this great country had the most spectacular natural reserves ever known. Just five hundred years later, the amount of greenery covering the land has shrunk to about 23% of that country’s land mass.

On April 22, 2001, this economic, military, and cultural superpower in an increasingly unipolar world, waived the opportunity to sign a global treaty to reduce carbon emission which threatens the gradual but sure warming of the planet. This country, with the highest per capita carbon emission (at 19.13 metric tons) collectively produces a total of 5.2 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases. That makes about 30% of the total greenhouse gas emission produced by all other fellow earthlings.

Just hours ago, in his second state of the union address, this country's President upped the ante of the Iraqi war cry by saying, "If war is forced upon us, we will fight with the full force and might of the United States military -- and we will prevail." In the first place, when was war ever forced onto this great country? If not mistaken, war was first declared by the giant. That is a matter of fact.

And that declaration too was made based on the enemy's alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction. Preoccupied with an intolerance of a leader which they so despise, this giant is prepared to rain 350 to 400 cruise missiles a day to get rid of him. Collateral damage? Well, that's too bad. It's the price to pay for by a population that keeps someone so despised.

At about this point, there are no more than a dozen countries aligned to this giant, supporting a stand to go ahead to launch attacks without the United Nation's sanction. Since the giant is on their side, unilateral action is a "no brainer". And who cares about the rest of the 200 or so odd states. Puny voices. They just don't count.

And so when a giant winks and fidgets, everyone takes notice. That is a fringe benefit of being big. But when the minnows jump and yells and cajole, the giant doesn't even blink. The minnows, apparently, are only of fringe significance.

So how do you get a giant to pay attention?

If you’re a peace activist (working in a community of minnows), you would be tempted to print rolls and rolls of banners and lock hands to march onto the boulevard right at the doorstep of the giant's power brokers. You would be tempted to shout yourself hoarse, punching fists in the air and yell "give peace a chance". You would be tempted to host electronic groups, go on a digital signature drive and garner online support.

Sad to say, mobilising public support like these can only do so much to produce sound bytes. Will the din of puny voices wake up the giant? Perhaps. But the amalgamation of the punies do not only have to contend with the millitary might of this giant, more so they have to face a barrage of sophisticated campaign machineries and professional spin masters that skilfully project disinformation as palpable truths.

And so how can a puny voice really get a giant to pay attention?

Thich Nhat hahn once said, "If you are a poet, you may be able to see clearly that the sheet of paper which you use to print this article on has a cloud floating by". He rightly observed that “without a cloud, there will be no rain. Without rain, the trees cannot grow; and without trees, we cannot make paper.” The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are.

"Looking deeply, we can also see the sunshine in the paper. Without sunshine, the forest cannot grow. In fact, nothing can grow without sunshine. And so, we know that the sunshine is also in this sheet of paper. The paper and the sunshine inter-be."

"Looking even more deeply, we can see ourselves in that sheet of paper too. This is not difficult to see, because when we look at a sheet of paper, it is part of our perception. Your mind is in there and so is ours. So we can say that everything is in there. We cannot point out one thing that is not there – time, space, the earth, the rain, the minerals in the soil, the sunshine, the cloud, the river, the heat. Everything co-exists with that sheet of paper. We cannot be by ourselves alone. We have to be inter-be with every other thing. That sheet of paper is, because everything else is. As thin as that sheet of paper is, it contains everthing in the universe in it", this wise monk gently admonishes.

Poet or scientist, spirituality or science, poetry or research, inspiration or intellectualisation, however we look at it, life is life. We are all part of it, and is it. Whether giant or minnow, we all eat the food grown from the same soil, survive from drinking the same water and live by breathing the same air. But when one part of humankind begins to exalt its position over all others, including the vehicle which nurtures our survival, we forget our interdependency in the web of life. We forget to “inter-be”, and lose our “inter-are”.

Once, this giant was in a deep slumber of comfort, surrounded by all the technical gee-whiz developed by its well endowed human intellect. Its education system exalts the ideal of invention, of creation and mastery of everything else, and to some extent life itself. But as a product of nature, her self created environment is a great dichotomy of the natural state of affairs.

The dichotomy of its mental ecology and its natural ecology fosters and entrenches a sense of duality. As a result of this life disengaging process, the sole values and perception of the human’s mental construct have imposed its own image on earth’s landscape. Read San Francisco Bay. Read New York. Read Los Angeles. Read Chicago.

Mindscape over landscape. Greed over need. Buddha was right: The mind indeed, is the forerunner of all things. In natural light, this could not have gone on forever. And then 9/11 had to happen.

And yet despite all the progress humankind have made in the realm of individual and social pychology, mental health and human rights, the way to solve a problem still dictates the use of brute force. This aptly demonstrates that for all the advancement that we have achieved in this so called civilized world, we are still a long way off in harmonising our mental condition with that of spiritualism. We have yet to learn to be at peace with ourselves, let alone with others.

Systematic mainstream education syllabus treats our life and life’s biodiversity as some form of a documentary. The system has failed to internalise a code for natural living simply because of its divisive doctrine which separates the “internal environment” (humankind and mind) from the “external environment” (nature and society). The failure to harmonise mindscape and landscape have produced an ecological imbalance demonstrated by the rise in industrial pollution and greenhouse emission which is threatening to overwhelm us.

And so a giant now refuses to reduce its own production of carbon emission and recognise its contribution to the detriment of the planet's health. This giant has refused the right of the majority to heed the call to give peace a chance. And this giant has clearly made a case for itself to go at it alone. And the rest can just go and jump into the lake.

Perhaps this would be THE time to encourage grassroot education which teaches young minds to view life as an inclusive party in the web of life, rather than being apart from it. “Dependent origination” – a Buddhist keyword that starkly showcases our interdependency with everything else - should perhaps be brought forward to a higher consciouness. If we are brave enough, we should even suggest that it be introduced in preschool syllabus.

We need to learn to understand that to respect life does not only mean to avoid killing. Respect for life should also mean respecting our “internal environment” where thoughts, feelings, perceptions and consciousness can be guided towards a more enlightened view of the intricate web which interweaves our existence. It is in this internal world where thoughts such as loving kindness and compassion are born. On the dark side however, it is also the place where greed, hatred and delusion lurks. Our external condition is merely a mirror of our internal state.

And so where do we go from here? What can one puny, insignificant voice do to a rumbling, roaring, thunderous angry giant? No matter how soft, or how faint, or how inaudible, if our voice carry reason, wisdom and truth, that voice has to be raised. If we can use our mindfulness to firmly and persistently tell the giant that this is no way to conduct life's affairs, and if all the world's minnows could all band together on this - then perhaps the giant may listen.

The coming war in Iraq is not just about pitting a mighty power with a small country. It is a war that says how much we as a life force have diverged from our natural state. We have defined progress purely on technological and economical terms. We have forgotten how far we have left behind the natural realm that have nurtured our existence.

If all the puny voices can raise that awareness, we would have done justice not only to ourselves and to our future generations, more importantly we would have begun to plant the seeds of peace and compassion within all of us. But to do that, we need to have the wisdom to act. No matter how puny our voices may be, a whimper of truth is better than being mute. And through this whimper of wisdom and compassion, may we all help to transform ourselves, and the world so that we may at least learn to live in peace and harmony.

May all beings be well and happy always.

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Lim Kooi Fong
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