A Western Buddhist's Travels

Sightseeing & detours on the path of enlightenment

Countries are run by people, so they share the same problems as we have

There’s been a lot of economics in the news the last while. The last few years from the Wall Street bank crisis that spread around the world. The one trader who worked for a bank in England that lost a billion dollars. Greece has been in the news, with its country close to default on its loans. The election there left a country without a government, as no one can put a coalition together. The European Union while trying to stop the economic hemorrhaging in Greece from spreading to Spain, Portugal and Italy, now openly follows a dual strategy. The primary is that Greece is able to meet the terms of the economic bailout, the other preparation for Greece defaulting and leaving the EU. Economics is like making a line of dominos standing on end, if one falls the one next to it is hit and falls; this is repeated till there are none left to fall. Countries are no different than the people who govern them; politicians lead mainly by following the will of the people. For too many years the majority of governments have spent like drunken sailors in a liberty port after 6 months at sea. It has been I want this pleasure, I want that libation, I need this ornament, with no thought of tomorrow. For the sailor he risks having worked 6 months then having nothing to show for it, or perhaps ending up with a disease from the company he kept while on leave. Some disease are easily cured and won’t harm him long term, others can be treated but may return later, and there are those that will be a slow death sentence. The same applies to countries. Short term deficits to smooth out a small downturn in the economy, or to recover from a major natural disaster are one thing. Spending on programs that keep an obsolete industry going to save jobs has almost never yielded results. Spending on programs to allow citizens to have a higher lifestyle then they or the country can afford isn’t sustainable either. Buddhism teaches us to be content with having enough, not to be keeping up with the neighbours. If we have a car that is a few years old and paid for, but it runs well and isn’t too expensive to maintain and operate, we do not need a new car just because our neighbour bought one. The next day another neighbour may buy a new large screen television, yet another new refrigerator; soon we are caught up in an endless cycle of keeping up. Countries do the same thing; however a country can only gain revenue from taxes, so that means less for our own choices. Just as we need to be mindful of the resources we have, we need to hold governments accountable for the resources we allow them to take from us.

There is an old lyric that goes:

I eat when I’m hungry, drink when I’m dry

If the sky don’t fall on me I‘ll live till I die,

Whiskey, rye whiskey I’ve known you of old,

You’ve emptied my pockets of much silver and gold.

The lyric can be taken as a lament of days passed and the foolishness that occurred. Or it can be sen as acceptance of the way things were and the way things are, without concern about what tomorrow brings. The part about eat when hungry and drink when dry, is meeting our daily needs. The daily routine is done regardless of what the future holds or how long that future maybe. The reference to whiskies is about things we have left behind on our journey, while the empty pocket refers to wasting of our resources.


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