A Western Buddhist's Travels

Sightseeing & detours on the path of enlightenment

Contaminated moral environment

I was looking at New Year‘s addresses from various leaders from around the world. I found one: Vaclav Hamel’s New Year’s Address to the Nation, delivered at Prague Castle, Czechoslovakia – January 1, 1990.

Here is a short excerpt from near the beginning of his speech:

“But all this is still not the main problem. The worst thing is that we live in a contaminated moral environment. We fell morally ill because we became used to saying something different from what we thought. We learned not to believe in anything, to ignore one another, to care only about ourselves. Concepts such as love, friendship, compassion, humility or forgiveness lost their depth and dimension, and for many of us they represented only psychological peculiarities, or they resembled gone-astray greetings from ancient times, a little ridiculous in the era of computers and spaceships. Only a few of us were able to cry out loudly that the powers that be should not be all-powerful and that the special farms, which produced ecologically pure and top-quality food just for them, should send their produce to schools, children’s homes and hospitals if our agriculture was unable to offer them to all.”

He states they live in a contaminated moral environment. That they delude themselves into thinking all is well or will soon be. The vary qualities that make the fabric that binds us together as brothers and sisters are missing from the tapestry that was the Czech Republic in 1990. People have learned to only care about themselves, that love, friendship, compassion, humility and forgiveness are either forgotten or considered outdated concepts. These quaint notions do not belong in an age of computers and spaceships. Even in the times just preceding this address, the elite of the nation ate food that was grown on special farms, that ensured only ecologically pure and top quality food for the elite. He comments that under the Communist regime, man had become a force of production and nature a tool in it’s production. Yet with all the atrocities he lists in his speech, that the people had become so accustomed to these inhumane interactions, they were considered the normal way of interacting among each other.

Fast forward today and that same speech can be given in most countries around the world. We are bombarded daily with media messages that we need this lawn treatment, because Bob next door uses it, and has a weed free lawn, while we spend hours uprooting weeds. That the weeds are alive is left out. The cost to the environment of using these chemicals, in contaminated ground water, not even worth discussing. If you read the labels of some of these so called safe treatments, you will see pets and children should be kept off treated areas for 3 to 7 days, to avoid accidental toxic effects. The Province of Quebec, here in Canada is offering millions of dollars in government subsidies to reopen an Asbestos mine near the town of asbestos, Quebec. Most countries have banned, the mining use and sale of asbestos products for health reasons. The industry claims it is safe when used under controlled application. Exposure to the dust from this can cause serious and fatal lung diseases, even in very small amounts. The Canadian media have shown scenes from India, where workers without any protective equipment, or an inadequate paper filter mask handle this asbestos, throwing it like bales of cotton. The safest way to handle asbestos is to leave it in the ground. Yet in the name of economic activity, lives will be considered as acceptable losses to use the military term. The Buddha taught us all life is sacred, we can not allow people and animals to be sacrificed in the name of profit. We need to clean up the contaminated moral environment that has become the global norm.


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